§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
§ Clause 1.—(AMENDMENTS OF S. 10 OF HILL FARMING ACT, 1946.)
§ The Chairman
The first Amendment—in page 1, line 16, to leave out "cease to have effect; but," and to insert "provide that"—is out of order, as it destroys the whole meaning of the Clause.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I gather, Sir Charles, that you have said that the first Amendment is out of order on the ground that it destroys the whole meaning of the Clause. I do no: know whether it has been appreciated that that Amendment and the Amendments in page 1, line 19, to leave out "shall," and to insert "may" and in page 2, line 7, at end, to insert:
(c) provided that in the case of any cottage to which conditions as amended by this section are applied the grant payable shall be that set out in section one of the Housing Act, 1952.
are, in fact, all part of one principle—not to destroy the meaning of the Clause at all, but simply to provide an alternative method of procedure which would impose a smaller charge on the Exchequer in those circumstances where it was better to do so. It does not matter, Sir Charles, whether you call only one of those three Amendments so long as we have the chance to develop the point to which we attach importance. May I ask whether it is your intention to allow us that opportunity on either of the other two Amendments?
§ The Chairman
I did not appreciate that the three Amendments to which the right hon. Member has referred went together, because all of them deal with separate points. I propose calling the Amendment in page 1, line 19, to leave out "shall," and to insert "may"; but the Amendment in page 2, line 7, is out of order because it proposes a new charge. I was, therefore, not going to call that Amendment, but no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make his point on the third Amendment if he wishes.
§ Mr. G. Brown
The argument will have to go a little wider than the narrow "shall" or "may" argument, but so long as you allow us to argue on the third Amendment—
§ The Chairman
I am not giving promises in advance, but I will bear it in mind. The Amendment in page 1, line 16, after "effect," to insert:in so far as cottages, in respect of which improvement grants under the Hill Farming Act, 1946, are made after the passing of this Act, are continued.also covers the Amendment in page 2, line 34, to leave out subsection (5) so I do not propose calling the Amendment in line 34.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 16, after "effect," to insert:in so far as cottages, in respect of which improvement grants under the Hill Farming Act, 1946, are made after the passing of this Act, are continued.It will be appreciated by the Government that what we have in mind here is to ensure that, under the new regulations, cottages that were built or improved under Section 10 of the 1946 Act will continue to be untied as at present. That seems to us to be reasonable. On the Second Reading I was twitted a little because I said that this was retrospective legislation and some hon. Members said that there was nothing retrospective about it at all. We merely wish to ensure by this Amendment that the farmer or owner who took a grant for the building or improving of a cottage under Section 10 shall continue to observe the conditions under which that grant was made available to him; that is to say, the occupant of any such cottage shall continue to occupy it as a tenant and, as such, shall enjoy certain protection.
We do not like the new provisions even to tie cottages in future, but we here seek to limit the provisions of Clause 1 of the Bill so as to ensure that the cottages that have hitherto been built or improved with grants under Section 10 shall continue to be occupied in accordance with the conditions under which the grants were paid.
That cannot be a hardship to anyone. We are not being harsh on the owners or the farmers who enjoyed the grants. They took the grants with their eyes 1195 open, knowing the conditions under which they were made available. The farm workers took occupation of the cottages in the knowledge that they were protected by the Rent Restrictions Acts. They were offered some protection and it is quite wrong that they should now have taken from them any protection given under the 1946 Act. It is equally wrong that the owner of the house should now be relieved of conditions which he accepted at the time of accepting the grant.
§ Mr. A. J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)
This Bill undoubtedly has a retrospective aspect which the Amendment seeks to remove. When the Bill was introduced by the Front Bench opposite, I understood it was because there was a deterrent effect upon the building of farm cottages necessary for the running of isolated farms, where it is not easy to get shepherds because of the difficulty of getting living accommodation reasonably near to the man's work. I gathered that was the main purpose of the Bill and the reason for its introduction, despite the fact that it was quite obvious that the Bill was going to upset the farm workers of this country.
The Minister then knew quite well that there has been, is and will continue to be a great deal of opposition to the continuance of this tied cottage principle as it relates to farming as a whole; he knows very well that the farm worker does not like it; but despite that fact, he brings in legislation of this sort. I heard the Joint Parliamentary Secretary say quite recently that he regarded the farming industry as being something in which there are three working partners, and undoubtedly one of those partners is the farm worker. If he wants to insure the good-will of the farm worker in the running of this industry, he should not bring in legislation which, in my opinion, will go a long way towards alienating some of the good will and the desire to help which undoubtedly exists among farm workers.
The Labour Government did not find it wise, in the circumstances of the housing situation, to abolish the tied cottage, but in the Hill Farming Act, 1946, they prevented its extension in certain respects, and one of them was the building of houses with improvement grants given by the Government of the day. 1196 In winding up the debate on Second Reading, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary referred to the deterrent effect on the building of additional cottages for the purpose which he and all of us have in mind, namely, increasing the number of houses available in the rural areas. He said:There has nevertheless been, in our judgment, some deterrent effect in some cases which has held back the landlord or the farmer from building a new cottage or reconditioning an old one which he would have done if he knew that he could get the grant and still keep the cottage as a tied cottage."—[Official Report, 1st February, 1954; Vol. 523, c. 156.]That might be applicable to every house built or reconditioned in the future, but quite obviously it cannot apply to the houses built between 1946 and the time when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. It seems to me to be quite unnecessary to take the step of making this legislation retrospective to houses which were built under entirely different conditions. After all, those landlords who reconditioned houses, or farmers who erected new houses, under the improvement schemes did so with their eyes wide open, recognising the conditions which were contained in the Act of 1946 and the regulations prepared under it.
