§ *THE EARL OF ONSLOW rose to call attention to the proceedings taken in different parts of the country for the compulsory acquisition of land under the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts, and to move to resolve, "That in the opinion of this House, it is not desirable to apply the provisions of these Acts to the acquisition of land for other purposes, without alteration and amendment."
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I think perhaps I owe some slight apology for taking up the time of the House upon this subject at a period of the session when your Lordships are exceptionally busy in dealing with Bills of great importance and of some magnitude brought from the other House of Parliament. But my apology must be that the subject of my Motion is closely connected with more than one measure now before your Lordships' House and with some that were passed in the last session of Parliament. In the Housing and Town Planning Bill your Lordships will find clauses very similar to those in the Small Holdings Acts providing for the taking of land otherwise than by agreement. Those clauses were also originally in a Bill which is now before your Lordships—the Development Bill. They have since undergone considerable modification, but, at the same time, it is quite clear that His Majesty's Government are very much enamoured of this particular procedure for the acquisition of land otherwise than by agreement. I therefore think that the moment is not inopportune to ask your Lordships to consider how those clauses have worked in the Acts to which I have referred.
§ Up to the passing of those Acts what was the recognised procedure? It was, first of all, that in one shape or another Parliament should authorise the taking of the land. It might have been by a private Bill, it might have been by a public general Act, or it might have been by a Provisional Order 1201 promoted by a Government Department; but in every case in the first instance the sanction of Parliament was required for the acquisition of the particular piece of land Then the Act, which is well known to your Lordships, the Lands Clauses Act, was incorporated in each of those Acts of Parliament, and it was only under the provisions of the Lands Clauses Act that land could be acquired otherwise than by agreement. Then came the proposal in the Small Holdings Bill put forward by the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture. Your Lordships agreed to that Bill, and you did so, I think, for two reasons. In the first place, on both sides of the House it was agreed that the extension of small holdings was extremely desirable in this country, and that no undue obstacles ought to be put in the way. In the second place, it was, I think, held in some quarters that the expense and the delay of the proceedings which I have just enumerated were considerable, and that where the subject-matter was not one of great extent or of great value the procedure ought, if possible, to be simplified, and therefore both sides agreed to the provisions embodied in the Small Holdings Act, I think rather with the idea that it would be desirable that we should see how they worked before we proceeded to apply those principles to other statutory measures.
§ One word, my Lords, on the subject of the acquisition of land by compulsion. I think the noble Marquess behind me who leads the Opposition exactly summed up the opinion on this side of the House with regard to the acquisition of land by compulsion. He said that compulsion by itself was not a wrong thing if you could carefully limit the objects to which it was to be applied and the manner in which it was to be exercised. With that, my Lords, I absolutely and entirely agree. Noble Lords opposite have, I think, sometimes been inclined to glory in the application of an epithet to the word compulsion. They have spoken of that blessed word 'compulsion,'" and although I quite agree that compulsion may be necessary sometimes, I think there is another blessed word, and a word which ought to be as closely married to compulsion as husband is to wife, and that is the word compensation." I do not think that under any circumstances a man's property should be taken from him by compulsion 1202 unless he is given full compensation for the loss of his property.
Now what is the nature of the compensation which is given under the Small Holdings Act? In the first place when another Act, of which the noble Earl opposite was also the author, was under consideration by Parliament—the Agricultural Holdings Act, described by the noble Earl opposite, with that hyperbolic flow of language which we know in this House, as the Tenants' Charter —words were put into that Bill by His Majesty's Government that no compensation should be paid to an out-going tenant if he were displaced for reasons of "good estate management," and we were particularly told that the object of putting in those words was that it might be desirable to take the land for small holdings, and that that was good estate management and no compensation therefore ought to be payable. I do not pursue that further because that is a matter which has been generally accepted on both sides of the House, but where I do say hardship comes in is where part of a man's land is taken from him and no compensation is given him for severance. I think your Lordships will remember that when this matter was under consideration by the House a good deal was said upon this subject by my noble friends Viscount St. Aldwyn and Lord Clinton, who were very anxious that the compensation to be paid to the tenant should be assessed by an arbitrator rather than by a valuer. My noble friend Viscount St. Aldwyn, I am sorry to see, has left the House, but it will be, I think, within the recollection of the Elouse that he said at that time it was of great importance in the interests of the occupying tenant that compensation should be decided by an arbitrator rather than by a valuer; he said the whole work of a man's life might, so to speak, be put an end to by the operations of the schedule, and was it not right, he asked, that such a person should have, with regard to the damage by severance, the same protection in compensation that he would have if his landlord gave him notice to quit. A day or two ago I read in the newspaper what purported to be a quotation from a letter written by my noble friend opposite, the President of the Board of Agriculture. If he tells me that what I am going to quote was not said by him at any time I shall, of course, not trouble your Lordships with any further remarks about it, but this is what he is reported to have said—
When the Small Holdings Bill was before the House of Lords the Tory landlords informed him that if he insisted on compensation being given to tenant farmers on account of small holdings, they would wreck the Bill.
