HL Deb 12 May 1899 vol 71 cc435-40

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


The Bill which I move shall be read a second time is identically the same as that which I brought in last year, and which was then thrown out by a majority of 87 to 25. I need hardly detain the House by going into the merits of the Bill again. I need only say that we have 14,000 acres of land which is fit for cultivation in the County of London, and which could be profitably cultivated. Under the present conditions, as we are unable to let anything under an acre, under the Small Holdings Act of 1892, we are at a great disadvantage. We are obliged to let an acre, which is afterwards sub-let, which is a great evil, and prevents us letting the land as we wish to do. Your Lordships are aware that the Land Acts of 1887 and 1890 do not apply to the County of London, and if the House would be good enough to give the power to do so, we could, I think, double the number of our allotments. I do not think that I am asking a great favour on behalf of the County Council when I ask that this power should be given, because I must remind the House that the County Council have been able to carry through the Blaekwall Tunnel (without the loss of a single life); have added 1,000 acres to the public parks, re-organised and re-equipped the Fire Brigade, and added to the number of the Brigade 400 men, which is an amount equal to a regiment of Life Guards; have taken over the tramways and reduced the hours, and increased the wages of the men; have cleared the sewage out of the Thames so that fish come 20 miles further up stream than they did before; and are going to make our tunnel at Rotherhithe; and will soon commence the improvement of the great street between Holborn and the Strand. All this has been done at no great expense to the ratepayers, because the rate has been reduced by one halfpenny this year. I submit, therefore, to the House, that the County Council are not asking for a duty to be imposed upon them which they cannot perform, and I ask this House to allow us to let to a solvent and industrious artisan one-tenth of an acre of land instead of restricting us to letting not less than one acre. I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill.

Moved— That the Bill be now read 2a.


I do not desire to interpose between the House and the noble Lord who represents the Local Government Board, but as I am Chairman of the Allotments Committee of the County Council, I might say I was rather surprised to hear the noble Earl hang on to this measure an enumeration of all the great deeds which the County Council have done, which have nothing to do with this Bill. The object which the noble Earl has in view is a very simple one. The County Council have no power to let less than one acre, and if they wish to let allotments of under one acre they are obliged to avail themselves of the services of a middleman. In order to achieve that end, the noble Earl brings in a Bill of five pages and sixteen clauses, and it seems to me it would have been extremely easy for the noble Earl simply to ask the House to give power to the London County Council to allot less than one acre of land. I think it is rather straining the patience of this House to bring in this Bill in order to derive such a small gain. I think the noble Earl could hardly expect to be able to pass such a long and elaborate Bill for such a simple purpose.


The noble Earl has deduced no further arguments on this occasion than he did last year when he attempted to pass a similar Bill. I am able to adduce a further strong argument in favour of our rejecting the Bill, but before I do so I may remind the House of the argument I put before it last year. It is entirely erroneous to suppose that the allotments are in the neighbourhood of the urban part of London. The 14,000 acres are, I imagine, in the outskirts of the County Council area, and in these outskirts it is quite possible and easy, if there is land available, and if the local authorities find there is a demand and they are determined to meet it, to arrange it. Requests have been received from Greenwich and Charlton that the powers of parish councils shall be given to them for the purposes of opening up land for allotment. The only vestries that have applied have been given those powers; and, as far as we know, in the only parishes where allotments are required they are granted under this process. It is a perfectly simple process, and there is no necessity for bringing in such a body as the County Council to deal with the matter. It is advantageous in another way. If the County Council are given these powers the costs will be upon the ratepayers of London who have no interest in the matter whatever, instead of the ratepayers of the parishes that are concerned. Then I beg to remind this House that the powers which the noble Earl now asks for have been given to no county council of England; and yet, though the London County Council is distinct and different in many ways from the other county councils of the country, the noble Earl asks you to give a power to them which you have refused to every other county council in England. The last argument which I would venture to point out to your Lordships against your approving this measure is that the London Government Bill is now before Parliament, and under that Bill new areas are being created and new authorities are being created for their government, and it might be possible, if Parliament pleased, to confer on any of these authorities the powers suggested. If the County Council is in earnest in this matter it is quite possible for them to procure that these powers shall vest in the new local authorities by getting an Amendment proposed to that effect to the Bill now occupying attention in another place.