To make the Bill retrospective will certainly not cause any additional cottages to be built, because the cottages are already there. They have been built or reconditioned. It might do a little bit in the future, but I object to the principle involved. The only effect of the Bill, therefore, will be to upset further those people who are such an essential part of the farming industry, namely, the farm workers, who hate tied cottages because of their obvious implication that the tenant is tied to his job.
I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be able to accept this Amendment and that this legislation will not be made retrospective. I might add that when I sat on the Government side of the House, time after time I heard members of the then Opposition arguing that legislation should be made retrospective only in the rarest and most urgent of instances. Surely this is not one of those instances.
Retrospective legislation is bad, and I am hoping that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, when he considers all these 1197 factors, will be able to say that he is prepared, if not to accept the wording of the Amendment, at any rate to accept the principle so as to ensure that retrospection is not embodied in this Bill when it becomes an Act.
§ Mr. E. G. Gooch (Norfolk, North)
If I support this Amendment I am sure the Committee will not be under any misapprehension about my attitude to tied cottages. I tried to make that attitude plain on Second Reading. I detest tied cottages and I detest this miserable Bill. I am merely supporting the Amendment because it touches on an aspect of the matter which is extremely important not only to the individual concerned but to the industry.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ One effect of this Bill will be to create a gulf between employer and worker in agriculture. It is a vicious Bill, and it really seeks to do something, not for the purpose of improving matters, but something which will have the very opposite effect on the farm workers and the occupants of these cottages. I regret the provision in the Bill that these grants should be made retrospective. The owners of the cottages knew exactly the conditions under which the grants were made when they were first made. What is more, the workers occupying the cottages also realised that they were there under certain conditions.
§ I very much regret the suggestion in the Bill of making these grants retrospective. I hope the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will have another look at this matter, because I am sure he will be with me in expressing the hope that the good relations which have characterised agriculture for a good many years will continue, and I say emphatically that I do not think there is a chance of their continuing on the same happy lines if this kind of legislation is persisted in. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary has now a chance to retrieve his past. Let him have another look at this, and I hope he will agree to the principle suggested in our Amendment.
§ Major D. McCallum (Argyll)
I intervene in this debate only for one moment to try to put things right. The hon. Member for Derbyshire South-East (Mr. Champion) and the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) insisted that 1198 this Bill goes contrary to all the wishes of the farm workers in the country. I cannot stress too much that this is a Hill Farming Bill dealing with the hill farming industry, and that it has nothing to do with general farming.
I repudiate what both hon. Members said; I repudiate that the hill farming workers of this country, particularly in Scotland, feel any grievance because this Bill is being introduced. We have not had one protest. When I introduced a Private Member's Bill along the same lines in 1950, I did not have a protest from any of the hill farming areas and I have not received any such protests now. The other day I asked whether the Government had received any such protests from workers in the hill farming industry and I understand that not one has been received.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) has just told us that there have been no protests of which he is aware against the proposals in this Bill.
§ The Chairman
I think the last three speeches have all been Second Reading speeches. We are dealing with an Amendment only, and this debate is going a little wide of that Amendment.
§ Mr. Hayman
All I was going to say was that hon. Members opposite are completely unaware of the great indignation which farm workers as a whole feel against the principle of the tied cottage.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)
The effect of this Amendment, as has been stated by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), would be to limit the effect of the Bill to the new cottages that are built. Our intention is to bring this aspect of these farm cottages into line with the general effect of the 1952 Housing Act so that all farm cottages actually built or improved with grants will be occupied on the same basis, that is to say, in time they will all be occupied on the basis of service occupancy plus the four weeks' safeguard. We think it 1199 would be a mistake to create a situation in which cottages already built will have the existing conditions applied and those which are completed now and built in the future will have a different set of conditions applied to them.
We recognise fully that the occupant of one of the cottages already completed is in a special position, and it is our intention to safeguard that by maintaining his position as a tenant so long as he remains on that farm. However, when he leaves the cottage the new conditions that will be made under this Bill will apply, so that the cottage can be occupied in the future on the basis of a service occupancy.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
My hon. Friend said as long as the present occupant remains on that farm. Does he mean that or does he mean as long as the present occupant remains in the cottage?
§ Mr. Nugent
Aslong as the present occupant remains in the cottage would, I suppose, be strictly accurate because he has a tenancy and his tenancy will not be terminated until the farmer who employs him has gone to the court and satisfied the court that the tenancy should be terminated. So there might be an interval of time between the end of his work on the farm and of his leaving the cottage—in fact there would be a few months. Some of them may remain for the whole of the 20 years for which these conditions run, but we feel we have met the human aspect of this problem and have taken the necessary measures to achieve uniformity eventually when those who are already in the grant-aided cottages leave their farms.
In reply to the general argument made by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion), our primary objective in this Bill is to ensure that sufficient new cottages are built in hill farming and livestock rearing areas, and that old existing cottages which need improving are improved. The basis of our thought in this matter is that when these improvements are made the general arrangement of service occupancy shall be preserved, because we take the view that this meets the practical necessities of the industry. The stockman is the most obvious example. He is not only 1200 essential to the work of the farm, but to the life of the farm. To my mind, one of the main reasons this system of the service occupancy of cottages has grown up is the need to provide living accommodation on the farm for the man who looks after the livestock, so that when he ceases his work, he leaves the cottage so that his successor can come in without a break.
