§ Order of the Day for resuming the adjourned debate on the Amendment of the Earl Graham (Duke of Montrose), to the motion that the Bill be now read 2a, viz., to leave out all the words after "that" for the purpose of inserting the following Resolution, viz., "This House, while desirous of facilitating on sound economic principles the extension of small agricultural holdings in Scotland, and of considering such amendments of the Crofters Acts as are shown to be required, declines to pass a measure (1) which unnecessarily extends the provisions of the Crofters Acts throughout Scotland; (2) which establishes a Land Court for the whole of Scotland; and (3) which does not enjoy the general approval of the agricultural interests proposed to be affected."
My Lords, I feel sure that you will believe me when I say that it is with the utmost diffidence that I approach this thorny question of Scottish land reform, more especially as I am not myself a Scotsman; and, if anything were needed to bring home to one the enormous difficulties which beset one's path, it would be the extreme conviction with which diametrically opposite views have been expressed by noble Lords in this House. One thing, however, has struck me in the course of these debates, and that is the general and earnest desire which has been manifested for some settlement of this question. I cannot but feel that this fact must enhance the regret which would be occasioned if all the time and trouble which have been given to the measure should be thrown away and the Bill not be given a Second Reading.
There is a further aspect which I think no one can have failed to notice who followed the debate last year in your Lordships' House. One point which was then brought forward and considerably emphasised has up to the present not been alluded to in this debate. I refer to the alternative of purchase for hiring. Indeed, matters have changed to such an extent that a Bill which has as its principle compulsory hiring has even been brought in by a Member of the Opposition, and been given a Second Reading in 1439 this House. I was also struck, in listening to yesterday's debate, with the un-preparedness of noble Lords opposite for the attitude adopted by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. The noble Duke who moved the Amendment at present under discussion had obvious difficulty in adapting his speech to the altered circumstances of the case, and he proceeded to make an oration which one cannot but feel would have been more suitable for the debates last year or the subsequent debates in another place. There was, however, one indication that his words had been revised more recently—I refer to the allusion to the autumn campaign of the Government in Scotland, which he described as a complete failure. With that characterisation I confess I feel bound to disagree.
The noble Duke cited various authorities in support of his opinion, among others the Chamber of Agriculture of Scotland. Now the Chamber of Agriculture never supported the introduction of the English Bill into Scotland, nor did it support the introduction of county councils into the present Bill. Another authority which was cited in the debate was the Report of the Commission sent to Denmark to inquire into the existing conditions of agriculture in that country. This authority, again, appears somewhat faulty, for the Report, being based on the theory of purchase, disagreed just as much with the English Act as it did with the Scottish Bill. The noble Duke also quoted as an authority the East Lothian Farmers' Club, but I find that on 18th April last year this very club carried a resolution in favour of the Government's policy, the one dissentient voice being that of the factor of Mr. Balfour. A prominent instance of the urgent desire which certainly does exist for the passing of the Government's measure was furnished by Caithness and Sutherland in particular where, at the triennial county council elections, which, opportunely, took place last December, occasion was taken to unseat the entire number of the representatives because those gentlemen had, somewhat rashly, and on their own initiative, passed a resolution condemning the Government's policy, and they were in every instance replaced by gentlemen whose 1440 avowed opinions were in favour of this Bill.
This incident in the campaign has given me, at any rate, food for consideration, and I cannot help feeling that it might perhaps be well for noble Lords opposite to also pause. What a vista of disastrous possibilities opens before us if, as certain noble Lords desire, the entire administrative machinery of the Bill is placed in the hands of the local authorities! We have but to go one step further in imagination to picture to ourselves the time when the most important plank in the platform of candidates for county council honours would be the alluring prospect of the establishment of small holdings on the wooded slopes of Buchanan, on the lawns of Beauly, and in t he parishes of Camperdown; and I can show your Lordships that, if local authorities were to be made the administrators of this Bill, the electorate would not be slow in discovering that they could not place that implicit faith in the administration of the measure provided that county councils were constituted in the future as they have been very largely in the past.
May I cite one instance? Last summer the Board of Agriculture sent round circulars to the various county councils asking them to form committees with a view to ascertaining the extent of the demand for small holdings. The County Council of Argyllshire formed a committee as requested, and, almost simultaneously, an association was formed in the same county with the object of combating the Government's Small Holdings Bill. I am given to understand that subsequently, when the names transpired, it was found that the list of gentlemen who formed the committee for inquiring into the demand for small holdings, and the list of the gentlemen who formed the association for combating the creation of small holdings, were identical. We on this side of the House certainly do not desire to place the administrative machinery of this Bill in the hands of the local authorities. We do not think that such a course would be either popular or practicable, for, if the county councils were to have the control, it follows necessarily that the financial burden must also be placed on the rates; and will any noble Lord opposite suggest that the ratepayers of Scotland are 1441 anxious to assume this new financial liability?
Yesterday we had an extremely interesting and powerful indictment of the Bill from the noble and learned Lord of Appeal, Lord Robertson. There was one point in his speech which struck me as containing, if I may be allowed to say so, somewhat of an inaccuracy. He stated that the Act of 1886 did not distinguish between Highland and Lowland, but between crofting and non-crofting parishes. It is perfectly true that the Act of 1886 did distinguish between crofting and non-crofting parishes, but surely it is difficult to say that it did not distinguish between Highland and Lowland when we remember the fact that at the time of the passing of the Act there were crofting parishes which did not come within the scope of the Act. The noble and learned Lord was at that time the Parliamentary representative of the County of Bute, and it is a matter of -common knowledge that the Island of Arran contains an agricultural population almost exclusively crofting in its character, its habits, and its traditions. Indeed, it was the knowledge of the existence of crofting parishes outside the;seven crofting counties which induced the Ministry of the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, to introduce in 1895 a Bill for extending the Act of 1886 to the eight additional counties in Scotland which were known to contain crofting parishes.
When crofterisation is spoken of, one of two things is meant — either that crofting tenure shall be applied to the Lowlands, or that persons who in point of fact are not crofters shall be included in legislation as if they were. As regards the first interpretation, no complaint has been made of the conditions of tenure in this Bill—conditions which, in substance, are the same as those in the English Act, or, at any rate, very closely analogous thereto. A tenure of this kind, when once the principle of compulsory hiring is conceded, must be of a certain type, and that type is common to the English Act and the Scottish Bill. With regard to the bringing in of persons who are not crofters, it is true that this is a distinction, and, as such, contrasts with the English Act. It is admittedly an extremely difficult question, and one which in itself would be 1442 sufficient to provide material for an entire debate. But it is still true, as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said yesterday, that up to the present no suggestion, no shadow of a hint, of Amendment on this point has been made, and consequently it is impossible to say more than was said by the noble and learned Lord yesterday — namely, that the Government are ready and even anxious to meet in a reasonable and conciliatory spirit any reasonable and fair Amendment that may be proposed.
If your Lordships give this Bill a Second Reading your power of throwing it out at a later stage would be in no wise impaired; and I cannot but express the hope that even now you may see your way to give the House an opportunity of considering and discussing Amendments. Even if the worst must happen, and if the heated opposition of noble Lords opposite can in no way be appeased, we can, at any rate, comfort ourselves to a certain extent by the reflection that the time and labour which have been expended on this measure have not been altogether lost, since we have succeeded in so far arousing public interest and educating public opinion as to have induced noble Lords opposite to produce an alternative land policy, after a silence on their part extending over no less a period than twenty years.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, before I address a few words to your Lordships on this Bill, I am sure you will all join with me in welcoming the noble Lord who has just sat down, and who, with the exception of seconding the Address, has not, I believe, previously spoken_ in your Lordships' House. We all remember his father, and we trust that the noble Lord will worthily follow in his father's footsteps; and if we owe the noble Lord nothing else for the' speech he has just made, we owe thanks to him for having addressed himself to the Bill from the Ministerial side. We have more than once complained that there is a great paucity of speakers on the other side of the House to defend the provisions of this Bill.
As your Lordships know, I addressed you only a short time ago on this subject, and I thought it would not be necessary for me to say anything on this occasion; but my name was so frequently mentioned 1443 yesterday, and in so many connections, that I cannot refrain from saying a few words to your Lordships with reference to the debate upon this Bill. When I introduced my Bill a few weeks ago the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council deprecated my action, and said that if private Members were to continue to behave in this way and to introduce Bills on public subjects when Government Bills were shortly expected to reach this House he did not know what was to happen. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack rose to support his colleague, and he did so by differing from him entirely. He said he did not regret the introduction of my Bill, and, although he joined Lord Crewe in saying that that was not the time to debate the subject, he promised that when the Government Bill was before the House there should be a full and thorough debate upon the whole question.
It will be in your Lordships' recollection that an appeal was made to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, I think by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, to give us, when he moved the Second Reading of this Bill, some reasons for its introduction, and to inform us on what inquiry and on what demand it was founded. I listened yesterday with great attention, as all your Lordships did, to the long and eloquent speech which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack delivered, but not one reason, so far as I could hear, did he give. He spoke, as he had spoken before, of the evils of depopulation, but he guarded himself by saying at the same time that this was one of many means by which those evils might be averted. But, further than that, he gave us not one tittle of proof that there was any demand for this Bill. We are therefore driven back to this. The only person that I know of who has given a reason for the introduction of this Bill is the Secretary for Scotland. He said that he founded the Bill on the success of the Crofters Acts. Is it certain that the Crofters Acts have been a success? I think it is a matter which is open to doubt, and it is quite possible that on some future occasion I may have to trouble your Lordships on that subject.
