THE EARL of ONSLOW
rose to call attention to the many difficulties experienced by county councils in the administration of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1908; and to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether he would introduce a Bill to amend that Act so as to expedite the establishment of small holdings and the creation of a class of occupying owners of the land.
The noble Earl said
My Lords, I think that I shall not be guilty of any exaggeration if I venture to say that the Small Holdings Act which your Lordships passed three years ago is a comparative failure. I say "comparative," because I have no doubt that presently the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture will produce a number of figures showing that a great many small holdings have been created —I say a failure by comparison with what the noble Earl led the 922 so far as we are concerned, from anything that may hamper them, I hope the noble Earl will not go to a Division.
country to believe would be the result of the measure. We all of us admire the cheery optimism of the noble Earl. We also admire the way in which he has managed his own estates, and we know that upon those estates he has been more than usually successful in creating small holders. We also admire the noble Earl's zeal towards his party, and his desire to do everything that he can to advance what he believes to be the interests of the Liberal Party. But perhaps I may venture to point out to him that your Lordships and the party sitting upon this side of the House were no less desirous than the noble Earl himself to create small holdings in this country.
The result of the action of the noble Earl has been that a very large number of his friends, mostly Liberal Members for different constituencies, have gone about persuading people that all they had to do was to make an application to the county council for a particular piece of land and they would get it for rather less than was its value, and that if they did not get it 923 their remedy was to apply to the committee rooms of the Liberal Member. That is not the duty of anybody except the Board of Agriculture and the Commissioners appointed by the Board. I noticed only the other day that a gentleman, a son of a member of your Lordships' House, addressing a meeting in Dorsetshire, said that if application were made to the county council and no reply received a representation should be made to his father's estate office when a question would be asked in Parliament as to why the Commissioners were not down there seeing that the county council did their work. I deprecate very greatly any action of that kind.
We were told by the noble Earl not very long ago that 23,000 applicants had applied for 373,000 acres of land, as he expressed it equal to a strip of land a mile wide from the Channel to the Firth of Forth. These have now been inquired into, and the number of applicants has been reduced to 13,000. I think the reason for their falling off is that they find they cannot obtain just that little piece of land they require at a lower price than anybody else would be willing to give for it, and that even the agency of the Liberal committee rooms has not been able to supply a piece of land, the best in the farm, at the same rent as the average of the farm without throwing a burden upon the ratepayers of the locality. Of these 13,000 applicants only 2,200 have been provided with 30,000 acres, an average of about 13 acres each, leaving 10,800 to be provided for; and if the average is the same these will require not less than another 140,000 acres.
What is the cause of this comparatively slow progress in the administration of the Act? I dare say most people will expect that the answer will be the reluctance of the landlords in the country to part with their land. Anybody reading the provisions proposed in the Budget would imagine that the scorpions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were to be applied to the loins of the landlords of this country because of their reluctance to carry out this measure; but, so far from that being the case, one Liberal Member after another has got up in his place and said that the landlords, whether Tory or Radical, have not been obstacles in the creation of small holdings, but that, on the contrary, they have done all they could to facilitate it. Is it, then, 924 the county councils? My noble friend gave very good testimony himself of the work which has been done by the county councils. He stated that their local knowledge had been of the greatest possible value, and that if they had not tackled the work the Board would have had to send one Commissioner into every county in England, whereas the Board had received every possible assistance and co-operation from the county councils. I think one of the most remarkable features of English life is the enormous amount of voluntary work performed in this country. I happen to be a member of the small holdings committee of my own county. The work that has been done by that body is very much the same as that of other county councils throughout the country. They have held innumerable. meetings; they have interviewed applicants; they have made applications for farms; and they have not hesitated to ask the Board of Agriculture to put the compulsory powers into operation. Therefore, I think your Lordships will agree that the fault does not lie with the county councils. Well, whose fault is it?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 24; Not-contents, 28.
The noble Earl
opposite said some time ago that the lion in the path was the tenant farmer. It is not the landlords, it is not the county councils, but it is those who are now in occupation of the land who are the lions in the path. In 1906 the noble Earl opposite introduced a measure into your. Lordships' House called the Land Tenure Bill, and in his speech he said a great deal about the advantages of fixity of tenure and the iniquity of anybody trying to disturb his tenant. We were asked to put some words into that Act to provide for compensation in the event of loss being suffered by a tenant having to go from one farm to another. The noble Earl expressed the hope that your Lordships would not refuse to put these words in—and they were put in—because otherwise it would give the impression that—The House of Lords was driving a very hard bargain with the unfortunate devil who was being turned out of his farm.Moreover, the noble Earl has upon several occasions protested that nothing of the sort could happen, and that the Act must be worked without doing injustice to the vested interests of the farmers. Well, that is the spirit in which the county councils have 925 acted. They have been unwilling to turn men out of the farms which they were occupying, and they have waited, wherever they possibly could, until the farm came out of occupation and they had an opportunity of making an application to the landlord to let it to them for small holdings.
About two years ago the President of the Board of Agriculture became one of three Commissioners who administer some 62,000 acres of Crown lands in fourteen different counties of England. Knowing the way in which he administers his own estates, no word was raised in this House or anywhere else against the appointment of the noble Earl as one of the Commissioners of Crown Lands. But I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to a case which I think was one of particular hardship and one which seems to go diametrically in the opposite direction to the professions which the noble Earl has made. The case is one which occurred on a Crown farm near a place called Welwick the East Riding of Yorkshire. A farmer named Clark occupied a farm of 376 acres. The East Riding County Council were of opinion that it was not specially suited for small holdings because the land was heavy, and it was some distance from a railway station; but the Board of Agriculture and the noble Earl thought otherwise and they not only urged but compelled the county council to take a lease of that farm, and, of course, as a preliminary, they had to evict the tenant. That tenant had been in possession of the farm for sixteen years. It is quite true that he occupied another farm and held two farms together; but I am informed that his son was a man approaching full age, and that his intention was to settle him on one or other of these two farms. The man himself was a good citizen, and would have commended himself to Lord Lucas and the Secretary of State for War, for he was an active member of the Yorkshire Yeomanry, had raised a troop himself, and as a shot was a prizewinner. I venture to say that, however much one may be desirous of increasing small holdings, it is, to say the least of it, an arbitrary act to evict a man solely for that purpose. So strongly did the Chairman of the East Riding County Council feel that he said that, while hoping small holdings would succeed, he thought they were in that county starting under very intolerable circumstances with regard to this particular farm. I hope the noble Earl will 926 be able to give us some explanation. It may be that he has been able to make compensation for the loss which that man has suffered.