Where arrangements are made which will leave an interval of anything of the order of three or four months, it is obviously a completely impracticable position from the point of view of looking after livestock. It is because of that basic thought in our approach to this matter, to meet the practical necessities of the industry, that we feel it wise in this relatively limited class of cottages which received grants under the original Act, for them in due course to come into line with the rest, so that, in future, they may be occupied on the basis of a service tenancy.
For those reasons we cannot accept the Amendment, and I hope that the Committee will reject it.
§ Mr. G. Brown
It is a considerable criticism of the Minister and of the Government if, on a Bill of this kind, which affects so many people so seriously and on which such strong views are held, as the Parliamentary Secretary himself recognised on Second Reading, the Minister did not have any talks with anybody before he introduced the Bill.
§ Mr. Nugent
Perhaps I can help the right hon. Gentleman. I did not say that I had no talks, but that I did not refer to having any talks.
§ Mr. Nugent
I am grateful to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite for making speeches for me, but I can assure them that I am well able to speak for myself.
I made no reference of any kind to having any talks, nor was I asked whether I had any talks. The hon. Gentleman simply made an interjection which referred to something he thought I had said. Well, I had not said it, and I said that I had not. The right hon. Gentleman has now put a new question to me, and that I am prepared to answer, as to what talks we have had in this matter. We have been guided in this matter by our general impression of what we thought was necessary, and by representations we have had from the C.L.A. and the N.F.U.
§ Mr. Brown
Discussions with the landlord, yes; the farmer, yes; but the farm worker, no. The Government, for the first time since 1945, have thrown overboard the idea that discussions about what to do for this industry must be non-partisan and must take into consultation all sections of the industry. My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) leaned over backwards in an effort never to do anything without consulting the County Landowners' Association, as it then was, and the National Farmers' Union. It is outrageous that a Tory Minister has served notice on those of us who are concerned with the farm workers' side of the industry that we are no longer worth consulting and that the Minister should not even come to this Committee and defend the point.
By comparison with his predecessor the right hon. Gentleman would not even make a Parliamentary Secretary on a poor day. He is the first who has not consulted every section of the industry. I have never been really angry about his administration of agriculture before—[Interruption]—yes, in recent weeks, in 1202 Sussex, at the National Farmers' Union, and in South Wales, I have defended the idea that I would not attack the Minister on political grounds. Yet I am told today that on an issue of this kind no discussions were held with the workers' side of the industry. We do not blame the hon. Gentleman because he is only reporting, but we hope that he will represent to his Minister that if this is the line to be followed it will bring about a complete change in the atmosphere in the industry.
§ Mr. Nugent
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman for a moment? I think I shall put this in perspective if I inform him that the representations which were made by these two bodies were both made on their own initiative. Curiously enough, we had no representations at all from the workers' unions.
§ Mr. Brown
Yes, but would the hon. Gentleman expect the National Union of Agricultural Workers, the Transport and General Workers' Union or the Scottish Farm Servants' Union to make representations about a situation with which they were satisfied unless the Minister told them that he was proposing to change it? Of course not.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ This is outrageous, and there is no defence. If hon. Members want it this way, all right, but do not let us have any more lectures from hon. Gentlemen opposite or from the Minister about this being a non-partisan matter which we try to discuss together in order to achieve the best results.
§ You rightly said, Sir Charles, that we are at the moment discussing not the general principle of the Clause, which we shall have the opportunity of doing later, but the Amendment. I am very unhappy and sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary has not been able to accept the Amendment. In the past, hon. Members opposite have been very strong and loud in their protestations that retrospective legislation is bad, that when something has been done and everybody has known the basis on which it has been done, it is bad for a Government subsequently—even worse if it is a subsequent Government—to change the whole situation to the detriment of some people who thought they were all right under the original legislation.1203
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
My hon. Friend has made it clear that he is not changing any existing tenancy agreement. There is no retrospective legislation in this respect.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member is too fast. I do not normally talk on these matters without first trying to find out the position. I would not pull a fast one like that; there is plenty of ammunition in the Bill without trying to be clever.
As I understand it, there is a vital difference in relation to dependants. The protection in the case of dependants is not that which exists under the ordinary rent restriction law. The change means that the dependants will not have the protection that they would otherwise have had, and that is why the change alters the position of those who are at present in occupation. I am reminded that in any case we have only an unsupported assertion that the protection exists. Assuming that the assertion is correct, I am advised that I am right in deducing that there is a fundamental change in the case of some people who have depended on the original law for their protection after the tenant dies.
As my right hon. Friend clearly brought out, the real point is that if a farmer or landlord accepted money to the tune of half the cost of putting up a cottage on the conditions on which it was offered, and was well satisfied to accept it, what grounds are there, after the money has been paid, retrospectively to change the conditions under which the farmer or landlord accepted the money?
We hope, later in the day, completely to torpedo the argument of the Parliamentary Secretary. He says that about 50 applications for hill farming improvement schemes have been withdrawn out of the many thousands which have been submitted, and that it can be deduced that some of the 50 were withdrawn because of dissatisfaction with the conditions. I can accept that, if one has the political philosophy of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, there is perhaps something in their arguments for altering the law forward to accommodate the 50 or such proportion of the 50 who were not willing to build or improve cottages on these terms. Nevertheless, 50 is such a small proportion of the many thousands of schemes submitted that I should not have 1204 judged them of sufficient importance to justify changing the law. As I say, I can understand the argument even if I cannot accept it.
