§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. Thomas Williams)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Every Member of the House will recall that during the war one of the slogans that inspired both men and women and, I believe, children, to give all the help they could to Britain's cause was the call to "Dig for Victory." We heard it on the wireless, in all forms, from the bald official announcement after the six o'clock news to many helpful references by the late Tommy Handley in "Itma"; whilst, until his death, Mr. Middleton stimulated and encouraged us all by his avuncular advice every Sunday after lunch.
We also owed much to the Press for giving invaluable assistance in making this slogan known to everybody and in inspiring hundreds of thousands to dig harder than ever before. At the height of the blitz, in 1940, the Lord Mayor of London invited to a luncheon at the Mansion House representatives of local authorities, at which my predecessor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) put plainly before them the desperate position on the food front, and urged them to do all in their power to encourage and foster the allotment movement, and so help and relieve our farmers so that they could devote their energies more and more to growing crops other than vegetables. I had the privilege of doing my bit by roaming about the country addressing public gatherings almost everywhere. The response of the public at that time was magnificent.
Napoleon once called us a nation of shopkeepers, but it is true to say that in the early 40's we became a nation of vegetable gardeners. In a tribute to the success of the "Dig for Victory" 1310 campaign, a White Paper published in 1944 stated that private gardeners hadthemselves produced a substantial proportion of the vegetables essential for the maintenance of health and workers' efficiencyin war-time. There is no need to tell the House that since the war ended, although enthusiasm has waned here and there, the small man's contribution to our food supplies has been and is as valuable as it was when the saving of shipping was a real and vital factor.
We launched the "Dig for Plenty" campaign to sustain the efforts of diggers that might be flagging while we tackled the job on a wider basis on our farms. I should like to take this opportunity, long delayed, of acknowledging the very great debt we owe to those diggers who answered every call made upon them, both during war-time and since then. Their contributions to our food supplies have been, and are, of inestimable value and, I believe, those who dug and are digging deserve the best we can do for them.
It is true, however, that we must take a realistic view and face the fact that we cannot go on, indefinitely, using for allotments all the land put to that purpose under Defence Regulations. I am afraid we shall have to build up the allotment movement on the lines on which it was developed between the two world wars. Before the First World War it was a comparatively small movement. It was fostered, so it was said, in the interests of what was then called "the labouring population." But between the wars there was a steady development in the movement among all classes of the people, not only for the simple growing of food, but as a healthy recreational occupation providing a means of self-expression and giving scope for enterprise and skill.
At the end of the Second World War, we had approximately one million allotment holders in England and Wales. It was thought, therefore, that the time had arrived for amending allotment legislation to bring it into line with present day requirements, and, particularly, in relation to security of tenure. I asked my Allotments Advisory Committee, on which the National Allotments and Gardens Society, the Associations of the Local Authorities, and the County Landowners' Association are represented, under the chairmanship of my Parliamentary Secretary, to review the whole 1311 subject of allotments and security of tenure. They gave a most valuable and unanimous report, for which the Government was extremely grateful. That report has been on sale now for several months, and hon. Members will have made themselves acquainted with it. It is on that Committee's findings that I ask the House to give a Second Reading to this small, but, nevertheless, important Bill.
Effect can be given to many of the recommendations of the Committee without legislation. For example, there is the question of how much land should be devoted to allotments. As the Parliamentary Secretary said during the Debate on the Gracious Speech, the Committee recommended that four acres per thousand of the population should be the target at which local authorities of all kinds should aim. Although it is recognised that this would be in excess of the needs in some areas, there were others where that area would be required.
The Committee point out that many "allotment-minded" local authorities have provided land on a more generous scale than the four acres referred to. They suggested that where the target proved too small and more land was available, then, at least, the local authorities should endeavour to satisfy the local demand. Again, the Committee considered that more should be done on social as well as agricultural and educational grounds to encourage the continued cultivation of allotments by young people after they had actually left their various schools.
I am afraid it would not be practicable to arrange what the Committee suggest—that junior sections of allotments associations, as such, be assisted from the Ministry of Education grants to local authorities as an educational and recreative activity. But, if members of such junior bodies were members of a youth club, which regarded the working of allotments as part of its activities, they would be sharing in facilities of the kind which could be grant-aided by the Ministry of Education, either directly or through grants on contributions made by local authorities. It is possible that such a youth movement, if they provided tools and seeds and paid rents for the plots, could be included in any such payments that may be made.
1312 There are other suggestions in the report that could not be implemented without a change in the law, but which fall outside the scope of this Bill. For example, the Committee suggest that buildings on allotments should be exempted from rates. It is perhaps a desirable thing to think about, but I am afraid it is the sort of question that could only be dealt with when rating generally was under review in this House. I understand at all events that in the revaluation under the Local Government Act, 1948, the Inland Revenue will rectify any variations in practice which have grown up over the years.
I need mention only two other instances in this category. First, the Committee recommend that Section 3 of the Allotments Act, 1925, which, as a result of the recent Town and Country Planning legislation is no longer operative, should be re-enacted. This Section required that any local authority or joint committee preparing a town planning scheme under the Town Planning Act, 1925, should enter into certain consultations with allotment authorities as to the reservation of land for allotments, and that the planning authority should give a certificate to the Ministry of Health that this requirement had been met. Secondly, they suggested that where privately owned land is let to associations or individuals for allotments it should be preserved for allotments, provided that such use does not conflict with the development plans for the area and that in such circumstances the owner should be given the right to require the local authority to purchase the land if he so desires.
While I am in sympathy with the motives underlying these proposals, I am afraid that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning would be embarrassed by legislation which sought to exclude one interest from the procedure laid down in the Town and Country Planning Act. Moreover, changes in the law are not the only means of achieving any goal we have in mind, and perhaps better results may come from less formal means, for example by promoting a better understanding and a higher appreciation of the allotment position among various local authorities.
The other recommendations that require a change in the law are dealt with in this Bill. The important point is the 1313 length of notice to which an allotment holder should be entitled if his efforts are not to be frustrated. The importance of growing winter crops was brought home to all of us during the last war, and I have been encouraging plot holders all over the country to grow more and more green food for use during what have been termed the lean and hungry months between January and June. I want to see allotment holders planning their crops at least a year ahead and thus securing the maximum production not only for midsummer but also for winter.
Security of tenure is an important incentive for them to do this. The Agriculture Act, 1947, dealt with security of tenure for farmers. This Bill is designed to help the allotment holder on similar lines. Clause 1, therefore, provides for an extension of the normal notice to quit from six to 12 months. The next problem is, what is the proper compensation for a tenant on the termination of his tenancy? As the law stands, where a tenant of an allotment gets the normal six months' notice, which may not expire after 6th April or before 29th September in any year, he gets no compensation for crops and unexhausted manures. That is not only a hardship, but I think it is also a discouragement against growing winter crops.
§ Clause 2, therefore, gives the allotment holder whose tenancy is determined the right to such compensation whenever his notice expires. This provision does not apply where the tenant himself gives notice. Compensation for crops and unexhausted manures is already recoverable by the occupier where the tenancy of the whole or part of his allotment is determined by what we call re-entry. The purposes for which the power of re-entry can be exercised are set out in the existing legislation, but they include mainly building, mining or industrial development. A tenant whose tenancy is determined by re-entry may receive only three months' notice, or in some cases even less, and compensation for growing crops and manures is far from adequate to recompense him for the work he has put in.
§ Clause 3, therefore, is designed to mitigate the hardship by providing for the payment of one year's rent or a proportionate part thereof as compensation for disturbance where the tenancy or 1314 part is terminated otherwise than by a normal notice to quit. This compensation is additional to compensation for crops and manures. These improvements should encourage allotment holders to persevere, as many of them have not been doing, with winter crops. It is fair that the landlord should have the right to claim against a tenant who has allowed his allotment to deteriorate, and Clause 4 provides for that.
§ Clauses 5 to 7 deal with less important matters which need not be referred to at this stage, but Clause 8, which deals with allotment authorities' obligation to provide allotments, does call for some sort of explanation. The Clause leaves unchanged the statutory obligation of boroughs or urban districts with a population of 10,000 or upwards to provide allotment gardens not exceeding 20 poles in area, but it limits the obligation of the other boroughs, urban districts and parish councils and parish meetings. Under the existing law these latter bodies are under an obligation to provide allotments of up to one acre. An allotment garden is a special type of allotment not exceeding 40 poles in extent which is cultivated by the occupier wholly or mainly—and I emphasise mainly—for the production of vegetables and fruits for the consumption of his own family.
§ The advisory committee recommend that the duty of local authorities should be confined to allotment gardens, and the Government have accepted their recommendation. After all, the amount of land available is more or less limited and an allotment is a spare-time job. I should have thought that a quarter of an acre is just about as much as one man can tackle in his spare time. Indeed, most of the plots throughout the country at the moment are no larger than 10 poles. I think that this limitation will enable local authorities to get on with the job and provide as many plets as are called for. If, however, there is plenty of spare land in any area, there is no reason why larger plots should not be provided, but it is not made compulsory on local authorities to provide larger plots.
Clause 9 deals with the fixing of rents. This has been the cause of much contention in the past. It was laid down in Section 16 of the 1922 Act that allotments
shall be let at the full fair rent for such use
but in practice inequalities arise through variations in emphasis placed upon the words "full fair" by the different authorities, and of course on particular items of expenditure in adapting land for allotments and their administration. In any case local authorities have no power at present to let allotments at less than a full fair rent. The advisory committee took the view that rentals ought to be based on the agricultural value of similar land in the district, plus the cost of adapting the land for allotment purposes and for administration. They also felt that local authorities should be allowed to exercise discretion when letting plots to old people, medically unfit or disabled persons at reduced rents which they felt they could afford to pay.
§ I think that Clause 9 provides the appropriate flexibility so that local authorities can exercise discretion. The present position of parish councils, and parish meetings of rural councils not having a parish council, is anomolous in that they are debarred by Section 16 of the Act of 1922 from taking action in providing allotments unless they are of opinion that their receipts will equal expenditure, whereas boroughs and urban districts may spend on losses incurred not more than the product of a rate of 1⅓ pence in the £. Clause 10 abolishes this anomaly by putting all councils on the same footing as regards expenditure from the rates and raises the limit to 1⅔ pence in the £. I shall refer later to Clause 11.
§ The remaining Clauses are formal, but a word of explanation is perhaps required about the definition of "allotment garden," since there have been, and still are, I believe, many misunderstandings. The Allotments Advisory Committee recommended that the definition of "allotment garden" in the Act of 1922 should be revised in certain respects. They were anxious to make it clear that the plot need not be devoted exclusively to fruit and vegetables, although this must remain its primary purpose. A fundamental condition of the definition is that the produce shall be wholly or mainly fruit and vegetables for the use of the occupier and his family and it would, of course, be contrary to this concept if the major part of the allotment 1316 were devoted to other forms of production.