In the meantime we have the recent Report of an independent Commission on this subject. Lord Herschell was 1444 mistaken in supposing that is was the Danish Report that was alluded to. He was, no doubt, misled by the fact that several of the members who were on this Commission had been members of the Danish Commission, but this was a. Report made by them after inquiring; independently into the condition of the crofting districts. I will not trouble your Lordships by going at any length into their Report, because it is public property and you can read it for yourselves; and! I trust your Lordships will road it before-you accept the statement that the Crofters Acts have been an unmitigated success The Commission in their Report, say—Our general conclusion as to the working of the Crofters Acts in the districts where they apply is that they have made possible a considerable improvement in crofters' houses given independence to the people, and in some cases stimulated improvement in farming; but they have not, in point of fact, in the course of twenty-one years created a successful or prosperous agriculture. It may very well he the case that economic and other circumstances make it impossible for any agrarian change to bring about this result in the crofting districts, but the fact remains that the crofting system as it exists at present furnishes no possible indication of its capacity to bring about agricultural prosperity. We found no evidence that the Crofters Acts had served to arrest rural depopulation.The Commission went on to say—In considering even the limited degree of success which has attended the working of these Acts, it ought not to be forgotten that their influence has been augmented by the. Congested Districts Board. The crofting system has, in fact, received a degree of external support much greater than has been given to agriculture in other parts of the: country.If your Lordships will read that Report you will see that it speaks most unfavourably of the results of the Crofters Acts. I was very much surprised that the Secretary for Scotland should have read a casual sentence out of the Report in support of his statement that they approved of the Crofters Acts. Any one who will read the whole of the Report will see that that is not a fair construction to place upon it.
Further, there are the Commissioners of the Congested Districts. What do they say in their last Report? On the subject of repayment of loans they make, this statement—Serious attention has been given to the generally backward state of the payments made by purchasers of holdings from us 1445 towards the annuities by means of which the loans are repaid, principal and interest, in fifty years.Your Lordships will remember that the instalment of purchase is 25 per cent. lower than would be a fair rent, and, therefore, it is not in any way the fault of purchase that these persons do not meet their payments. It is because they are not prepared to pay anything. The Commissioners print details of the accounts for each holding in the two oldest schemes, including Barra, carried out by them, and they conclude by saying—We have thought it our duty to intimate that, unless there is an immediate improvement in this respect, steps will have to be taken to enforce payment or to foreclose.I shall look with some curiosity to the next Report; but unless the experience in Barra is very different from that which Lady Cathcart has had in that island, it is most improbable that any improvement has taken place in regard to that matter.
Although the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack did not give us any reason for the introduction of this Bill he did make a comparison between the Government Bill and my Bill—or rather the English Act, as it would be better described; and it seemed to me that he pushed that comparison so far as almost to prove too much. He said that compulsory hiring and dual ownership were to be found in both Bills, the compensation to the landlord was almost the same, and the conditions of tenure were rather more favourable to the landlord in Mr. Sinclair's Bill than in the English Act; and, with regard to the Board of Agriculture and the valuer, he said that, after all, they were not very different from the Land Court. The noble and learned Lord proved, to his own satisfaction, at all events, that there is very little difference between the two measures. Why, then, is he so rootedly opposed to the adoption of the principles of the English Act? As they are nearly the same, should any accident happen to this Bill we shall expect the noble and learned Lord, if he is consistent, and I am sure he always will be consistent, to support the adoption of the English Act as very nearly as good for Scotland as the present Bill.
Why introduce a new system for Scotland, a system entirely different from 1446 that which we heard praised last night and which has produced thousands of eligible applicants who are ready to occupy, and are going to occupy, thousands of acres of land. What more can a supporter of small holdings want? My noble friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, with that rhetorical elegance and dexterity which is so well appreciated in this House, cut away half the ground from under the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. According to the noble and learned Lord, what are the differences between the English and the Scottish Bills? He said the first great difference is that the county council, which is to administer the English Act, is not to be the authority under this Bill. The noble and learned Lord said the Scottish county councils have never complained. I do not know whether my noble and learned friend has any experience of county councils, but I can tell him exactly why they have not complained. It is because in every case county councils abstain from treating Bills which have anything political in them; and they have carried that to this extent, that even in the case of such a Bill as the Land Values Bill, which is essentially a matter in which county councils are vitally interested, the County Councils Association declined to petition against it, although I believe every member opposed it, and confined themselves to making suggestions for alteration in Committee. The county councils of Scotland have a great deal more ability and common sense than is attributed to them by some noble Lords in this House. They attend to their business and do it, and I think it would be a very excellent thing for the country if some other people did the same.
The noble and learned Lord complained that I had laid no stress on this point when moving my own Bill the other day; but the county councils were inserted in that Bill. I was not arguing against the Government Bill, but explaining my own. I had no desire to be out of order, as I should have been if I had discussed the Government Bill at that time. I gave the reasons in favour of my Bill, and I asked the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to give me their reasons against it. Now is the time to attack the Government 1447 Bill, and I say that it is a very great omission and a very great insult to the Scottish county councils not to give them duties which you give to county councils in England.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said there was one more capital point of difference, and that was the Land Court. I shall have a word to say about that in a moment. But I wish to point out to him that that does not exhaust the differences between the two Bills. The noble and learned Lord skated very lightly over the most important difference of all, and that is the crofterisation of Scotland. What are you going to do? By a stroke of the pen the whole of the crofter legislation is to be extended to the whole of Scotland. For the benefit of noble Lords who may not be familiar with Scotland, let me point out what that does. It forms a separate and a favoured class. It creates a difference between all small holders in Scotland and all large holders. If a farm is 200 acres in extent it is at the present moment rated upon its value as a holding and as a whole. Cut it into four small holdings, and under this Bill it is going to be rated on the land and the land alone. Is not that creating a favoured class. The crofters are a favoured class; but what reason has been given for saying that all small holders in Scotland are to be a favoured class for the future?
Then with regard to tenure. This Bill gives fixity of tenure. Very little notice was taken of that point. What is the reason for giving fixity of tenure? You have not given it in England. If fixity of tenure is necessary for small tenants in Scotland, why is it not necessary in England; and, if it is not necessary in England, why should it be necessary in Scotland? The reason given by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack struck me with some surprise. He said—We believe the tenant will find the means for effecting improvements himself, and will do them more economically and better; the rent will be more safe, and the conditions better for all.I would like to know on what experience that statement is founded. If the noble and learned Lord has had experience of small tenants and that is his experience of them, of course I accept it; but I 1448 appeal to noble Lords as to what has their experience when improvements have been left to small tenants. It must be remembered that they are tenants. The magic of property is kept away from them by this Bill. They are tenants; but owing to the fact that they are to have fixity of tenure it is believed by His Majesty's Government that they are going to do these improvements more effectually and economically. My own experience is that when small tenants, have improvements to do they are not done at all. They are not, of course, going to lay out any money. The noble and learned Lord may believe otherwise, but all I can say is that people are very credulous sometimes when there are things they wish to believe.
We are asked to make these revolutionary changes in the law affecting; Scottish agriculture without any reason whatever being given. Mr. Sinclair has but an exiguous acquaintance with Scottish agriculture, but he has a much larger acquaintance with Scottish votes, and it appears to me that this Bill is merely a, vote-getting Bill. It is an appeal to the ploughman. He is told that he will get small holdings and will derive good out of them. The noble Duke, in moving his Amendment, quoted some "heckling" of the Scottish Secretary in Forfarshire, and I should like also to quote what Mr. Sinclair said at a meeting near Dundee on 16th December. A Mr. Bell asked to be informed whether the money required for the erection of buildings and equipment would be granted free to the small holder. Mr. Sinclair replied—Yes, in a sense all the money required for equipping the land, fencing, and making. access; that is the money we propose to spend, on the holding. It does not necessarily go to the landlord or the tenant, but is spent in preparing the ground When it comes houses and buildings we are to lend the small holder money at the lowest possible rate.Does that appear in the Bill? No. If it is the intention of the Government that that money is to be given to the small holder I contend it ought to have appeared distinctly in the Bill.
The Bill says that assistance may be provided for the purpose of dividing, fencing, or otherwise preparing or adapting the land, making occupation roads or executing other works, such as works for the provision of drainage or water supply or erecting or adapting a dwelling-house or 1449 dwelling-houses or other buildings, or for any similar purpose, and that the Agricultural Commissioners may provide such assistance by way of loan, or, except as regards dwelling-houses or other buildings, by way of gift. I understand perfectly what will happen. These Agricultural Commissioners, most respectable men with still more respectable salaries, are to be appointed. I can assure noble Lords that there are a great many expectant Radicals. Lord Rosebery said he knew the sort of men who would be appointed. I think I know them too. And what will be the result? The wink will be tipped from the Scottish Office that this money is intended to be given, and, naturally, they will exercise their option in that way. What I want to know is this. Are small holdings in Scotland to be conducted on economic principles as in England? In England it is laid down that they are so to be conducted, but there is nothing of the kind laid down in Scotland. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack insisted upon the judicial functions of the Land Court; but why, unless decrees are to be delivered in that almost unknown tongue, is one member of the Court to be required to speak Gaelic?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
In Wales there have been difficulties from a Court not understanding Welsh witnesses, and the reason for a member of the Court knowing Gaelic is simple. Of course the Land Court will deal with the Highlands as well as the Lowlands, and it is, therefore, desirable that one member should be able to speak to a witness in his own language. There is nothing beyond that; it is a reasonable proposal.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Are the Judges to go on circuit? My conception of the position is that it is the Agricultural Commissioners who are to go on circuit. Who are to go to the various districts and collect the facts upon which the Court will decide?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Of course they will have to go, and so will the members of the Land Court go into the country, because they will have to do the work of valuation and rent fixing.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord for that explanation, because we are getting to understand the position of the Land Court. The Land Court is not going to be exclusively judicial, but is to exercise functions which it is impossible to distinguish from administrative functions. That is the position. Just let us see what they are to do. They are to settle what land one or more holders may respectively be allowed. How are they to do that without seeing the land, and, if they inspect the land, how can they act other than as a valuer does in England? Then they are to settle what is the fair rent for each new holding. How can you settle that point without going into all the circumstanees? They are to discharge functions that on a private estate are performed by owner or agent, and it is impossible to say that those functions are judicial. In England the Board of Agriculture and the valuers are between them sharing the very duties which are to be discharged by the Land Court, and my noble friend and his valuers are at this moment settling questions in Scotland with perfect satisfaction to all concerned, under the Act of 1900. Why do you depart from the principle of the Act of 1900? No reason of any kind has been vouchsafed to us.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said he did not know whether it was really the view of many that a valuer was preferable to a Land Court. If that question were put to me, I would say that anything in the world would be better than a Land Court, and that in dealing with land anything in the world would be-better than lawyers. A litigious landlord is a bad landlord, and a litigious tenant should be got rid of as soon as possible; neither landlord nor tenant ever made anything by going to law. This Land Court is, we are told, to administer £100,000. What is going to be the cost of it? There is a salary of £2,000 a year for the Chairman, and £I, 200 for four other members; then there are to be assessors, surveyors, law agents, and 1451 valuers as approved by the Treasury. You can put them down at anything you like. Then we come to the Agricultural Commissioners. Their salaries are not yet fixed, but I have no doubt they will be eminently respectable. There is £6,800 for the Land Court, as much as you like for the assessors, and what sum shall we say for the Agricultural Commissioners? Do you think the whole thing will be done for £15,000 a yea? And £15,000 to administer £100,000 a year! I hope the taxpayers will like this. I might mention that this proportion of cost by no means exceeds that of the Crofters Commission and the Congested Districts Board. The amount of rent which the Commissioners revised was about £3,000 and they did it in six years at a cost of £22,000! If that is the kind of Court you are going to set up, the taxpayers will suffer as well as the agriculturists of Scotland.