But what I cannot understand is that, because 20, 30, 40 or 50 people in the whole country would not build or improve a cottage in future because of the conditions, the conditions are to be altered also for the hundreds or thousands who have built or improved cottages in the past and were happy to do so under the conditions. This seems to be retrospective legislation of the worst type. Whatever happens to the existing tenant or the incoming occupier who would have been protected under the conditions accepted by the landlord when he took several hundred pounds of public money, he certainly will not be protected when the conditions have been changed. This really is a bad business.
The only defence offered by the Parliamentary Secretary was that it would be a tidy arrangement to have everything uniform, the old cottages coming under the same conditions as all forward cottages. Tidy and uniform administration is a beautiful bureaucratic argument. Anyone who has ever sat on the Government Front Bench must have heard it hundreds of times. But it really does not mean anything at all. There is no virtue in tidiness or uniformity, and there is less than virtue in it if tidiness is obtained at somebody's expense.
To get tidiness or uniformity at the expense of human happiness must be a bad thing. Conservativism certainly means uniformity and bureaucratic tidiness, and we understand that well enough, but to adduce this in the Committee as the only argument for getting rid of the agreement which has hitherto existed about the operation of this legislation when it means putting a lot of people in jeopardy and making them unhappy and uncomfortable, is most ineffective, even from the Tory Party.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that this is a human problem. How right he is! But he is dealing with it—he will protest about this; I know him very well, and it does not fit his character—in an inhuman way. To get tidiness and uniformity, he is being inhuman, hard and harsh to men who are living in cottages belonging to their employers 1205 and have been well protected, and whose employers have had large sums of public money on condition that they protected their men.
§ Mr. Nugent
I have specifically explained that those who are now occupying the cottages have the protection continued.
§ those taking the place of the present tenant.
§ This is a bad Bill. On Second Reading I called it a dirty Bill, and it has not been cleaned up since then. Acceptance of the Amendment would not have cost the Government anything, but they would at any rate have met the little point that we have put up and would have helped somebody. In their wisdom, the Government have decided to resist the Amendment. Consequently, we shall divide the Committee on it.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 234; Noes, 263.1207
|Division No. 29.]||AYES||[4.37 p.m.|
|Albu, A. H.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Fernyhough, E.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fienburgh, W.||Lewis, Arthur|
|Balfour, A.||Finch, H. J.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Bartley, P.||Follick, M.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Foot, M. M.||McLeavy, F.|
|Bence, C. R.||Forman, J. C.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Benson, G.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Beswick, F.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Gibson, C. W.||Manuel, A. C.|
|Blackburn, F.||Glanville, James||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Gooch, E. G.||Mason, Roy|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Grey, C. F.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bowles, F. G.||Griffiths, David (Rather Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Monslow, W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Moody, A. S.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Morley, R.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hamilton, W. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hannan, W.||Mort, D. L.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hardy, E. A.||Moyle, A.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hargreaves, A.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Murray, J. D.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hastings, S.||Nally, W.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hayman, F. H.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.|
|Champion, A. J.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Herbison, Miss M.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hobson, C. R.||Oswald, T.|
|Clunie, J.||Holman, P.||Padley, W. E.|
|Coldrick, W.||Holmes, Horace||Paget, R. T.|
|Collick, P. H.||Houghton, Douglas||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hoy, J. H.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pannell, Charles|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Daines, P.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pearson, A.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Peart, T. F.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Popplewell, E.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Janner, B.||Porter, G.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jeger, George (Goole)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Deer, G.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Pryde, D, J.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Rankin, John|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Reeves, J.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Edelman, M.||Keenan, W.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Kenyon, C.||Richards, R.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stross, Dr. Barnett||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Swingler, S. T.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Sylvester, G. O.||Wigg, George|
|Ross, William||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Royle, C.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||Willey, F. T.|
|Shackleton, E. A. A.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Short, E. W.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Shurmer, P. L. E.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Thornton, E.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Timmons, J.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Tomney, F.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Usborne, H. C.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||Wallace, H. W.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Warbey, W. N.||Yates, V. F.|
|Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Watkins, T. E.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Weitzman, D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Steele, T||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Mr. Arthur Allen and Mr. John Taylor.|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||West, D. G.|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Deedes, W. F.||Hurd, A. R.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Dormer, Sir P. W.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Drayson, G. B.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Kaberry, D.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Kerr, H. W.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Erroll, F. J.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Barber, Anthony||Fell, A.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Barlow, Sir John||Finlay, Graeme||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Fisher, Nigel||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Fort, R.||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Birch, Nigel||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Black, C. W.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Bowen, E. R.||Glover, D.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Godber, J. B.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||McAdden, S. J.|
|Braine, B. R.||Gough, C. F. H.||McCallum, Major D.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Gower, H. R.||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Gridley, Sir Arnold||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Grimond, J.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Harden, J. R. E.||Maclean, Fitzroy|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander, E. E.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hay, John||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.|
|Carr, Robert||Heath, Edward||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marples, A. E.|
|Channon, H.||Higgs, J. M. C.||Maude, Angus|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Maudling, R.|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Hinchingbrooke, viscount||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Cole, Norman||Hirst, Geoffrey||Mellor, Sir John|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Holland-Martin. C. J.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hollis, M. C.||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Waller|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Holt, A. F.||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hope, Lord John||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M.P.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Horobin, I. M.||Neave, Airey|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Howard, Hon. Graville (St. Ives)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Roper, Sir Harold||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Odey, G. W.||Russell, R. S.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Scott, R. Donald||Turton, R. H.|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Osborne, C.||Shepherd, William||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Page, R. G.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Wade, D. W.|
|Perkins, Sir Robert||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Smyth, Brig. J, G. (Norwood)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Snadden, W. McN.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Pickthorn, K. W M.||Soames, Capt. C.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Speir, R. M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Wellwood, W.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Stevens, G. P.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Raikes, Sir Victor||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Rayner, Brig. R.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Redmayne, M.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Storey, S.||Wills, G.|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Studholme, H. G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Robertson, Sir David||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold||Sir Cedric Drewe and Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.|
|Robson-Brown, W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
§ Mr. G. Brown
I beg to move, in page 1, line 19, to leave out "shall," and to insert "may."