§ I am advised by the highest legal authorities, however, that the definition is wide enough to enable local authorities or private landowners to permit the use of part of the area for keeping pigs, poultry, small livestock or for growing herbs or, indeed, flowers, so long as the plot is mainly used for the production of vegetables and fruit. I hope that is quite clear. There is, of course, nothing in the 1922 Act or in this Bill to prevent tenants who keep small livestock from obtaining the compensation provided for them. I understand that the definition also covers an owner-occupier.
§ Clause 11 is slightly extraneous to the main purpose of the Allotments Bill as such but it follows a recommendation of another Committee, presided over by my Parliamentary Secretary—namely, the Committee on Domestic Food Production, whose Report was published a few weeks ago. In 1940 it was decided that the need to encourage the domestic keeping of pigs, poultry and rabbits, as a contribution to our food supply, was such that no one ought to be prevented from doing this by restrictions in their tenancy agreements, etc., and, accordingly, Defence Regulation No. 62B was passed and superseded tenancy agreements or any enactments. This regulation was continued in force under the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945, which is due to expire on 10th December this year.
After taking evidence from the various parties concerned, including local authorities, the Committee referred to recommended that before the 1945 Act expired legislation should be introduced to continue the protection for domestic rabbit and poultry keepers, and Clause 11 does that. The Committee did not recommend statutory protection for domestic pig-keeping. Local authorities who were consulted advised the Committee that in many cases in urban areas the keeping of pigs on council estates had led to both trouble and annoyance, and the Committee felt that it would be unreasonable to make it mandatory permanently on local authorities or private landlords to allow pig-keeping on their estates. That does not mean that the Government or the Committee did not want to encourage
domestic pig-keeping in all areas suitable for it. Indeed, the Committee said:
In the national interest the household pig, and also the goat, should be encouraged by every practicable means. Model schemes for pig-keeping have already been drawn up by the Small Pig Keepers' Council and these will, we hope, be effective in preventing the banning of pig-keeping in areas where it can be pursued without danger of nuisance.
§ Here I should like to add my word to that comment with regard to the Small Pig Keepers' Council. During the war and since the war I think they have done a grand job of work, and I hope they will continue to do it.
§ I should perhaps mention that when consulting the various local authorities' associations we found that the Rural District Councils' Association would have welcomed the inclusion of domestic pigs in Clause 11, but that does not mean to say that all rural district councils would have welcomed that mandatory power. On the other hand, the larger associations of municipal corporations were opposed to that inclusion, for the reasons which I have explained. We hope, however, that local authorities and private landlords will be willing to allow their tenants to keep pigs where it is reasonable to do so.
§ We are hoping that the powers under the present Defence Regulation may be allowed to run until 30th June, 1951, although we cannot be certain of that. If that is so, its place will then be taken by Clause 11 of this Bill. It is to be hoped that local authorities and private landlords will agree with their tenants, particularly those who have livestock, as to what is to happen after June, 1951, so that pig-keepers will have time, if necessary, to dispose of their stock or, alternatively, to provide themselves with other accommodation.
§ There are two further respects in which the protection accorded by Clause 11 differs from that given by Defence Regulation 62B. First, the Clause, unlike Defence Regulation 62B, does not override the provisions of any enactment. The chief enactment which I have in mind is the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. It was felt that it would be wrong to remove any particular use of land from general planning control otherwise than under the planning statutes themselves. Provisions, however, have already been made under the Town and 1318 Country Planning Act which ensure that there is no unreasonable restriction on domestic hon. and rabbit keepers.
§ The actual keeping of hens and rabbits is excepted from being a development within the meaning of the Act, whilst under a recent order all buildings for hens or rabbits may be put up within the curtilage of a dwelling-house—and I emphasise, within the curtilage of a dwelling-house—without any express application for planning permission provided the buildings are not more than 10 feet high. I must, however, make it clear, since I know there has been a good deal of misunderstanding about this in very high places, that this order applies only to buildings within the curtilage of a dwelling-house.
§ Fears have been expressed by the National Allotments and Gardens Society that, as the Clause as drafted applies to any land and does not include any express provision for the control of the siting and types of buildings to be erected, it might conceivably have the effect of encouraging unsightly buildings on allotment gardens and thereby of neutralising the efforts of the local authorities and organised allotment movements who have, over the past few years, been attempting to tidy up allotments and improve their appearance generally. That is the last thing that I should desire to do. I am at one with the National Allotments and Gardens Society in wishing to see cleaner, more tidy, more respectable allotments than some allotments that I have seen in my time. After what I have said I hope that hon. Members will appreciate that their fears are groundless and that planning permission must be obtained before any buildings can be put up on an allotment garden.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point and Clause 11 generally, may I ask him this question? When an almost identical Bill was introduced in another place fears were expressed that Clause 11 was a little too wide and the Government representative, Lord Morrison, gave an undertaking that he would enter into consultations before the Committee stage with a view to the Government putting down any Amendments which might be agreed. Without, of course, any sort of commitment as to what those Amendments 1319 would be, may we have at least an assurance that there could be consultation about Clause 11 before the Committee stage?
§ Mr. Williams
Most certainly. I think I can satisfy the hon. Member now by referring to the interpretation Section of the Town and Country Planning Act, Section 119, which states:use,' in relation to land, does not include the use of land by the carrying out of any building …It is clear that any building on an allotment would only be possible after town and country planning permission had been secured. However, to save the time of the House, I gladly undertake to have consultations, with any Member in any part of the House between now and the Committee stage if there is any point of doubt.
A further point of difference between the present Clause and Defence Regulation 62B is that it is made clear in the present Clause that the protection afforded is intended for domestic and not for commercial poultry and rabbit keepers. The objects of this Bill will, I am certain, commend themselves to the House. Since we hope to occupy only between now and 7.0 p.m. in getting—I repeat—this small but very important Bill through its present stage, I hope that Members who wish to participate in the Debate will do so briefly so that we can complete the Second Reading of this Bill by then.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond, Yorks)
As is his custom, the Minister has introduced this Bill with great clarity. He has told us not only about the Clauses in the Bill but has also given at considerable length the reasons why certain recommendations made by the Allotments Advisory Committee have not been included. I will at once inform the House that my right hon. and hon. Friends are in general support of the Bill but we hope to improve it during the Committee stage. We are in favour of the allotments movement and we wish to do all we can to further it in the national interest.
Allotments were first developed, as I think the Minister said, as a movement to improve the economic position of those who worked in our rural districts. With the passage of time, however, it 1320 has spread very largely to urban areas, and it is true to say that today the movement is of national importance both in town and country. It provides not only a considerable quantity of valuable food, and it is estimated that in England and Wales alone the allotment movement as a whole produces approximately 814,000 tons of food every year, but is also responsible for providing healthy and constructive recreation to upwards of a million people. These are large figures. The Minister has paid his tribute to the part which the domestic producers have played in recent years both in war and peace. We should like to be associated with his remarks because we on this side of the House believe that the place of the allotment holder in the national economy was never more important.
It is interesting to recall that the last allotment Measure was introduced in 1925 by Captain Bourne. Those who served in this House with him will remember not only his introduction of this Bill but also the many times he presided over our Debates with such ability and sincerity. That Bill was introduced as a Private Member's Bill and it was taken over and adopted by the Government of the day. That Act was of great value to the allotments movement, but it is a long time since it was passed and much water has flowed under the bridges since then, and it is right and proper that new legislation should be introduced. That is what we are discussing today.
The Minister pointed out that the Bill is based on the Report of his Allotments Advisory Committee, which was presided over by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who is to reply to the Debate later. Our main criticisms of the Bill, and they are technical, are that it leaves out many of the important recommendations of the Report of that Committee. The Minister has referred to certain of the omissions and has given his reasons. I do not propose at this stage to go into all the omissions, but I must draw the attention of the House to the recommendation in the Report, which was also referred to by the Minister, that Section 3 of the Allotments Act. 1925. should be re-enacted.
Under that Section town planning authorities were obliged to consider at least once a year what land should be 1321 reserved for allotments in existing or projected planning schemes. I understand that provision has proved to be one of the most useful provisions ever introduced into allotment law. The Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, rendered that Section obsolete. I am not convinced by the Minister's arguments today on that subject, and I very much hope that further consideration will be given to the point during the passage of the Bill.
Another point, which again was touched upon by the Minister, is the lack of any reference to the rating of allotment huts. Between now and the further stages of the Bill we shall of course study the remarks of the Minister very closely, but the fact remains that although the majority of the rating authorities at present ignore any such huts when assessing buildings for rates, that practice is not universal. The assessment of rates is today controlled by the Inland Revenue and it would seem to be an opportune moment to make the position clear. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will deal with that point when he replies to the Debate.
I turn to the Clauses of the Bill. We welcome Clause 1 because it provides an extension of the normal notice to quit to allotment holders from six to 12 months. We believe that will give the gardener the necessary encouragement to plan ahead as well as confidence that he will be able to reap the benefit of his labour. The Minister referred to winter crops, and on that point we agree with him. The position of holders of temporary allotments provided under Defence Regulation 62A is, however, obviously uncertain. At this point, in referring to Clause 1, I would also refer the House to Clause 6 because under that Clause they are precluded from the provisions relating to notices and compensation. That means their position is very unsatisfactory.
If no statutory order can be made whereby alternative sites must be provided for holders of such allotments before their notice to quit expires—and I say in parenthesis that I do not think that that would be possible today—I hope, as do my hon. Friends, that we may have an assurance this evening from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that every effort will be made in that direction. At the present time there are a very large number 1322 of cases every year of allotment holders who drift out of the movement owing to the time lag between the expiration of notices to quit temporary allotments and the provision of vacant permanent plots. I hope the Minister will consider that point and that we may have an assurance that the Government will do all they can to minimise that gap.
I do not think it is necessary for me to refer in great detail to the next Clauses. Clauses 2, 3 and 4 were explained carefully by the Minister. They provide for adequate compensation to the tenant whatever time of year his notice to quit expires, and compensation for disturbance if re-entry is essential before the 12 months expire. In return for this he is responsible for paying compensation for deterioration of his plot in the period of his tenancy. We on this side of the House welcome those Clauses because we believe that they will all help towards the general standard of efficiency on allotments in the future.
I am not going to say very much at this stage in regard to Clause 8. The Minister made a long statement about it, and my hon. Friends and I will consider what he said between now and the Committee stage, to see exactly what he was telling us, for it is a rather detailed Clause. Clause 9 follows the recommendations of the Report of the Advisory Committee on the question of fixing rents for allotments, and we believe that this Clause should be an improvement on the provisions of the Act of 1922.
Before dealing with Clause 11, I come to a point on which we are in grave doubt in Clause 13, and the definition of an allotment garden. As the Bill is drafted the definition is to remain the same as it was in the 1922 Act. I listened—I am certain all hon. Members in the House listened—very attentively to the remarks of the Minister on this subject, but I am still at a loss to understand why the Government have ignored the recommendation of the Advisory Committee that the definition should be improved. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to explain this in his role of Parliamentary Secretary, as distinct from his role of Chairman of the Advisory Committee. There is no doubt that the present definition, whatever we may say about it, has caused a lot of difficulties in the past.