I venture to think that one of the great blots upon the Small Holdings Act is that there is not sufficient provision in it for compensation for disturbance. All the time that the Land Tenure Bill was passing through Parliament the noble Earl, while he was very insistent on compensation being paid to a man who suffered loss through being turned out of his farm, always safeguarded that by saying that it should not be paid in cases where he was evicted for purposes of good estate management, and he was equally careful always to tell your Lordships that he considered the creation of small holdings good estate management. The noble Earl may say that the man had no claim—as, indeed, he has not—under the law as it stands. At the same time, I think your Lordships will agree with me that it is an exceptionally hard case and not one that you would seek to imitate on your own estates. There is a very considerable fund at the disposal of the noble Earl, a fund about which, I think, there has been a certain amount of misunderstanding. Some thought it was to be £100,000 a year, others £100,000 a quarter, but we now learn that the sum of £100,000 placed to the credit of the Small Holdings Account is to remain there until it is exhausted—that is to say, until the noble Earl has drawn upon it; and not until that takes place will application be made to the Treasury for a further sum to be paid to the credit of the Board of Agriculture. I venture to say that it would be a fair and equitable charge to put upon that fund that where a tenant is turned out of his farm for the purpose of cutting it up into small holdings, or where a portion is taken away for small holdings, he should be entitled to receive from it compensation, to be fixed by arbitration.
In many cases landlords who would willingly have given up land for this purpose have said to the county council, "No, I will not turn my tenant out. If you want that land you must use the compulsory powers which the law gives." I have done it myself. When the Act first came into operation I said I would not do anything to compel any one of my tenants to quit his farm. I stated that if any portion of the land was wanted for 927 small holdings and a written declaration was produced from the tenant that he was willing to give up that part, I would be willing to treat with the local authorities at once, but that I was not going to be a party to turning a man out of his farm. That, I said, was work which Parliament had placed upon the county councils, and if it had to be done it should be done by the county councils. My noble friend describes the county councils which have not been so forward as he would have wished as "lame ducks," and amongst those lame ducks he classed the County Council of Surrey, with which I am more closely connected, and the council of the adjoining county of Sussex. I do not think that that can be from any rooted Toryism in the composition of those two particular councils, because I find that in some of the Welsh counties—in Flintshire and in Cardiganshire, neither of which can be accused of want of sympathy with noble Lords opposite—there have been even fewer small holdings provided than in Surrey and Sussex.
The County Council of Surrey—I am bound to say a few words in its defence—has spent upon the acquisition of small holdings £730. The result so far has been one holding of thirteen acres, not a very great showing; but the small holdings committee has held sixty-one meetings, there have been twenty-five local inquiries, and 244 applications have been received, of which only 104 were approved. Out of that 104, fifty-four of the applicants wanted 550 acres in the immediate neighbourhood of Kingston, Reigate, and Woking. I venture to ask your Lordships whether you think it is easy near such populous places to buy land at a price which could be let to small holders at a rent that they could make it pay. And not more than ten per cent. of those who applied in Surrey have been willing to leave their immediate neighbourhood. They want land at their very doors; otherwise the county council would have had no difficulty in providing them with small holdings in other parts of the county. We were told by the representative of the Board of Agriculture in the other House that the average price which the county councils have paid for land for small holdings has been from twenty to thirty years purchase of the agricultural rent. There are very few acres in the county of rrey that you could buy at twenty or 928 thirty years purchase of the agricultural rent; and, therefore, if the noble Earl thinks the county of Surrey more backward than some of the other counties, may I tell him the reason is that we cannot get land at the price at which it would pay small holders to cultivate it.
The noble Earl
has said that if peaceful persuasion fails some more stringent measures will have to be adopted by the Board of Agriculture. In Surrey we have had a good deal of criticism within our own borders and we are inviting on our committee, as we are able to do under the Small Holdings Act, our most vigorous critics. We hope when they get there they will be able to show us how to do the business which apparently they think is so easy to I would say the same to the noble Earl. If the noble Earl thinks that the county of Surrey is not doing its duty, and that it ought to provide small holdings more rapidly, then he has the remedy in his hands. Let the Board of Agriculture step in and provide small holdings themselves. The County Council of Surrey will not be in the least annoyed with the action of the noble Earl, particularly if, as I would not doubt, he is willing to put upon the shoulders of the Treasury the loss which in all probability would accrue from the operation.
But what I think we really want to know from the noble Earl is what is the policy of the Board. Commissioners are being sent into every part of the country, and are reporting, I believe, to the Board. Does the Board want to create small holders who will live on their holdings, cultivate them, and live by them? If so, that is a policy upon which we are all agreed. But if it is their policy to provide a man with a tiny plot of land and build a house upon it, I say that is not a small holding policy but a housing policy, and one which it has been shown cannot be carried out without throwing a charge upon the rates. As your Lordships are perfectly well aware, in Wales most of the land is already held in small holdings, and where it is not held in small holdings in the technical sense of the word—that is, holdings of fifty acres or under—it is held in small farms. The cost of equipping the land with farmhouse and farm buildings on every 100 acres or so is necessarily very much greater than in putting up house and farm buildings on 1,000 acres, and therefore the Welsh county 929 councils are unable to provide land at a price which the small holders can afford to pay.
There are many other difficulties in the working of the Act which have been experienced by county councils. Some time ago I ventured to put a list of Questions on the Paper, but I was met with the observation that it occupied a good deal of space, and, therefore, I have contented myself on the present occasion with giving private notice to my noble friend the President of the Board of Agriculture upon the points on which we are desirous of the guidance of the Board. In the first place, I should like to ask the noble Earl how we are to deal with the question of compensation for the utilisation of the small holding as a market garden. It constantly happens that the small holder wishes to use the land for market gardening, and the land can be obtained by the county council from the landlord, who invariably guards himself against being compelled to compensate for the cost of planting fruit trees, bushes, and so forth; but the county council has to pay that compensation to the tenant, whereas it cannot recover it from the landlord, and consequently the burden falls upon the ratepayers.