The noble and learned Lord said that the English Bill was accepted by your Lordships last year, and accepted with some reluctance. I quite agree. I think that Bill went further than many of us desired, but your Lordships wished to go as far as you possibly could, and it was for that reason, and that reason alone, that the Bill was passed. But this is a very different Bill. Was there any fixity of tenure in the English Bill? Was there any Land Court? And, with regard to the other provisions in the Bill, it is all very well for the noble and learned Lord to tell us that they are very much like the English Act. After all, he is a Scotsman and so am I, and he knows quite well they are very different.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I am sure the House will allow me to join with the noble Earl who has just spoken in offering my congratulations to the noble Lord who resumed the debate this evening upon his participation in our discussions. No one who had the privilege of friendship with his father will do otherwise than rejoice to see the son taking a part in the debates of that House in which his father held so honoured a part. But, my Lords, I think the noble Lord has a grievance against those who instructed him in this matter. He candidly admitted that he did not speak from first-hand knowledge, and I am quite sure that if he had had 1452 the opportunity of thoroughly mastering the details of the position he would not have put forward the counties of Caithness and Sutherland as in any way representative of what is best in Scottish agriculture. They are excellent places and have views of their own, and it is true that in those counties there was a spirited contest at the last county council elections turning largely on the matter of small holdings, and that in those counties those who supported the Government Bill obtained majorities. But, my Lords, there were contests turning upon the same point in other counties. In Fife, for instance, the opponents of the Bill were returned, as also in Ayr and other counties.
Then the noble Lord trotted out our old friend the East Lothian meeting in April last. We know all about that meeting, and in case your Lordships have forgotten what was told you last summer I will repeat the facts. It was a meeting of the Farmers' Club, at which ten people were present. No notice had been sent that a discussion upon this Bill was to be taken. It was sprung upon the meeting and a catch vote taken, and it is true, I believe, that the only gentleman present who protested against that procedure was the factor on the Whittingehame Estate. But after this House had refused to pass the Bill last year a larger meeting of the East Lothian farmers was convened, with due notice, and my information goes to show that on that occasion the Government proposal was condemned with almost alsolute unanimity.
Before going into the main points of the discussion I want to say a word or two about the proposed separation of Scotland from the Board of Agriculture. I deprecate that separation very much, and it is not to be disposed of by a few cheap sneers on the part of the President of the Board of Agriculture as to whether or not Scotsmen are able to govern themselves. We have our own opinions upon that point. We are not usually thought not to be sufficiently patriotic, but if there is one characteristic of Scottish patriotism more dominant than another it is that it knows how to subordinate its own merely national interests when there are Imperial interests on the other side. The distinction between what should be administered in London and what should 1453 be administered in Scotland is a plain one. I speak with some knowledge and some experience, and, speaking generally, the test should be this. When the laws are the same the administration should be in the same hands and should be Imperial; when the laws are different it is reasonable that the administration should be Scottish.
Take such questions as local government or education. We have distinct systems and we have distinct offices; but in matters like those coming under the Board of Trade we rejoice in Imperial administration. The Post Office is managed from London, and could not be better managed from anywhere else. When you take such Departments as the Home Office you find the same principle carried out. All the functions of the Home Office which are purely Scottish have been transferred to the Scottish Office, even to the length of the important and most difficult duty of judging what course should be pursued in capital sentences, and that because we have a different legal system and a different set of Judges. But when you come to such questions as affect mines and factories they are all under the Home Office, as they ought to be, because you could not have a different administration of mines and factories in the two countries. It is the same with the Board of Agriculture. We have our system of fisheries, and there is a separate Fishery Board responsible in Scotland; but in the administration of the Board of Agriculture as regard agriculture itself questions arise concerning, for example, the admission of foreign cattle, which must be decided by one central authority. I do not know whether either country desires to change the present system, but I say fearlessly that, if the present system is changed, both countries must go together. Otherwise there would have to be a system of espionage in connection with every drove that passed the Border.
I pass from that point and come to the main parts of the Bill before us. I am anxious to go as far as I can with the noble Lord on the Woolsack, the conciliatory tone of whose speech everyone will recognise. I agree with him as to the importance of small holdings in any agricultural system, and as to the need of care being taken that they shall not be extinguished. I value 1454 them in themselves, but even more for the means which they afford to those in the humbler ranks of agricultural life to ascend the social ladder. Anything which will tend to strengthen that or would make it more easy will have my most cordial support. I agree with the noble and learned Lord in lamenting the depopulation of the rural districts, but I wish noble Lords opposite would look facts in the face. Some of their baser agents are going about the country constantly saying that it is the landlords who are depopulating Scotland. That is a calumny of the worst description. If and in so far as there is any decrease of small holdings—and I will deal with that in a moment—the causes which have brought it about, or are bringing it about to-day, are mainly economic causes. They are partly educational, and partly they spring from the growing distaste of the people concerned for the hard life involved in their pursuits. People will not undergo the drudgery now which they would a few years ago.
It may be that small holdings are fewer in Scotland than they were before, but neither as regards rural depopulation nor the size of holdings is Scotland different from other countries. If one had time to develop it one could show from statistics that the same causes, economic, educational and so on, are operating in other European countries, and the mere fact of the passage of this Bill, or any Bill like it, will not alter the facts. It is very easy to exaggerate the diminution that is going on. It is habitually exaggerated at the present time for partisan purposes. It is easy to allege a connection between rural depopulation and the diminution of small holdings which, in fact, does not really exist. A Government Return was published last year which I have had carefully analysed. It gave the number of small holdings in 1890 and 1906 respectively—by small holdings I mean holdings of from five to fifty acres. When discussing that Return you must first make allowance for the alteration of boundaries; but, in the main, I think that may not be taken very much into account.
Over all Scotland small holdings have increased 3.9 per cent, while, as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said last night, the population has decreased 1455 by a little over 4.0 per cent. In the crofting counties small holdings have increased 19.7 per cent., but the population in those counties has decreased 6.4 per cent. In thirteen counties there has been both a decrease of small holdings and a decrease of population; in two counties there has been an increase in rural population and an increase in small holdings; in four counties there has been a decrease in small holdings and an increase in population; and in fourteen counties there has been an increase in small holdings and a decrease in population. I quote these figures to show that there is no necessary connection between the number of small holdings and the increase or the decrease of the population. What is bringing about such changes as are taking place is mainly the economic causes. It depends on the price of the commodities these people produce, on their facility or difficulty of making a living, and to some extent also on the pressure of the rates which are put on agricultural land.
Will this Bill cure these evils? The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was perfectly fair in what he said. He admitted that it would not be a panacea, but he hoped and believed its tendency would be in that direction. I, on the other hand, believe that, if you were to pass the Bill exactly as it stands, its effect would be but as a drop in a bucket of water. I do not think that it would really have the effect which its most enthusiastic supporters allege. It is constantly said that in the crofting districts the population has been maintained upon the soil. It is not so. I have shown you that over the crofting districts there has been a decrease of 6 per cent. in the population. If you could only get at the facts of school attendance you would, I believe, find that so far as children of school age are concerned there has been a very considerable decrease in those very counties; and it arises from this cause, that in the main those who are in the prime of life are moving from those counties to the centres of population. It is, however, very difficult to ascertain the exact facts, because there have been so many changes, school age has been varied, boundaries have been changed, and the general conditions have been altered.
1456 I find between the noble Lord and myself another point of agreement. We all agree that some Amendment of the Crofters Act is necessary. But, my Lords, what is to be the real principle upon which that amendment ought to go? I submit that the real principle, the only fair principle, of such an amendment is that originally laid down by the Crofters Commission—that the tenant who has made the permanent improvements is entitled to the proceeds of those improvements; but if the landlord has made them, then I say you must not wrongfully by legislation take from one-man to give to another that to which he has no right. Someone has mentioned the Act of 1895, for which the noble Earl on the Cross Benches was responsible, and it is said that because in that Act it was proposed to extend the crofting area to other counties, therefore those who were responsible for that measure are now inconsistent in opposing this Bill. But, my Lords, the circumstances are wholly different. That measure did not extend the Act to the whole of the counties mentioned in it but only to those parishes in the counties which might be held to be crofting parishes, and only to those places in such parishes where it could be proved that for a. certain number of years crofting conditions had prevailed. The old fallacy of the undistributed middle is involved in reference to crofters in the Hebrides and in the eastern counties of Scotland as if the word had the same signification in both districts. But there is no similarity. The word "crofter" applied to the West of Scotland has a wholly different significance from that when applied to such districts as Aberdeenshire and Banffshire.