Just before you came into the Chair, Sir Rhys, I had raised with Sir Charles the question of this Amendment, the first Amendment, to page 1, line 16—which had not been selected—and the proposed Amendment in page 2, line 7. I had pointed out that, in fact, this Amendment is part of three which, in our view, stood together and sought to provide an alternative procedure.
Your predecessor, Sir Rhys, was kind enough to say that he would be a little lenient in the debate on this Amendment so that we could make a point which is really essential. I am not concerned with the question of whether "shall" or "may"are interchanged, except to provide an opportunity for an alternative procedure under the Bill, and on that point I want to argue with the Parliamentary Secretary, with your permission.
The Amendment which we have just disposed of affected the question of retrospective action. There arises this other point, which is partly relevant to that and partly relevant to Clauses which come hereafter. Although I would not give as much weight to it as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary does, I understand the argument that there are people who would erect or improve cottages but for this particular condition of freeing them being applied. The difference between the Parliamentary Secretary and 1210 myself is not that the point never arises, but that I think it arises so seldom—the hon. Gentleman's own figures support this—that it is not worth a major change of the law in order to accommodate those comparatively-few cases. So far, that is the only real argument adduced for the Bill.
Therefore, in the series of Amendments which we have put down, and which stand together, we sought to provide that there should be two ways of proceeding; that either the landlord should take the conditions of the Hill Farming Act, 1946, together with the grant of 50 per cent. applied under that Act—that is, the point of making it permissive by putting in "may"—or that he should take the conditions under the Housing Act, 1952, in which case he should take the grant under that Act.
What the Parliamentary Secretary seeks to do is to compel everybody, for the sake of the handful of cases concerned, to have the grants—which, after all, are 50 per cent. and involve hundreds of pounds—under the Hill Farming Act together with the conditions of the Housing Act; and thereby the landlord or farmer, or whoever is to do the job, could be said to get the best of all worlds. He would get all the grant under the Hill Farming Act, which is much more than the grant under the Housing Act, 1952. The difference between the Conservative Government today and the Labour Government that preceded them 1211 is that we regarded this 'thing as of so much higher priority that we made much more public money available for it. The grant is much higher under our Act, but the conditions under the Housing Act are much less onerous.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ I believe that there are many landlords who, in order to have a happy labour force and to have men in their cottages and on their farms who are quite content, would prefer not to have to use the conditions of 'the 1952 Housing Act, which the Minister by this Bill seeks to bring into the hill farming sphere. They want the extra money which the Hill Farming Act, 1946, gives them, because, as you, Sir Rhys, will know from the Principality better than many people in the Committee, it is of peat importance to them and it is a great weight on the average hill farmer to have to do this kind of improvement.
§ These farmers require the money, but many of them do not want to accept the conditions. That they do not need to take the money, as apart from wanting to do so, is shown by the fact that the figures given yesterday toy the Minister of Agriculture to my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) reveal that many thousands of schemes have been already undertaken, many of which involve cottages and cottage grants and acceptance by the landlord of the conditions of the 1946 Act. In these circumstances, even assuming that there is something in the Parliamentary Secretary's philosophy, which he exaggerates, is it not ridiculous to be so rigid in approach that one refuses to accommodate, not only the views of the farm worker, but the views of the landlord, who is willing to accept all the conditions and all the money under the 1946 Act?
§ I was interested the other day to see in a farming journal that the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Bullard) committed himself to the view that not only should there be a minimum period of protection, but that there should also be compulsory recourse to the magistrates' court. That ought to bring him into our Lobby in every Division. I have no doubt that in the last Division he voted contrary to what he said, but that, no doubt, was by accident, and 1212 since I have now been able to point it out to him he can retrieve himself and join us on this occasion. What our proposal suggests does not go as far as the hon. Member went. It is simply that there should be an alternative choice for the landlord to exercise. It would mean that where both landlord and farm worker were happier with a choice, they should be able to make it.
§ I have moved this Amendment well knowing that, by itself, it would not achieve all our objectives, but there are many draftsmen ready to help the Minister on succeeding stages of the Bill. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, without necessarily accepting the Amendment, will nevertheless be able to say that at the next stage of the Bill he will seek to put down forms of words in various parts of the Bill to secure to the landlord and to the farmer a choice between the grants and conditions of the 1952 Act and the grants and conditions of the 1946 Act. The landlord and the farmer can then make whichever choice suits them, and this would go a little way to soften our unhappy feelings about the Bill.
§ Mr. Nugent
I am surprised that right hon. and hon. Members opposite are not prepared to support the lead given so vigorously and with his usual warmth by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). The right hon. Gentleman probably has a suspicion as to the views of the Government, and so, no doubt, have his hon. Friends. I thought that they would get up and add a little weight to the rather airy arguments that the right hon. Gentleman has adduced.