Then, again, I should like to ask the noble Earl what is a county council to do when it applies to rent land which may become available some day for building purposes. If the council expend any money upon it all that they can do when the landlord calls upon them to give it up at twelve months notice for building purposes is to require compensation from the landlord for the expenditure so far as it is of value to the landlord. I need hardly say that pigstyes and cowsheds are not much use to building land, and the consequence is that the county con acids are left to meet the cost of equipping the land for small holdings. Then many councils have land which has been appropriated for other purposes, such as asylums and burial grounds, but the Board have decided, I understand, that they are not allowed under the Act to make use of those lands for the purpose of small holdings, nor may they acquire land in the rough and expend money in breaking it up for small holdings. There is also another difficulty which has confronted many county councils. County councils who have issued Stock are not allowed to borrow money for any subse- 930 quent purpose for more than five years, and consequently if a county council has issued county Stock it is in the peculiar position of being unable to borrow money and spread repayment over a period of thirty-five years or eighty years, as the case may be, for the purpose of purchasing and equipping land for small holdings.
Then there is a further difficulty which arises in connection with the provision of land for allotments. Allotments are to be provided only for the labouring population. It is very difficult to define labouring population. Small holdings may be provided for anybody who is willing himself to cultivate the land, and I suggest to the noble Earl, if he contemplates an amending Act, that the definition of those who may have land for allotments should be assimilated to that of those who may have land for small holdings. There are other difficulties, but these are the principal ones. One is in ascertaining whether the applicant for a small holding has sufficient capital. There has been much difficulty felt in the county of Worcester, in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, where a small holder who made a profit last year of £150 had to borrow money which, with the interest, amounted to £115. County councils are also bound to register the land which they purchase, and I would venture to appeal to the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture whether registration of the land is not a charge which might properly be paid out of the Small Holdings Account. The Act provides that the land must be registered, although neither the county council nor anybody else wants to do it. I venture to suggest that it increases the cost of acquiring the land, and that the noble Earl might very well meet us with a grant out of the Small Holdings Fund.
One very great grievance is felt by those who become tenants of county councils—namely, that they are required not only to pay the rent, but also the proportion of sinking fund to repay the cost to the county council of the purchase of the land—in other words, tenants have not only to pay the rent but they have also to pay the capital value, and at the end of that time the land is not theirs, but is the property of the county council. I have gone somewhat carefully into the relative cost of purchase and of renting. I will give the 931 noble Earl the figures if he likes in greater detail than I would care to trouble your Lordships with, but I would give very briefly an example. Taking a farm of forty acres and dividing it into two portions, assuming the capital value to be £1,000, and the interest £40 a year, you sell one-half of it to A and let the other half to B. The annual charge to A, who will ultimately become the purchaser, will be £23 ls. 3d., and the annual charge to B, who will never acquire the freehold will be £22 12s. 6d. If the Government had accepted the suggestion that was made in the Report of the Committee over which I had the honour to preside—namely, instead of requiring the small holder who wanted to purchase to pay down one-fifth only to require one-eighth, it would be possible for the small holder to pay a smaller sum annually than he now has to pay in rent and yet at the end of the period he would own the freehold of the land. If it were known that the land could be thus acquired for rather less than is now paid to the county council, the noble Earl would find that the disinclination to become purchasers of the land would very soon disappear. That was one of the recommendations made by the Committee over which I presided; and there was another one which the noble Earl did not think fit to embody in the Bill, but which, I venture to think, would have done more to accelerate the creation of small holdings than any of the provisions of the Act, and that is that loans should be made to landowners to put up buildings to equip small holdings on terms equally favourable to those on which they are advanced to the county council. I observe that Lord Harrowby is about to deal with that point. If the noble Earl really wishes to accelerate the creation of small holdings all over the country, I can assure him that the landlords are only too anxious to do it, but they cannot afford it at the present rates for loans to equip their holdings. If those rates were lower, I believe there would be a very great extension of small holdings throughout the country.
In conclusion, I can only say that I do hope the noble Earl will not press county councils to evict sitting tenants from their holdings, but that they will wait until there are changes of tenancies. If the noble Earl wants to further accelerate the creation of small holdings, he has it in his Power to provide proper compensation 932 where tenants are evicted from their holdings; and I think until they receive proper compensation neither landlords nor county councils will be prepared to sacrifice sitting tenants even for the purpose of creating small holdings.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
My Lords, I rise to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture, whether he is aware that landowners providing cottages or equipment for small holdings, under the Lands Improvement Acts, are subjected to heavy preliminary expenses by way of commission for the negotiation of loans under those Acts, and of fees for visits of inspectors; and whether, with a view to facilitate such improvements being made, His Majesty's Government are prepared, in approved cases—(a) to remit the charges at present made for the visits of Government Inspectors in connection with advances or loans; and (b) to make advances or loans for the purposes mentioned to landowners direct on terms similar to those on which advances can be made to local authorities and co-operative societies; and whether, if necessary, His Majesty's Government will bring forward this session proposals for legislation with these objects.
The noble Earl
has kindly given me permission to put my Questions now. I put them down because I felt that the matter was of the greatest importance to the landowners and farmers of this country, and also affected the question of the development of small holdings and estates. I think the noble Earl will be the first to recognise that English landlords—I say English because I know nothing about Scotland—have been ready to do what they can to extend small holdings. I am not concerned this afternoon with the large landowners of the country, but I do want to make a plea for the small landowners. It may be said by the man in the street that the land is held largely by members of your Lordships' House. That may have been true thirty or forty years ago, but I do not think it is true to-day. Unfortunately I find that there is no Return of landowners in England. The last Return was, I think, made in 1860; but if a Return could be got out it would prove that the average holding of the landowners of this country only amounts to 2,000 or 3,000 acres. This class of landowner in England as a rule consists of men who live entirely by their rent. I am also not concerned with land- 933 owners who have private means, but only with those who look to their rents for their income, and we have been told recently in the Press that the landowners have a very small margin upon which to live. An excellent letter by Mr. Pretyman has opened, I hope, the eyes of the country to that fact; and I would ask your Lordships how the landowner who has a very small margin of profit to live upon can face the calls which will be made upon him in these days.