1323 The Minister of Agriculture has obviously had access to the highest lawyers in the land, and in his remarks today he has assured the House that he is satisfied with the definition in the 1922 Act, and that it will be possible to keep such livestock as are allowed upon an allotment garden under the present definition. The question I should like to ask him or the Parliamentary Secretary is simply this. Are the Government satisfied beyond any shadow of doubt that the courts will support his view if it is tested in the courts? I think the House will agree that this is the time when we should ensure that when this Bill becomes an Act there will be no possible doubt that the definition is foolproof. There is no question of a division on principle on this. We are concerned only to make certain that there are not a lot of cases before the courts, and that the view expressed by the Minister will be upheld by them.
Now I come to the contentious Clause, Clause 11, which, as the House will realise, is causing much concern among different sections of the community for varied and different reasons. It is true to say that the reason it is causing so much concern is that it was rushed in in a hurry at the last moment; and, whatever its intentions may be, it is extremely badly drafted, and it has nothing whatever to do with allotments. The Minister did tell us today, anyway, whence it came. It came from a report of another committee also presided over by the Parliamentary Secretary, the Committee on the Organisation of Domestic Food Producers.
§ Clause 11 is concerned with the continuation, with qualifications, of Defence Regulation 62B. I should like the House to observe that this Regulation concerns not only allotment holders but all domestic food producers, and it is, therefore, far too wide a problem really to be fitted into an Allotment Bill in ordinary times in ordinary legislation. No doubt, the Government, being anxious as to where they may be in the future, and having had the Report from their Committee, have tried to tack this bit of legislation on to this Allotment Bill to get it through the House during the present Session; and that being the case, it is the duty of the House to examine it very carefully, with the proviso that this is not an allotment 1324 matter at all, because it goes far beyond that.
I think that at this stage I must refer the House to exactly what the Defence Regulation permitted, because this Clause is not the same as the Defence Regulation. It is a modification of it, as the Minister explained. I quote the Regulation:
It shall be lawful, notwithstanding any provision to the contrary in any lease or tenancy or in any covenant, contract or undertaking relating to the use to be made of any land, and notwithstanding any restriction imposed by or under any enactment, for the occupier of any land (a) to keep pigs, hens or rabbits in any place on the land; and (b) to erect or place and maintain such buildings or structures on the land, and to make and maintain such excavations and other works on the land, as are reasonably necessary for that purpose.
§ There followed on that various provisos to safeguard the public health. Clause 11, as it stands, as explained by the Minister, is not so sweeping in its powers as the Defence Regulation, and relates only to the keeping of hens and rabbits.
§ There are two major problems which I wish to raise in relation to this Clause. The first is with regard to the buildings that may be put up in the form of hen houses or rabbit hutches on the allotments. The Minister admitted the point—I think quite rightly—that there is a widespread fear that, as the Clause is drafted, allotment holders—so it is thought by many people—will be in a position to erect ramshackle huts on their allotments, thereby interfering with the general amenities of a district. That is one thing nobody in this House wants to see; that is one thing nobody organising allotments wants to see; and that is one thing we must at all costs prevent from happening.
§ The Minister explained in detail that these fears are groundless, and he explained the details of other Acts, and I think he used the words "owing to the provisions of any enactment" in his remarks. The average allotment holder will not understand the legal term "provisions of any enactment," and I do hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will inform the House tonight that the Government will look at this Clause again, to see if we cannot get some suitable words which everybody can understand. This brings us back also to the point raised by 1325 my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling). I believe it is much better if these things can be set out fairly and squarely in the Bill, instead of merely referring to past enactments. I would not understand that, and I cannot see how the ordinary allotment holder would understand it when he is reading the Bill to see what he is allowed to do and what he is not allowed to do.
§ Next I come to the question of pigs, which have been omitted from the livestock the domestic food producer is authorised to keep, and I should like to show why I believe this decision to be wrong, although I accept that the arguments on both sides are very evenly balanced. We believe it to be wrong because we believe it is based on old-fashioned prejudice. From time immemorial mankind has looked upon the pig as a dirty and unhealthy animal. It is not at all; a pig well kept is a very clean animal; and a pig well kept and well fed makes very good eating, in whatever form one likes to eat it.
§ We have now had 10 years' experience of domestic food producers keeping pigs, during which time a considerable number have been kept under the protection of Defence Regulation 62B without any real objection on the ground of their being dirty and unhealthy. I accept it when the Minister says that when some people sit down in an office to give evidence they would have fears that the pigs might be dirty, and they therefore say, "Do not let us have any pigs; they may be dirty." Yet there has been very little evidence, if any, during the past 10 years of complaints about the pigs which have been kept under Defence Regulation 62B.
§ It is also significant to note that no serious outbreak of disease has ever originated in any of the domestic pig clubs. During the past 10 years this movement has developed in a very remarkable degree. Apart altogether from the keeping of pigs, it has a community of interest and a keenness in its work—both excellent qualities. What is the position today? These pig clubs have been run by the Small Pig Keepers Council; they have a membership today of 260,000 and keep between 250,000 and 300,000 pigs. In addition, there are another 100,000 domestic pig keepers who are not members of a club. The Committee on Domestic Food Production, over which the Parliamentary 1326 Secretary presided, spoke very highly of the domestic pig-keeping movement, and referred to it not once but twice, in paragraphs 28 and 40, and recommended its encouragement under the auspices of the Small Pig Keepers Council.
§ When the protection of Defence Regulation 62B is removed, it is feared that many domestic pig keepers will be subject to unrealistic by-laws and restrictions which will seriously limit their activities, which I am sure the House will agree would be a bad thing in the national interest. It is not suggested by hon. Members on this side of the House—and I should hope that we have much support from hon. Members opposite on this—that Clause 11 should be amended to allow the arbitrary inclusion of all domestic pigs.
§ It is vitally necessary that pigs should be kept in a proper manner, and the proposal I make to the Government is simply this. In 1937 the Minister of Health issued model by-laws covering the keeping of pigs. A few of them may have come into operation, but in the main by the time they had been considered the war was upon us and new conditions arose, and then we had the Defence Regulations. One of those model by-laws stipulated that a person should not keep pigs within a specified distance from any dwelling-house unless the place in which they were kept was maintained in a clean and wholesome condition. I should like to see an attempt made to re-introduce those model by-laws.
§ In addition to that, the Small Pig Keepers Council, who are extremely strict with their members—and my hon. Friends will no doubt confirm me in this—have drawn up conditions of management which are approved by the Sanitary Inspectors Council. We hold the view that if the model by-laws were adopted, and if the conditions drawn up by the Small Pig Keepers Council were approved and used, there should be no ground for complaint from any section of the community if Clause 11 were to include pigs.
§ I was very pleased to hear that it is the Government's intention that the Defence Regulation should run on until 30th June, 1951, although nothing has happened yet. This will give time for all those concerned to agree together and to come to a satisfactory arrangement. I think that there are strong arguments for encouraging 1327 domestic pig-keeping. Pigs are economical converters of food waste; they also aid food production in other ways, by the provision of manure for the garden; and I think we are all agreed that at this time we need every scrap of pig meat that we can produce. That produce from household waste is an important asset to our national life. I feel that I have detained the House too long, but I wanted to put forward our point of view, and I hope that the Minister will be able to meet us on the various proposals I have made.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
Like the hon. Baronet the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale), I welcome very much this Bill. As the Minister said, it is a small Bill, but it is a Bill of very great importance to hundreds of thousands of people, and I should like to congratulate not only the Minister but also the Parliamentary Secretary, who has obviously played a very prominent part in bringing this legislation before us this afternoon. Indeed, I think that most hon. Members will agree with me in wondering why we have had to wait such a very long time for any amendment to the Allotments Acts. Like the hon. Baronet, I welcome the first three Clauses of the Bill, improving the conditions under which notice to quit can be issued and the compensation which is available to allotment holders for loss of crops. These are very belated concessions, but very necessary to the welfare of allotment holders.
It is, however, particularly to Clause 10 that I wish to direct attention. I am very pleased that the Minister is giving these added powers to local authorities to provide allotments, but I must confess that I am a little disturbed that the expenditure which they incur should be limited by Act of Parliament and not by the natural sense of responsibility of the local authorities themselves. They are, after all, responsible bodies which, I think, could be relied upon to act with due discretion and a sense of responsibility. Nevertheless, I hope that this Bill will give them a new impetus towards providing additional allotments.
My right hon. Friend spoke about the desirability of achieving a standard of four acres of allotment space for every thousand of the population. Of course, 1328 we must consider that in relation to the need for providing playing fields and other open spaces, and the difficulty is that it is in areas where we most need these open spaces that it is hardest to find land available. I hope that from now onwards local authorities will make a more determined effort than many have done in the past.
One thing that I should like particularly to stress is the need for local authorities, when setting aside housing sites, also to set aside land for allotment purposes. I think that some local authorities tend to hold the opinion that if they provide reasonably-sized back gardens to houses that is all that is necessary. I do not believe that back gardens are a solution to this problem. Many residents on estates find that large gardens are a source of embarrassment and discomfort, and I believe that large back gardens on housing estates are uneconomical. Long back gardens mean longer roads and heavier expense for drainage, cables and all the other public services.
I believe, too, that to set aside specific sites for allotments is conducive to good husbandry. It means, if they are looked after by the local authorities, that we can have suitable sites set aside in the allotments for the stacking of lime and manure and all the other things necessary for good husbandry, and which my right hon. Friend has been so helpful in aiding allotments societies to obtain. The important thing is that the local authority should see that allotments are not a threat to the amenities of the district.
The National Gardens and Allotments Society to which the Minister referred, has, I understand, been trying for 20 years to tidy up the allotments of this country. I believe that they have made considerable headway in that direction. Nevertheless, anyone who goes on a long railway journey must be appalled at the condition of some of the allotments flanking the line. It is obvious that some structures are necessary on allotments, but the provision of a proper hutment places, in many cases, a heavy financial burden on people with only slender means. It is necessary to have some structures, but so long as we leave the choice and condition of the structure almost entirely to the inclination of the 1329 individual concerned, we are bound to have some sort of untidiness resulting.
I should like to see the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health getting together and jointly preparing designs for model communal structures for use on allotments, some sort of long, low, simple buildings in which lock-up storage space could be provided for all the allotment holders. I believe that then we could make allotments more nearly things of beauty than they are at present. They could be a real addition to the amenities of the district instead of being, as they frequently become, derelict shanty towns of the kind which we see in many areas.