§ Mr. Nugent
We have not had many arguments from the right hon. Gentleman. There has been the usual flow of invective, but not much of substance.
§ Mr. Nugent
Oh, no. I am merely amused.
The point put forward by the right hon. Gentleman is that farmers should not automatically have the full benefit of the Hill Farming Act grant if they wish to keep their cottages on the basis of service occupancy, but that if they wish to keep their cottages, or to have the new cottages which they build, on that basis, they should have the alternative of the 1952 Housing Act and the previous Acts that went before it.
This is a new point that the right hon. Gentleman has put. With some ingenuity he has managed to get the Amendments on the Order Paper, and he suspends his arguments from the peg of "shall" or "may. "He was good enough to explain the point beforehand, and the broad reply to his proposition is that the 1952 and 1946, and, I suppose, the 1938, Acts—quite a succession of them all hook together for this purpose—provide very useful grants, both for improvement purposes and for building new cottages, but would not, in our opinion, go far enough to meet the needs of hill farming and livestock rearing areas.
The costs of building in those areas are particularly high. It was for that reason that the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) introduced their legislation on a basis which ensured that where these schemes, including the building of new cottages, were considered appropriate, they should not be handicapped for lack of funds. If we were to have recourse only to the 1952 Acts, which are of universal application, we should find that they would not fully cover these particular cases.
I am sure that the Committee does not wish me to make another Second Reading speech, however strong the temptation may be, so I say simply that it is our view that the general structure of the industry is best served by the service occupancy. In the hill farming districts, in particular in remote districts where alternative houses would be particularly hard to find, and in the case of the shepherds, to whom my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major 1214 McCallum) has often referred, it is of first importance to the man engaged that he can be provided with a cottage when he arrives; otherwise, clearly, he cannot be engaged. Therefore, service occupancy is right in these areas, and the full benefit of these grants should be available to assist the building and the reconditioning of cottages in those areas.
Although I recognise that the Amendment would provide some assistance in building or improving cottages in those areas it would not, in my view, provide sufficient. The improvement grants under the 1952 Acts are limited to a total grant of £400 or 50 per cent. of the improvement. Very often in those distant areas the cost of improvement is a great deal more than £800, and that might mean that the total value of the grant would be only, perhaps, 20per cent. or 30 per cent. of the total cost of improvement.
On the other hand, for the building of new cottages the 1952 Act provides a very valuable grant on the basis of an annual payment, but it is only an annual payment, and, valuable as it may be, it is not as valuable as the capital sum which is paid under the Hill Farming Act. As in the case of improvements, so, in the case of new cottage building, the financial grant under the 1952 Acts would not be sufficient to meet the purposes both sides of the Committee have in mind, the only difference between us being about the conditions regarding occupancy, the object of which is to ensure that we have sufficient housing accommodation for the farm workers in those areas and sufficient housing accommodation of a good standard. For these reasons I must ask the Committee to reject this Amendment.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I am very disappointed at the hon. Gentleman's reply. He did not seem to address himself at all to the points I made. As to what he said about my hon. Friends not supporting me, I would point out to him that we are in this difficulty: that there is to be a debate in the House at 7 o'clock, which will be of considerable interest to many hon. Members, and the only reason we are not deploying our arguments at greater length is the desire to meet the general convenience of hon. Members. In my view, which I hold very strongly, it is very unfair that a Bill of such importance as this should be hurried through in such 1215 a very short time. The fact that we are not speaking in greater numbers is due to our desire to meet the general convenience. However, if we are sufficiently provoked a sufficient number of times by the hon. Gentleman I can assure him that, even at the risk of our both being in trouble with the usual channels, my hon. Friends and I may be tempted to run that risk.
However, as the next Amendment is of rather greater immediate importance and value we do not propose to lose valuable minutes by going through the Division Lobby on this one. I am willing to withdraw this one, while making a substantial protest to the Minister for not having given way on this Amendment, as he could have done without doing the slightest harm to his Bill or to the views he holds. It would have helped a number of people. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
I think that the next two Amendments could be taken together.
§ Mr. G. Brown
I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 1 to 3, and to insert:except that the period in that subsection, for the purposes of this Act, shall be increased to thirteen weeks.I do not suppose there is a single hon. Member on the other side of the Committee, however misguided, who does not want genuinely to provide that the man occupying the cottage, and his dependants, shall have the longest possible notice of the need to get out that it is possible to give them consistent with the interests of the industry. I am prepared to assume that that is the desire of everybody opposite. I do not see how anybody can possibly argue that four weeks is long enough notice.
I have had experience of this subject going back to 1937 or 1936, and all good employers gave longer than four weeks. If the landlord goes to the county court—and, as I have said so many times, in practice they mostly do, to protect themselves from any action for trespass—it takes longer than four weeks anyway from the beginning to the end of the legal operation. When they are, as most of them, in my experience, were, decent 1216 men, understanding what it would be like if they themselves were to be turned out on to the street with nowhere to go, they give longer notice.
I have said many times, and so has my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), that the whole problem of the tied cottage does not arise because of the conduct of the vast majority of good employers and good workers. It arises because of an awkward minority of bad employers, and, I suppose, an awkward minority of farm workers, too. In this Bill we are limiting ourselves to four weeks' notice. When we lay down a law we know that when minima are established they very quickly become the maxima. It is one of the unfortunate facts. We are laying down what will become the maximum for all the good people in the industry.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view. In my view this will be the case.