I fully expected that the noble Lord would oppose this measure. That opposition arises out of the incredible jealousy which exists against the County Council of London on the part of the Government. Is it, or is it not, desirable for London that there should be these facilities for getting these allotments? It could do no harm and it certainly might do some good. The noble Lord has told us that any parishes could apply to the Local Government Board for these powers, but as a matter of fact none have ever done so. The whole question is, whether or not we think it is desirable that there should be a convenient and specified mode of giving these allotments where they would be welcome. So far as I can see the noble Lord has given us no arguments of any kind or description against the Bill, and I think the opposition is the most uncalled-for and the most mischievous.


The noble Earl has urged as a reason for objecting to this Bill that it is long and complicated and that the object which is sought to be achieved by it could be effected by a short Bill. On that ground I can claim the noble Earl as a supporter of this Bill, and I have every right to do so, because he was the Chairman of the Allotments Committee of the County Council and as Chairman of that Committee he has given his assent to this very Bill. The Bill was recommended to the Council by a Committee of which the noble Earl was Chairman.


No, that was before I was Chairman.


So far as I understand he has made no protest whatever against the Bill, and I contend that he is bound and wrapped up in the Bill that is now before us. Lord Harris has said that he cannot consent to this Bill because the powers it proposes to give to the London County Council are given to no others.


I said the powers had been given to no other county council in England and therefore should not be given to the London County Council.


That is true, but other County Councils have powers which the London County Council has not. They have a power over the parishes which enables them, if the parish fails, to deal with the matter—to step over them and deal with it themselves. Should not the same power be given to the London County Council? If these new bodies which are going to be created are not willing to deal with this question of allotments, is it not fair that the London County Council should step in, as the other County Councils step in, and deal with the matter? Another argument I would venture to use as to why it is desirable to give these powers to the London County Council is, that there are constantly large plots of land falling into the hands of county councils which have to be dealt with from time to time. It seems to me that one of the best uses to which these pieces of land could be put would be to let them out in allotments. I shall certainly vote for the Second Reading of this Bill.

On Question, resolved in the negative:— Contents, 16; Not-contents, 58.

Carrington, E. [Teller] Burghelere, L.
Chesterfield, E. [Teller] Davey, L.
Dundonald, E. Hawkesbury, L.
Kimberley, E. Herries, L.
Spencer, E. Leigh, L.
Reay, L.
Hampden, V. Ribblesdale, L.
Stuart of Castle Stuart,
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery) L. (E. Moray)
Tweedmouth, L.
Halsbury, E. (Lord Chancellor) Aldenham, L.
Balfour, L.
Devonshire, D. (Lord President) Belper, L.
Brougham and Vaux,L.
Cross, V. (Lord Privy Seal)
Calthorpe, L.
Churchill, L. [Teller]
Marlborough, D. Cranworth, L.
Northumberland, D. Crawshaw, L.
Digby, L.
Lansdowne, M. Farquhar, L.
Salisbury, M. Fermanagh, L. (E.Erne)
Pembroke and Montgomer, E. Lord Steward) Gage, L. (V. Gage)
Harris, L.
James, L.
Bradford. E. Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl)
Brownlow, E.
Camperdown, E.
Dartmouth, E. Ker, L. (M. Lothian)
Dartrey, E. Lawrence, L.
de Montalt, E. Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Granby)
Ducie, E.
Mansfield, E. Mount Stephen, L.
Mount Edgeumbe, E. Mowbray, L.
Onslow, E. Napier, L.
Romney, E. Norton, L.
Rosse, E. Penrhyn, L.
Stanhope, E. Rowton L.
Waldegrave, E. [Teller] St. Levan, L.
Yarborough, E. Shand, L.
Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway)
Falkland, V.
Knutsford, V. Sudley, L. (E. Arran)
Powerscourt, V. Templemore, L.
Ventry, L.
Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun) (L.Chamberlain) Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss)