§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (EARL CARRINGTON)
My Lords, in rising to move the Second Reading of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Bill perhaps I may be permitted to say that this Bill marks another step forward in the land policy of the Government outlined by the late Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman at the Albert Hall in 1906. As regards agricultural landlords, we consider that the present method of levying Income Tax is not altogether fair to agricultural land, imposed as it was by a Chancellor of the Exchequer of the opposite side of politics to ourselves some sixty years ago, and in which there has been no alteration up to the present time; but in a few days I hope that we may be able to submit to your Lordships some proposals for the relief of agricultural landlords, who really have some cause to complain, and also a scheme by which Death Duties, which are somewhat heavy, may be paid in land as well as in cash.
We have done what we could for the farmers of England by the Land Tenure Bill. We have also tried to help by the Small Holdings Act the agricultural labourer and the landless man, although we have not been so fortunate in your Lordships' House with the Housing Bill, in piloting which, if I may be permitted to say so, my noble friend Lord Beauchamp has appeared to so much advantage. Now the Government are proposing to try to follow the example of other nations by bringing in State assistance to the development of our great national industry by the 1226 Bill now before the House. Some time ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer consulted me in regard to the agricultural interest and what he said I may, perhaps, be permitted to repeat in the words that he himself used in the House of Commons. He said there is a certain amount of money—not very much—spent in a spasmodic way in the development of national industry, on light railways, on harbours, and indirectly and to a meagre extent for the interest of agriculture, and he said he proposed to gather all these grants into one grant. On the Second Reading of the Budget my right hon. friend, according to Hansard, Vol. 6, page 340, used some words which I hope your Lordships will allow me to read, as they are very important. He said—We are proposing a grant for the purpose of doing that class of work which is now very largely done by the great landowners themselves, and this will come to at least a quarter of a million a year, so that we are relieving the great landowners of at least a quarter of a million a year.This is received, I notice, with a certain amount of amusement by some noble Lords opposite, and perhaps it may seem an extraordinary proposal to come from a Chancellor of the Exchequer who is credited with somewhat Radical ideas. He is supposed by some people to go too far, and by others not to go far enough. I may remind the House that it has been publicly thrown in my right hon. friend's teeth that he is a solicitor and a Welshman. I venture, my Lords, to think that perhaps these two facts go some long way to explain the practical sympathy which my right hon. friend has always shown towards the agricultural interest. As a solicitor he has had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the real difficulties with which agriculturists large and small have to contend, and born and bred among the hard-working farmers of North Wales, he knows from personal experience the passionate attachment to the soil of those among whom he has lived, and the courage and industry which not only Welsh farmers but all farmers display in playing their part in the social and industrial life of the country.
Let me now come at once to the Development Bill. It is not a very long Bill and and it is not a very complicated one, whilst there is no previous legislation bound up with it. It is composed of twenty 1227 clauses and is divided into two parts. The first six clauses relate to development, and the other clauses relate to road improvement. Let me, as briefly as I can, run through our proposals in Part I. The first clause enables the Treasury to make advances by grants or loans to a Government Department or through a Government Department to public authorities, Universities, colleges, associations, or companies not trading for profit. The objects of the Bill are to aid and encourage agriculture, which is put first, and then the promotion of forestry, reclamation and drainage of land, improvement of rural transport—leaving roads to be dealt with in the second part of the Bill—the construction and improvement of inland navigation and harbours, and the development and improvement of fisheries. It will be seen from the second clause that all grants and advances will be made out of a Development Fund which will be fed in three ways—first, by such money as may be voted by Parliament; secondly, by £500,000 charged on the Consolidated Fund for five years; and, thirdly, by the interest on and repayment of advances and miscellaneous receipts. This, my Lords, will be paid into the Development Fund instead of being paid back automatically into the Treasury as is generally the case.