We have heard a great deal about the neglect of the county councils. The noble Earl who has just spoken has fully dealt with that matter, and, as I am not anxious to repeat what has been said by others, I shall pass that by with only this remark, that I think the county councils of Scotland are just as able and willing to administer such a Bill as this as the county councils in England; and as to the counties in which the increase of small holdings is most required—in the Lothians, in Fife, in Forfar, and such places—no one can say a word against the fitness of the county councils for the 1457 purpose. The dislike of endowing county councils with compulsory powers is newborn on the part of the Government. I remember that in 1889, when we were passing the Local Government Bill through Parliament, there were Amendments proposed by Mr. Munro Ferguson to give county councils compulsory powers, and a certain Mr. Reid, the then representative of the Dumfries Burghs, proposed to extend them to town councils as well. If county councils twenty years ago, when they had not so much experience, were supposed to be fit to administer compulsory powers, surely it is the height of absurdity now to say that they are not to be entrusted with them.
I pass to another matter. The Lord Chancellor made an elaborate, and, if he will allow me to say so, ingenious comparison between the powers given under this Bill and those conferred by the English Act. He was very eloquent upon the 16th Clause of this Bill, and the benefits it was going to confer on the landlord. I agree with my noble friend Lord Camperdown that the noble and learned Lord seemed to go rather too far. If the English Act and the powers contained in this Bill are so much alike, if there is the same principle of dual ownership in the two measures, surely we may ask, with some pertinence, why, if you think the two measures so much alike, you will not give us our way and let us apply the English Act to the Scottish conditions? I am not, however, going to dwell on a mere debating point of that kind; but if we see, as we think, differences of vital importance, surely if noble Lords opposite really want to get a settlement of this matter and they see no difference, it will be easy for them to allow us to have our way in regard to it.
The fact remains—and it is the great central fact which governs the whole of this part of the discussion—that under the English Act the landlord has been given a substantial and responsible tenant for a long period of years—the periods quoted yesterday by the Lord Chancellor, fourteen years and thirty-five years. The landlord knows where he is, and at the end of the term he has a responsible body to deal with, a body who can be sued, if need be', in a Court of law, and justice can be done to him and the other interests 1458 involved. But under this Bill there is no such certainty. As the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack himself said, the tenant can go at any time. That is exactly what we complain of. The process is this. He may be put down upon the land against the landlord's will he may, in the landlord's opinion, be wholly unfit; and if he goes away at any time—and should he fail he will go—the loss will fall upon the landlord.
The noble and learned Lord on the? Woolsack says that the Government intend to be fair to Scottish landlords. But all their fairness, all the provisions of Clauses 7 and 16 of this Bill, are entirely subject to the unfettered discretion of the Commission, and with all respect to the noble and learned Lord, I cannot regard that body as being a judicial body. It is more largely administrative, with certain judicial functions. It will be a judge in its own cause, it will have to judge of its own policy, and it is useless, therefore, to blame us for refusing to accept what noble Lords opposite describe as an impartial court. We have grave doubts about the impartiality, and if you look at Clause 7 you will see that there is not one single act on which it is possible to call the Land Court to account. It is all sic volo sic jubeo. There is no appeal, no control, no independent valuation of any kind provided. It is useless in these circumstances to ask us to trust the value of our property and the interests of agriculture to the unfettered discretion of an unknown and irresponsible tribunal.
After all, there are two main and important points in this Bill. They were freely set out last night by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Robertson, but let me repeat them, so that there may be no doubt, on the subject. The first is the extension of the Crofters Act to all Scotland, and the second the establishment of the Land Court. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has expressed a. willingness to consider fair and reasonable Amendments; but the extension of the Crofters Act throughout Scotland, and the establishment of a Land Court on the Irish model, are proposals too serious to be left in doubt or conjecture. Are His Majesty's Government prepared, or not, to give up these two provisions?
What really is the case for this Bill? Over and over again we have 1459 tried to find out who asked for it. Has it been asked for by the smallholders themselves? Who was it who first thought of it? It certainly has not been produced as the result of any inquiry, or, as far as I know, of any demand. Indeed, I go further than that and say that it has been produced in almost ostentatious disregard of the evidence which was given before the Committee presided over by the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees in this House. My Lords, who really is in favour of it? The agricultural community of Scotland are solid against it, and the existing smallholders, so far as I know, are against it. There was a petition presented last year from the three north-eastern counties, in which it was stated that an overwhelming majority of the agricultural communities in those counties were against the Bill. It is no use, I suppose, quoting the opinion of landlords and factors, or even large farmers, because they are supposed to have only their own selfish interests at heart. But who are in favour of this Bill? We know that even the Government themselves are not unanimous about it. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, like us, prefers the English Act.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I will take it so, but that disposes of the Land Court. Is this House to be abolished, is the authority of the Secretary for Scotland so overwhelming that this House is to be abolished, because it happens to agree with the First Lord of the Admiralty rather than with the Minister charged with Scottish affairs? The noble Lord the President of the Board of Agriculture has never been enthusiastic about the Bill. He gave us a most delightful and amusing speech last night, but of solid argument on the main points of the Bill I think I may say his speech was nearly entirely destitute. On the first point, as to the extension of the Crofters Act to the rest of Scotland, he said it was a Scottish question with "which he was not competent to deal, being a mere Englishman. I have always had grave doubts whether, when he went to Scotland in the autumn of 1906, he had ever really read the Bill. At any rate, his speeches to the Chamber 1460 of Agriculture at that time were not enthusiastic in support of it.
We have Scottish Members in the Cabinet. Mr. Asquith and Mr. Haldane have made speeches to their constituents in the recess, and here and there, now and then, they have made a cursory allusion to the Bill, but there has been no reasoned defence of it, no attempt to justify it in all its provisions. I understand that my personal friend, if he will allow me to call him so, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, is to speak this evening. The noble Earl has been silent up to this time, and therefore I do not think he can have any exuberant enthusiasm for the measure; but the House will, I believe, have an opportunity of judging for itself in a short time. One of my noble friends last night said he believed that if a ballot could have been taken of the Scottish Members the majority would have been against the Bill. He was challenged by the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture, who asked, How do you know that? Well, my Lords, I can give the answer. I know a great many of the Scottish Liberal Members, and am proud to have had to deal with many of them while Secretary for Scotland. I meet them socially and hear what they say on the subject, and if they would only say publicly what many of them say in private, then the doubts of the President of the Board of Agriculture would be resolved once for all. The noble Earl said he had heard something of this kind even within the sacred precincts of Brooks's Club—a place I have always believed was more given to the support of His Majesty's Government than those similar tabernacles which I personally frequent.
Is the test not really this—Who has done the improvements? If you are going to extend the Crofters Acts, with all their conditions, to the rest of Scotland, you are depriving men of property which they have invested in the land. After I made my speech in this House last autumn, a Radical Member, a friend of mine, wrote expressing surprise. He said—Surely you would like to encourage a saving Scotsman to put his savings into one of your farms?I replied —No. That is exactly what I do not want to eneourage, I want to encourage him to put 1461 his savings into the stock and the implements upon his holding, into the improving of the land in such a way as he is protected under the Agricultural Holdings Act. But the one thing which I will do my best to prevent him doing is to acquire any interest in the buildings or the permanent equipment of the farm.We, as Scottish landlords, speaking generally, have equipped our holding just in the same way as the man who lets his furnished house has equipped it for a resident. Surely under those circumstances we are entitled to the market value as tested in the open market of what our investment will bring. The moment you depart from that test you are simply putting a premium upon sloth, because you will do away with the power of the landlord to see that the tenant is keeping the land in good heart and condition, and it will be the good landlord and the good tenant who will suffer and the bad tenant who will gain. We are told we speak only for landlords. Really in this matter it is the interest of agriculture that is at state. No Land Court, however impartial, could do the same justice between man and man as to give them the right to make their bargains for themselves.