So far as Clause 11 is concerned, I, like many other hon. Members, was relieved by what the Minister had to tell us this afternoon. I imagine that most of us have had representations from the local authorities in our constituencies, and I think that all of us will have come to the conclusion that some of the apprehensions which they expressed have been shown to be without foundation. Nevertheless, I have a good deal of sympathy with some of the doubts which the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Yorks) expressed in his speech, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will look fairly closely at this Clause between now and the Committee stage. I feel, for example, a little anxious about the nuisance aspect of it, because those of us with local authority experience know how extremely difficult it is to establish what constitutes a nuisance in such matters. If the Minister could be slightly more helpful in the phrasing of this Bill, I think it would be a very useful contribution.
One other point which I might touch on is the reference that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman made to the keeping of pigs. I agree with everything he said. I know that ever since Mr. Baldwin was photographed leaning over a gate and scratching the back of a pig, the pig has had a particular place in the political history of this country. I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that we on this side of the House yield to no one in our affection for the pig. I want to congratulate my hon. Friend on this Bill and I know that other hon. Members will want to join with him in congratulating the million allotment holders who have played such a very great part in improving the economic position of this country.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Drewe (Honiton)
Having been in the Whips' Office for the last six or seven years, I have never had an opportunity during that period of addressing the House. I feel, therefore, that I might ask for some indulgence this afternoon. The reason why I feel that it is my duty to say a few words is because it so happens that in the first autumn of the war, in 1939, I was asked if I would try to build up an organisation to encourage village pig-keeping and backyard pig-keeping during the war years.
It was quite clear then that feeding-stuffs were going to be in short supply It was also clear that many of our pig-breeders and specialised pig-keepers would have to sell a lot of their stock owing to the shortage of feedingstuffs. It was the wish of the Minister of Agriculture of the day, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, that pig-keeping and backyard pig-keeping in particular should be revived, so that the fullest utilisation could be made of household swill, garden waste, etc. I was to try to revive the old traditional village pig club.
In the traditional village pig club every individual member owned his own pig in its own sty, and the whole thing was co-ordinated by the club. We started doing that. We soon found that there was a great demand in the towns and cities for the keeping of domestic pigs in backyards, fed by the swill which was being wasted and not collected. Individuals came together in a group, collected the swill, and formed a pig club.
We found an astonishing demand for these clubs in the big cities and towns throughout the country. We then devised a co-operative type of pig club. The idea was that where it was impossible, owing to a built-up area, for individuals to keep separate sties a convenient piggery was set up where the pigs were kept and the members looked after them, sharing in the feeding and management and maintenance of the piggery. That was very successful. We then went on to form canteen clubs in connection with many of the great works and factories all over the country to use up the swill which was being wasted in the canteens and dining rooms.
In the autumn of 1939, a Small Pig-Keepers' Council was formed, and I have 1331 had the honour to be the chairman of that organisation ever since. When we started this we asked for three conditions. First, that we should be granted a small meal allowance, just sufficient to balance the waste food, swill, etc. Second, we asked if we might have an incentive for our members by giving them the right to consume a certain amount of the pig meat which they produced. Third, that we should have a Defence Regulation which would counteract local authority by-laws and restrictive covenants in leases. That is when Defence Regulation 62B which we are discussing in this Bill, first saw the light of day. All three conditions were granted, and our organisation was able to get going.
Today, we have built up a pretty solid and considerable organisation. We have over 7,000 clubs in England and Wales—we do not operate in Scotland—and over 250,000 members. I think that at the moment we are feeding something like 240,000 pigs, the number varying from time to time. We can claim that during these last 10 years the pig club movement has been responsible for providing at least 100,000 tons of pig-meat for the nation, and that has been provided on food which otherwise would have been wasted. I do not think that is a bad record.
One of our desires has been that the organisation should be built up on thoroughly democratic lines. The Small Pig Keepers Council was registered a few years ago as a charity organisation under the Companies Act. We divided the country into 15 areas, and 15 members of the board of governors are elected by the clubs, the board electing four members to the executive committee which is responsible for day-to-day management. We can claim, therefore, that we have built up the organisation on thoroughly democratic lines. Alone among the food production schemes that have been set up, we have this democracy and also the aim of making our organisation as near as possible to being self-sufficient. Last year, out of a total expenditure of £21,000, we were able to find over £14,000 from the subscriptions of our members, and we had the smallest grant the Government have yet provided of £6,500.
The Parliamentary Secretary's Committee on Domestic Food Production 1332 reported most favourably on the Small Pig Keepers Council and the pig club movement, and we were grateful for that. We were very glad to find in the Report that every possible encouragement should be given to domestic pigs. But, as we read further on and saw that while rabbits and hens were to continue to have the protection of 62B and pigs were not, we did not take such a good view of the bouquet they saw fit to give us. We think it is not altogether reasonable.
I want to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this matter. I think it is worth reconsidering in view of the fact that the pig movement has done a very good job during these past years. We now have 10 years' experience and know what we are talking about. We are not talking about mere theories. During the last 10 years it has been proved beyond any shadow of doubt that it is possible to keep backyard pigs close to dwelling-houses under perfectly satisfactory conditions, without causing any nuisance from smell, flies, vermin or anything else. We know it is possible to keep pigs 200 yards from a dwelling-house in the utmost squalor and filth, but we also know that the pig happens to be the cleanest animal in the whole farmyard if given a chance. The whole thing depends on the individual.
We have never defended, and we never shall, dirty pig-keeping. We do not think it is necessary. If we get a complaint that something has gone wrong, we send down one of our regional officers to investigate, and it is probably put right. If it is not put right, we write to the club and tell them that if they do not put their house in order we shall have to take them off the register, which will mean they will no longer be able to keep pigs. We invite them to come up to see our executive and tell them the position. That is what we have done in the past, and we shall continue to do it in the future.
We say that, in the light of experience, it is not fair arbitrarily to say that because a house has a small backyard coming within the provisions of some by-law a man must not keep pigs. We say that a man should be given the chance and that if he does not keep his pig in a clean and wholesome way he should not be allowed to go in for pig-keeping. As far as we are concerned, we should be perfectly happy to accept the model by-laws 1333 the Ministry of Health introduced in 1937. I do not think that to be an unreasonable request. If those by-laws were good enough for the Ministry in 1937, I ask why they should not be given a trial today.
These by-laws state that a pig must not be kept within a specified distance to a dwelling-house, unless it can be proved that it can be done to everyone's satisfaction in a clean and wholesome manner. That is the only difference between us. The Minister suggests that there should be an arbitrary restriction on pig-keeping, but I say that, in the light of the last 10 years' experience, it is most unfair and unreasonable not to give these people a chance. Let them have the benefit of the word "unless," and then we can go on together.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)
We do not want to be under any misapprehension. The Minister does not suggest, nor does this Bill, that there should be an arbitrary restriction on keeping pigs.
§ Mr. Drewe
I do not understand that at all. Today we have the benefit of 62B and can keep pigs anywhere, provided there is no nuisance. All we know now is that we are to have this protection taken away. I do not know what will be put in its place, but I am asking the right hon. Gentleman to consider putting in by-laws on the lines of the model bylaws of the Ministry of Health. As the position was before 62B, by-laws could be arbitrarily used to prevent people from keeping pigs, whether the pigs were kept under decent conditions or not.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I do not understand how the hon. Member is relating his remarks to the Bill. I assumed that he was making a plea for the inclusion of pig-keeping under Clause 11, to which he has made no reference at all.
§ Mr. Drewe
I am sorry if I have not referred to Clause 11. My point has been to link my observations up with the withdrawal of 62B. As I understand it, hens and rabbits will continue to have this protection under Clause 11, whereas domestic pigs will not. I am asking that domestic pig-keepers, in view of their record during the last 10 years, should be put in no worse a position than those who 1334 keep rabbits and hens. I am delighted that the hen and the rabbit are getting such preferential treatment, and I do not want to stop it for one moment, but we can put up as good a record and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have second thoughts on this question.
I would end by making a final appeal to the right hon. Gentleman as well as to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I see there are one or two present on the opposite Benches who represent mining constituencies. They must recognise that there are no more enthusiastic backyard pig-keepers than the miners. It is a tradition with them and they are among the greatest supporters of the pig club movement. We have some first-class clubs in the mining areas, and if anything happens as a result of this Bill to take away the protection of 62B, which we have enjoyed these last ten years, some of the miners are going to be prohibited from keeping pigs in their backyard, which would be a great shame. It would be a great shame if the healthy hobby, which they have enjoyed so very much during the past should be taken away from them, and also the benefit to a certain extent of pig meal. I did not intend to take up so much time of the House and I would thank the House for listening to me.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Woods (Droylsden)
I join with hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House in welcoming this Bill, and I also agree with the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Drewe) that the pig is a much abused and misrepresented animal which likes being as clean and healthy as any human being. The Bill, however, does not merely cover backyard pig-keeping. It is a far bigger Measure, and although I welcome it I appreciate even more the Minister's suggestion that he is ready to consider favourably any Amendments that would make the Bill even more effective and satisfactory.
In particular, I feel that we have not fully envisaged the effect of the changed housing accommodation. There has been an enormous increase in the percentage of the population living in flats, with no access to the land except perhaps in a window box or a few flower pots. Further, the war-time necessity of temporary accommodation has very often placed houses cheek by jowl, and there 1335 is the necessity for extending and giving permanency to the occupiers of allotment holders.
I should like to see much further encouragement given to the local authorities so that more financial help could be given to allotment holders. At present it is possible for the local authorities to maintain parks, bowling greens and tennis courts through substantial expenditure. Can statistics be obtained to show us the number of people who get their pleasure from allotments, both through cultivation and through assistance only, as compared, for example, with those who participate in a game of bowls? Although I have nothing against bowls, and want to see all the facilities possible for recreation, I suggest that the allotment movement is a much healthier, more spiritually satisfying and more economically fruitful recreation. I hope that local authorities will be encouraged to the fullest extent.
I should like to pay my tribute to those local authorities who have demonstrated what can be done, and, in particular, those which give more permanency of tenure and security so that there is a sense of satisfaction among those who are working plots. On the definition of "allotments" there is still room for fuller modification. "Vegetable and fruits" is quite good, but I know there are some authorities and people who have been "sticky" about allocating a percentage to flowers. Although fruit and vegetables are vital in these days, a sense of appreciation of the beauty of flowers should be encouraged.
It may interest the House to know that we are indebted to the allotment movement for the Russell lupin as well as to the dear old man Russell. The Russell lupin was cultivated on a couple of plots by a man who had no other opportunity to give his services, and if it had not been for the allotment provision in the York area we should never have had that marvellous achievement. Rules and regulations were broken, and a couple of plots were devoted entirely and absolutely not only to flowers but to lupins. But for that we should not have had this tremendous joy, apart altogether from the economic benefit to this country in the export trade.
1336 I hope the House will do all it can to make the Bill not only a better Bill but more effective in its appeal, and also in the amount of responsibility it gives to local authorities, and that where there is an effective demand for allotments the local authority will be empowered by the Bill, and by further legislation, to make whatever provision is necessary in the interests of a hobby which is healthy, recreational, educational and spiritually attractive.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Kaberry (Leeds, North-West)
Those of us who live in county boroughs, who have had past experience of borough councils, and those who represent county boroughs in this House will not willingly yield second place in their support of this valuable and useful Bill. We on these benches realise more than ever the usefulness of the allotment garden movement, and how it provides an opportunity for men to get out into the fresh air as well as to give healthy exercise and recreation. It may also give men an opportunity to get away from present over-crowded domestic difficulties.