As regards the Development Fund, I think most of your Lordships will agree that the proposal opens a very wide question, and that it might become a source of great danger and almost a national danger. If there is one thing which people in public life on both sides of politics insist on it is the cautious administration of public money. The standard of public life in this country is very high, and it would be a grievous thing if any Bill was brought in on either side of politics which would affect it. That was at once pointed out by two Members of the House of Commons, one on each side—Mr. Rufus Isaacs on the Liberal side and Lord Robert Cecil on the Conservative side—and they plainly showed the danger of putting £500,000 into the absolute control and hands of the Government of the day, whatever that Government might be, as it might end in a scramble for spoils and might be an invitation to almost everybody to press for some share of the grant.
I think those of your Lordships—and here are a great many—who have had 1228 the pleasure of visiting Australia will remember that the great difficulty in the old days there was—I do not know if it is so now—that Members of Parliament were known as roads and bridges Members, and their seats entirely depended on the public works which they could induce the Ministry of the day to commence and continue in their constituencies. Speaking in the name of the Government, I ought to express our gratitude to Lord Robert Cecil for the statesmanlike way in which he showed this possible danger and for the machinery which he put forward to avoid it. That machinery was at once adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and is now part and parcel of the Bill. To prevent any possible danger of political pressure we propose that the Treasury should appoint five Commissioners, who must be men of independent mind, great capacity, high standing, and high character. They will be appointed by the Treasury for ten years, and two of them will be paid salaries which in the aggregate will not amount to more than £3,000 a year—and which will be paid out of the Development Fund, We hope that that money will be sufficient to ensure the Government getting the very best and highest class of men for the positions. Three are to form a quorum. With the consent of the Treasury, of course, they can appoint their officers and servants and give certain salaries that they may think fit. The Treasury will refer every application that may be made by a Government Department to these Commissioners; but if the applicants are any other body, as mentioned in Clause 1 of the Bill, the Treasury will at once send the application to the Government Department which is concerned to report, and then the Government Department will refer the scheme to the Development Commissioners. Then, of course, whether the scheme is carried through or not will depend on whether it meets with the sanction or refusal of the Treasury.
The Commissioners—and I hope your Lordships will consider this right—will consider and report at once to the Treasury on every application. They may hold inquiries and appoint advisory committees who may report to them, and they can authorise applicants to obtain land compulsorily, and a single arbitrator will decide the compensation and costs to be paid. I need hardly say that no ten per cent. will be given for compulsory 1229 purchase of land so that there should be no difficulty or grumbling about who the arbitrator should be. The arbitrator will be appointed in England by the Lord Chief Justice, in Scotland by the Lord President of the Court of Session, and in Ireland by the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. There is an exemption in regard to compulsory acquisition of land in favour of parks, gardens, home farms, and places of historic interest in the words of the decision to which your Lordships came to after so much time and trouble in Section 41 of the Small Holdings Act. I daresay your Lordships will remember the great pains and trouble this House took in determining a somewhat difficult business. As in Clause 41 of the Small Holdings Act so in Clause 5 of the Bill now before your Lordships, undue disturbance of farmers and labourers shall be avoided as far as possible. That brings me down to the end of Part I of the Bill.