I have no recollection whatever of anything of the kind happening in your Lordships' House.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The noble Earl is supposed to have written it in a letter to Mr. Seddon, M.P. If the noble Lord tells me he did not write or say this at any time I shall have nothing more to say. There are two measures before Parliament now to provide that some compensation should be given where a portion of a man's land is taken away for the purpose of small holdings, both introduced by political friends of the noble Earl. I know quite well that if any provision were made for giving compensation out of the amount of money payable by a county council the result would be that the small holder would have to be charged more rent for his holding. But what I want to ask the noble Earl is, What has become of the Small Holdings Fund which was set apart for the purpose of paying the expenses of obtaining the land? It was to have been £100 000 a year. As far as I can see from the Return presented to Parliament something like £99 up to the end of 1908 is all that had been spent for these purposes out of the Small Holdings Fund; and I would venture to ask, in view of the really serious feeling which there is in the country, where tenants are being compulsorily evicted, whether the noble Earl could not see his way to add to the costs of acquiring land by county councils a sum of money for compensation to the evicted tenant—I think "evicted" is not too strong a word to use—out of the Small Holdings Fund, a very considerable one, and as far as we know, not drawn upon to any very great extent. That is the first objection which I have to the procedure under the Small Holdings Act—that there is no compensation for severance in a case where land is taken away from a tenant compulsorily.
The next objection I have is to the provision in the Act which makes it impossible to employ counsel, or to call expert witnesses, except with the consent of the 1204 Board of Agriculture, and I venture to think that a real hardship has arisen there also. There was a case in Carmarthenshire, with which the noble Earl probably is familiar, where a lady was not allowed, at her own expense mind you, to employ counsel. This is not a question of putting any expense upon the county council or any additional rent upon the small holder. It is simply this, that without the consent of the Board of Agriculture no person can employ counsel to show cause why his land should not be taken or why it should be taken at a particular value. I know the Board of Agriculture have refused to allow counsel to appear for county councils. That may be all very well, because as a rule, as your Lordships know, county councils have very efficient officers who are able to conduct the case for the county council; but I do submit that it is a great hardship where, as in this case, the unfortunate lady could only be represented by a young solicitor in the town who knew practically nothing of the intricacies of land valuation and of the acquisition of land compulsorily, and that she should not be allowed at her own expense to employ counsel to combat the arguments which were brought forward by the very expert persons who represented the County Council of Carmarthenshire. That case was put forward as a test case, and the county council announced that it would be taken as a precedent whichever way the case went. The result was that it went against the lady, and she had very unfair treatment. I am told the Board of Agriculture have never in any case allowed counsel to be employed, and I venture to think that that is a somewhat serious blot on the procedure under the Small Holdings Act.
Now, my Lords, I come to the third and last objection which I entertain to these provisions, and that is to the provision which makes it impossible to appeal from an order of the Board of Agriculture to a Court of Law. Your Lordships will, of course, recollect that under Section 39 of the Act an order when confirmed by the Board shall become final and have effect as if enacted in the Act, and the confirmation by the Board shall be conclusive evidence that the requirements of the Act have been complied with and that the order has been duly made and is within the powers of the Act. There were a number of safeguards and limitations put 1205 into this Act. It was provided that no land which is part of a home farm, or which was woodland, or part of a park, or of an ancient monument of archeological interest, is to be taken for the purpose of small holdings compulsorily, and that due regard is to be given to the amount of land taken from any one owner or occupier. Supposing the Board of Agriculture disregards that—of course, I do not say intentionally, because I do not suppose that the Department of which the noble Earl is the head, or any other Department of the Government, would intentionally contravene an Act of Parliament, but it may be, for example, that there would be great difference of opinion as to whether a particular piece of land was or was not part of a home farm. Your Lordships know how difficult it may be to define exactly what is a home farm. But if an order is made and confirmed by the Board of Agriculture, it is then impossible to appeal to a Court of Law to have it set aside. There was a case the other day of a person named Ringer, whose land was taken from him for the purpose of small holdings. I know nothing of the merits of the case, but the noble Earl sitting behind the President of the Board of Agriculture very likely knows all about it, and it may be that the letter and the spirit of the Act were observed. But, at any rate, he did not think so, so he did what most British subjects think is the inalienable right of a subject of the Crown—he went to a Court of Law; and they told him that the jurisdiction of the Court was ousted because Section 39 said that the order of the Board of Agriculture was to have effect as if enacted in the Act. It is, therefore, impossible to obtain any redress in the ordinary Courts of Law, and I Venture to say to your Lordships that that is another great objection to the procedure under the Small Holdings Act.
The noble Earl the other day, I thought with some rather unnecessary warmth, when the noble and learned Lord behind me, the Lord Chief Justice, said he had heard that there had been some cases of injustice under the Act, stated that he was quite prepared to show that there never had been any case of injustice, and he challenged inquiry. I hope he will be able to convince your Lordships that there never has been any case of injustice, but the information which reaches me 1206 does not confirm that statement of the noble Earl. I believe that there have been and that there will be more cases of injustice if this procedure is embodied in future Acts of Parliament; and it is because your Lordships are being asked just now to consider proposals very similar to these in other measures that I have ventured to bring the subject before you and to move your Lordships to agree that it is not desirable that this particular procedure should be embodied in future. Acts of Parliament unless it be altered and amended so as to remove what I think is the legitimate grievance that has been shown to exist under the Act as it stands.
§ Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House, it is not desirable to apply the provisions of the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts to the acquisition of land for other purposes than small holdings and allotments without alteration and amendment.—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ LORD CLINTON
My Lords, before the noble Earl replies I should like to say one word by way of addition to what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has said on the question of valuation and arbitration with regard to dispossessed holders under the Act. As the Small Holdings Act was brought in it provided that in the case of a tenant who was compulsorily turned out the tenant should receive compensation for unexhausted improvements on a valuation by a valuer appointed by the Board. We accordingly inserted in the Bill an Amendment to the effect that he should be compensated by arbitrators, the arbitrators to be appointed by the parties, and, failing agreement, by the Board. That is the system which has always been adopted under the Agricultural Holdings Acts and is a fair and proper system. It is certain that under such a system a tenant farmer will get his rights, but under the Small Holdings Act when a tenant farmer was turned out of his land it originally took away from him the right of arbitration and made him submit to a valuation not by a valuer or arbitrator mutually appointed, but by a valuer appointed by the Board. When the Bill left your Lordships' House our Amendment giving him the full right of arbitration was cut out in another place, and when it came back to your Lordships, after a considerable amount of argument, there were put in three or four lines providing that the tenant should obtain the arbitration to 1207 which he was entitled. That was granted to us but it was granted somewhat in the form of a concession to make up for the full right of arbitration which we had asked for and which we could not get. Yet, my Lords, it was not a concession in any way at all; if was merely conferring upon a tenant the right which was his and which always has been his, and it was in fact nothing more than a tardy recognition of what all along had been granted to a tenant under previous Acts of Parliament.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
My Lords, I certainly have no reason to complain of the speech of the noble Earl opposite, and I take it, after the speech of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition last night, and after the decision at which the House arrived last night, that we are all of us, or at any rate most of us I think I may fairly say, in favour of the compulsory acquisition of land under fair and proper conditions. I do not understand from the speech of my noble friend that he in any way objects to that principle. What I understand him to say is that he objects to seeing the methods and the machinery of the Small Holdings Act extended. I might ask just for one moment what are the alternatives as regards authority to acquire land compulsorily? As far as I know there are two—there is the Provisional Order confirmed by Parliament, and there is the limited procedure under the Port of London Bill. I shall, of course, be glad to be corrected if I am wrong, but I am aware of no other machinery of any sort description, or kind, and as the noble Earl opposite moves that in the opinion of this House it is not desirable to apply the provisions of the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts to the acquisition of land for other purposes, without alteration and amendment, I therefore think I may fairly assume that he is in his heart of hearts in favour of the adoption of one or other of these two courses.
I am bound to say at once that if the noble Earl had had his way as regards the Small Holdings Act, that Bill for all practical purposes would have been killed at once, because if the Act was to work in any way satisfactorily there was an absolute necessity to have a machinery which was simple and speedy and as little expensive as possible. The result, I think, has shown that your Lordships were quite right in agreeing to the provisions of the Small Holdings Bill, 1208 because in England and Wales during the last fifteen or sixteen months only 8,000 acres have been taken by compulsion out of a total of 57,772 acres taken altogether. On the Motion of the noble Earl I should like to be allowed to ask two questions, and two questions only. The first question is, Has the machinery of the Small Holdings Act been carried out fairly and impartially on the whole by the Board over which I have the honour to preside? Secondly, has it saved unnecessary expense? Has it saved an expense which, had that expense been insisted on, would most inevitably have knocked the Bill on the head for good and all? Lord Onslow seems to doubt whether the Bill has worked as well as I hope and really believe it has, but I am rather reassured by the speech which the noble Earl has made to-night because he really has brought no charges, as far as I understand, of injustice or of hardship against me this evening.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I have not suggested that the noble Earl was guilty of any act of injustice. I only said that the procedure provided in the Act might produce injustice. I must beg the noble Earl's pardon for interrupting him, but that was very far from suggesting that he personally had been guilty of any injustice.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I am much obliged for the interruption, and I quite agree with the noble Earl that it might have arisen, but it has not. Many things might be, but they are not; and I think it is a little bit hard to be brought up at the bar of justice and to be told that a great many things might happen which apparently have not. Still I am bound to say that the noble Earl has had a backing of a very important description. I should like to call the attention of your Lordships' House for one moment to a remark that was made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice on a recent occas on, I think on the 4th of October when he told us that the injustice which had been caused under the Small Holdings Act in cases before the Courts would not have occurred had the man had proper representation. By proper representation I believe he means learned counsel. I would very respectfully ask to what cases does the Lord Chief Justice refer. The only case, so far as I am aware, that has been brought before the Court was the case alluded to by the noble Earl—the case of Ringer v. the Norfolk County Council. I need not go into that case because the noble 1209 Earl did not definitely say that there was any case of injustice, but if your Lordships want to know anything about that case my noble friend behind me, who is on the Norfolk County Council, will be able to give chapter and verse about the case of Ringer v. the Norfolk County Council, which was brought before Mr. Justice Darling and Mr. Justice Jelf in July of this year. It was an ex parte application, the Norfolk County Council not being represented, so that the two Judges, having heard only one side, naturally could express no opinion as to whether justice had or had not been done. They simply stated, what everybody knew, that under the Act they had no jurisdiction whatever. In addition, Mr. Ringer, who in the public Press has been held up as a martyr under this monstrous Act and as most grievously and shamefully ill-treated, never even applied to have what the Lord Chief Justice called proper representation. Like a wise man, he employed no counsel but kept his money in his pocket.