The aim of all local authority allotment committees is towards an establishment of the permanent model allotment garden, where it would be possible to have well laid out plots, firm paths, service roads, centrally well-equipped communal huts, and where it is possible to have them arranged so that they would add to the amenities of the locality instead of being a reflection on them, as is the case in some places today.
Those of us who have studied the history of the allotment garden movement know only too well how it has risen and fallen during war-time and immediately afterwards. In the First World War there was a ready response to the appeal for allotment gardens. To use the example of the City of Leeds, the peak period was in 1919, when some 100 sites were taken and 4,777 plots were in use. In the days of post-war activities that number was gradually reduced until in September, 1939, there were only something like 36 sites with about 1,790 plots, of which 1,559 were in use. The figures sprang up again in 1942 after an appeal had been made, and in September of that year there were some 111 sites, with about 5,657 plots, of which 5,236 were occupied. Since then, in the last seven and a half years, 1337 there has been a gradual falling off. Today, there are only about 94 sites, covering about 396 acres, resulting in 6,490 plots, of which only about 4,000 are let.
We immediately look for something which can be done to offer to the would-be allotment holder some degree of permanency of tenure and some assurance that what he intends to do will be worth while. He must have full recognition for the work he does. That is why I gladly associate myself with those who have welcomed the first three Clauses of the Bill, which extend greater security of tenure to the present allotment holder and offer greater security to the man who is to be brought in.
I would appeal to the Minister to take advantage of this opportunity to make it clear in the Bill that communal huts on allotment sites shall not be made subject to rating. Would the Minister go a stage further in the direction of the recommendations in the Report, and say that greenhouses and other buildings up to a certain size shall, likewise, throughout the whole country, be exempted from rating? One other point which gives the allotment holder great concern is trespass. It is referred to in the Report. Certain penalties can be imposed under the Defence Regulations, but when those Regulations go, nothing will be left to give adequate security against trespass by man or dog. It would be appropriate for the Minister to introduce into the Bill a Clause to give effect to the particular recommendations on this point which the Report put forward.
In opening the discussion the Minister said that he had been advised that the present definition of "allotment garden" in the 1922 Act was sufficient to include in its interpretation the definition suggested in the Report. I would make a plea for the more simple souls, like myself, that he will be good enough to use the definition suggested in the Report because it is very clearly worded and is capable of being easily understood. The Report suggests that "allotment garden" means:Any parcel of land not occupied together with a dwellinghouse.I hope we can have the point made clear that the Bill relates primarily to land not occupied together with a dwellinghouse, so that we can get a clear discussion of the full meaning of Clause 11. This seeks to grant power to keep hens and rabbits 1338 on any land, and which, I suggest, would be "any land other than an allotment garden."
Many of us are concerned about the limitation of the definition of allotment garden at the present time. The definition suggested in the Report goes a long way to meet the wishes of the allotment movement throughout the country, especially having regard to the assurance given this afternoon by the Minister that any structures to be put up upon allotment gardens not associated with houses are to be subject to the control of local planning authorities. That assurance will go a long way towards easing the fears of a large number of allotment holders who have been concerned lest the amenities of their allotments should be spoiled by any kind of unsightly structure in nearby plots put up for hens, rabbits or Pigs.
§ Clause 11 is comprehensive and relates "to any land." Hon. Members have probably received, as I have, communications from local authorities expressing great concern about the effect of a Clause of this kind. It would be right that I should mention one or two of those effects so that the Parliamentary Secretary may give me some assurance when he replies. Local authorities are probably the largest holders of small house property, and they will be most concerned to preserve the amenities of all estates within their areas. It is felt that a free licence, as suggested in Clause 11, to keep hens or rabbits on any land may give rise to a great deal of concern among tenants of local authorities. It has been mentioned earlier that the small garden is not necessarily the most appropriate place in which hens or rabbits can be kept and that they might amount to some kind of nuisance though not being a nuisance in the strict sense required at the present time in a court of law.
§ The second point also gives concern to local authorities with regard to the general licence permission proposed in the Clause to any occupier of land to put up any structure regarded as reasonably necessary for the purpose of housing the hens or rabbits. Presumably, in choosing the word "hens" the drafting excludes the word "cockerels," so that next door neighbours will not be disturbed too early in the morning. It is felt that the new 1339 "experiment in freedom "under the provisions of town and country planning regulations, coupled with the provisions of this Clause, may give rise to many unsightly structures on local authority housing estates. I would ask the Minister to consider whether it would not be wiser to insist that local authorities should have some say in regard to livestock houses. I know that local authorities view the matter with concern.
§ May I now look at the matter generally, from the point of view of the local authority, the allotment landlord and the allotment holder?
§ As far as the allotment holder is concerned, provided that the amenities are preserved and that there is neatness and orderliness all will be well and all the help that is possible will be given. From the point of view of local authority as a landlord of allotment gardens, I know only too well that they would assist wherever practicable in putting on one side suitable allotment gardens where stocks can be kept without impairing the amenities of the adjoining plots.
§ I want now to deal with the question of the type of livestock to be kept. I support all the remarks which have been made asking that the permission under Clause 11 should extend to the keeping of pigs as well as hens and rabbits, subject to the control I mention. In war-time we were shouting for pigs and people had nothing to say against pig-keeping, and the grunts which were, in time of war, music which was welcome to all should surely be as welcome in time of peace. It may well be that future keeping of livestock will best be done by setting aside separate gardens where stock allotments can be properly maintained with proper and adequate supervision and where food of that kind can be properly produced.
§ I should like to mention the extra assistance which domestic pig and poultry keeping receives from people throughout the country. I have for some time been associated in my own city with the salvage service and the utilisation of domestic scrap food and all waste food and its conversion into "pudding." An elaborate service is now provided. I cannot think that it is the intention to interfere with that supply, but unless 1340 we provide adequate facilities m Clause 11 for permission to keep pigs, poultry and rabbits, there may be some fear that it is not worth while to carry on that service. Apart from those two points, I welcome the introduction of the Bill as a step in the right general direction of giving assistance to allotment holders throughout the country.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I join right hon. and hon. Members in congratulating the Minister upon this small but important Measure. I do so because of one or two of the Clauses which it contains. One of the most important Clauses to the allotment holder is Clause 1, which extends the period of security of tenure indicated in previous Measures from six to 12 months. I wish we could make the allotments permanent, but unfortunately, in a changing country, that is an impossibility. However, the Minister has done something in extending the period from six to 12 months.
As one who is interested in gardening and allotments, I have always maintained that a garden or an allotment cannot be made in 12 months. It takes longer than that—sometimes it takes years, particularly in the industrial areas—to reclaim land which has hitherto been derelict. It might take five years, and even at the end of that time the fertility of the land might not be to one's liking, as we say in Lancashire. Still, the Clause gives a greater degree of security of tenure to the allotment holder.
I am the president of an allotment association and I have found, when we have been trying to stimulate interest and get people to take allotments for food production, that one of the greatest obstacles has been the lack of security of tenure. People have said, "In six months' time we may be told to get off." Time and time again, particularly in the mining areas, men have said to me, "What is the use of taking a piece of land and expending my labour, purchasing manure and doing all the work which is required when at the end of six months the landlord can come along and hand me my notice and tell me to get off?" Because it gives the allotment holder a larger degree of security of tenure, I welcome the introduction of the Bill.
1341 I am particularly anxious that the allotments which have grown up higgledy-piggledy in many parts of the country should be tidied up. I was particularly struck by the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) that there should be communal hutments on allotments. That would be a step in the right direction, but I am surprised to hear the suggestion that the town and country planning people should be brought into this business. When we have to deal with them, there is procrastination after procrastination. They do not deal with these things as expeditiously as they should. Speaking from experience, I say that once the allotment enthusiast is getting going the more speedily we can respond to his requirements and desires the more secure he will feel, but if we have to approach the town and country planning people on this or that, his interest and enthusiasm will be dampened before his desires are met. I hope that the local authorities who are given more powers under this Bill than under all the preceding Measures will utilise these powers for the specific purpose of helping the allotment holder to satisfy his desires at great speed at the beginning and protect him in the direction he desires to go in the creation of his allotment.
I listened very attentively to what was said by the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Drewe) in his appeal for the extension of Clause 11. He made a very powerful case for pig-keeping on allotments. I agree with him in all he said regarding the interest and enthusiasm of the miners. Some of the best pig-keepers in Lancashire are miners, and they have spent a great deal of time and money and are particularly anxious that their sties and the surroundings of their allotment shall be of such a character as to stand the test of the most rigid sanitary inspector. The Minister would be well advised to see if it would be possible to extend the Clause a little further. We need have no fear about pig-keeping becoming a nuisance, because we have sanitary inspectors and sanitary committees of local authorities who are charged with the responsibility of seeing that no nuisance is created. Apart from that, the members of pig-keeping clubs are subject to strict discipline, and they are very particular. That is one of the things that I admire about pig-keeping 1342 clubs. I strenuously appeal to the Minister to consider extending Clause 11, or not to raise objections if we put down Amendments on the Committee stage.
I am reminded of the story of a miner friend of mine who was anxious to develop this side of his allotment. He approached the owner of the land and said, "Mr. So-and-So, I desire to keep pigs on my allotment; have I got your permission?" The landlord, a shrewd old man, said, "Tha' can just keep what t'hell tha' likes, as long as tha' does not keep t'rent." I hope the Minister will bear that in mind when he is responding to our appeal for the extension of Clause 11.
I think it may be said that the allotment associations of this country, from the time of the First World War in 1918 up to the present, have played an important part in our food production. Having regard to their past record, they are worthy of all the support that this House can give them in the development of allotments in the future. After all, it is no easy task to dig an allotment after a day's work, and the enthusiasm of these men ought not to be damped by rigid regulations. Help ought to be afforded to them with both hands, making things as easy as possible for them.
This Bill is another step forward. I am only sorry it was not brought in many years ago, for it would have been a great help, but it is no use trying to indict anybody now. This House is charged with the responsibility of assisting that section of its citizens who are prepared not only to help themselves but also their fellow citizens in the development of allotments and the production of food. I congratulate the Minister and his Department in bringing forward this Measure, and I wish it every success.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morrison (Salisbury)
Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I want to express my interest in the important part played by allotments in food production and, indeed, in the healthy exercise they provide for those who have at heart the interest of allotments and what they produce. Incidentally, there is no happier man than the gardener of either vegetables or flowers. At this late hour and in order to give the Bill a chance of receiving its Second Reading, 1343 I shall refer only briefly to several points which worry local authorities.
§ On Clause 10, will the Parliamentary Secretary consider whether a responsible body such as a local authority could not have power to spend what it thinks fit on the provision of allotments? The local authority is best fitted to know what is wanted locally, and I would like to see the limit taken off.