May I take the case of an owner of land who has succeeded to a property and has paid considerable death duties? His agents or tenants may ask him for a cowshed or a new set of buildings to cost £300 or £400. The landlord may say "I should like to do it, but I cannot." The farmer, if he has any grit in him, leaves, and that is the first deterioration of the farm. What happens next? The farm is let to an inferior tenant. It may be that the landlord spends £20 or £30 to patch up the buildings, but that does not meet the requirements of a good tenant. The second tenant takes what he can out of the land and leaves it. The third state of deterioration, as noble Lords will see, is that the farm is afterwards let as a sheep run, and you see all the fences tumbling down and the buildings going to rack and ruin. What is the position of the landlord who cannot put down the necessary capital to meet the requirements of the local authority? He lets the farm go at a lower rental for some other purpose.
Now I will paint the other side of the picture. The other day a landlord succeeded to a property where chaos reigned and where the tenants shot where they liked, grazed where they liked, and farmed as they liked, and paid when they liked. This landlord immediately discharged the tenants. He was not a very rich man, but he had access to capital. He cut up the large farms, created small holdings, and built cottages, and to-day the farm is a credit to the district, the landlord and the tenants. To-day there is no better set of tenants in the whole county than on that particular estate of about 5,000 or 6,000 acres. You must have noticed, travelling through the country by train, acre upon acre of land not properly cultivated, fields undrained, and bushes and thistles growing in them. The reason is that the landlord has not sufficient money to put 934 up the necessary buildings for good farming. What agriculture is suffering from to-day is the want of access to capital.
I should like to urge upon my noble friend that he should do something for English farmers as has been done for Irish farmers. I believe the Irish tenant has means, through his credit banks, of getting capital at a low rate of interest. That is not so in England, and I do feel that by the establishment of these credit banks a great deal might be done to meet the difficulty of want of capital. What is the position of the tenant who desires to develop his estate? He is driven to some land company, and there I quarrel with the terms which he has to pay. If a small landowner wishes to build a cottage on a few acres of land he has to pay in initial expenses no less than ten per cent. If a landlord is allowed to spread his borrowing over a term of years he cannot do so as advantageously as a county council; but the great drawback to my mind to owners of land is that if they go to these companies they are unable to repay. It has come to my notice that many owners are quite prepared to borrow money from the Government or a land company if they could repay by instalments. When they borrow from land companies they have to charge their estate from twenty-five to forty years. I feel convinced that if there were some means by which a landlord could spend £200 or £300 and repay by instalments you would find the appearance of the country different from what it is to-day with regard to buildings.
Let me quote figures showing the difference between county council borrowing powers and those of land companies. A county council can borrow at 3½ per cent. for fifty years on new buildings, which means £4 5s. 3d. per year for interest and redemption. The land company can only borrow for forty years and the annual sum amounts to £4 16s. 11d. It may be said that is a small difference, but when you are dealing with small landowners it is a considerable item. With regard to alterations of existing buildings the term is twenty-five years, both for county councils and land improvement companies, and the premiums are £61s. 4d. and £6 4s. respectively. In connection with these improvement companies I 935 should like to urge the noble Earl if he could see his way to allow them to lend money for the erection of village clubs. We all know what an important place village clubs occupy in our country life, and I know that several owners of land have applied to these companies for powers to borrow for this purpose, and they have been told that the Government would not allow it. What I ask the noble Earl to do is to create a department in the Board of Agriculture where landowners could go direct and borrow money on the same terms as county councils. If the noble Earl tells me he would require a special Act of Parliament, there is another way which I would like to suggest. I see several chairmen of county councils present this afternoon. I should like county councils to lend the money and charge one per cent. for the initial expenses as against six per cent. or seven per cent. at present charged. I think the security is good, as it would be a first charge on the property before all the mortgages. I am not asking the Government or the local authorities to run any risk in granting these loans. Failing these two plans I would ask the noble Earl if he could see his way to waive the fee of six guineas charged for inspection. It might very fairly, to my mind, come out of the £100,000 grant to the Board of Agriculture for the development of small holdings.
I think the advantages of my suggestion would be considerable to the country, because I have no doubt that if the noble Earl could see his way to carry out the suggestion a large number of small holdings would spring up all over the country. It is admitted that landowners can create these holdings much better, much cheaper, and much more satisfactorily than can county councils. I admit that the landowners of this country, or at any rate the great bulk of them, at present do not realise the possibilities of small holdings. I have always contended, in this House and outside, that small holdings can be created so as to pay the landlord, and I think the noble Earl will agree with me in that. Whom else would the adoption of my suggestion benefit? It would benefit a large number of men, principally labourers and small farmers, who want these small holdings but do not care to rent under a public body. Only to-day three or four men have told me that they would not rent under a public body but would much prefer to rent under a landlord. 936 In conclusion, I should like to say a word as to the administration of the Small Holdings Act by the noble Earl. It has worked well in some cases, but I do not like the ginger which is being administered to county councils. There is a danger of forcing county councils to buy and rent land where it is not necessary. A case came before me the other day in which a small holdings committee of a county council sitting round a table said "We must buy this farm although we think the price high; if we do not do something, the Board of Agriculture will come down upon us." What was the consequence? They bought this farm of 120 acres, turned off the tenant, and put two other families on the farm. For those two families they spent £6,000. Now, I do not think it was the intention of the noble Earl or of the Act that county councils should incur this enormous liability for the sake of creating small holdings. To my mind I think it ought to be left to landowners to create the small farms. What the county council should do is to buy land near towns in small quantities to meet the demand in the villages or outskirts of the town. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to give us a few words of encouragement in this direction.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (EARL CARRINGTON)
My Lords, I think it may be for the convenience of the House if I take the noble Earl's point first, and I wish to congratulate him on being one of the greatest friends that the small holdings movement has. As we all know, the noble Earl has more than 3,000 acres under small holdings, and all his tenants are happy and doing well. But he has rather sprung, if I may be permitted to say so, an important question on me at a moment's notice. These new proposals involve the most important financial consideration. So far as public money is concerned, of course it is a question for the Treasury; so far as county council money is concerned, it is a question for the Local Government Board; but, so far as my own Department is concerned, we are, of course, all in favour of economy and cheapness in the matter of agricultural development. If my noble friend would permit me, we might talk the matter over and see whether in any way we could remedy what I admit are some great difficulties that exist at present. 937 As regards the question which has been brought before the House by Lord Onslow, I must admit that I have nothing whatever with which to find fault, except perhaps that his speech was rather too much about Lord Carrington, and too little about small holdings. That is the only criticism I make of his speech, though I think he really honestly looked at the question through his pince-nez with rather too grey glasses, for he conjured up the most hideous obstacles in working the Small Holdings Act. I venture to submit that what appeared to him in some counties to be high and inaccessible mountains, in other counties are very small mole-hills indeed. In his own county—the great historical county of Surrey, in which he is so well known and highly respected—there are ten acres under small holdings. One holding I believe belongs to the noble Earl. I congratulate him sincerely upon being a great exception in Surrey in having one small holding. Look at Sussex—sleepy Sussex, as I believe it is called. There are two county councils in Sussex. One has been successful and I suppose they are very proud of it. They have two acres under small holdings. That is in East Sussex. In West Sussex they have done better because they have three acres. Compare Surrey and East and West Sussex with Cambridgeshire, which has got 1,595 acres, Northumberland 1,635, Somerset 1,757, and Norfolk 2,217. How is it that this is possible in one county, and impossible in another? I really think that in some counties there is, perhaps, a more hearty desire to carry out the Act, and, if I may say so without offence, perhaps a more reasonable amount of intelligence.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Can the noble Earl tell us what is the average price paid for the land in the counties he has enumerated?