I have here a sheaf of supposed cases of injustice, about which I have been soundly abused in the provincial Press. But I am happy to be able to say that I need not trouble your Lordships or detain you for a single minute on these supposed cases, as they have not been referred to in this House. There is one thing that I should like to be allowed to say. I object most strenuously to the word "injustice." It is a word that is often used with regard to proceedings under the Small Holdings Act. There is hardship perhaps—I acknowledge that—but it is not a hardship that is on one side only. No doubt the action sometimes taken is a hardship, or considered a hardship, by a farmer who has land all round a village, who has, one might say, the village by the throat. I know the case of a man who has 700 acres all round a village, up to the back-gardens. The landlord, as landlords are, is very anxious to give small holdings. He was asked, and lie said "I am afraid I cannot meet your wishes, because dear old John Barleycorn would object to it so seriously." No doubt it was a hardship for John Barleycorn, but what about the hardship for these labourers in those cottages, who, day after day and week after week, in their small wretched gardens at the back of their cottages, look hopelessly and hungrily over the hedge at these bits of land of which they are unable to get even so much as would fill a flower pot. There was one case which I brought before your 1210 Lordships—the case of a village on the Crown Lands, where the farmers absolutely refused to give up any land to the men. They had great farms, and as they would not give up land I took it and gave it to the men. Mr. Armstrong, of Selby, complained bitterly that several farmers had had to give up twenty to thirty acres on farms of 800 to 1,000 acres in Yorkshire, and called it a great injustice and a most abominable act.
I come to my second point. Has our procedure saved unnecessary expense? I do most respectfully claim that it has. For any procedure which allows expert witnesses and counsel and all the protection of the majesty of the law must inevitably be more costly than that which does not, and I honestly believe that the disallowance of these learned persons is one of the great merits of the Act. It leads to a considerable saving of expense, and, as I think we have seen to-night, no great injustice, I may say no injustice or hardship whatever, results, to the parties concerned. May I give one single instance of what I have done? I daresay many of your Lordships who live in the Eastern counties will remember the case of the St. Faith allotments. In 1891 the Norfolk County Council made a Provisional Order for the compulsory purchase of two fields or fourteen and a-half acres Their costs for the Provisional Order and. the consequent Parliamentary proceedings amounted to £499. The owner incurred. costs which were calculated at over £1,000, and the arbitrator awarded her £966 for the land. The two tenants dispossessed from these fourteen and a-half acres got, one £124 and the other £41. The expense of obtaining the land thus come to £24 per acre if you add to that ten per cent, for compulsory purchase, which was allowed in those days, you bring up the cost of the land for those poor men to £104 per acre. That naturally killed the Allotments Act of 1882 stone dead, and it quieted the ardour of landless men and also the ardour of the Norfolk County Council as well.
I have only one more instance. You may say that it is ancient history; that it is the Old Testament and that it cannot happen now. But this happened in October, 1903—six years ago. My trustees sold six acres to a girls' school, to a company of beneficent individuals who look after the education of girls. The price was to be fixed by an arbitrator, and the inquiry lasted two days. Expert wit- 1211 nesses, men of the highest possible standing, for the school put the highest price of this land of mine at £1,000. The arbitrator, after hearing counsel and expert witnesses for two days, and after three months interval, awarded me £3,425. The costs to my trustees amounted to £579, and I presume that the costs of the purchasers were not less, so that between us we paid in costs £1,159, or £159 more than the school expert witnesses swore, and I am perfectly certain honestly believed, to be the outside selling value of these six acres. Now that is not an extreme case. It is not a single case. These things are going on day by day and week by week. Of course I should be the last person to wish to push the question of expense too far. We all agree that justice is the first consideration. But I do say that though we may be enthusiastic in my office, we are all upright and honourable men, and our great and only object is to promote agricultural interests and to do justice between man and man. That is our ambition and that is our aim. I hope that in what I have said I have been able satisfactorily to answer the strictures of my noble friend the Chairman of Committees.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I have been alluded to a great deal about a certain Ringer case, and I really think, if you will give me a few minutes indulgence, I can satisfactorily prove to your Lordships that in this case there was absolutely no injustice. There may have been slight hardship, but there must be hardship in some form. I will give you the bare facts of the case. In 1907 when the Small Holdings Act came into force there were a great many applications all over the county. On April 3 a farm was purchased by Mr. Ringer near the farm to which he and his brothers and sisters had succeeded and which they still hold jointly. His father had farmed the land for thirty-six years. He bought that farm at an absolute knock-out price of £16 10s. per acre, working out for 180 acres, with enfranchisements and copyhold, at £3,000. He knew there was a great demand in the parish where he lived for small holdings. On May 13, 1908, we proceeded, after a local inquiry, to get land under the Act, and on June 2, we made application to Mr. Ringer. He absolutely refused. His is the only land in the parish—I challenge any- 1212 body to deny it—that is really suitable for small holdings. The other land is not suitable. But he refused and the matter dropped for the time being, because we were so much engaged in hiring land voluntarily.
On September 12, the Board of Agriculture sent down a complaint to us that small holdings had been required in the district and had not been got. We answered the letter, and on November 5 an inspector was sent down from the Board to visit the parish. The Board on November 16 suggested to us to consider the advisability of acquiring the farm. On January 2, 1909, the sub-committee again, after a long correspondence, and having tried in every way to induce Mr. Ringer to give up some of his land, reported that he refused absolutely to negotiate. On January 20 the sub-committee were still trying to do everything they could. On January 23 we got tired, and at last we said we would move for compulsory purchase. We gave notice for compulsory purchase, and on May 4 a commissioner was sent down to hold an inquiry. I may say that at that inquiry Mr. Ringer was represented by his own solicitor. On May 22 an order for compulsory purchase was confirmed. Mr. Ringer then sent in a claim for £6,327 for the purchase he had made only six months before at a cost of £3,000. He made the amount up in this way: 181 acres, £4,511; damage by severance, £1,099; alterations to farm, £25; money spent on the farm, £75; losses on implements, £150; disturbance as a tenant. £217; losses on covenants, £250. Naturally we were rather aghast. I would point out that the first item of £4,511 works out at £25 per acre for the land which he purchased at £16 10s. If we had purchased it at that it would have been all right, but he added all the other things.
As we could not come to any terms we resolved, on September 1, to arbitrate. When that came on there was a local Chamber of Agriculture meeting at which a tremendous resolution was passed on account of the decision or rather of what was said in the Law Courts when the county council did not take the trouble to appear, because we thought we had no locus standi. The Act we thought covered us. The resolution stated that the Chamber, having considered the decision of the High Court of Justice and having the best wishes for 1213 the success of small holdings and allotments was of opinion that the ouster of the jurisdiction of a Court of Law was undesirable and likely to have a prejudicial effect on the working of the Act. That resolution was passed by the Norfolk Chamber of Agriculture. They might have represented that when the Act was being passed, but they never thought about it then. They woke up, like Rip van Winkle, after a year and a-half and found this out.
I moved, and very nearly carried at the next meeting, a resolution that we should proceed to arbitration at once, but it was suggested that if it were possible we should again meet Mr. Ringer. Two extra men of the sub-committee were then sent down, one of them one of the most able valuers and land agents in the county. They asked him if he had anything to say. He said he thought he would perhaps offer fifty-five acres, but he declined to do anything further. He said he must consult other people. The fact of it is he is a very much misguided young man, entirely in the hands of people who are trying to make him pull chestnuts out of the fire. He had two friends on the committee. The next time the committee met after that and I moved that we proceed, his two friends got up and said that he had not a leg to stand on and they could not therefore do otherwise than vote for my motion, which was carried unanimously. Our committee is a very mixed one. There are on it landlords, valuers, and the secretary of the labour union. We meet nearly every Saturday, and, for myself, I can say I have only missed two Saturdays for eighteen months There is a lot to do, but we have never had a word of disagreement. We may have argued, but we have always been unanimous, and we should not have done this if there had been the slightest injustice of any sort or kind. At the present moment Mr. Ringer is in the position that if the arbitrator says that the price is so heavy that we cannot let the land at a proper price to the applicants he will remain in undisturbed possession. I may say that land is going up in Norfolk. People are buying it in the hopes of getting the county council to pay for it. A man came to me recently and told me he had bought certain land and asked what the county council was going to give for it. I replied, "You can keep it." If you once give compensation like this you will have land 1214 snapped up all over the place in the hope of its being bought and compensation paid. There is not one atom of injustice, I repeat, in the case of Mr. Ringer. He bought the land knowing we were applying for it, and he might have come to us. If he had been a sensible young man, instead of being badly advised, he would have sold this land long ago and saved himself enormous delay and expense and put a very handsome sum into his pocket.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
If the speech to which we have just listened is the outcome of this form of annexing property, it furnishes in itself a very considerable argument against it. I see much that is unfair in what the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture thinks perfectly fair. Surely it is unfair that when a man thinks he has had an injustice done him by a public body, it should be possible for a member of that body to come and deliver his own view of the case without giving the other side the smallest opportunity of being heard. That is what we have witnessed to-night. We have been told that there is an individual who thinks that he was badly treated by the county council. He went to a court of law and was told that the court was not open to him. The case is mentioned here incidentally, quite incidentally, by the noble Earl who brings the Motion forward, and it has been made a peg upon which a long statement has been hung, reflecting very seriously upon this gentleman—a statement, as I said before, to which he has no opportunity of replying. Now that could not have happened had this case been taken before a court of law. You do not hear in this House the pros and cons of the matter, and it furnishes to my mind one of the strongest arguments against the provisions of this Act, that it leads to things of this sort. I am sorry, my Lords, to say that the President of the Board of Agriculture does not altogether approach the matter in a judicial spirit. He has tried to put a complexion and a colour upon the case by taking the instance of a man who occupied a farm all round a village. Is that the only case in which compulsory purchase powers have been put in force under this Act? The noble Lord knows that such instances are comparatively rare.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
