HC Deb 24 February 1953 vol 511 cc1915-23

3.35 p.m.

Mr. F. J. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to dispossession of owners or occupiers of land under the Agriculture Act, 1947. I wish to secure only a very small amendment of the law by a Bill which is designed to relieve hardship to a cer- tain class of very small farmers. As hon. Members will know, under the Agriculture Act, 1947, if a farmer is inefficient he may become subject to supervision by his county agricultural executive committee, and if, after a period of supervision, he does not show the necessary degree of improvement a dispossession order can be issued against him by the Minister of Agriculture on the instruction of the executive committee.

He has, of course, a right of appeal to an agricultural land tribunal, but from that tribunal there is no further appeal, except on the very limited sphere of points of law. At least, that is what I am led to understand. However, it is not in regard to the appeal procedure or, indeed, in regard to the workings of the tribunal that my small Bill would be directed. I am concerned with the especial hardship which is caused to some of the very small tenant farmers who are actually living on holdings when they are thus dispossessed, and, for the sake of brevity, I will confine myself to one example, about which I know a considerable amount, concerning one of my constituents.

It is, I think, as most people will agree, a particularly unfortunate case. Mr. Brookes lives with his wife on a smallholding of nine acres, and he produces enough from this holding not only to pay his rent and rates, but to keep himself and his wife. I should add that I have made inquiries of his landlord, who is completely satisfied with his tenant and would be quite content for him to remain in possession of his holding indefinitely.

Mr. Brookes has been recovering from a severe operation, but, nevertheless, the production from his holding is increasing. But this is not good enough for the agricultural executive committee who, having supervised him, have decided that he must go, and have asked the Minister to issue the necessary dispossession order. The irony of the situation is that had Mr. Brookes' nine acres consisted of rose gardens and croquet lawns he would not have been dispossessed, but because he earns his modest living off his land he must go.

He is elderly and he will not find another job very easily. He will have no house to go to, and for him and his wife it will be public assistance and a futile search for "digs" in a densely populated district. The tribunal have confirmed the decision of the agricultural committee, and the Minister is compelled, therefore, to issue the dispossession order, as he has no powers of discretion in the matter.

My little Bill would prevent dispossession in cases of this kind. Supervision would continue where necessary, but there would be no dispossession of owners or occupiers of agricultural units comprising fewer than 15 acres of agricultural land, provided the owner or occupier was actually resident on the land.

The House may like to have a few figures to show how modest, though genuine, my proposals are. In 1952, 25 occupiers of holdings of fewer than 15 acres were dispossessed, but only seven of those were actually resident on their holdings. If my Bill is passed by the House, and the same situation applies in 1953, only about 45 acres of land would be involved. Last year, although 45 acres of land might have been tilled more efficiently, seven homes were broken up in the process. My Bill would prevent these small dispossessions and, if passed, it could take effect before my constituent is himself dispossessed. I therefore commend my modest Measure to the House, and I hope most sincerely that it will give me leave to introduce the Bill.

3.39 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Hurd (Newbury)

I rise to object to leave being given. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll), while putting his case with disarming charm, as always, is really trying to do too much under the Ten Minutes' Rule procedure. No one wants to inflict the hardship of dispossession in cases which would be of little account in food production. I know that I shall have the House with me when I say that the county agricultural executive committees are practical men. They do not attempt to tackle little patches of weed-infested land unless they are becoming a real nuisance in the neighbourhood, either by spreading weeds or by setting such a bad example as to discourage everyone else.

The Cheshire County Agricultural Executive Committee, which I met during the war, was a first-class committee, and no doubt it is a good committee today. It consists of 12 members, five nominated as usual by the Minister, three nominated by the National Farmers' Union, two by the County Landowners' Association and two by the workers' trade unions. The committee comprises a good body of practical men who are not likely to bother themselves with something unless it is worth tackling.

I have tried to find out how many cases there may be in the 15-acre group for the whole country. I am told there were only 25 dispossession cases last year, but there are 150,000 agricultural holdings under 15 acres and they total 850,000 acres. We spent last Friday deploring the loss of good, fertile agricultural land. Here are 850,000 acres. Is the House lightly to discard food production from that area as being of no account?