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I will have them looked out and sent to the noble Earl. My noble friend said there was a great difference between Cambridgeshire and Surrey. No doubt there is, but there is not such a great difference between Surrey and Kent. Owing very much, I think, to the great work Lord Darnley has done in Kent, that county has got 718 acres, and the conditions are very much the same as in Surrey. Therefore I really do not see why Surrey should not, if I may use a vulgar expression, "buck up," 938 and do a little better than it has done up to the present.
Then the noble Earl asked what is our policy. If he will kindly go down to our new colony in Norfolk he will see what the policy is. He will find there a colony of small holdings with allotments, a village hall, a fruit farm, and twelve or fourteen houses with fifty acres apiece, occupied by people not only able to pay their way but doing very well. That is our policy, and if the noble Earl will take the trouble to visit the colony I think he will be pleased with the result. With one of the noble Earl's contentions I quite agree. I quite recognise that very much could be done if county councils could let land to parish councils for allotments. As regards money spent on equipping small holdings which will be lost if land is resumed for building purposes, the whole of that question is a theoretical rather than a practical one, and I do not intend to detain the House on the point. Then as to the question of market gardens, and whether county councils will have to compensate their tenants but cannot recover from superior landlords. The Board have suggested a form of lease to safeguard county councils against loss in relation to market gardens. We have a form of lease of which I shall be happy to send the noble Earl a copy.
Then the noble Earl
came to the old question of the "magic of property." I am really not going to detain the House about that, because it is absolutely flogging a dead horse. The House will remember that the great Tory Act of 1892 was in force fifteen years, and at the end of that time there was the magnificent result that 800 acres of land were positively acquired. Last week under the present Act new schemes and orders embracing 1,256 acres of land were sent in, so that in six working days under our Act we secured fifty per cent. more land than the "magic of property" Act could obtain in fifteen years. Mr. Austen Chamberlain was good enough at Durham to make a speech on the subject, and he asked for £250,000 to support his pet subject. I do not think he is very likely to get that in this time of storm and stress. Then he wrote to The Times in February, but he was very neatly put on his back by Miss Jebb, and ever since we have not heard a word on the subject. I should like to point out that only one per cent. of the English applicants 939 have asked to purchase. In Cambridgeshire, which is one of the most go-ahead counties, only one man out of 1,013 applicants has asked to purchase his holding, and that man is an uncertificated bankrupt. As to the difficulty in regard to counties which have issued Stock, the Local Government Board are introducing a Bill to dispose of this difficulty.
That leaves me, mercifully, only two more questions to deal with. One is the difficulty, we are told, in obtaining land without eviction. What an extraordinary change has come over the spirit of the dream in two years! Two years ago the Benches opposite were filled with noble Lords who quoted the opinions of agricultural correspondents, chosen with much care, who told them that it was the most dishonest cry ever known; that there was plenty of land—more land, in fact, than applicants. We all remember the opprobrium that was hurled at the head of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman when he said that in some cases there was a blank denial given to the people who wanted land. Practically speaking, there is a difficulty, no doubt, but it is not a serious difficulty. We have the offer of a great many vacant farms, and we most gratefully acknowledge the help we have received and are receiving from landowners who were not very friendly to the Act. Three names come to my mind. There is the Duke of Northumberland, who was not very friendly to the Act during its passage through this House, but who has behaved extremely generously in giving three or four farms in splendid condition and not charging the county council for putting them into tiptop repair. The same thing can be said of the Duke of Portland, who was an antagonist of the Act. Then the Duke of Marlborough has set a most glorious example. He has gone further than anybody, and has taken away from his biggest farms without interfering with the farmers' livelihood. He has taken 600 acres of land from different parts of his great estate and offered it to the county council in the most generous way, and I commend, with great respect, the example of the Duke of Marlborough to my noble friend who said that nothing on earth would induce him to take any land under any circumstances from tenants on his estate. There may have been some difficulty, but where there is a difficulty in getting land we have the remedy in our 940 own hands. We can take it by compulsion, and the county councils are waking up to the necessity of that, as already fifty compulsory order schemes have been sent in to the Board of Agriculture.
I admit that some of the farmers are very sore on the subject. I allude to a meeting of the Farmers' League, a most worthy body of men without whose help I do not think I could have got the Land Tenure Bill through both Houses of Parliament. And what do they say? They say that Mr. Armstrong, of Selby, complained that several farmers had had notice to give up 20 or 30 acres of land for small holdings on large farms of 800 to 1,000 acres. I do not think that is a great demand to make, but Mr. Armstrong went on to say that this was a great injustice and that a more abominable Act was never passed through Parliament. In support of that the noble Earl brought forward a case of what he called particular hardship with regard to a certain Mr. Clark, of Welwick, who farms under the Crown. He told us that Mr. Clark had raised a troop of Yeomanry and was a very patriotic and excellent person I believe that is true in every particular, but I must say that the noble Earl did not do justice to his case. He did not even put the case as strongly as it has been put by a farmer's wife, who, in a letter to The Times, used language concerning myself and the Government which I think would hardly have been used by the most enthusiastic suffragette who ever hit a policeman. She went on to ask were our rulers children, idiots, or daft adults; and why should one raise troops to defend a country in which one had no stake. Now, that question ought properly to have been addressed to the Under-Secretary for War, and I think it would almost have puzzled my noble friend Lord Portsmouth in his best days. But Mr. Clark still has a stake in the country, and still has a stake in the Empire. He lives at Winstead on a farm of 367 acres.