The instances I have known of compulsory purchase have not been in cases where farms have been all round villages. Of course I am not saying there are not such cases, but to suppose that the grievance of compulsory purchase only occurs in a case of that sort is an entire misapprehension of what is going on. I do not wish to detain the House longer, but I could not help making a protest against what I think is most unfair to any person who considers an injustice has been done him, that his case should be argued here without the slightest opportunity being given to him to answer the charges. I know absolutely nothing about the case myself, and therefore I am most impartial on the subject.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, perhaps it would not be right that the debate should close without a few observations being delivered from this Bench. Let me say, to begin with, what has often been repeated from this side of your Lordships' House, that there is none of us who is opposed to the establishment of small holdings. On the contrary, we believe in small holdings, and most of us, in our private capacity, have done our best to promote them. But I confess that when I hear the noble Earl opposite, the President of the Board of Agriculture, speaking in rather scornful tones of the hardships inflicted upon sitting tenants by the operation of the Act, I regret such a tendency in his mind. The hardship is very great where a tenant of many years standing is turned out of his holding under the operation of the Act.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Just compare the attitude of mind in which each of us approaches the subject when we are dealing with tenants in our private capacity and when we are asked to deal with them by the noble Earl opposite as members of a county council. Everybody knows that on well-managed English estates the tenant who occupies land from year to year is as safe, as undisturbed, as if the land belonged to him, so long as he performs the covenants of his tenancy. From year to year the tenant remains on as his father had remained before him. Nobody dreams of disturbing him. That is the practice, I am glad to say, as between good landlords and good tenants 1216 over the length and breadth of England. Therefore to say there is no hardship in turning out a tenant is idle. There undoubtedly is. There may be in certain cases sufficient reason to overcome the consideration of that hardship, but that the hardship exists is undoubtedly the case; and I regret very much to hear from the noble Earl that as much as 8,000 acres has been taken compulsorily under the operation of the Act.
I am quite sure the less compulsion there is in the working of the Act the better Every effort should be made, and I am quite certain that by the county council upon which I sit every effort has been made, to avoid compulsion and proceeding to last extremities. The Act has worked in many cases sufficiently well, and that has been due to the action of the county councils themselves, because the county councils in England—at any rate I can speak for my part of the country—are moderate in character and anxious to apply temperately any powers they possess. They do their utmost to prevent any hardship taking place. But what the Lord Chairman urged before your Lordships was that there were provisions in this Act which were capable of very unjust application, and I think in what he said he was abundantly justified. The two particular matters which he brought forward were these. First, that where persons come before the Court to recover the price which is due to them under the operation of the Act they should be allowed to be represented by counsel. The noble Earl opposite said he thought we were very well quit of these learned gentry.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think the noble Earl called them learned. He is quite justified in that. He seemed. to think the whole paraphernalia of our Courts of Justice—counsel, Judges and other forms—unnecessary excrescences on our social system which we should be better without. My Lords, why do we take so much trouble to have these Courts of Justice? Why, after so many years of traditional experience, have we erected an elaborate code of rules under which they are administered? Why are counsel trained to plead before those Courts 1217 under very careful rules? Why is all this done if justice could be achieved without it? Why are we put to the pains and expenses of having all this intricate system of justice? It is because it has been found by experience that you cannot rely upon getting justice unless you have these forms. These institutions are essential to the administration of justice and the securing of justice for the subjects of His Majesty. Therefore we on this side of the House have always protested against legislation, of which many examples have been produced by noble Lords opposite, which seeks to dispense with this protection.