On Clause 11, I support what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Sir T. Dugdale) in regard to the lack of clarity. I have here a letter from the District Clerk of Salisbury which reads as follows:
It is considered that the Clause as at present drawn is unworkable and may give rise to interference with the amenities of a district.
§ I will not weary the House with the various points made in that letter, but the writer asks for the definition of the word "hen." I am not a lawyer, but I should have thought I could have defined that adequately; however, there may be legal difficulties. The definition of the word "nuisance," on which I have no doubt that lawyers could talk at considerable length and we might find it a nuisance to listen, is also asked for. However, we have not many in the House this afternoon. I will send a copy of that letter to the Parliamentary Secretary because it should be considered and because there are feelings both for and against the keeping of pigs.
§ I associate myself with the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Drewe) in his not-quite-maiden speech when he said that, providing pigs are kept clean in a place where they are not committing a nuisance, it is in the best interests of this country that allotment holders should be allowed to keep them. After the intervention of the Parliamentary Secretary, I am not quite sure where we stand when this Bill becomes law and the existing Regulation 62B goes.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I think there is some misunderstanding. The Bill does not ban the keeping of pigs but says that when it becomes law the Defence Regulation ends. For example, the decision in Salisbury as to whether pigs should be kept will be the responsibility of the local authority, 1344 and therefore the city surveyor of Salisbury can spend a long time determining when the pig is committing a nuisance. We are not banning the keeping of pigs in Salisbury.
§ Mr. Morrison
I hope the Minister will make that clearer than it is in the Bill. Quite frankly, I did not understand that, but I am glad to hear it.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
Speaking as an allotment holder for many years. I congratulate the Minister and the Ministry on bringing forward a Bill which in my opinion is overdue. Allotment holding is of vital importance, and the people who come within the provisions of this Bill are just as important as those who come within the provisions of the Coal Act. the Steel Act. or any other Bill.
I believe the Chinaman was not far wide of the mark who put forward the following philosophy which is well known amongst gardeners. He said, "If you want human happiness and contentment for a day, you buy a pipe. If you want to be happy and contented for a week, you keep a pig. If you want to be happy and contented for a year, you marry a wife. But if you want to be happy and contented for all time, you cultivate a garden." Allotment holders are a grand body of men and women. The last time a census was taken, there were 1,117,000 allotment holders and one allotment to every 39 of the population. I believe that the contribution made to our nation in its time of greatest need, during the war and since, has not been assessed at its true value.
Of course allotment holding is not new. It goes back to the days of the Tudor kings, when the industrious poor—we all understand why they were industrious and at the same time poor in those days—were allowed to have allotments. Now, of course, they are provided for the labouring population. Most of the population today are in regular work, and that is a good thing. Nothing is too good for allotment holders and those who support them. They have given freely of their work, energy and endeavours to the nation, and the nation should do likewise unto them.
The Bill is a good Bill. It is hardly like the curate's egg. It is not bad in parts, but it has a few specks which, I 1345 believe, allotment holders will not like. There are of course, advantages, which have been referred to in much more capable terms by other hon. Members and in a way which I shall not try to emulate. Security of tenure is the first and most important matter.
I speak with the practical experience of many years since the end of the First World War of holding an allotment. I garden in the middle of a public park—and I shall come to that in a moment. Security of tenure is a grand thing. It is the thing which has been the main cause of loss of membership to the allotment movement. It is quite right, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown)—who is a better greenhouse keeper than I am—has said, that the bringing back into good heart, as we call it in the North, of land in a despoiled industrial area is no mean task and is more than a 12 months' job; and one can spend an enormous amount of money on, for example, manure at £2 a ton delivered, although it is not easily come by in these days, or even less in a period of unemployment.
§ The question of fair rents is one that has occupied the minds of many people. I personally pay for my plot, which is under a good Socialist local authority, Is, a year and another Is. 6d. for the use of a hut, making 2s. 6d. a year. There are allotments not far away where people pay 15s. or similar sums. There should be uniformity of rent throughout the country for allotments which are of the same size so that people may know their position. The Bill deals with the question of compensation. For the first time, a man is to be properly compensated for the loss of his plot and for the unexpired manurial value of what he has put into the land in the years before to grow good crops.
§ Let me refer for a moment to the disadvantages of the Bill. Clause 8 apparently restricts the right of local authorities to guarantee, if I may use my own words, allotments up to one acre in size. I see the logic and force of the argument that in a large city or industrial town with allotments of the kind which I at present cultivate, 605 square yards is quite sufficient to meet the need of the ordinary worker in an industrial area. But what of the fellow in the countryside, who for years has been able to have 1346 a piece of land extending to an acre in size? Is he in future to be debarred from continuing to hold that size of land and to be denied the right to all of it except 605 square yards? That is the sort of thing that was not recommended to the Ministry by the Advisory Committee, which did a good job of work, on which we ought to compliment them, under the able chairmanship of the Parliamentary Secretary, and of which, apparently, a lot of notice has been taken.
§ Clause 11 will give great concern to allotment holders who want allotments to be kept as they should be kept. I keep poultry, but not on my allotment, and I do not allow them to be kept anywhere near where they may become a menace to the gardens or allotments of anyone else. I am all in favour of the keeping of rabbits, pigs and poultry, providing they are kept in a proper place and under proper regulations and proper authority. The Clause says definitely that they shall be kept "in any place." "Any place," however, means the whole orbit of every square yard of land in and around the area of any local authority. I know that both the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are very reasonable in these matters and I ask them to give this Clause particular consideration.
§ I should like to relate my own experience; one can speak better from one's own personal experience than from what one reads in books and of theories and so on from elsewhere. I garden in the middle of a public park which is owned and controlled by the people of my district. My allotment is no more than 120 yards from the bandstand, and less than 100 yards from the cenotaph. The plots are in the midst of the flower borders and have become part and parcel of the amenities of the park. We try to make those allotments a credit to the district, and there is very severe and keen competition. So keen is it that I was honoured by being awarded the Knightian medal by the R.H.S. for the best-kept allotment in my area of Lancashire for the year 1945. There is very strong competition, and we keep the place at a very high standard.
§ I should like the Minister to envisage for a moment a public park of this kind, with its playground, paddling pool, bandstand and all the amenities which Socialist 1347 and public ownership and control provide. Two of the allotments are cultivated by the superintendent of the park himself. Next to me is a professional gardener who runs a rather large establishment for a market gardener. The allotments are really well kept in the way I have described, and the results which they have attained in competition prove the claim which I make for them. Assume that one of the allotment holders gives up bis piece of land because, perhaps, of pressure of work. Along comes Bill Smith, who is next on the list of the local authority to be given an allotment when one becomes vacant. He wants to keep rabbits and poultry.
§ I ask the Minister to consider the position when a person comes into the middle of that park, with its well-kept and well-laid-out allotments, who immediately puts up structures the like of which, as every hon. Member knows, are common to the countryside. The effect upon the rest of the gardening population of the area would be disastrous. One wandering Wyandotte or one roving rabbit could do an enormous amount of damage to the rest of the allotment holders in that park. I know both the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary well enough, I believe, to know that they will give these practical considerations their attention.
§ In my opinion, local authorities should be given the right to see that persons are allowed to keep rabbits, poultry and pigs, but on rougher pieces of land. There are pig sties in my own area, but they are kept some distance away across a river and behind trees, together with the poultry and so on. I suggest to the Minister that this Clause should receive attention before the Report stage. No one would suggest going to the length of putting down Amendments, because I believe that by careful study the Minister could easily put right what I call this menace.
§ Allotment holders are worthy of our consideration. We want them to continue in their good work. It is not only the production of food that matters. On my allotment I get communion with Nature. I feel nearer to the things that really matter when I am gardening at weekends than whenever I am standing, for instance, on the Floor of this House. It provides me with relaxation, culture, 1348 friendliness and comradeship amongst men, something which is really worth while, in addition to the fact that we do not have to pay retailers Is. 6d. for a lettuce or 9d. for a bunch of a few radishes, which is nonsense but which is going on all over the country. [Laughter.] My hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) may laugh, but that is true. If he were to go into some of the retail shops he would find that lettuces at Is. 3d. and Is. 6d. and bunches of radishes at 7d. and 9d. are very common things; they are very easily and cheaply grown.
I compliment the Allotments Society of Britain, who went into these matters carefully, together with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who in turn presented a Report which, if acted upon, would be of great use to the country. Never before in the history of mankind was the production of food of all kinds so necessary; and every encouragement should be given by this House to the keeping of pigs, poultry and rabbits. It is indeed a pleasant change to be able to stand up in the House in an atmosphere of goodwill, as we have done today, rather than in the atmosphere which we find when debating matters of finance and the Petrol Duty, etc., things which, after all, do not really worry allotment holders.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I am sure that the concluding and penultimate remarks of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) have delighted the House as they have delighted me. I intended myself to touch upon the subject of the cultivation of other things besides earth that can result from association with the land. There is no doubt that if we could provide every urban dweller with a plot of land, we should have an end for ever to that schism which, I know, the Minister would be only too glad to see disappear, which divided the nation between town and country in the period between the wars.
I hope I may be forgiven if I first apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for not being present during his opening remarks; but I had a very important meeting with the Minister of Food and I could not then be present. I hope the House will forgive me also if I mention that during the Debate on the 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1349 I can claim to have had the strange distinction of having a grandfather introducing the Bill and a brother of my other grandfather speaking from the other side of the House. I am happy to report that on that occasion there was a happy unanimity between the two families. I certainly do not want to do anything to upset the harmony today, but I do not feel that I can let the Bill go without making one or two remarks about its omissions.
I was particularly interested in one remark by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) about the provision of gardens in towns. I would say that the ideal we should aim at is that wherever we rebuild or build new towns, we should provide everyone with a sufficient garden in which he can do pretty well what he likes, because we have to admit that, however much we may welcome the allotment movement in general—and I join in all the welcome that has been given it—automatically restriction is imposed which is not suffered by those who have a garden of their own.
What rather surprised me in the remarks of the hon. Member for Rossend ale was that he suggested that that would be too costly in regard to water pipes, drainage and that sort of thing. If we follow that argument to its logical conclusion, it means that no one in the country must ever have water or drainage. Although this is outside the scope of the Bill, some are today questioning whether they will ever get it. The point I am making is that surely in the new towns we should never make allotments necessary. What we should do in the new towns is to make every house have a garden, and I would certainly never accept the argument of the hon. Member for Rossendale that in our towns the cost of laying on a piped service is too high.
§ Mr. Jack Jones
Would the hon. and gallant Member suggest that in every new town each house should have a big garden? That would be all right, but only if we had good gardeners. The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) and myself were saying that we should give reasonably sized gardens and that everyone who wanted an allotment should have a piece of land away from his house.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Member for Rossendale. Perhaps now the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) has cleared that up. I feel that the argument that the cost of drainage and water supplies would be too high should never be a reason for not providing people with a garden. It is not a sound reason.