Let me explain to the House the real story of the case with regard to Mr. Clark. The farm was bought in 1906, and Mr. Clark held the greater part of it under a yearly tenancy; another portion of the farm was under no agreement whatever, and as to another part the rent was regulated by the amount of stock which was kept. I ask, as a practical man, whether that was not an extraordinary arrangement. That sort of agreement, I admit, might have 941 been very useful for the sort of patriarchal management of the friends of the Duke of Montrose and Mr. Pretyman, M.P., who, we are told, invest 75 per cent. of the net income in fructifying improvements and in bricks, mortar, and wages so as to retain unimpaired the heritage which they hold in trust for their successors; but I venture to submit that is hardly a business arrangement. As there was a great demand for small holdings, Mr. Clark received notice in April, 1908, that the whole farm was required for small holdings. Mr. Clark had no legal right to compensation, as we all know, but the Crown receivers advised me to send to the Treasury for compensation. I have not had an answer from the Treasury, although I think that compensation, which is quite right under these circumstances, will be paid to Mr. Clark.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I should like to ask the noble Earl whether it has been the custom with regard to Crown lands in the past, when taken over for small holdings, for the Crown to take them over themselves; and why, in those circumstances, the county council was compelled to take these holdings from Mr. Clark, against, as I gather, the wish of the county council?
§ EARL CARRINGTON
That is one of those extraordinary stories that get about. There was never this compulsion upon the county council. If they did wrong they are particeps criminis with me. I can assure your Lordships that there has been no compulsion of any sort or description. To think that there has been is entirely a mistake.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I had hoped that the chairman of the county council, Lord Wenlock, would have been here to say something as to the attitude of that body. In his absence perhaps I may be allowed to observe in regard to the point in question, that the view of the county council does not appear to agree at all with the statement made by the noble Earl. I do not know if the noble Earl has read a report in the Yorkshire Herald of the meeting at which this subject was brought forward. If not, I hope he will allow me to draw his attention to it. Alderman Sticknell deprecated very much the action taken by the Board of Agriculture as against the county council. He said, with regard to the land 942 at Welwick, that the Government stepped in and insisted upon the small holdings committee taking over that farm. Then he went on to say—Considering the courtesy the committee had shown to the Board of Agriculture, he thought that Department wanting in courtesy to send down their inspectors in the way they did and give the committee no option in the matter.He went on afterwards to say if that was the course which was going to be pursued by the Board of Agriculture he would advise the committee, of which he was one, to refuse to act in future. I think your Lordships will agree that that does not look as if the county council supported the action of the noble Earl.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I quite accept what the noble Marquess says; but, of course, I cannot be responsible for Alderman Sticknell's remarks. He says that the county council were not treated with courtesy by the Board of Agriculture. But what did Lord Wenlock, the chairman of the county council, say?
§ EARL CARRINGTON
Quite so. He said every possible assistance had been given by the Commissioners to the county council. Some other members of the county council said that this unfortunate man, Mr. Clark, had been turned out of his home. There was, however, not a word of truth in that statement. He was never turned out of his home, and I really cannot, as your Lordships will see, be held responsible for statements made by independent members of the East Riding County Council.
I hope your Lordships will not think I am detaining you too long if I now say a few words on the question of compensation It is, as your Lordships will agree, an important question. I was twitted in the course of the debate about the Land Tenure Act, 1906. What really happened then was this. I thought that under the Compensation for Disturbance Clause we ought to bring in compensation under certain circumstances for farmers whose land was taken away for small holdings. I consulted the best opinion in England on the subject and asked, What had we better do? Shall we bring it into the clause or 943 not? My friend said "No," and he did so for two reasons. The House of Lords, he said, is dead against the compensation clause as it stands; it will be a wonderful thing if it is allowed to go through the House of Lords, and I do not think it will be should it be overloaded with compensation for farmers. That was one of the opinions expressed to me. The second reason given was that landlords would raise the rents of small holders to an impossible height in order to recoup themselves for the amount paid in compensation to the farmers. A provision to afford such compensation was not, therefore, put into the Land Tenure Bill.
When the Small Holdings Bill of 1907 was under consideration by a Standing Committee of the other House a proposal was made by a Liberal member, Mr. Soares, to give compensation for tenant farmers who had land taken from them to be converted into small holdings, and that proposal was backed up by the whole of the Unionist members. It was pointed out, however, that it would be impossible—it would not have been right and it could not have been justified—to compensate farmers out of the public purse when landlords had not been asked, and would probably have refused, to pay the same compensation out of their private purse. A Division was taken on the subject in Committee, but the Unionist members saw the force of that contention. The result was that the whole question of compensation was at the time dropped like a hot potato, and we heard nothing more about it.
Perhaps I may be permitted to say that, whatever are the equities of the case as between a private landlord and a tenant, there is great force in the argument that a tenant has special ground for compensation where land is acquired for small holdings by county councils under the Act. In furtherance of a great national policy, which we hope will keep the people on the land, machinery has been set up which must inevitably bring prematurely to an end tenancies which must otherwise have existed for years to the satisfaction of owner and occupier. It is said—and I will admit the truth of it—that we have introduced a new and disturbing element into rural life. I repeat that I believe that is perfectly true; but, at the same time, I am convinced that what we have done 944 will stir up the sluggish waters of rural life and convert them into living streams. This, of course, may entail changes and movements which may put farmers to some inconvenience and expense. It follows, therefore, that this class are the strongest critics of the Small Holdings Act. They are reluctant to see it put into force, not only on their own farms, but on the farms of their neighbours; and, naturally, they enlist the sympathy of the landlords, some of whom are unwilling to bring tenancies to an end for the sake of what they probably consider to be a problematic advantage to themselves and others.
I am glad to be able to say that this question has been raised in the Commons House of Parliament by Mr. Corrie Grant, a Liberal member, who was one of the great protagonists of the small holdings movement in days gone by. The Bill which he has introduced has been backed not only by Mr. Soares and other Liberal members, but by persons on all sides of the House. including the chairman of the Central Chamber of Agriculture. I think I may go so far as to say that the Government should approach the consideration of that Bill at any rate with sympathy, and with a full recognition of the strength of the case as it is presented to them. But, of course this must naturally be a question of degree, as it would obviously be ridiculous to compensate a man who has more land than he can manage, or the tenant of a large holding of which he is only asked to give up a few acres.