I do not want to trouble your Lordships by referring to the Bill which has recently occupied a great deal of your attention, but it will be within the recollection of your Lordships that it required the action of the Opposition in order to force upon the Government the provision of Courts of Justice under the Housing and Town Planning Bill which we have just passed. In Bill after Bill the Government have tried to dispense with this protection, and in Bill after Bill it has been our duty to insert it. I am sorry to say that in the Small Holdings Act we did not do so, and I think it will be found that the absence of this protection of the right of the subject to conic before a Court of Justice and be represented by trained counsel will tell against the equitable administration of the Small Holdings Act. I repeat what I ventured to say at the beginning of my remarks, that we are in favour of small holdings and that we hope the Act will succeed. But we regret the blemishes which; not by our action, but by the action of the Government, were left on that Act when it passed through Parliament.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I need only say one or two words in reply to what has fallen from the noble Duke and the noble Marquess who has just sat down. Alluding to compulsion and the possible hardship inflicted on the holder of a farm, the noble Marquess spoke very truly of the tradition of well-managed estates on which a yearly tenant is in a secure position. That is perfectly true. But there are exceptions which are liable to work far greater hardship to the tenant than anything which, as far as I know, has ever been done under the provisions of the Small Holdings Act. In the first place, a man may sell part 1218 of his property. Nobody can say that every landowner is bound to keep in every part of England every acre of land which he possesses. He may wish to add to one estate and reduce another. In that case his yearly tenant gets notice to quit, and whether he remains on his farm or not depends on the will of the purchaser. That is one case. There is another case which certainly happens on the best managed estates. The noble Marquess may go so far as to say no one ought to sell land, but nobody can say that a man ought not to develop his land, and there are oil the estates of a great many of your Lordships' cases in which parts of farms become available for building. Nobody thinks of the tenant then. He is compensated, as he ought to be, but I never heard of anybody who had such a sentiment for his tenant in the capacity of a farmer that he refrained from building on land that had become ripe for that purpose. In this case the affliction of the tenant appears to me exactly of the same character as if part of his land were taken for small holdings, with this undoubted difference, that the tenant is very often a man who quite recognises that the landlord is doing a sensible thing in turning part of his farm into building land. He is, however, not likely to be much of a believer in the system of small holdings, and he would think it a hardship that any land should be taken away in support of a scheme in which he did not believe. That is practically the difference which makes the farmer complain more in the one case than in the other. The noble Marquess said it was a hardship for a man to have all his farm taken away.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It is very often a much greater hardship to have half his farm taken away.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I agree that is so. But among these eight thousand acres, of the taking of which I have no personal knowledge at all, I wonder if it will be found that there are cases in which the whole of a man's farm has been taken and he has been thrown on the world without any other farm to go to, or whether there are case of the kind mentioned by the noble Marquess in which the tenant of a farm up to 300 acres has had a half taken away. I very much doubt if such a case exists. My impression is that in cases of 1219 compulsory purchase as a rule moderate slices have been taken off large holdings. My noble friend behind me knows more about it than I do, but I shall be surprised if the particular cases of hardship mentioned as possible are likely to have occurred.
With regard to the criticism raised by the noble Duke upon the speech made by my noble friend behind me, Lord Kimberley, I quite appreciated the reticence with which the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, mentioned the case of Mr. Ringer. But if he will forgive my saying so, it might have been better if in the circumstances, when he was not prepared to describe the case, he had not mentioned the name at all. It would have been less likely to lead to some further mention of the case by my noble friend behind me. I cannot, however, think that any possible harm could be done to the gentleman in question by the speech which my noble friend made, because, as I understood it, the case was now in this situation, that it was merely a question of how much an arbitrator would say the land was worth, and in that respect I cannot see that the gentleman's interests would in any way be damaged by what my noble friend behind me said.
On the general question I only have to say this. The noble Marquess talked about the experience and the tradition of ages; those hoary traditions which have, no doubt, come down to us from our forefathers. But if you look at this in a practical and commonsense way you will see that you cannot have it both ways. You cannot surround every one of those transactions with all that tremendous apparatus of legal inquiry which the noble Marquess thinks is necessary. It is all very well to say you are in favour of small holdings. It is an abstract opinion which anybody can hold, but if, as we believe to be the case, you have to choose between the provision of small holdings on the one hand and on the complete maintenance of all this expensive apparatus of legal inquiry on the other, you must make your choice. I do not see how it can be denied that if you permit the employment of highly paid expert witnesses and expensive counsel you either prevent the transactions taking place in many cases at all or you give an advantage to the long purse over the short one; and when the noble Marquess talked of those venerable traditions, which we all respect, 1220 we must recollect that is not only a matter of veneration but it is also to the interest of a large number of people to maintain them. We have seen that in relation to a subject of which we have often heard from the noble and learned Earl, Lord Halsbury—namely, the question of the transfer of land. The noble and learned Earl has often spoken in this House within my recollection of the dead weight of interests which prevent the cheapening of the transfer of land in this country, and it is something of the same kind, in addition to the reverence which we all feel for the high traditions of British law—it is something also of the kind which tends to make a large number of people regard it as necessary to employ in all cases expert witnesses and counsel.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Earl is putting—perhaps through my own fault—much more upon me than I think I intended to say. The argument the noble Earl is addressing to the House is in favour of cheapening procedure but not of abolishing legal protection altogether. That is the charge which the Government have to meet.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
You cannot, I. think, enjoy the one without running the risk of the other. I certainly did understand the noble Marquess was speaking of expert witnesses.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