The Secretary for Scotland said that a landlord cannot understand the position and views of a tenant or a labourer on his estate because he has never been a tenant or a labourer himself. I think I can understand them perfectly, and what is more to the point, I believe they understand me; but how far are you going to carry this strange doctrine? Is a Judge of the Divorce Court to be required to qualify as a co-respondent? This is a bad Bill, but, even if it were less bad, I would hesitate to assent to the Second Reading under the circumstances in which we stand, because if we make a precedent of this kind, it will then perhaps be claimed that your Lordships have given way to the suggestion that, when the other House of Parliament passes a Bill by a large majority, and passes it twice within six months or a year, this House is therefore bound to accept it. Let the House be very careful before it assents to that doctrine. We are threatened that, if we fail to pass it, it will be worse for us and better for the Government and the prospects of their campaign. I ask the House to cast considerations of that kind entirely behind them. If I were to agree 1462 to pass this Bill as it stands I should be ashamed to go back to Scotland. If the House accepts the Bill under the present circumstances the only result will be that your Lordships will merit and will receive the laughter of your opponents and the contempt of your friends.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of ELGIN)
My Lords, I have heard suggestions of a conspiracy of silence on this Bench; reference has especially been made to myself; I can only say I know nothing of it. If in the course I took last year I was guilty of any want of respect to noble Lords opposite, I tender my respectful apology. I voted for the Bill last year, and on this oocasion I am prepared to state my reasons for supporting it. I take some exception to the doctrine propounded by my noble friend who has just sat down—that we are not sincere in our action in supporting the Bill. I think it is inconvenient that noble Lords should go behind recorded facts and opinions in order to suggest that people are not acting honestly in the course they have taken. When a Bill has been introduced by the Government on its responsibility, and has been supported in the other House of Parliament by an overwhelming majority, I respectfully protest against the suggestion that it has not been brought forward honestly and fairly.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has, as has been admitted all round, put before the House the general principles underlying the Bill in so complete a form and in so conciliatory a manner, that I am sure no statement of mine on those general grounds could add to its chances. Therefore, I should prefer to state to your Lordships as shortly as I can certain reasons that have emerged in my own experience of agriculture in Scotland, which have led me to the conclusion that there is a want for a Bill of some such character as this. I am encouraged to take this course because I think it was followed last year by my noble friend who has just sat down. He told your Lordships that for more than forty years he had been in possession of land in Scotland and connected with its management. I am sure my noble friend would admit that my 1463 experience in such matters is exactly parallel to his own. I will not yield to him in my high opinion of the excellence of Scottish methods and the excellence of the agriculture which has resulted from it, and especially the excellence of the nineteen years lease system, which has been at the foundation of much of our agricultural prosperity in Scotland. The outstanding feature of the nineteen years lease was that for an adequate period and under suitable conditions it gave to the tenant fixity, or, if you like, security of tenure. The nineteen years lease has also in later times had this additional advantage—that by the adoption of more elastic conditions, which have been framed by noble Lords opposite, as well as by noble Lords on this side, there has been secured to the tenant something like freedom of cropping.
Therefore I would be prepared to say that wherever the nineteen years lease could be adopted in its integrity it still has great advantages. But is its position the same? Forty years ago did anyone hear of a break in the nineteen years lease? That, I am afraid, is not altogether uncommon now, and to my mind it is absolutely contrary and fatal to the principle of the nineteen years lease itself. I think breaks, and also shorter leases, are sometimes now considered preferable. What the cause of that change has been would take a considerable time to set forth, but, generally speaking, I suppose the change has occurred from the changes in supply and demand, the sources of supply, the means of communication, and the conditions of the labour market. With regard to the latter point, I will mention one case as an illustration which was suggested to me by a practical farmer. Your Lordships will know that the term of engagement of farm servants in Scotland has been yearly. The wage was paid partly in money and partly in the produce of the farm. As regards the payment of the former, six months, I think, was not an unusual interval. But my informant tells me that now all this is changed. The general rule is that the agricultural labourer demands his wage in cash and that it should be paid at intervals of, perhaps, a fortnight. The result is this, that the farmer, instead of having a hold upon the man, the wage lying in his hands, has no hold upon him at all. The young man may desert the 1464 farm at any time. All these things tend to alter the conditions of the nineteen years lease.
Another change which is more important in connection with the particular subject now before the House relates to the terms of payment. At the time I was speaking of the ordinary term of payment of his first rent by the incoming tenant was deferred as a rule for something like fourteen months. That was a great advantage to the tenant, and especially to the smaller tenant who had little capital; but in 1867 an Act was passed which took away that advantage. The additional capital requirements caused by the earlier payment of rent certainly stand in the way of foremen or ploughmen who have saved a little money and wish to start for themselves—a class whom I am sure noble Lords would wish to foster. Anything that can be done to increase the number of men who have worked upon the land in the ranks of those who own, occupy, and cultivate the land is desirable. I hope for some such result from this Bill.
Under the first sub-section of Section 7—the section which deals exhaustively with the provision of these new holdings— the method suggested is voluntary agreement. Sub-section 6 of the same clause entitles the occupant of a holding so constituted to all the advantages conferring by the Bill. I may observe in passing that it seems to me that those advantages would to a considerable extent do away with the disadvantages that arise out of the Act of 1867. I do not think the opponents of this Bill do justice to the amount of voluntary agreement which is to be found in it. Section 7 contains the machinery by which the new holdings are to be established. It is permeated with the idea of agreement, negotiation, compensation, and the rights and interests of all parties. One would suppose, from the common description of the functions of the Agricultural Commissioner, that he was simply sent out on a roving expedition to pick out the eyes of fertile farms, as the expression is. I assert emphatically that that is not the case.
If we turn to the Bill, what do we find? In the first place, the Commissioner is to consider whether the demand for small holdings does or does not exist. The fact of that demand has to be proved. 1465 Then he has to ask the landlord what land is available, what people would be displaced by the creation of small holdings, and generally the interests affected. When all the preliminaries have been settled, he can proceed to recognise the demand. What does he do then? Again he has to apply to the landlord, and he has to urge him to carry out a scheme by agreement. Therefore, my Lord's, I venture to say that agreement is the goal throughout this clause. To agreement schemes all the boons of the Bill are offered and it goes so far as this, that in the selection of the smallholders attention is in the Bill itself specially directed to be paid not only to the objections but to the preferences of the landlord. If no agreement is possible, then, and then only, can compulsion be exercised. No compulsion can be actually exercised until the case has been brought before the Court and the Court is satisfied. All parties, moreover, are to be heard.
There are differences of opinion as to the extent of the demand for small holdings, but there is none as to this—that if there is a demand there ought to be means of meeting it. Nobody put that point more distinctly than the noble and learned Lord opposite who speaks with so much eloquence and directness. I submit, therefore, that if the creation of small holdings is a desirable thing, as we are agreed it is, and if there is a demand under the Bill, we ought to be able to rely to a very large extent upon the agreement clauses. If, on the other hand, there is no demand, well, then, no harm is done. We cannot make smallholdings without smallholders, any more than we can make bricks without straw.
I come to the machinery of the Bill. I confess to a small personal difficulty. I have not yet got over the surprise with which I heard the opinion expressed by my noble friend on the Cross Benches about Edinburgh Boards. I have always been accustomed, as a brother burgess, to look to the noble Earl as the most eloquent exponent of the rights and the privileges of the capital of Scotland. Among those rights and privileges it is not unnatural to include that it is the most convenient place for the local habitation of a Board which has to deal with matters affecting the whole of Scotland. I have 1466 some diffidence in expressing an opinion, because I am at this moment, not for the first time, part of an Edinburgh Board, but I do believe that these Boards have in the past done excellent and impartial work; and I should like to bear my testimony to the invaluable services which have been rendered by members of the Scottish Bench and by other members of the Scottish legal profession in connection with those duties.
I thought that the Lord Chancellor had made it quite clear that the Land Court was a purely judicial body, and, in spite of what has been said, I still think that it is so. It has no share whatever in administration. The Agricultural Commissioners are in no sense subordinate to the Court. They are officers of the ordinary administration of the country, and therefore, in the ordinary way, they are responsible to Parliament. But it is also to be borne in mind that the duties that are proposed for the Agricultural Commissioners are multifarious, and are not confined to the administration part of the Bill. I do not quite agree with the objections expressed by my noble friend opposite to the separation of Scotland from the Board of Agriculture, and I do not see why there should be more difficulty in co-operation on the question of diseases of animals than on the question of the diseases of men, and as to the question of importation, surely that would be a question which, in any case, would have to be dealt with on the authority of the Government as a whole, and there could be no question of there being one rule for importation in England and another in Scotland.
If any system similar to that proposed in this Bill is established, it is, in my opinion, imperative that there should be a body to determine authoritatively any differences that may arise. There is no question, I think, of any interference in the management of agricultural affairs outside the provisions of the Bill; but within the Bill there is a necessity for an authority to decide matters of difference. This is no new thing, but is implied in the arbitration clauses to be found in most leases. The same principle was involved in the enactments of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883. It is quite true that the arbitration under 1467 that Act did not fix the rent, but it did deal with points which materially affected the pecuniary interests of landlord and tenant and all the relations arising thereout. It is worth bearing in mind that in the case of the Act of 1883 the Civil Court was introduced, because, if any difficulty arose with regard to the appointment of referees or oversmen, it rested with the sheriff to give a decision; and, more significant still, in all cases of over £100 in value there was an appeal to the sheriff', whose decision was final. I think, therefore, there should be a Court, but, speaking simply for myself, and having a liking for historical sequence in these matters, I confess I should very much like to preserve something of the spirit, and perhaps the name, of the Court Arbitral.
So far I have been speaking chiefly of new holders. I want now to say something about existing tenants, and I would point out here, also, there is an opportunity for agreement. The noble Duke opposite said that the Land Court did for the landlord what he could do for himself. It is quite competent under the Crofters Act to come to an agreement whereby that right is reserved. Under the fifth Section of the Crofters Act of 1886 agreements are recognised which take the holding out of the provisions of the Crofters Acts. Therefore, it seems to me that, assuming there is a desire to co-operate on the part of both landlord and tenant, and, for my part, I believe it would be found that there would be a great desire on the part of the tenant to co-operate with his landlord in these matters, it will be quite possible for all existing tenants to agree to remain outside the provisions of the Bill. It is possible that tenants who have made improvements may wish to have the advantages of this Bill and the Crofters Act; but I do not think there are many of them. Where, however, a landlord has made improvements, there, I hope, agreements may be come to, and I do not see any reason for wishing to discourage them. So far as the Government are concerned we are aware that there are objections strongly held to the Bill as it affects existing tenants, and we are prepared to keep an open mind and endeavour to meet, if we can, the Opposition on this point, provided, of course, 1468 an opportunity is given to us by the Bill going into Committee.
The noble Duke opposite asked the House to reject the measure, because it had not the general approval of the agricultural interests affected. After all, agricultural societies cannot pretend that they are representative of the smallholders. We all know how such societies come together, and in few of them will you find a large or adequate representation of the small holders. I have spoken all through of tenants and not of owners, and I have done so purposely, because I have a strong opinion of the view really taken by my countrymen in this matter. I venture to think that the Scottish farmer is no fool, and if he has too little capital for cultivation, the last thing he will do is to tie up part of it in acquiring the fee simple of the land. So far as my experience of him goes, if he makes money he takes a larger farm, or it is possible he may take a second farm, but I believe the cases in which he buys a farm are few and far between. He is content with his tenancy if he has sufficient fixity of tenure, and, in my humble opinion, the nineteen years lease in the case of large farms does give him the security he requires. But, for the small holder, I think something more is required, and it is the object and intention of this Bill to supply that.