In the middle of my constituency, which I suppose is one of the most fertile in the country, we have a very thriving allotment association and the majority of the members are railwaymen. They are extremely concerned about Clause 11 and points about the kind of control which they hope to keep on those who otherwise would make the allotments an eyesore. They are in general sympathy, I think, with all the points raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Dugdale).
I welcome all the provisions in this Bill, with a very few safeguards which have already been mentioned by other hon. Members, but I believe the Minister is missing a golden opportunity. What he is not doing by this Bill is to safeguard the position of the temporary allotment holders, those allotment holders who answered the call in the time of need and dug for victory. What are they to get? Will it be that all they can find in their allotment is a stone with R.I.P. graven on it?—because that is what it is amounting to. There is no assurance that those who kept temporary allotments during the war are to be provided with them in the future.
I feel there was no greater good which came out of the last war, or the war before, than the fact that it enabled the descendants of people deprived of land—who never should have been deprived of it in the past—by ruthless development in the industrial areas, an opportunity of getting into contact with a piece of land, however small. That, I believe, is in the nation's interest, not merely so far as the production of food is concerned, but so far as character is concerned. It seems to me that this Bill might well have included some provision which would give those people who dug for victory a real hope that, having dug, they are to get a decent reward and some assurance that they can go on digging in peace time. I very much regret that omission.
1351 I realise there may be technical difficulties, but this Bill is partially implementing some important Reports to which reference has been made. I notice a tendency rather to overlook the interests of the countryman and of the person who came in during the war in the urban areas and tried to produce food to help the country. There is another Report which I think it a pity we are not discussing at the same time, a Report in which the Parliamentary Secretary has considerable interest; that is, the Report on smallholdings. I think we should be discussing that as well, because part-time holdings are mentioned and part-time holdings and allotments are closely allied. Part-time holdings have also been omitted from this Bill.
As the Bill stands, I have no particular quarrel with most of its provisions, but I regret the great omissions from it, and I hope that in the very near future these omissions will be made good.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) has referred in pleasing terms to the atmosphere in which this Debate is being conducted. I think with great humility, if I may put it to the House, that perhaps one of the ingredients of the pleasantness of the Debate has been the shortness of the speeches. There have been a great many speeches and they have certainly been short. I shall not break that characteristic of the Debate in the remarks I wish to make, as I have only one or two minutes in which to speak.
The hon. Member for Leeds, Northwest (Mr. Kaberry) touched on a very important aspect of the matter. Whatever may have been the rural origin of allotments, I do not think there is any doubt today that their most important aspect in our life is the opportunity they give to the urban dweller to have some contact with the soil, both for reasons of his health and of his sanity. Some such contact seems to be necessary in the modern rushing life we all lead. I am personally very pleased indeed that this Bill should have been brought forward. It is extremely sensible, most of the provisions in it are provisions made with the 4pproval of the whole House, and one might ask how it is they have not been 1352 brought forward before? Of course, there are a great many things which are eminently sensible which have not been brought forward before and have not been brought forward until this Government came to power. I think we are entitled to take credit for having done a great deal that was eminently sensible and wanted doing, and had wanted doing for a great many years.
Quite apart from the considerations of Bewdleyan nostalgia, which may have prompted hon. Members opposite to make this plea for the domestic pig, I am sure hon. Members in all parts of the House will want to do what they can to see as many pigs as possible produced in this country. I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that nothing in this Bill prevents the keeping of the domestic pig on the allotment. There is, however, one thing that seems to me to be true, namely, that a certain protection in the keeping of the pig on the land is being removed. If there is anything that can be done by my right hon. Friend between now and the later stages of the Bill, I hope he will do it in order to see that it is still possible in future to keep the pig under proper conditions—and I stress the proper conditions—on the allotment. If he can do this I am sure he will be meeting the wishes of hon. Members in all parts of the House.
In my area in the northern part of Lincolnshire, the Lindsey Parts of Lincolnshire, there is Scunthorpe, a great industrial borough, a steel town, in the middle of excellent agricultural land. It has been called the steel town, this great and progressive borough of Scunthorpe; but it might equally well be called the allotment town. My right hon. Friend has mentioned that there should be a target of four acres per 1,000 inhabitants. In the borough of Scunthorpe this would mean 200 acres, but at present this borough has 300 acres—one in 15 of the inhabitants of Scunthorpe, in fact, has an allotment. The railway workers and the steel workers, who have done such great work in the production drive, are in many instances only one generation removed from the land; and they keep their contact with health and sanity and the soil by haying these allotments with great advantage to themselves and to the whole community.
1353 I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his Parliamentary Secretary, who I know has had a great deal to do with this particular Measure. Many of the legislative children of my right hon. Friend may indeed have been bigger at birth than this was, but nevertheless it is a bonny child.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Oakshott (Bebington)
I agree that this is a most useful Bill, but there are one or two matters in it which, if the right hon. Gentleman will consider them between now and a later stage, will improve it a great deal. I want to say a word about Clause 10. I agree with the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) and the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) that though this is an extension of the previous powers of local authorities, they are the people best qualified to determine the expenditure on allotments, and it may well be left to their discretion.
Regarding Clause 11, I was relieved to hear the right hon. Gentleman's assurance in regard to planning and the preservation of amenities, and so on. I admit my fears are not entirely dispelled, because perhaps I do not understand some of the wording in this Clause any better than do some of the allotment holders. This Clause as it stands is very loosely drawn and far from satisfactory. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look at it again. It is, of course, making permissible by permanent legislation the keeping of certain animals which was originally allowed under emergency powers. We are all in favour of that, and I think enough has been said by hon. Members on both sides of the House for us to realise what an excellent thing it is that people should keep these animals. But this Clause is drawn so widely and in such a way as to extend the keeping of them to certain premises which could be quite unsuitable. I consider seriously that safeguards should be provided, and particularly are they necessary in the case which comes in under this Clause where animals may be kept in gardens which may be in close proximity to each other.
Where space is restricted, as in the case of local authority housing schemes, such safeguards are particularly necessary. I am not a lawyer, but I listened with interest to what the hon. Member for 1354 Rossendale said about the legal definition of nuisance and how difficult it is to determine it. I can imagine that there could well be many annoyances and sources of irritation which might cause a great deal of trouble between close neighbours, and which we should avoid by some exact definition. The question of health and comfort is again loosely defined in this Clause. I am thinking of places where gardens may be extremely close together and houses may be close together; and there is the question of smell, which was mentioned earlier on by my hon. Friend. There is also the question of pest infestation, which might become a very serious matter, and I hope that the Minister will consider that as well.
I trust the Minister is happy about the question of control over the siting and size of structures, and the appearance of buildings which might go up to house these animals. One can imagine some particularly dreadful excrescences which might be put up, made of old packing cases and bits of rusty corrugated iron and things of that sort, which we must at all costs avoid. The best thing would be for the local planning authorities to be brought into this and given some really concrete measure of control. There is one other point of definition which I want to mention and I do assure the Minister that I am not trying to split hairs. It is, what does "hen" mean? Is it only the bird which produces the egg? I hope it does not include cockerels and noisy things like that—particularly guinea fowl.
§ Mr. Oakshott
I think that is a matter on which the definition should be made clear beyond peradventure.
§ Mr. Oakshott
But for the purpose of noise I think we should be able to do so. If the Minister will think over some of these things and bring about what I believe to be the very necessary improvements in this Clause, he will not only safeguard in a much less undefined manner the amenities of the district and the health and comfort of the population and harmonious relations between neighbours, 1355 but also protect the perfectly legitimate interests of these allotment holders and people who wish to keep these animals; and also incidentally, which is a point not yet mentioned, those who follow the "fancy."
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Kinley (Bootle)
Those who speak at the end of a Debate are bound to exercise a certain ingenuity if they wish to avoid covering points which have already been dealt with. There are some things which I, as a town dweller, would like to say about this Bill, which has been universally welcomed this afternoon.
Before I put my own point of view, may I say that I welcome wholeheartedly the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) that the right place for a garden is next to the house. I have believed for many years that every house should have attached to it a garden large enough to provide much at least of the fresh vegetables and so on for an average family. I would remind the Minister and the House generally that, however we may try to solve this allotment problem, we shall find ourselves facing endless difficulties and endless vexations unless and until the nation decides that no house shall be considered complete without having its own garden attached.
We are now trying to create greater facilities to enable the man who has done a day's work, and gone home and had a meal, to go a quarter of a mile, a half mile and even two miles from his home to his allotment in order to cultivate it. It has been said that there are upwards of a quarter of a million allotment diggers at the present time; but my own experience is that a much larger number of cultivators of the soil have been so discouraged that they have given up. They have been discouraged because the towns in which they were cultivating allotments expanded and the land which they had been digging over a long period was required for housing or for building of some kind. The allotment cultivators were then pushed off. Usually, if they were provided with an alternative site, the new allotment area was perhaps a further quarter or half a mile away. Then, in the course of a few years, that which was 1356 the new allotment area was required for further town expansion.
In those circumstances, the allotment movement cannot hope to succeed. Yet it ought to succeed, for there is no more important duty which any man can perform than the growing of food. Upon that we all depend, whatever we may do or whoever we may be. Without food we should soon cease to be anything at all. Those who are prepared to cultivate the land should be given every possible encouragement and help. I suggest that this Bill does not contain that which will be the vital factor to ultimate success. There is no power here which will enable a permanent allotment to be provided. Surely, the cultivator is entitled to a guarantee that he will be permitted to continue, year in, year out, to cultivate his allotment. He must be given that guarantee if we as a nation, are to gain the full benefit to which we are entitled from his efforts. That power could be provided.
There was a time when town and country planning was not so fully developed and when the planners talked about a green belt being desirable round industrial towns. We have not yet provided those green belts. If we were wise enough, we should provide them now, and in those belts permanent allotments could be made available. Any town expansion would, of necessity, be carried out beyond the far side of the belt. Without such a provision, the allotment holder will continue to be subject to a 12 months' notice of dismissal, and each time he will have to go further out still, until finally he becomes discouraged and loses interest.
I should like to see a far larger number of people cultivating the soil. I should like to give all the help which we and the local authorities can give. These people need far more than is provided for in this Bill if we are to have a very large increase in the cultivated surface of the soil.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Hurd (Newbury)
This Bill will go on its way with the blessing of every Member of this House, chiefly because it offers the townsman a more secure stake in his bit of England if he has the will and the energy to cultivate an allotment. All political parties can take credit for the stage of development which we are 1357 reaching today in the way of giving greater security to the allotment holder. The history of the Allotment Acts shows that there has been no question of party politics, and happily there have not been party politics in our discussion today.