May I say that I honestly think the criticisms of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, are not very damaging after all. The Small Holdings Act, as everybody knows, came into force sixteen months ago—that is, on January 1, 1908. The first six months, of course, was nothing more than a period of preparation and investigation. The county councils formed committees to work the Act, and they received in round figures 23,000 applications. Of that number 13,000 have been approved as suitable to be given small holdings, and up to the present 2,200 applicants have been provided for; 500 persons are in actual possession of 11,346 acres, besides which there are the small holdings provided by co-operative societies—about 200 on a thousand acres—and those provided by the landlords direct. The total amount of land 945 acquired voluntarily is 31,663 acres, and the compulsory orders applied for have reference to 4,853 acres. The total amount of land comprised in the schemes and orders submitted is, therefore, 36,516 acres. The value of the land the county councils have purchased is £370,000, and the estimated value of the leased land together with the purchased land is three-quarters of a million. The county councils, as is well known, have a right to renew a lease at the end of whatever term it runs for, subject to the decision of a valuer appointed by the Board of Agriculture.
All that I have stated to your Lordships regarding the present results of the operations of the Act has been accomplished in pratically ten months. I do not want to boast or to swagger in any way whatsoever, but I really do not think this a bad record for ten months work. The noble Earl who brought forward this matter should remember that if you throw this small holdings legislation into the melting pot again his amendments would not be the only ones that would have to be considered; but other amendments might be submitted to which possibly he would have the greatest objection. It now only remains for me to thank your Lordships for the kind way in which you have listened to—
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
I hope the noble Earl will pardon my interrupting him, but I should be glad if, before he concludes his observations, he would deal with one point in which I think everybody is most interested. I refer to the relative amount of rent which the small holder is asked to pay as compared with the sitting tenant. Can the noble Earl give your Lordships his view as to what rent the small holder should pay for land on which he is being placed and which is being taken away from the sitting tenant? As I understand, in many cases, county councils charge 3s. or 4s. an acre for administration, and the landlord, I believe, in some cases is increasing his rent as well. Consequently it seems is to me you will get a whole series of small tenures throughout the country at a higher rate per acre than the sitting tenant has been paying.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
Yes. 946 Can the noble Earl inform your Lordships what he thinks should be the relative position between the rent the sitting tenant now pays and the rent which the small holder will be asked to pay by the county council? I am sure we shall be glad to hear the noble Earl's views on the subject.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
It is a question which is almost impossible of answer off-hand, because—and nobody knows it better than the noble Duke—the value of land varies in different parts of the country. I must say, however, that while the world is as it is there is one law for the rich and one for the poor; and when a man has a small piece of land I am afraid we shall never be able to get the present condition of affairs altered, but the small holder will always have to pay more than the large holder.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I do not. I think it is extremely unfair. If a man has a small piece of land and wants a house you build him a house on that land, but you charge him four per cent. on the outlay. What, on the other hand, do you do with the farmer? You give him a house together with stiles, ditches, ponds, barns, and every possible convenience for carrying on the operations of his farm. You throw those things in, as it were. I think landowners may take this to themselves. If it is proved—and I think it will be able to be proved—that men can work small pieces of land and pay their way, and that they and their families can live while paying a rent for the house in addition to the cost of the land they till, then landlords might very well say to farmers, "What can be done in the green tree can be done in the dry "; and they could increase their rents by charging farmers what would be the proper letting value of the house in addition to the letting of the land, whereas at the present moment, as I have pointed out, the house is thrown in. I think there is a great deal in what the noble Duke says, but how any suitable adjustment is to be made in the conditions as between the 947 two classes of tenants I confess I am at the moment unable to say. Only one word more. I wish to thank your Lordships for having listened to me for half an hour on this subject, and to express the gratitude I feel to you. I do ask the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, most respectfully, not to try to throw this legislation into the melting pot again, but to allow us to go on with our work and endeavour, without undue haste, to try to satisfy the requirements of those who only ask to be allowed to make a living on the land of this country.
LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH
My Lords, I should like to endorse what fell from my noble friend Lord Harrowby with regard to the important question of loans to owners of property, and, through them, to occupiers of small holdings. One of the points on which everything turns is, I believe, the facilities which are available for obtaining money for improvements. I have had practical experience myself, as no doubt many of your Lordships have, of cases which show the great difficulty there is for a poor man who has no capital of his own to borrow money on anything like favourable terms. There is a great deal of trouble about it, a great deal of red-tape; and many charges are made on him which do not help the situation, but simply put money into the pockets of this or that official. I daresay this state of things is rather inevitable under the present system, but if the noble Earl could give the House some idea that he would assist in solving this important point it would be a matter of great satisfaction to a large number of people. If greater facilities for obtaining loans, such as exist in Ireland, were given in this country, I am sure that much of the difficulty now experienced by small holders would disappear.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am quite sure that at this late hour your Lordships do not desire that this discussion should be prolonged; but there are a few words I should like to say on the subject. I wish to thank the noble Earl opposite for the very interesting speech he has made and to assure him that it was not one bit too long. On the contrary, there were several points which, if the discussion had come on at a more suitable period, we should have desired to have seen elaborated. I think I may respectfully complain of the closing remarks in 948 the noble Earl's speech when he took to task my noble friend Lord Onslow for what he described as "throwing into the melting pot" the whole of the small holdings question. I am quite certain that was not the intention of my noble friend, neither was it the effect of his observations. All he did was to ask for certain information on various specific points. I made a list of those points—I am not going to read it—and I am not quite sure whether the noble Earl opposite answered two or three of them. In fact, I believe he did not answer more than two of the questions put to him. I think that is a pity.