Now, with your Lordships' permission I will explain as briefly and as clearly as I can the intentions of His Majesty's Government with regard to the Road Improvements Part of the Bill—that is, from Clause 7 to Clause 20, and the Schedule, which, of course, applies to both parts of the Bill. The object of the Government in the second part of the Bill is to improve the road traffic in the United Kingdom, and to cope with the difficulties which have cropped up in the three Kingdoms since the introduction of motor traffic, such as the peril to pedestrians in crowded places, which I am afraid is very great, and the dust nuisance. To deal with these questions, the Government propose to appoint a Road Board for the whole of the United Kingdom. The members of this Board, like the Development Commissioners, will be appointed by the Treasury. That is in Clause 7. The number of members of this Board is not, like the Development Commissioners, limited to five, but is left open. There was a long debate on this point in the House of Commons, and it was thought better to leave the number of members of the Road Board open, and it will be determined by the Treasury. I understand the number is not to be a very large one, and probably it will be the same as the Development Commissioners, probably five in number. Either the chairman or vice-chairman of the Board will be a paid member, and the Board will be a 1230 body corporate with power to hold land without having to apply to the Home Office for a licence. The Board can in the same way as the Development Commissioners, under the sanction of the Treasury, appoint their own officers and servants and pay certain salaries subject to the approval of the Treasury. The duties of the Board will be to administer what is called in the Bill the Road Grant, which is estimated at £600,000 more or less, which under the Finance Bill is to be obtained from the motor and motor spirit taxes. The money will be spent either in the construction of new roads or the maintenance and improvement of existing roads. The Road Board can only construct or maintain new roads while the highway authorities can construct new roads or improve existing roads. I think those of your Lordships who use motor cars will see how necessary a thing that is. With the approval of the Treasury the Road Board can make advances to the highway authorities to make or improve roads and bridges. The word "bridges" will not be found in the clause, and the reason is that the word "roads" includes bridges and subways under roads, so that the word "road" is alone necessary. The proposal that the Road Board shall have power to construct and maintain any new road has been severely criticised, but the Government consider that it is essential to the Bill. The Board will also have the same power as county councils except, of course, that of levying rates, the money being found from the taxes on motors and motor spirits as I said before.
There was one great public objection when this Bill was first introduced, and about which I have no doubt we shall hear something in your Lordships' House as regards these new roads being made as motor roads only. There was a considerable and not unnatural objection amongst the general public to public money being spent for motor roads only. Of course, there was a great deal in that objection, and motorists, as a rule, are not perhaps the most popular class in England at the present time. It will, therefore, be found in subsection (1) of Clause 9 that all these new roads are to become public highways, open to every sort of traffic and not to motors only. There is something else to protect the public and to prevent any wild-cat schemes—namely, that the Treasury shall consult with the 1231 Local Government Board before giving approval to the making of a new road by the Road Board.
Well, my Lords, we have heard a great deal about the horrors of bureaucracy. There seems to be a terrible fear of this new idea, and I may say at once that there is no intention in any way of interfering under this Bill with the local road authorities. On the contrary, my Lords, it may be said that they are roped-in under the Bill, and every facility will be given them, and the great anxiety is to work the existing highway authorities into the scheme so far as can reasonably be done. Therefore, these new roads, which will be called loop roads, and will go one side or the other or round villages to prevent motor cars rushing though them where, in some cases, the cottages have been built right up to the highway so that children coming from school step right into the danger of the street or road. These new loop roads should invariably be made by the county councils. If the local authority want to make a new road, which would be a very serious and expensive undertaking, it will have to submit its scheme to the Road Board, who will, of course, give it every possible consideration and either refuse or sanction it. But to make, as it may be necessary perhaps to make in days to come, a new road forty miles long running through perhaps a dozen local authorities' areas would be a very difficult thing unless you had some central authority to tackle so big an undertaking.
If the Road Board submitted a scheme to make a new road each local authority through whose area the road would have to be made would have an opportunity to state its case and objections, though they would not have the power as in London at present, absolutely to stop the road. Their objection would either be upheld or overruled for the public good, but even then the consent of the Treasury would be necessary, and, as a further check, the Treasury would be required to consult with the Local Government Board. Of course the expense of making these new roads would be extremely great, and it would be impossible to make a forty or twenty mile road out of the Road Grant. The making of the roads would naturally become a capital expenditure put over a certain term of years, but to prevent any enthusiasm and to check 1232 the aspirations of any persons who may be supposed to go ahead too fast there is a clause in the Bill which says that practically not more than one-third of the Road Grant of £600,000, or not more than £200,000, is to be spent in any one year by the Road Board on new roads, including interest and sinking fund.
Then comes another proposal about which I am anxious to hear what some of your Lordships have to say. It is a new proposal, although well known in other parts of the world. It is that where the Road Board propose to make a new road they shall have the power to acquire not only the amount of land necessary to make the road, but a certain amount of land on each side. They will have the power to acquire 220 yards on each side of the road, and the reason for that to my mind is unanswerable. I think it is very plain and requires no argument to show that money spent by the State for public utility, comfort, and safety should not be used to develop the estates of individual men.