We all agree that experience shows that more security is needed than that now to be given by the 12 months' notice, as a minimum, for the holder of a permanent allotment. That is no more than justice. The holder should also be given the right to claim compensation for the loss of growing crops and unexhausted manures. That will put him in the category of a serious cultivator of the land, like the farmer who does it for his livelihood and not for enjoyment or recreation. We should feel happier if the allotment holder on temporary ground, who is subject to shorter notice, could be given greater security. But he will get 12 months' compensation in rent if he is turned out at short notice. We must recognise that when, at last, a local authority gets its allocation of houses, it must quickly assume possession of the land which it needs even though the land is occupied by allotments.
We welcome the encouragement which is being given to local authorities to provide more land for allotments by increasing the amount which they can use for this purpose to a rate of 1⅔d. in the £. I fully agree with those who urge that the local authority, the parish meeting or the parish council, should be given fuller discretion beyond that limit. After all, it is their own money and that of their constituents which they are proposing to spend. I think that they can be trusted to use that money rightly and wisely.
The main controversy in this discussion has been around Clause 11. The Minister, after having listened to the speeches from both sides of the House, must agree that this matter needs further consideration. My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Drewe) spoke with firsthand knowledge of the needs as well as the achievements of the pig-keepers, and an hon. Member opposite spoke of the great interest and, I would say, affection which the miners have for their pigs. The Minister would be wise if he would take Clause 11 away for re-drafting. It appears unsatisfactory to everyone. I hope that he and his advisers will be able 1358 to put the Clause into better shape so that it represents more truly the desires of those who feel that the men who take the trouble to keep pigs as well as hens or rabbits should be encouraged, but not to the point of creating a nuisance to their neighbours or putting up unsightly sheds. If the Minister can safeguard those two points, I am sure that it will be the desire of this House, and the country at large, that the men who want to keep livestock should get full encouragement and full protection. As we know from our experience of the last 10 years, there is good reason to encourage people to grow more food for themselves, whether it be vegetables or meat.
In this country, with our great industrial development, loss of contact with the land and reliance on the can-opener are weaknesses in our national life. This Bill goes some little way towards remedying these weaknesses, and we hope that, in Committee, when the Minister has presented us with another and a better Clause 11, it will protect the pig as well as the hen and the rabbit, where these can be kept in clean and proper conditions. It will then make a really effective contribution to safeguard the interests of domestic food producers, and it is in this hope that we give the Bill our full blessing on its passage through the House.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)
We have had a very interesting, and, within its short confines, a very useful Debate. This is, for me, quite a pleasant occasion, because I spent a long time last year and the year before presiding over two Committees whose work has led us into the Bill which is now before the House, and it is quite pleasant to see some of one's work coming to fruition, even if it is praised with faint damns or the other way round.
As the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) said, most of our discussion has centred round Clause 11, and it was certainly rather interesting to hear the hon. Gentleman say that, after listening with great care to the discussion, we must come to the same conclusion as he did. The conclusion to which I have come is that hon. Members have answered each other fairly well in the Debate, and, if they will look at what has 1359 been said, they will see how far hon. Gentlemen have been arguing against each other. Indeed, if they will look at what was said by the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Oakshott) about causes of friction and possible causes of difficulty in places where gardens are close together, they will realise that it is not only a question of danger to health or of nuisance, although these are difficulties. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. J. Jones) put up some arguments which quite clearly counteracted others which had been used.
I want the House to get rid of the essential misconception which has been shown in the Debate. When I presided over the Domestic Food Producers' Committee—and I pay my tribute to the very excellent members of that Committee and to the very good work they did—we had to consider what the position will be when the Defence Regulation comes to an end, as it will do at the end of this year, unless it is carried forward for a short period.
Up to the introduction of the Defence Regulation, any local authority, in respect of its own houses, or any private landlord, was able, by restrictive covenants in the lease, to prevent tenants from keeping livestock. During the war the Defence Regulations were fairly wide instruments which overrode other planning enactments—indeed, many other enactments—as well as over-riding the restrictive covenants that landlords might impose. We then considered how far, in the light of our experience during the war, it was proper, permanently and in peace-time, to interfere with a landlord's right to insert a restrictive or other covenant into his lease, and how far it was right, in this sort of way, to override other enactments which normally cover the position.
We listened to a good deal of discussion, and took evidence from a wide range of people, and, in the end, we tried to bring a certain amount of common sense to the consideration of the problem. The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Drewe) spoke with understandable zeal on this matter, for he has done more than any other man—and I pay my tribute to him—to get pig-keeping brought up to its present level, but when he said that the Minister was 1360 talking of a general ban on the keeping of pigs that could not possibly be further from the facts. My Committee's Report recommended the very opposite, and neither is the Minister, in this Bill, talking in terms of imposing a ban.
§ Mr. Brown
That is not what the hon. Gentleman said earlier, as he will see when he looks at HANSARD tomorrow. I very carefully took down his words. We have made progress as the Debate has proceeded.
The hon. Gentleman now says that we may be restoring the freedom to get a ban imposed by certain reactionary and thoughtless local authorities. With great respect, one has to consider whether it is proper in peace-time to interfere with what the hon. Member for North-West Leeds (Mr. Kaberry) pleaded for—the restoration of permissive powers of action to local authorities. We have to consider whether it is right to interfere with that all over the country in order to prevent a foolish local authority taking some silly action such as the hon. Gentleman mentioned.
We did consider this, and we did not start from the point that the pig was dirty, but looked at the whole question of rabbits, chickens and pigs to see where the line ought to be drawn. We came to the conclusion that it is reasonable to say that, while still banning the cockerels that crow early in the morning and still maintaining the provisions about nuisance and danger to health, there should not be this sort of restrictive covenant about chickens and rabbits, because the dangers of friction and difficulty in built-up areas are not the same, and because the usual powers in the local authority's own bylaws would be enough to deal with the situation.
When it comes to the pig, we think there is a different story to be told. There are areas in our large towns, on the outskirts of the towns and in suburban areas, where it would be impossible to say that a landlord or local authority may not in 1361 any circumstances impose such a ban, unless a nuisance or danger to health could be proved—and I think the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) addressed some very important words to the hon. Member for Newbury on the difficulty of proving a nuisance, and so on. To say that, unless that can be done, there must not be a ban on keeping pigs, but that people should keep them where they like in that kind of an area, where the gardens are close together and where there may be very expensive property developments, is really an interference which, while justified in the last five or six years, is entirely unjustified as a permanent interference by this House with the normal practice.
We therefore came to the conclusion, not against the keeping of pigs, but in the hope, which the Minister and my Committee share, that the local authorities will successfully apply their own bylaws to deal with this matter, and not interfere except where there is some very great risk of danger to health or a real nuisance. We examined this Clause from a common sense point of view, and we thought that it was best to leave it to the local authority, to the local people who understood local needs, and not impose an arbitrary action from the centre about the keeping of pigs, which gives rise to so many different arguments than did the hens and rabbits.
I hope that hon. Gentlemen on both both sides of the House, who have been arguing about what the Clause does, will think again about it. The hon. Member for North-West Leeds, said he wanted Clause 11 amended, so that we could restore a degree of permissive power to the local authorities, but, if we amended that Clause, that is exactly what we should take away from the local authorities, because we should prevent them from exercising their permissive powers. I hope the hon. Gentleman will feel that there is no lack of understanding or regard for pig keepers, or of the importance of their movement, but that there has to be a sensible line drawn for permanent purposes. I think that where that line has been drawn in the Bill is probably just where it should be drawn.
I have been asked one or two other questions. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) asked me about certain omissions 1362 from the recommendations in the Report, and, in particular, why we are not proposing to re-enact Section 3 of the 1925 Act. We considered this very carefully and made certain recommendations. Since then, my right hon. Friend has been able to take into account, rather more fully than we did on the Committee, the rest of the water which has flowed under the bridge—the Town and Country Planning Act, the position of the Minister of Town and Country Planning, our own administrative arrangements, and the extent to which planning authorities have to be consulted, and, in turn, have to consult the allotment authorities. Quite frankly, it seems to us that there is no need to re-enact it, and that by administrative methods, by the Minister of Town and Country Planning's own arrangements and our arrangements with him all that Section 3 could do, if re-enacted, can be done. For that reason, it is not proposed to do that.
The hon. and gallant Baronet further asked about the reason for the omission of our suggested definition of an allotment garden. It has been very pleasant today to be congratulated on what I am told is a very good definition. But the reason is that our lawyers told us that the existing definition bears all the interpretation that could be placed on the new definition, and that it is impossible to place any different interpretation on the existing one. By implication it includes what we want to put into it.
I have been asked several times about the holders of allotments on requisitioned land. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) got a little angry about it. We are very conscious of the problem. No one is trying to put up a gravestone inscribed "R.I.P." over the bodies of those who did good work during the war. I was one of them. There are many difficulties about dealing with the matter in the grand sort of way which the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested. We think this Bill widens the power of allotment authorities. It increases the amount of money they are able to spend, and, therefore, we shall do all we can, as I am sure will the allotment associations, to bring to the attention of allotment authorities the need to find new areas to which these people can transfer. We believe that the increased powers it will 1363 give, and the increased amount of money it will allow, will be one way of ensuring that these people are, in fact, looked after, and will stand a chance of getting new allotments in place of those they have to give up.
§ Mr. Brown
After receiving recommendations from several bodies including the National Allotments and Gardens Society, and after considerable discussion among ourselves and with people who came to see us, we unanimously came to the view that were it put up by one-third of a penny it would give us the money which the allotment authorities were likely to spend. It was generally agreed that that figure would be satisfactory to everybody concerned, and there were no reservations about it at all.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) about shacks. He suggested that the Government ought to do something—the Ministries of Health and Agriculture together—to develop a decent sort of building. There is a good deal in what he and other hon. Members said, and I will refer to what is already being done. I went to the annual conference of the National Allotments and Gardens Society at Cardiff recently and saw there excellent demonstrations showing various approved—if that is the right term—buildings, and demonstrations of lay-out. It is quite clear that to the various allotment societies there are already available some very excellent designs and a good deal of knowledge as to how and where they can be got. A lot is being done in that field, and we shall certainly do all we can to encourage the development of that sort of thing.
I think I have covered most of the points raised this afternoon, and such other points as I have not covered, such as the Salisbury engineer's trouble over the definition of "hen" and "nuisance" are, I think, on the whole, better left till the Committee stage, when we can get to grips with those things rather more easily than we can today. I have the 1364 greatest pleasure in joining with my right hon. Friend in commending this Measure to the House. I believe it is much more important than its limited scope would suggest. I also believe that, despite the criticism of particular Clauses, when hon. Gentlemen come to look at them—and if they will read with them the Report of the Committee that gave rise to them—they will find that they do set out to meet the points they have in mind.
The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. J. Jones) raised the question of Clause 8 and suggested that it was not a recommendation of the Advisory Committee. If he will look at paragraphs 7 and 15 (3) of the Report of the Advisory Committee he will see there a unanimous recommendation which is, in fact, Clause 8 as it appears in the Bill. With those explanations I commend the Bill to the House, and hope that it will receive its Second Reading and be speedily placed upon the Statute Book.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second Time, and committed to a Standing Committee.