A landlord used to say, "I really must be decent in this case. There is nothing laid down, but there is the good code." Now he will say, "It is laid down in an Act of Parliament. If I give four weeks' notice, that is all I need do. "Even good men will now feel that four weeks has the sanction of Parliament and that, therefore, it is the measure of what a good man ought to do. Yet four weeks is hopelessly too little.
I understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) when he puts his case. I always listen to him with great interest. I disagree far more often than I agree with him, but that does not take away from my interest in what he has to say. I quite understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman's problem of the hill farmer and his cottage in an isolated place, and how important the cottage is to the economy of the hill farm. However, the hon. and gallant Gentleman, must see my point, that the occupier of that cottage is in a worse position than anybody else. The argument cuts both ways. Four weeks is a very short time in which to find accommodation.
Major McCallum: In an area such as the hon. Gentleman is speaking of there is never a question of a man being left 1217 with only four weeks in which to get out. He goes to another job of his own accord. The employer does not put him out.
§ Mr. Brown
If he has died and gone to heaven, which is where all farm workers go—whether all farmers also go there is a disputed point—he is not available to go to another job. We are speaking of the protection granted to the dependants and in their case the other point does not arise. They have to get out, and all the difficulties I have mentioned arise.
If the Minister wants to lay down a minimum, which is certain to become a maximum, he had better lay down a tolerable, not necessarily generous but reasonable one. Four weeks is much the least that could possibly be given, it is less than what is commonly given and it is less than the time which would elapse if one went to the county court under the present arrangements. So far the Parliamentary Secretary has defended lifting bodily from the 1952 Act the conditions there on the ground that that was general housing legislation applicable to all housing cases and not limited to the special case of hill farming. That may have been a valid argument, but if he uses it now, though I do not suppose he will, he will see that it lends point to our Amendment.
Four weeks may or may not be right for the gas, the railway or the water employee who has a cottage in a town. It may or may not be long enough in Guildford or in Belper when there are other chances to get alternative accommodation. But here we are dealing with the limited case of men living in isolated areas who have to go some distance, often miles, to get other accommodation instead of the next street or somewhere else in the same ward. This point may well have been justified in the general Housing Act of 1952, but it is not necessarily justified in this Measure. This is a separate class of case and something more is required.
He who sups with the devil must use along spoon. If I am to have any part in the nefarious practices of the Parliamentary Secretary, I shall need a long spoon if I am to keep out of danger. However, he having carried the Bill so far, we are prepared to try to sup with the devil on this Clause and to achieve 1218 something out of the wreckage for the workers and their dependants.
I make a really strong appeal. Let us even at this stage leave partisan considerations aside. Let us put right this unhappy feature of no consultation with the farm workers. Let the Parliamentary Secretary realise that this is something which would have been urged upon him most vigorously by the National Union of Agricultural Workers, the Scottish Farm Servants' Union and the Transport and General Workers' Union, with both the latter of which I am connected, and for the former of which my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) can speak. If there had been consultations it is likely that something would have been conceded. I ask the Minister to accept the Amendment or to tell us that he will consider how far he can go to meet it. I am sure that he will lose nothing if he does that, and he will soften a lot of the hard feeling.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not accept the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said that the 13 weeks would be the maximum.
§ Mr. Baldwin
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that at the end of 13 weeks the tenant of the cottage would leave. Our experience is that the man who does not go at the end of four weeks is no more likely to go at the end of 13. I mentioned the case on the Second Reading of the Bill where the tenants of two service cottages had six months' notice to give up their accommodation on 25th September last. Those men are still in the cottages. They are holding up the completion of the sale of a farm because they will not get out. I believe that the parties have gone to court this week to get possession. I do not know the result, but it is possible that an eviction notice may be served. Then we shall have one more case added to the string of terrible cases of summary eviction of which we have heard so much on so many occasions.
Though I do not agree to support the Amendment, I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether an 1219 alteration could be made so that at the end of four weeks the owner of the cottage, or the farmer, has to apply to the county court for possession. Then it would probably be 13 weeks before the man would go. I believe that there is some difficulty about that because, by doing something of the sort, we turn a service tenancy into a real tenancy. That is a difficulty, but if there is a way out I am sure that all normal reasonable farmers will agree to it. I should like to see a provision inserted so that we can avoid the gibe about summary eviction which comes so often from hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Gooch
I should like to express my personal pleasure at the semi-conversion of some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have been campaigning against tied cottages for a good many years. I have always regarded a member of the Conservative Party as being the upholder of the principle of tied cottages who would never give way one inch. Now we have two remarkable cases before us. There is certainly a rift somewhere. The opinion of the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Bullard) has been quoted, and I want to refer to it at length later. Now we have heard the suggestion of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin). He has gone a very large part of the way towards meeting the objection we have to the tied cottage. He has said that he would not put anybody out of a cottage without first taking him to court. He has admitted half our case.
When hon. Gentlemen opposite talk in this way about the need for altering the law so as to prevent summary eviction, I welcome them as recruits. I am very glad to hear the opinions they have expressed. I hope that they will press those opinions upon the Minister. I have never said that all owners of farm tied cottages are wrong and bad. I have a good opinion of many hundreds of owners of tied cottages. I could quote case after case where owners have allowed tenants to remain long after their period of service on the farm has ended, and where they have allowed the families of men who have died to remain in cottages for years after the death of the farm worker.