It is partly because of the opinion I entertain with regard to the preference in Scotland for leasehold tenure that I doubt the expediency of the introduction of the county councils. I should be the last man to say anything in disparagement of the county councils, for I have received much kindness, both in my own county and in the County Councils Association; but I think that in undertaking the management of small lease-holdings they would be undertaking, for them, a very difficult, very onerous, and almost impracticable task.
In supporting this Bill I emphatically disclaim any intention of depreciating or damaging the system of agriculture in Scotland. It is rather my wish to do something that may strengthen its defences and outworks where time has shown a weakness. Especially I wish to give to bona fide agriculturists fresh opportunities. I deprecate exaggeration as to the results of this legislation on the 1469 one side or the other. Nor should we exaggerate the risks that may be thought to be involved, but which may, I believe, be miznimised by prudent administration. I support the Second Reading of the Bill because I cannot but be of opinion that if fairly and sympathetically considered by the House it might pass in a form which would do injury to no one part of the agricultural interest and would be an advantage to the community as a whole.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, once again this House finds itself face to face with what I cannot describe otherwise than this luckless measure. We have to ask ourselves has anything happened, has anything been said, since it was before us last autumn, to remove the unfavourable impression which it then created? Before I attempt to answer that most momentous question let me say one word of acknowledgment as to the tone and temper of the speeches which have been delivered in support of the Bill by noble Lords opposite. Nothing could have been more moderate or considerate than their advocacy of the Bill, but I must be permitted to contrast that moderation with the very immoderate language used outside by the Government and their supporters in regard to the treatment of the Bill by the House of Lords in August last. I am almost tempted to say that His Majesty's Government, like some great painters, have two manners, a manner reserved for Parliamentary purposes, and a manner reserved for external occasions. We have, at any rate, not to-night and yesterday been lectured because we were not prepared to pass the Bill into law last autumn, when, as the noble Earl on the Woolsack has good-humouredly admitted, it came to us "rather late in the session."
Well, His Majesty's Government have had six months for reflection, and that reflection has apparently led them to believe that the Bill as introduced last year was absolutely perfect and incapable of improvement, for it comes to us again with hardly a dot or comma altered. But since this discussion began there have been various hints that Amendments might be accepted by His Majesty's Government. A very noteworthy announcement of that kind was made by the noble Lord opposite, to whom we 1470 listened with great pleasure while he delivered a speech which reminded us of his distinguished father. He gave us to understand that any Amendment conceived in a reasonable spirit would be dealt with in a not less reasonable spirit by His Majesty's Government. I compare that announcement, evidently made with a considerable feeling of responsibility, with the announcement from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack last night. He made a similar announcement, but he added this qualification, that any Amendment to be taken into consideration must be an amendment not destructive of the scheme of the Bill.
That, of course, raises the question what are and what are not essential principles in the Bill. Upon that point we have been left in no doubt; it has been announced by no less an authority than the Prime Minister himself, that the cardinal principle of the Bill is the establishment of a Land Court in Scotland. That and what is conveniently referred to as the crofterisation of Scotland are the bases upon which this legislation is to proceed, and it seems to me impossible, so long as those two principles are to be found in the Bill, that we can entertain overtures, no matter in how friendly a spirit they may be conceived for accepting the Second Reading of this measure. We, too, have had time for reflection, and that reflection has strengthened our belief that such a Bill will be fraught with misfortune to all whom it will affect. The persuasive speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has not diminished that conviction. That speech, if I may say so, was remarkable, not only for what it contained, but for that which it did not contain—I mean that the speech, able and ingenious as it was, made no attempt to deal with the three or four cardinal arguments upon which, throughout these discussions, we have relied in our objections to the Bill.
May I in the briefest possible language remind the House what those propositions are? In the first place, we conceive that there is an essential distinction between crofters and farmers who are not crofters. The noble and learned Lord who spoke with so much effect last night dwelt upon this point so fully that I need not further labour it. He showed to your 1471 Lordships that what was essential in a crofter was that he should have a hereditary and prescriptive tenure, and that he, and not his landlord, should have been in the habit of making the improvements on the holding. The crofter is the man who de facto has already established a proprietory right upon the farm, aud when you pass out of the areas in which those conditions are to be found, you meet with men whe may indeed be smallholders, but who are not crofters, because they do not differ essentially, except perhaps in the amount of their rent or in the acreage of their farms, from the other tenant farmers living alongside them and holding under the agreements which are usual and customary in Scotland.
Our second proposition is this. We have denied from the first that our crofter legislation has been on the whole of a successful nature, even in those areas where it has been applied. On this point, to my mind, nothing is more conclusive than the Report of a little Commission known as the Douglas Commission, a Report which has been in the hands of most of your Lordships, and has the merit of being very concise, and, to my mind, very conclusive. What do we find from the Report of the Douglas Commission? Let us not forget that this Commission was not composed of landlords or their representatives. It was presided over by an ex-Liberal Member of Parliament, and was, I believe, mainly composed of farmers with the addition of one gentleman connected with the Dundee Advertiser, a very ably conducted paper, but not usually associated with landlord interests. What is the language of that Report? The Commissioners tell us that the dwelling houses in crofter areas are such as would not usually pass rural sanitary inspection. It is not, it seems, only in the slums of Glasgow that insanitary dwellings are to be found; the farm buildings are described as most primitive; in regard to cultivation we are told that there is very little reclamation; that mis-cropping is usual; that there is less improvement on crofts than on adjoining farms; and that very few of the crofts are self-sustaining. Thirty-five thousand pounds of public money have been poured annually into 1472 a district of which the rental is about £65,000 a year, and even with that liberal addition, and even with the assistance derived from the prosecution of the fishing industry, the crofter can only with difficulty eke out a living.
Then the Douglas Commission also tell us that the new crofts created by the Congested Districts Board are not prosperous They tell us that all expenditure by-landlords in the districts has not unnaturally dried up; and, finally, they dwell upon the arrangement under which the buildings erected on these crofts-enjoy a special immunity from rates. They describe an instance where the rates paid by crofters only amount to an eighteenth of the whole, and they say — not without force—that the result of these exemptions is highly adverse to the success of local administration. Now with this evidence before us, I ask—Would any sane person desire to introduce for the first time a system which has results such as I have described, unless there were local circumstances of a special nature that rendered its introduction inevitable in certain very restricted parts of Scotland?
Then I wish to point out that in the speeches to which we have listened no serious attempt was made to show why it is necessary that the crofter system, even assuming it to be a much better system than we believe it to be, should be extended to other parts of Scotland. The Secretary for the Colonies indulged in very hopeful anticipations of the way the Hill might work if it became law, but I did not gather from him a single remark that went to show that, there was any necessity for extending; the system to parts of Scotland outside the crofter areas. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack put in the forefront of his argument, as he did last year, the necessity of doing something to meet the evils of overcrowding. That reference to-overcrowding, if I may so describe it, forms a picturesque touch in the foreground of the picture drawn for us by advocates of legislation of this kind; but-I hope the noble and learned Lord will forgive me when I say that I never heard anything more halfhearted than, his attempt to connect the absence of security for smallholders in Scotland with the admitted evils of overcrowding 1473 in Glasgow. The noble and learned Lord is far too honest a man to wish this House to believe that if you were to pass this Bill, or any amount of Bills of this kind, you would thereby sensibly affect the evils of overcrowding. The colleagues of the noble and learned Lord are less cautious in their statements. I noticed that the Lord Advocate, in one of his speeches, said there were in round figures half a million occupants of one-roomed tenements in Scotland. How many of those occupants of one-roomed tenements would gain one jot or one tittle by the passing of a Bill of this kind?
I dismiss that argument as not really ad rem, and I venture to suggest that there are two propositions, both of which ought to be established to the satisfaction of the House before we are asked to pass this Bill into law. The first of these propositions is this. It ought to be shown to us that there really is some substantial difference between the farmers of England and the farmers of Scotland outside the crofting areas. In none of the speeches to which I have listened during this debate has any attempt been made to establish that proposition. Let me once again remind noble Lords opposite that when they had to legislate for agricultural tenure two years ago, they dealt with the question north and south of the border by one and the same measure.
The second proposition that ought to be made good before asking the House to pass this Bill is this. It ought to be shown that the small tenant farmers in Scotland stand in some special need of protection from their landlords. Not one word has been said in the course of this debate to show that these smallholders are really exposed to harsh or inconsiderate treatment at the hands of their landlords. But, again, I point out the difference between the language used in this House and the language used outside. This is not a moment when I am going to make an attack upon the Prime Minister; but I am bound to remind your Lordships of the statement made by him last autumn in reference to this Bill, when he told his hearers that—The liberals are striving for a more wholesome and honest and manly system, under which men may keep their independence without forfeiting their homes and their livelihood.1474 And he went on to speak of families actually dispossessed from their homes, of clearances and evictions, of—risks that an independent man has been, subject to, and is still subject to, when he crosses his landlord's wishes, it may be in regard to the management of his farm, it may be in regard to the disposal of his vote.That was the cue given by the Prime Minister; and that cue was taken by every speaker upon Radical platforms during the so-called campaign of last autumn.
If these things are to be said either in or outside this House, have we not a right to ask what evidence there is that the tenants of Scotland are treated in this manner, that they stand in need of a more honest, manly, and wholesome system of land tenure? Surely, it would be true to say that if things of this kind are happening in Scotland the result would be that the farmers of Scotland would have risen like one man to ask for the passing of this Bill. Have they done so? We have heard of one or two meetings in obscure places, but until I am convinced to the contrary I shall remain under the impression that the agricultural community of Scotland regard this measure, if not with hostility, at any rate with absolute indifference.