In my opinion it would have been far better had the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture devoted his great knowledge of this subject to solving some of the very difficult points of administration to which my noble friend called attention. The truth of the matter is, they all resolve themselves into the financial difficulty. When the noble Earl opposite complains of some counties because they are not so forward as other counties, he ought, I think, in justice to those counties, to realise fully that the backward counties shrink from the great expense which would be thrown not only on the county councils themselves, but on the small holders as well, if they were to carry out the Act with any precipitancy. It is quite evident that a county like Surrey differs from a county like Norfolk, and, if I may say so, it is a waste of the noble Earl's breath to ask that as Norfolk is able to carry out a particular policy why does not Surrey do the same.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Kent, no doubt, is a little better county to take as an illustration. The truth, however, is that when small holders ask, as they do, to have holdings in the near neighbourhood of towns, the financial difficulties are almost insuperable. I am a member of the small holdings committee of my own county, and I know that what I say is the case. Take the large rising urban community of Watford. The County Council of Hertfordshire are face to face with a great difficulty in respect to Watford because land in the neighbourhood of that town is extremely valuable. Even if land is not bought out and out in such a neighbourhood 949 as that, its occupation value is very high. It is land which is valuable for all sorts of purposes, and the fact that it is in the neighbourhood of a town necessarily raises its price. If the small holder is to be asked to pay a rent based on the value of land of that description, all I can say is that his enterprise, no matter how well he cultivates the land, cannot pay. That is the difficulty which meets us in all directions. I hope the noble Earl opposite will use his authority in the Department over which he presides in order to prevent any undue addition to the expenditure which is necessarily thrown upon county councils.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am glad to hear that, because I saw a letter from the Board of Agriculture not long ago finding fault with some plans submitted to that Department on the ground that some of the houses were not sufficiently elaborate. A policy of that kind is fatal. If the Board of Agriculture are going to behave like other Government Departments and force unnecessary expenditure on the localities in respect of the buildings provided for the small holders they will make the experiment fail. The noble Earl just now quoted a very great authority on the subject, Miss Jebb. If he reads her book thoroughly he will see that in her opinion small holdings can only be made to pay if expenditure on buildings, and so forth, is cut down to the lowest possible figure. I hope he will see that this lady's advice in that respect is carried out, as it is in other matters, and will take care that his Department do not try to force county councils to spend more money than they ought to do.
There is one question I should like to put to the noble Earl opposite. My noble friend asked him what the policy of the Government was, but the noble Earl did not say much about it. I desire to ask him, for the guidance of county councils, what kind of persons he wishes to see established on the land in possession of small holdings. I think my noble friend put the question to him—it was one of the many questions which, if I may say so, he did not reply to—Are they to be persons who are really intending to make their living by agriculture, or is the acquisition of a small holding to be an additional enterprise for people engaged in other work 950 and whose income comes from sources other than the cultivation of the land—people, that is to say, to whom a small holding would be only a pleasureable addition to their lives, an amenity which they would not otherwise possess? I can assure the noble Earl that we have had difficulties of this kind in Hertfordshire. Persons have come before us saying that they want small holdings, and it has turned out that they belonged, if not to the upper class, at any rate to the higher middle class, to whom small holdings are not a means of gaining a livelihood, but merely an amenity to their lives.
I trust that a suitable opportunity will be found—perhaps to-night would not be thought a fitting occasion—for the noble Earl to state, for the guidance of county councils, whether the Government expect small holdings to be provided for persons of that kind, or whether they really intend them to be devoted to the use of people engaged in agriculture. Perhaps the noble Earl would like to say something on the subject now.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
If I am not wearying the House I will say a word on the subject. The answer, I think, is that of course the ideal people to be put in possession of small holdings would be persons absolutely and entirely connected with the land. Your Lordships will no doubt agree with me in that. But at the same time, while they would be the ideal small holders, you must not rule out a lot of other people to whom the possession of a piece of land would be the greatest possible convenience. I do not mean fashionable, upper-class people who are friends of the noble Marquess; but why should you rule out the village higgler, the village butcher, or the village baker? Why should the a village butcher's wife not have a place where she can rear a few fowls and keep a cow? The Act is a beneficial Act, and we ought to bring under its operation as far as we reasonably can all the people who want land. What is the object of refusing land? What would do more to make a man stay, say, in a country town and give him an interest in the place than to provide him with a little piece of land where he could grow flowers or vegetables? I wish to say very plainly that land ought not to be, and must not be, refused to people who live in the villages simply because they are not absolutely and 951 entirely connected with agricultural pursuits. It ought to be for everybody.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I quite agree with what the noble Earl has said as regards the village higgler, the butcher, and the baker, but I do not think the same rule should apply in the case, say, of a clerk—whose business is in London or in a large country town. Does the noble Earl say that a person of that description ought to have a small holding?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Probably others of His Majesty's subjects would not object to doing so either; but the question is whether these drastic powers under an Act of Parliament ought to be put in force to secure land for a man of that class. The noble Earl has not only defended compulsion, but the eviction of tenant farmers. Can you be surprised if a tenant farmer who is evicted in order that a clerk in a country town may have a small holding resents it very much indeed? I venture to say to the noble Earl that if he goes about urging county councils to evict tenant farmers for purposes of that kind he will incur an amount of unpopularity which even his good humour will not be able to face.
For my own part I have always used my influence, such as I have, in my own county in the direction of reducing the application of the powers of compulsion to the smallest possible dimensions. I believe it is far better to wait a few months or even a year or two, in order to get the land by voluntary arrangement and in a good-natured manner than to apply the compulsory powers given under the Act. The dedication of the land which is so taken is of the highest importance. In that connection I repeat that to evict a tenant farmer who is really engaged in agriculture and is living by agriculture in order to put into a small holding a person who only looks on it as an addition or even an amenity to a life and career otherwise disposed of would create hardship and would be bitterly resented. I think my noble friend Lord Onslow will be satisfied with having raised the discussion; but I am sure —though I have no authority from him to say it—he would have been 952 better pleased if the noble Earl had answered his Questions.
My Lords, I should like to offer one observation, though, of course, not from an official standpoint, because I have no authority to speak for the Board of Agriculture. The noble Marquess has raised a very important point, but it is one which I suggest the county council itself ought to decide. The council has to satisfy itself, in the first place, that people who apply for the land are likely to farm it well and to a profit, and pay rent. I suppose that would rule out a great many of the poor of the urban class. It seems to me, however, that one ought to approach the matter not only from the standpoint of the man himself, but to realise that what we hope to see arising out of the movement is a new generation of small holders. I think one ought also to take into consideration not only whether a man himself will benefit the declining years of his life, or rather the later period of his life, but whether the result of his possession of a small holding will be to produce in his family a taste for the land, a knowledge of how to till it, and a desire to stay on it. If that effect is produced, and, after all, that is our object, I should have thought the county councils, having the possibility of such a result in mind, would use their discrimination wisely in letting, small holdings to the kind of people through whom that result was likely to be produced. I thank your Lordships for allowing me to say these few words.