My hon. Friend said that his little Bill would protect only those who are living on their holdings. Nothing is easier than dumping down a caravan or a shack on a piece of empty ground and staking a claim in that manner. We shall be well advised to keep all agricultural holdings within the framework of the Agriculture Act, 1947. Part of the Act provides guarantees in respect of prices and markets and another puts an obligation on the agricultural community to farm properly and imposes a responsibility for self-discipline, and it is in that respect that the committee are concerned. They have a by no means enviable task, but they do it well. In this case, they have decided that the smallholder really was not trying to make the best of his land.

I ask the House not to give leave for the introduction of the Bill. Rather, the House should turn its mind to reviewing the machinery of the Agriculture Act, 1947, to see where, after five years' experience, it needs to be improved. My view is that the good husbandry provisions, and particularly cases of dispossession, should come for final sanction before a court of appeal, and I hope it will not be too long before a Measure on those lines is brought forward. But we must do nothing to undermine the Agriculture Act. I am sure my hon. Friend did not intend to do that in his proposals, but I am afraid that that would be their effect. For this reason, I urge the House not to agree to the introduction of the Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Frederick Gough(seated and covered) (Horsham)

On a point of order. Is it in order, Sir, for an hon. Member to appear outside the Division Lobby not knowing what the business is and to be pulled by the Tellers into the No Lobby? I saw an hon. and gallant Member who

represents one of the Portsmouth divisions arrive, and he was pulled forcibly into the No Lobby.

Mr. Speaker

Any violence offered to an hon. Member is, of course, out of order. I will inquire into the matter after the Division.

The House divided: Ayes, 65; Noes, 314.