But the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was far, indeed, from bringing any complaints of that kind against landlords for their treatment of their tenants. He put his case in a much more ingenious manner. What he told us was that it was necessary to protect the small tenant because he was being squeezed out by economic causes. He explained that what he meant by that was that the expense attending the equipment of small holdings was relatively so great that landlords were tempted to consolidate them as opportunity arose. I have considerable doubt if that is the fact, for although there was once a tendency towards consolidation of holdings, I am under the impression that in these days landlords are rather averse to having too many large farms, and are glad to see what we describe as graduated holdings, some small and some large, and some of medium dimensions. But when the noble and learned Lord observes that he wishes to prevent the absorption of those small holdings because they are being absorbed owing to the 1475 operation of economic laws, does it not come to this, that at the very moment when in Ireland we are making tremendous efforts to get rid of uneconomic holdings we are being asked here to legislate for the perpetuation of uneconomic holdings in Scotland by means of the Bill now before the House?
What I think many of us feel is that if you are indeed to try these uneconomic experiments, it is rather hard that they should be tried at the expense of the landlords. Because when we get to close quarters with the question that is what we find is to happen. The truth came out when the noble and learned Lord was discussing the question of purchase. He told us that purchase had been an unredeemed failure in Scotland; and he said there were two reasons. The county councils shrank from embarking the money of the ratepayers in unknown and hazardous enterprises. I think that was the substance of the statement. That was one reason. On the other hand, those tenants who had a little money saved shrank from investing their savings in the purchase of a small holding. So it comes to this. Because tenants have got their heads screwed on the right way, and because the county councils are jealous guardians of the interests of the ratepayers, these speculative enterprises are to be conducted at the expense either of the landlord or of the taxpayer, who is apparently to come to the rescue if things go hopelessly wrong. My noble friend the Duke of Montrose, who moved the Amendment with so much ability last night, brought out triumphantly the manner in which the financial part of this arrangement is likely to operate, and I have only to say, that both as a landlord and as a taxpayer, I object very strongly indeed to the using of funds towards which I contribute in this haphazard and speculative fashion.
Another proposition which we have affirmed remains absolutely unshaken. We hold that the particular kind of land tenure which you desire to establish in Scotland combines almost every fault which a single system of land tenure can possess. I noticed a very extraordinary statement made the other day by the Scottish Secretary. It was to the effect that some analogous system for giving security to the tenant, was 1476 to be found in most foreign countries. I hope we shall be told in what country a system at all corresponding to this can be found except in. Ireland. My belief is that if you will inquire into the systems of land tenure which prevail abroad, you will find that they are based upon either complete ownership or upon hiring under the ordinary conditions of hiring. I do not know whether the President of the Board of Agriculture has made investigations into this question. He may perhaps be able to enlighten us on the subject; but, so far as I have been able to make any researches into it, I am left under the impression that in Germany, in France, and in Belgium you will find that the system where land is hired by one person to another, is that of very short leases, shorter than the leases with which we are familiar in Scotland; and that the tenant enjoys a much less degree of protection than that which every tenant in the United Kingdom already enjoys under the law of the land.
The Scottish Secretary referred to Denmark, and apparently believed that the prosperity of Denmark was largely due to a system such as he was recommending. I have referred to an interesting Report made by a travelling Committee which visited Denmark and Ireland and which affords some very useful and important information. I find that their statement is that the conditions under which land is leased in Denmark would appear to be "more stringent and binding on the tenant" than are to be found in Scotland. Until I am contradicted I shall maintain that this system which you are seeking to import into the whole of Scotland is a system unlike any other known in civilised countries and possessing almost every defect which a system of land tenure can possess.
May I say one word before I leave this part of the subject to explain why it is that we so greatly dislike such a system of land tenure? I may be told that it is not the Irish system, that you are only going to give us two instead of the three F's. I see that assent is given to that. But I ask the noble Lord to look up the debates on Mr. Gladstone's Irish Land Act. There he will find that Mr. Gladstone demonstrated to his own satisfaction, and I think to the satisfaction of most of those who listened to him, the absolute impossibility to have fixity of 1477 tenure and fair rent without those two principles carrying with them eventually free sale. Of that I have no doubt whatever.
Why is it that we are afraid of this system of fair rents? A great deal of prejudice is sometimes created by the suggestion that if we dislike fair rents it necessarily means that we want to exact unfair rents. What do we mean when we talk about fair rent? There is no such thing as rent which can be demonstrated mathematically or scientifically as the fair rent for any holding. What we mean by fair rent is not the rent arrived at by the chaffer of the market between the person who lets the land and the person who takes it, but a rent imposed on the parties by someone outside who may or may not really know very ranch about the true capacity and value of the land. I object altogether to the intervention of the State for the purpose of making contracts of this kind unless you are able to show me that the parties are unable to make a fair and reasonable contract themselves; and I have yet to learn that the tenant farmers of Scotland, even if their rent happens to be £45 and not £50, are unable to drive a perfectly satisfactory bargain with their landlords. In these days I do not think it is untrue to say that the tenant occupies a very much stronger position as a bargainer than the landlord, and that the idea of a landlord allowing a solvent and suitable tenant to leave his farm because he will not meet him fairly on the question of rent is absolutely inconsistent with the facts as we know them.
The noble and learned Lord was at great pains to reassure us with regard to the manner in which this question was likely to be dealt with by the Land Court which he proposes to set up. He explained that the Court was to be an irremovable body, that it was to be a judicial body so composed as to command public confidence, and that it would hear the parties in the most reasonable manner. All this would have made a great deal more impression on my mind if I did not remember that there was a time when we were told exactly the same thing with regard to the Land Court we have set up in Ireland. The three original Land Commissioners in that case were men of conspicuous position, their names were given in the Bill, and we were invariably 1478 met by the argument that with such a triumvirate nothing but justice could be expected. But what happened when these matters were inquired into, as they were afterwards by Committees and Commissions? The fact was revealed that these Land Commissioners had never heard one single original case themselves. They had not even issued instructions for the guidance of the Sub-Commissioners working under them; and the result has been to bring about a system which I am not going to take upon myself to describe again to-night, but which was described in the Report of Sir Edward Fry's Commission in words which should be attentively read by all who are in favour of reproducing in Scotland what we have already produced in Ireland. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack told us last night that the Land Court was, in the eyes of many of us, a bellua ferox. I rather accept his suggestion, and I would venture to add that, as we have the bellua ferox in Ireland, we had better take care to keep the Irish Channel between us and it.
Then the noble and learned Lord used a very insidious argument with the object of reconciling us to the procedure involved in this Bill. He said to us in effect:—"You landlords are already under the harrow; you have got the English harrow; it is true that the spikes of our Scottish harrow are a little longer and a little more pointed; but after all it does not make much difference to you; the one system gives you a Land Court, the other gives you valuers, arbitrators, and a Board of Agriculture; it will come to much the same in the end." Will the noble and learned Lord pardon us if we think that, upon this question concerning practical dealings with land, we who have been familiar all our lives with such matters have an opinion which is entitled to as much weight as the noble and learned Lord's opinion would be entitled to if he were enlightening us upon a question of law?
Let me, then, venture to point out what I conceive to be the fundamental difference between the position which the landlord will occupy under this Bill and that which he occupies under the English Small Holdings Act. Under the English Act, if the Board of Agriculture and the county councils desire that small holdings shall be created, the land is taken and 1479 the county council proceeds to dispose of it as it thinks fit to tenants. There may be a question as to the rent and as to other terms, but the position of the landlord in that case is not altogether an undesirable one, because he in fact obtains for his tenant a local body perfectly familar with the local circumstances of the district, perfectly solvent, and a body which is obliged to return the land to the landlord at the expiration of the term in as good a condition as that in which they received it.
But what would happen under this Bill? The landlord having upon his estate a certain number of holdings below £50 a year, or below 150 acres in extent, but in other respects not distinguishable from the rest, would suddenly find one morning that these particular tenants had had conferred upon them, by a mere stroke of the pen, a great part of the attributes of actual ownership. The landlord has no intermediary between him and the tenants, as in the case of the English landlord; he is left in direct relationship with them. The men may have been recent arrivals, perhaps birds of passage who had hired the land for a term of years, on the clear understanding that at the end of that term the parties were free to reconsider their arrangements. But the landlord is saddled for all time with such men, and although there may be many excellent reasons why he should desire to make a change in the tenancy of his holding, he cannot get rid of them except by litigation, odious, expensive, and always to be avoided if you can possibly do so.
I cannot help describing an enforced change of such a kind as one flagrantly unjust to the owners of land in Scotland. Surely we ought not to lose sight of the fact that a great part of the letting value, often by far the greater part of the letting value of these farms, which have been for generation after generation improved by the owners, is due, not to the inherent qualities of the soil, but to the outlay of the landlord and his predecessors. There is no doubt about it. I wish your Lordships would look at a memoir of the late Mr. Albert Pell, just published. You will find towards the end of it a most interesting essay on what he calls the making of the land in England. It goes to show that the value of farm land, as 1480 we know it now, far from being due to natural causes, or to what we sometimes call the unearned increment, is really due to the exertions generation after generation of those who have owned the land. The point I wish to press upon your Lordships is this. If you are to regard the landlord and the tenant as partners, the contribution of the tenant is infinitesimally small as compared with the contribution of the landlord. It is a cruel injustice, therefore, for no particular reason, to transfer the attributes of ownership from the party who has contributed most to the party who has contributed least to the enterprise.