This power, however, is not a very dangerous one, because it is only permissive and there are two very strong safeguards against its unreasonable exercise. First, and I am almost afraid to mention it, there is the safeguard of the commonsense and high sense of duty of the gentlemen who will compose the Road Board. They would say to private proprietors, "We give full compensation, of course, but we are not going to give you all the benefits of public expenditure." Secondly, the power of the Board for the compulsory purchase of land under Clause 11 cannot be put into force without the consent of the Development Commissioners as well. Your Lordships, therefore, will see that there is a double safeguard. There is the safeguard of the commonsense and high sense of duty of the Road Board, and there is the safeguard of the sanction of a perfectly independent body of high-class gentlemen, the Development Commissioners. Above all this there is the consent of the Treasury.
I have now only to point out Clause 18, which contains the obligation to consider the state and prospects of employment at the time the roads are proposed to be made. I have tried as briefly and clearly as possible to explain what this Bill is. Now let me 1233 try to explain what it is not. It is not in any way, shape, or sort a Right to Work Bill, nor is it a Bill in any way for the relief of unemployment. Still less is it intended to be—and if it is it will, of course, be altered at once to its great advantage—a Bill for the relief of rates. That great and serious problem must be tackled, and tackled before long, either by this Government or another, but I think the House will agree with me when I say that under the terms of this Bill this is not the way to do it. If any attempt of that sort was made under this Bill the money would simply be wasted and would make no impression of any possible value whatever either on the roads or the rates. In a word, the object the Government have in bringing forward this Bill is to help local authorities to improve existing roads by easing dangerous corners, or by easing dangerous gradients, by widening roads, or making loop roads round villages where motors are a danger, and, where highway authorities cannot make these new roads, to enable the Road Board to do so, due regard being had for the state of employment at the time. Under Clause 19, the last clause but one in the Bill, there is a special provision for the protection of commons and open spaces, about which many of your Lordships take a keen interest. And now I have tried, my Lords, as briefly as possible to explain to your Lordships' House what this Bill is and what it is not. All that remains to me now is most respectfully and hopefully to ask your Lordships to be pleased to give a Second Reading the Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Carrington.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, the noble Earl began the interesting speech which he has just concluded by a general claim on the part of His Majesty's Government to be favourable to the agricultural interest of this country. It seems that they have done good or tried to do good to every class interested in agriculture, and he specially dwelt upon the advantage which he and his colleagues have conferred upon agriculturists in the matter of the Income Tax. He said that an iniquitous Chancellor of the Exchequer belonging to the Party sitting on this side of your Lordships' House in a previous period of our history—I think some sixty years ago— 1234 imposed a very unfair Income Tax on the agricultural interest, and that it was the intention of His Majesty's Government to remedy that injustice. Well, I am very glad to hear that. A rumour of something of the kind has reached us, but we could feel greater comfort if we did not know that as the total Income Tax is to be 1s. 8d. in the £ even a considerable relief will still leave us rather great losers as compared with the penny or twopence originally imposed by the iniquitous Chancellor of the Exchequer who belonged to the Party which sits on this side of the House.
Then the noble Earl, having pronounced a general eulogy on the Government, pronounced a special eulogy on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It seems that, notwithstanding the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is both a solicitor and a Welshman, he takes an interest in agricultural matters. I think I remember not so very long ago the interest which Mr. Lloyd-George took in the passage of the Agricultural Rates Act. It is not very ancient history. I think I was in the House of Commons at that time, and if I remember aright we had to sit up rather late for several nights listening to Mr. Lloyd-George opposing that measure which was designed to meet the agricultural interest of this country. I am afraid we have not as great confidence as the noble Earl has in the admirable agricultural qualities of his right hon. friend and colleague.