Division No. 106.] AYES [3.43 p.m.
Alport, C. J. M. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Odey, G. W.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Hirst, Geoffrey Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Holt, A. F. Perkins, W. R. D.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M. Peyton, J. W. W.
Black, C. W. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Pilkington, Capt. R. A
Boyle, Sir Edward Lambert, Hon. G. Powell, J. Enoch
Braine, B. R. Langford-Holt, J. A. Raikes, Sir Victor
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Rayner, Brig. R.
Cranborne, Viscount Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Robson-Brown, W
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E Linstead, H. N. Russell, R. S.
Crouch, R. F. Llewellyn, D. T. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)
Fell, A. Longden, Gilbert Snow, J. W.
Fort, R. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Speir, R. M.
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) McAdden, S. J. Stevens, G. P.
Gough, C. F. H. McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Gower, H. R. Maclean, Fitzroy Wade, D. W.
Graham, Sir Fergus MacLeod, Jahn (Ross and Cromarty) Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Grimond, J. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Markham, Major S. F. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Harvey, lan (Harrow, E.) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hay, John Morrison, John (Salisbury) Mr. Erroll and
Higgs, J. M. C. Nabarro, G. D. N Sir Waldron Smithers.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Acland, Sir Richard Butcher, Sir Herbert Edelman, M
Albu, A. H. Callaghan, L. J. Edwards, John (Brighouse)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Campbell, Sir David Edwards W. J. (Stepney)
Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell) Castle, Mrs. B. A. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Champion, A. J. Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Chapman, W. D. Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)
Astor, Hon. J. J. Chetwynd, G. R. Fernyhough, E.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C R Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Fienburgh, W.
Awbery, S. S. Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Finch, H. J.
Bacon, Miss Alice Clunie, J. Fisher, Nigel
Balrd, J. Cole, Norman Follick, M.
Baldwin, A. E. Colegate, W. A Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)
Balfour, A. Collick, P. H. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.
Barlow, Sir John Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Cooper, Sqn, Ldr. Albert Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)
Bartley, P. Corbet, Mrs. Freda Gibson, C. W.
Bence, C. R. Cove, W. G. Glanville, James
Benn, Hon. Wedgwood Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Godber, J. B.
Benson, G. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.
Beswick, F. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon H. F. C Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.
Blackburn, F. Crosland, C. A. R. Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)
Blenkinsop, A. Cullen, Mrs. A. Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)
Blyton, W. R. Cuthbert, W N. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.
Boardman, H Daines, P. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Boothby, R. J. G. Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G Darling, George (Hillsborough) Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
Bowden, H. W. Davies, Harold (Leek) Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)
Bowles, F. G. Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hamilton, W. W.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth de Freitas, Geoffrey Hannan, W.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.) Deedes, W. F. Harden, J. R. E.
Brockway, A. F. Deer, G. Hardy, E. A.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Dodds, N. N. Hare, Hon. J. [...]
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Dodds-Parker, A. D. Hargreaves, A.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E McA Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)
Brooman-White, R. C. Donner, P. W. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Brown. Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Drayson, G. B. Harvey, Air Cdre. A V. (Macclesfield)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Drewe, C. Hayman, F. H.
Bullard, D. G. Dugdale Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich) Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.
Bullock, Capt. M. Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T (Richmond) Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Duthie, W. S. Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Burton, Miss F. E. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Hewitson, Capt. M.
Hill, Dr Charles (Luton) Molson, A. H. E. Shurmer, P. L. E.
Hobson, C. R. Monslow, W. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Holman, P. Moody, A. S. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth) Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Sorensen, R. W.
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mort, D. L. Sparks, J. A.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Moyle, A. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Hughes Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Mulley, F. W. Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J. Murray, J. D. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Hutchison, Lt..-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Steele, T.
Hutchison, James (Scotstoun) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Hylton-Foster, H. B. H. Nugent, G. R. H. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Oakshott, H. D. Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Oldfield, W. H. Storey, S.
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Oliver, G. H. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Irving, W J. (Wood Green) O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Stress, Dr. Barnett
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Studholme, H. G.
Janner, B. Orr-Ewing, Sir lan (Weston-super-Mare) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E
Jay, Rt Hon. D. P. [...] Oswald, T. Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Jeger, George (Goole) Padley, W. E. Swingler, S. T.
Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Paget, R. T. Sylvester, G. O.
Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Jennings, R. Palmer, A. M. F. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Johnson, James (Rugby) Pannell, Charles Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Parker, J. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Paton, J. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Jones, David (Hartlepool) Pearson, A. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Jones, Ja[...]k (Rotherham) Peart, T. F Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Jones, T. W (Merioneth) Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Thornoycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Keenan, W Plummer, Sir Leslie Thornton, E.
Kenyon, C. Popplewell, E. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Porter, G. Timmons, J
King Dr. H. M. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Tomney, F.
Kinley, J. Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Vane, W. M. F.
Lever Leslie (Ardwick) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Vosper, D. F.
Lewis, Arthur Proctor, W. T. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M Profumo, J. D. Wallace, H. W.
Low, A. R. W. Pryde, D. J Watkins, T. E.
Lucas, P. B. (Brantford) Rankin, John Webb, Rt. Hon M. (Bradford, C.)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Redmayne, M Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Macdonald, Sir Peter Reeves, J. West, D. G.
McGhee, H. G. Reid, Thomas (Swindon) Wheeldon, W. E.
McGovern, J. Reid, William (Camlachie) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
McInnes, J. Remnant, Hon, P. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Ma[...]keson, Brig. H. R. Rhodes, H. Wilkins, W. A.
McKibbin, A. J. Richards, R. Willey, F. T.
McLeavy, F. Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Williams, David (Neath)
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Maitland, Patrick (Lanark) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Roper, Sir Harold Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Mann, Mrs. Jean Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Wills, G.
Manuel, A. C. Ross, William Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Mayhew, C. P. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Medlicolt, Brig F Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Mellish, R J. Scott, R. Donald Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Mellor, Sir John Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Messer, F. Shepherd, William Yates, V. F.
Mikardo, Ian Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Mitchison, G. R. Short E. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Hurd and Captain Duncan.
Mr. Speaker

>: Will the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) please renew his complaint?

Mr. Gough

As I came out of the Aye Lobby, I noticed the hon. Gentleman who represents one of the Portsmouth divisions walking into the House. Opposite the entrance to the No Lobby, he was seized by two hon. Members and propelled into the No Lobby. I asked him if he knew what the business was, and he told me that he did not.

Mr. Speaker

>: I understand that the Member involved is the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke). I should like to hear what he has to say.

Brigadier Clarke

I put up no resistance whatsoever, Sir. I should never be put unwillingly into a Lobby into which I did not want to go.

Mr. Speaker

I think that the House will be content to let the matter rest there.

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