I will quote one line from a paper written many years ago by a distinguished member of this House—the late Duke of Argyle. This is what he said—It is good to increase owners, but not to destroy ownership.It is because this Bill destroys ownership that I for one cordially dislike it. But I am afraid I must add that a great deal more is involved in this Bill than mere injustice to the landowner of Scotland. This Bill is a deadly blow to the system of agriculture which has for generations past prevailed in that part of the United Kingdom—a system of agriculture which has produced excellent results, and which is the admiration of all who study agricultural affairs. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies went out of his way to disclaim any desire to break down the present system of Scottish agriculture. Does he believe it is possible to introduce a system of this kind into Scotland and then confine it within certain limited areas? Here, again, we recur naturally to the Irish precedent. When land legislation of this sort was first attempted in Ireland it was to be restricted to the smaller tenants. The leaseholders were to be excluded from its operation; there were innumerable other safeguards; but they are all gone now, and you have in Ireland one dead level of the disastrous system which this Bill is to introduce into Scotland. I believe this to be a Bill which will do no good to the tenants, certainly no good to the landlords, no good, certainly, to the taxpayers of this country, and I shall therefore give my support to the noble Duke behind me.
I make only this reservation. If His Majesty's Government are really prepared 1481 to alter the Bill at the points to which our fundamental objections apply—I mean, so far as it introduces the crofter system throughout Scotland, so far as it creates a Land Court in that country— if that be the intention of the Government, no doubt a new situation would arise. But nothing which we have heard has suggested to my mind that upon these vital points His Majesty's Government have any intention of giving way, and, that being so, we shall vote against the Second Reading, and we shall lay before the agricultural community of Scotland the Bill of my noble friend Lord Lovat and the Bill of my noble friend Lord Camperdown as embodying what seem to us proper and reasonable provisions for dealing with the small holdings question in Scotland. In my belief His Majesty's Government ought to be extremely grateful, and I cannot help thinking that many of them will be grateful to us, if by arresting the progress of this Bill to night we extricate them from their entanglement with this most ill-conceived and pernicious measure.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord LOREBURN)
My Lords, the noble Marquess is mistaken in his anticipation that he will receive any gratitude from the Members of His Majesty's Government for the speech he has made and the action he has recommended. The noble Marquess has dashed the hope which had been entertained that some measure on this subject of such great importance might be passed by discussion and fair dealing between both sides of the House. I feel that after what he has said, after he has extinguished the light, it is hardly much use protracting this superfluous entertainment. I regret very greatly the decision at which the noble Marquess and his friends have arrived. I believe that with good will and examination of the Bill we might have arrived at a satisfactory conclusion. I am certain of this, as, indeed, all your Lordships will he certain, that this Bill or other proposals of an analogous character will again and again be brought before the attention of Parliament, and will some time or other—indeed, soon—have to be settled, because the subject is urgent, and it is common ground that it is urgent. I believe there was an opportunity of coming to a settlement this evening, and 1482 I deeply regret that that opportunity has been lost.
My Lords, the position of the Government is that we cannot be parties to the destruction of our own measure, and the substitution of some other measure in its place. We have stated in perfectly unequivocal language that we were prepared fairly to meet Amendments and suggestions. What we have been asked to do is practically to capitulate to the noble Marquess and his friends. I would ask whether any one of your Lordships in our place would contemplate doing anything of the kind. We, after all, represent the Government of this country. We are supported on this Bill by an overwhelming majority of Members of the other House of Parliament. We have a still more overwhelming majority of the representatives of Scotland upon our side, and for my part I have not yet learned to look for the sense of the country elsewhere than in Parliament—in the House of Commons which represents the country. Under these circumstances the proposal that has been made to us, which is really a proposal for capitulation, is one that no noble Lord sitting upon the Front Opposition Bench would have entertained, and you would not respect us or think us worthy of our position if we entertained it.
There are other reasons also why I feel that the resolution of the noble Marquess is unfortunate. I am not at all clear about the position of His Majesty's Opposition in regard to this Bill. Why have we not an opportunity of learning by interchange of views in this House what their position is? The step that is to be taken is impossible for us; it is unnecessary for you. If the Government had not been prepared to meet, when they were propounded, Amendments which should be reasonable and which should commend themselves to moderate and sensible men, you were in no way prejudiced by the fact that a Second Reading was granted. The Bill was still under the control of the majority of this House.
I have been asked repeatedly—Why is the Bill needed at all? My Lords, I thought that necessity was sufficiently indicated by the fact that measures have been brought in by supporters of the noble Marquess for the express purpose of dealing with this difficulty. If there is nothing requiring treatment, why were 1483 these Bills introduced? For my part, I have never dwelt on the overcrowding in Glasgow and the other great cities of Scotland as being a thing which would be largely remedied by this measure; but I say it will diminish and check depopulation, and it is depopulation which tends to increase the overcrowding. I cannot help thinking that although many of your Lordships have admitted the argument from necessity—and I do not question the sincerity of the admission—it has not been a deliberate and thought-out admission. For throughout this debate there has been apparent a dislike to every system of this kind, and panegyrics have been pronounced on free contract which are absolutely incompatible either with this Bill or the English Act. We have been told that no justification has been given for the crofterisation of Scotland. Now let us see what is meant by the crofterisation of Scotland. I suppose it means, in the first instance, setting up a particular tenure. I have endeavoured to show a comparison between the tenure set up by the English Act and the tenure set up by this Bill. Substantially and broadly they are the same, or, at least, analogous and similar. It has been said that this Bill applies to existing tenants. We were perfectly prepared to consider Amendments on that subject.
Complaint has also been made of the Land Court. Now let me see what the Land Court is. It is strictly a judical body. I believe in this Bill it is a complete mistake to say that any administrative functions are committed to the Land Court at all. They are committed to the Agricultural Commissioners. That at 1east is the intention of the Government, and I believe it is embodied in the Bill. You must under any system of compulsory hiring have the functions which are committed to the Land Court discharged by someone. We think it is better in Scotland, accustomed as it is to the Land Court in connection with the Crofters Acts, that it should be committed to a tribunal of men carefully selected and honourably selected, who shall be independent and who shall not be allowed to interfere in any way or have any initiative in respect
§ to administration. I do not know whether that meets with the views of noble Lords. I am sure, if they think of it, they cannot wish that any judicial questions should be settled by persons who are Under the thumb of any Department. Our view is that the Land Court will discharge those duties more independently and more efficiently than any other tribunal that can be suggested.
§ The last point I will refer to is that relating to the separation of the Board of Agriculture in England and in Scotland. Scotland already manages its own fisheries, its education, and other branches of administration. It would be impossible that the Agricultural Board should interfere in the actual work of setting up small holdings in Scotland from London, while the Secretary for Scotland is discharging all the other administrative duties in connection with that country. I think there is one point on which it is desirable to be perfectly explicit. A fear has been expressed lest the administration of the Diseases of Animals Act and the unity of action which is most desirable in that respect should be impaired by the passing of this Bill. It is quite obvious that it is necessary to preserve unity of administration, and we should be most anxious to introduce the necessary clauses for that purpose.
§ Having regard to the limits of time and to the foregone conclusions we have to face, I have gone as far as need be into these various points. I most heartily regret the decision of this House, and I think it will be the prelude of much deserved dissatisfaction in Scotland. I hope that, notwithstanding what has taken place to-night, it may before long be possible by fair dealing and good will to settle a subject the settlement of which is earnestly desired in Scotland and is, I believe, necessary to the welfare of that country.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question,
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 33: Not-Contents, 153.1485
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor)||Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Chestefield, E.|
|Carrington, E.||portsmouth, E|
|Athorp. V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Lucas, L.|
|Eversley, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Allendale, L.||Farrer, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Armitstead, L.||Fitzmaurice, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Glantawe, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Boston, L.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.) [Teller.]||Tenterden, L.|
|Castletown, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Coleridge. L.||Haversham, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Courtney of Penwith, L.||Headley, L.||Welby, L.|
|Denman, L. [Teller.]||Herschell, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Brandon, D. (D. Hamilton.)||Cross, V.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Falkland, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Goschen. V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Gough, V.||Leigh, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Lilford, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Hill, V.||Lovat, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Hood, V.||Lurgan, L.|
|Bath, M.||Iveagh,V.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Knutsford, V.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Lansdowne, M.||Llandaff, V.||Middleton, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, V.||Moncrieff, L.|
|Camperdown, E||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Carlisle, E||Abinger, L.||Monson, L.|
|Carnwath, E.||Addington, L.||Mount Stephen, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Alverstone, L.||Muncaster, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Ampthill, L.||Newton, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Cromer, E.||Ashcombe, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Atkinson, L.||Poltimore, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Avebury, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Derby, E.||Balfour, L.|
|Devon, E.||Balinhard, L. (E. Southesk.)||Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)|
|Eldon, E.||Basing, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Belper, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Borthwick, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Robertson, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Burton, L.||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Harewood, E.||Carew, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Clinton, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Colchester, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Collins, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Curzon of Kedleston, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Lytton, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Sinclair, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||De Mauley, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Mansfield, E.||Deramore, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Dormer, L.||Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)|
|Morton, E.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Munster, E.||Estcourt, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Faber, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Northesk, E.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)|
|Onslow, E.||Forester, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Teynham, L.|
|Stradbroke, E.||Glenesk, L.||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)|
|Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Harlech, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Harris, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Verulam, E.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)||Wandsworth, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Hindlip, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Hothfield, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Westmoreland, E.||Inverclyde, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Kenyon, L.|
Resolved in the negative accordingly, and the proposed Resolution agreed to. 1486 Then it was moved to add to the said Eesolution the following words "and (4) 1487 which provides for the transfer to three Agricultural Commissioners of the work at present undertaken by the Board of Agriculture in Scotland, whereas it is essential for the safety of the flocks and herds of Great Britain that the administrative responsibility under the Diseases of Animals Acts should remain in the hands of a single Department." — (The Earl of Onslow); agreed to.
§ House adjourned at Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.