There was one observation in the noble Earl's speech which especially struck me. He was evidently rather anxious to prove that this was not a bureaucratic measure. I wonder, if he will allow me to say so, he had the face to make such an observation. Nothing is more interesting, nothing more pathetic, than the gradual disillusionment of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party used to believe in the people, in the wisdom of Parliament, in the merits of local self-government; now, however, all these old faiths are being gradually shed. Do they trust the people? Why, my Lords, the very suggestion to them that there ought to be a dissolution of Parliament makes them shudder. Do they believe in local self-government? I think your Lordships have seen indications within the past few weeks tending in the direction of limiting local self-government rather than of increasing it. The old policy of trust in local 1235 self-government, indeed, is now replaced by what I may call the policy of "ginger"—unmixed ginger, undiluted ginger. Well, my Lords, I think a diet of that kind would disagree with any one. In the days of the old belief of the Liberal Party in the wisdom of Parliament there was a meticulous care shown that every project should be brought before Parliament and every detail was set out with the greatest care in the clauses of a Bill. Nothing was handed over to subordinate authorities which it was thought Parliament itself ought to take care of. All that has been changed. Now there are rules, clauses, legislation by reference, and closure and the "guillotine" in the House of Commons, all demonstrating the faith which the Liberal Party now possess in the wisdom of Parliament and of the House of Commons.
My Lords, this Bill, of course, is a signal instance of how no longer is there to be trust placed in Parliament, in the local authorities, or in the people. We are no longer asked to trust the people. The country was asked, until the Bill came to be considered in another place, not to trust the people but to trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What trust did they ask that we should repose in the Chancellor of the Exchequer? It was almost unlimited. I do not suppose there ever was a clause drawn in such general terms as was shown in the case of Clause 1. Every conceivable subject was to be left to the determination of the Treasury—agriculture, rural industries, co-operation, small holdings, forestry, transport, light railways, harbours and canals, fisheries, and, in case all these things should not be enough, there was a sort of general term to cover all advances "for any other purpose calculated to promote the economic development of the United Kingdom." All these subjects were handed over lock, stock, and barrel to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As it were, the reins were to be thrown on the right hon. gentleman's neck so that he should be allowed to go where he liked. But, as the noble Earl has reminded us, that proposition was too much even for the present majority of the House of Commons. There was a sort of universal feeling that such a proposal could not be endured. I have to thank the noble Earl for the very kind terms in which he spoke of one or two Members of another place, one of whom I know very well, but I do not think that noble relative of mine would have been 1236 enabled to carry out the change, or induce the House of Commons to carry out the change which has been effected in the Bill, had it not been that there was a general feeling on both sides of the House that to entrust a Government Department with these unfettered powers and a very large sum of money was so dangerous that the risk must be avoided at all hazards. The result was the appointment of the Commission; but even in the case of the Commission the powers are very great to be entrusted to any body of men.
First of all, I should like to ask the Government how much money they contemplate using under this Development Bill. The noble Earl, perhaps because he holds a strong view about the privileges of the House of Commons, did not deal with the money question at all, but it is essential if we are to understand the Bill. As I understand, there are two main sources from which money is drawn for the development part of the Bill, and one for the roads part. The two main sources of the development part of the Bill are the Consolidated Fund and money provided by Parliament upon the Estimates every year. I do not comment upon the very remarkable proposal that part of this money should be drawn from the Consolidated Fund. I should think that is unique in our legislation for a purpose of this kind. The Consolidated Fund is generally used to provide salaries for Judges, paying off the National Debt, and matters of that kind, but that it should be used for this purposa—whatever our opinion is as to the very doubtful matters which form the subject of this Bill—is, I should think, unique. At any rate, a very large sum is to be drawn from the Consolidated Fund. I understand it is £500,000 for five years—that is, £2,500,000. Then there is also the sum of money to be provided on the Estimates. I should like to ask the Government how much money they contemplate providing from that source. It is a perfectly elastic term as it stands. It may be another £500,000 a year or it may be a great deal more; but, supposing it is to be £500,000 a year, that with the other amount would mean the considerable sum of £5,000,000 in the course of the next five years. To that must be added, of course, the sum of money which is to be allotted for the roads. Well, my Lords, that is a very large sum. I am astonished that the Government propose at the outset to use so much. This Bill is 1237 evidently an experiment, and is in some respects a very doubtful experiment. One would have thought that a prudent Government would have begun with a small sum and seen how that worked before asking Parliament to provide more; but this Government always think in millions and they evidently consider that the present time is an opportune one for launching out. It is quite true that we have to provide a very large sum of money for old age pensions and that we have a very large call upon us in order to make proper provision for our Navy. Yet in the Government's opinion that is precisely the occasion when they may add four or five millions more on what must be considered as rather a doubtful experiment. That is the first question I would like to put to the Government.