I want to pay my tribute to the humanity of many thousands of owners of tied cottages throughout the land. We 1220 are only legislating against the few bad ones, and there really are some bad ones. The hon. Member for Leominster has asked me time and again to quote cases. I have quoted cases and when I quoted instances upstairs in the Standing Committee of the number of summary convictions which are taking place, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government made what I considered to be a slanderous remark, when he referred to the case that I made as a fake case. It was not. I am still waiting for an apology from the right hon. Gentleman for calling me a liar that day. I feel it very keenly, because the case was brought out by the facts which I presented to the Committee. I hope that one day the right hon. Gentleman will express regret that he referred to me in the terms which he used.
The four weeks proposed in this Bill are not a long enough period. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will consider the suggestion made in the Amendment and provide for a longer period which will help the tenant to put his own affairs in order, and, where the breadwinner has died and left a widow and family, will give his dependants reasonable time to look for other accommodation. That is not asking too much. I again congratulate hon. Members opposite that they are coming along nicely in this matter. One of these days I shall expect to find a Tory Government introducing a Bill to abolish tied cottages.
§ Mr. Godber
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) speaks with such vehemence on this subject that he often runs away with his own common sense. It perturbed me when he said that, because of the fact that under this Bill the owner will have the power and the right to turn out a tenant after four weeks, the good farmers will, therefore, make use of that power and will adhere strictly to that period. Quite clearly, the right hon. Gentleman has little knowledge of the minds of good farmers.
§ Mr. G. Brown
If the hon. Member wishes to refer to my common sense and to criticise me, he ought first to listen to what I say. I did not say what the hon. Member attributes to me. I said that the difficulty was that so many people, not knowing what is the definition of good practice and who have hitherto given a lengthy period of notice, will now 1221 turn to this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament and will see that a period of four weeks is provided. They will then say that that is the test of what is good practice. The hon. Member is entitled to deal with that point, but he is not entitled to attribute to me something which I did not say in order to make it easier for himself.
§ Mr. Godber
The right hon. Gentleman has a remarkably short memory. He said that the minimum would become the maximum in any case. Those were his actual words, and it is abundantly clear that that is what he meant. In fact, nothing of the kind will happen. Many of the good farmers will undoubtedly continue, as in the past, to treat the tenants with the utmost consideration. Farmers and farm workers work together to an extent which many people who are not members of that community do not understand. In 99 cases out of 100 fanners act towards workers and their families with every consideration. It is not right that the right hon. Gentleman should cast aspersions, as he did, on the name of good farmers.
§ Mr. P. Wells
I wish to support the Amendment. The hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) mentioned good farmers. If we were dealing only with them we should not be so concerned about what is implied in the period of four weeks which is provided in this Bill. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) that to provide for four weeks is tantamount to giving permission to summarily evict.
I should like to take up the point which was made by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin). If he really means what he said—that the application to the court should not be made if four weeks' notice has not been given—it is something which we might consider very favourably. But I am sure that, with his knowledge of this industry, the Minister must realise that this provision for four weeks' notice could work very unjustly. I hope, therefore, that he will pay attention to what has been suggested by the hon. Member for Leominster and perhaps find himself able to accept the Amendment.
§ Major McCallum
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) continues to raise a point which I wish to 1222 try to repudiate. At the outset, I invite him to come to my area one of these days. I should be delighted to entertain him and to show him the kind of area to which I am referring. It is a hill farming area, and I should like to bring the debate back to hill farming as distinct from other kinds of farming.
When a stockman or shepherd dies and has to be replaced, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell me whereabouts in the hill farming area in Scotland he has ever heard of a case in which the dependants of the dead man are put out of their house, except where they are put out by the owner and accommodated in another cottage which he himself has found because he wants that particular cottage for the accommodation of a new shepherd or stockman.
§ Mr. G. Brown
My point is that if it has never happened—though I can produce a case, but we will not go into that now—why provide for it to happen in the Bill?
§ Major McCallum
The cottage in question may be required for a succeeding shepherd and stockman. Whereas the employer can find other accommodation for the dependants, he requires the cottage for his new man. Therefore, if my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary resists the Amendment and retains the four weeks, it will give a certain force to the employer to enable him to have the cottage for the shepherd, even if he voluntarily finds other accommodation for the dependants of the man who, as the right hon. Member for Belper said, has gone to heaven. That is the whole difference between what happens in hill farming and what may be happening in other forms of farming of which I have no knowledge.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. McNair Snadden)
I think that everyone will agree with what the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said about the desire to give the maximum possible time to any farm worker who is leaving his job. That was in the minds of all of us when we considered what to do with regard to the 1952 Housing Act. One of the principal criticisms against the service cottage system has been one which the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) 1223 has often repeated—that summary eviction was probable. When we introduced the 1952 Housing Act, the Government made a real attempt to meet this very genuine criticism and by so doing try to bridge the gulf between those who feel very strongly on the matter and those who do not.
But the real yardstick to be applied here is a twin one. We have to take account of what is necessary for the proper running of the farm as well as the question of the notice which the man should be given. During our consideration of what is now the 1952 Housing Act, four weeks were considered to be a reasonable time to give to meet the criticism relating to summary eviction. I think that hon. Members opposite will agree that we have made a step forward in that direction.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Snadden
Yes, I am talking about the 1952 Housing Act. We have maintained, and I think with some justification, that four weeks is a reasonable and suitable time to settle upon, so that a farm is not upset by an unduly long term of notice. The principle was agreed and carried in this House under the Housing Acts, and one could argue that in relation to hill farms the need is even greater than on the low ground—