It is also true, if you are to carry all these cases to the High Court, that it involves the employment of counsel and possibly a large expenditure of money. I have nothing to add, but I do feel very strongly that if you are to have this cheaper procedure you may, in fact you must, have to give up something. I suppose everybody would like to have his case tried before the pick of the Judges of the High Court and also to be able to employ the most able counsel; but hundreds and thousands of cases of all kinds are tried before Courts all over the country under far less imposing circumstances and yet very substantial justice is done. I hope, therefore, that so far as regards the procedure under this Act, it being apparently 1221 impossible to lay down any rule by which you can keep applications to a Court on a thoroughly cheap footing, you will be content, in the absence of proved cases of hardship, to rely on the procedure under the Act.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
May I venture to say that I think the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture has not perhaps done me the complete justice of reading the Notice of Motion which I put upon the Paper of your Lordships' House. I think the noble Earl came down with a sort of idea that I was going to make a general attack upon the way in which the Small Holdings Act had been administered by the Department over which he presides. I had the honour of being President of the Board of Agriculture, and I know something of the officials of the noble Earl's Department, though, of course, the Commissioners under this Act are men who have been appointed under the noble Earl and with whom I am not acquainted. But the noble Earl asked the question, "Did they or did they not on the whole carry out the Act impartially?" I hope there was nothing I said in the remarks I addressed to your Lordships to suggest that there was any desire on the part of the noble Earl or his officials to carry out this Act in any way except with impartiality. What I did say was that the procedure which had been put into the hands of the noble Earl by Parliament was such that it might occasionally work injustice in particular cases; and I ventured to put before your Lordships instances where, whether it was so or not, it was thought by the persons who considered themselves aggrieved that injustice had been worked. I did not go into the case of the Norfolk County Council which has been referred to because I am not at all familiar with the circumstances, and I was quite certain that your Lordships' House was not the place in which the question could be argued upon one side or upon the other. If I did wrong in mentioning that case I offer my apology to the noble Earl the Leader of the House. All I can is that as this is the only case in which application has been made to the Courts it would be quite obvious to what case I alluded.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
The gist of all my observations was not whether in this particular case the man got the compensation he ought to have got but whether the order of the Board of Agriculture did or did not contravene the Act of Parliament. That, I understand, was the question which this gentleman desired to put to the Court. That was my point. I did not go into the question whether the man got the proper amount or not, but whether the Act had been infringed, for when he went to the Court to ask he was told that they had no power to exercise any jurisdiction. Then the noble Earl said, Have we or have we not carried out these compulsory purchases without unnecessary expense? What I said was that if the alterations which I suggest ought to be made in this procedure were carried into effect it would not add to the expense in any material degree. The Leader of the House talked a great deal about the panoply of justice and the cost of having cases tried before the most eminent Judge or by the most distinguished counsel. That is not what I put forward at all, if I may venture to say so. What I put forward was that where there is a doubt whether the Act has been properly carried out by the Department there should be some opportunity of appealing from the public Department. There is none such in the Small Holdings Act. It is exactly the procedure which was proposed to your Lordships the other day in the Housing Bill, and it is for that reason I thought it my duty to call your Lordships' attention to it.
The noble Earl said very little with regard to the question of compensation. On former occasions the noble Earl has said he was very anxious to do all he could to give compensation where he thought there was any hardship. There was a case—I am almost afraid to mention names, but it is a well known case—the Clarke case, the case of a tenant of the Crown. The last time that case was referred to in this House the noble Earl said that he would take into his most earliest consideration whether or not some compensation could be paid to that tenant. The noble Earl has a tender heart, as we all know, but he has a hard taskmaster over him in the person of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when he went to the Treasury and asked them whether they would find any money to compensate this gentleman who had been 1223 dispossessed of his farm the answer was they would not give him a single sixpence; and that answer has had to be given—not by any fault of the noble Earl—to the person who was turned out of his farm.
There is one other matter the noble Earl did not refer to. I should have been glad if he could have told us the exact views he holds upon the subject. I refer to his having said that noble Lords upon this side of the House had threatened to wreck the Small Holdings Bill if there were any clauses for compensation put into it. I should be glad to know whether the noble Earl admits that soft impeachment, and if so in what manner he proposes to justify it. At this hour and with this thin attendance I do not propose to press your Lordships to a Division. It is quite sufficient to have elicited the debate we have had, and I shall rely, as each successive measure comes before your Lordships' House, upon the opportunity that will be afforded of offering some observations with a view to the amendment of the provisions for the compulsory purchase of land.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I apologise to my noble friend for having forgotten to answer that last question. I need hardly say that I never said to anybody at any time that if compensation were insisted on in the Small Holdings Bill the Tory Lords told me they would wreck the Bill. There is not the smallest justification for that, and it really shows the danger of gentlemen, with the best possible intentions, repeating conversations second-hand. When the Land Tenure Bill was before the House 1224 I wanted to introduce into that measure, in the compensation for disturbance clause, compensation for tenants who had portions of their land taken for small holdings. I saw there was a good deal of difficulty about that and I consulted a third man, not a member of your Lordships' House, and asked him what I had better do. He said that the House of Lords would probably object very strongly to compensation for disturbance, that it was a very moot point whether they would allow that to go through, and that if I wanted to secure the Bill it would be the stupidest thing in the world to overload the Bill. He said, "If you put that clause in, it is absolutely certain to wreck it," so I left it out, and compensation was never put into the Bill. I admit there is a great deal to be said for it, and a great deal more to be said in the case where the State takes land for the Small Holdings Act. In Grand Committee that Amendment was moved, but then it was pointed out that compensation could not be paid out of the public purse for what landlords did not—I do not say would not—pay out of their private purse. So the matter ended, and that was why it was never debated in the House of Commons. I am much obliged to the noble Earl for giving me the opportunity of saying that the statement made was an entirely erroneous description of the conversation, and that I never said anything of the sort ascribed to me.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.