The next question I wish to ask the noble Earl or one of his colleagues is whether he can give us any closer indication of the objects for which this Bill is to be used. Surely they do not think that Parliament ought to be satisfied with the terms of the general clause which I have read out, and which I think the noble Earl also read out. Surely they must have a policy on the matter. They have got a policy on a great many questions. They have a policy on this. They have thought what harbours ought to be set on foot, where there is this great demand for main roads, in what direction rural industry may properly be helped—all these things I have no doubt the strongest and ablest Government of modern times have thought out. But why will they not confide it to Parliament? Why are we asked to devote these enormous sums for these very vague objects? I am quite sure these were not the ways in which their predecessors asked Parliament to legislate. In the absence of any such assurances I expect your Lordships will think it right to suggest a few limitations in Clause 1. I think especially that the very general words about the economic development of the United Kingdom might be a little more closely defined, and perhaps other Amendments might be suggested. I notice there is one rather good subsection in the clause—subsection (3)—which proposes that in giving moneys for certain purposes the Acts of Parliament which already govern those purposes should govern the grant. That seems rather a good subsection; it is a little unfortunate that it was not inserted by His Majesty's Govern- 1238 ment, and I dare say your Lordships might consider the propriety of enlarging the scope of that subsection.
I would ask a further question. If we are to agree to and vote all these large sums of money, and if we are to pass these very general powers, it becomes of great importance to your Lordships and the country to know who are going to administer them. The noble Earl has told us that there will be five Commissioners. It would be very interesting to know who those Commissioners are going to be. I do not think that is a very extravagant request to put to the Government. Your Lordships must remember that the Development Bill was mentioned in considerable detail in Mr. Lloyd-George's Budget statement, I do not know how many months ago, and between then and now I should have imagined that the Government must have had time to make up their minds who the Commissioners are in whom this great trust is to be reposed. They must be men of the highest calibre. Perhaps the noble Earl can tell us who they are. It is not very easy to find men of the highest calibre, especially as three out of the five are not going to be paid. But we must hope for the best.
This leads me to another observation. The multiplication of these commissioners and departments and boards will one of these days exhaust all the suitable men who can be found to man them. We must, I think, make some effort to simplify if we can the multiplication of these authorities, and perhaps your Lordships will find an opportunity of doing this in the Bill which is under your consideration at the present moment. Then, again, why should there be two parts to this Bill, one part to be managed by the Development Commissioners and the other by a Road Board? Roads are only a form of development, and if you can get first-rate men to administer the development part, surely the wise and prudent method would be to entrust to them also the control of the roads. When the Government first introduced this Bill and had one of their magnificent conceptions of a new system of motor roads running right through the length and breadth of the land there was at that time perhaps something to be said for a separate authority to control them; but now we understand that that scheme has been abandoned. That was one of 1239 the proposals of the Government which vanished under discussion in the House of Commons, and in consequence the whole scope of the road part of the Bill has been enormously diminished in importance; and it does seem to me not only a waste of public money but of the strength of these first-rate public men of whom I have spoken to have two authorities where one would do perfectly adequately for the whole purpose.
Whatever your Lordships may decide as to the authority, of course the road portion of the Bill or some of its clauses must remain an integral part of the measure. As regards these roads, all the roads are to be ordinary main roads upon which all His Majesty's subjects are to have the right of passage whether they go in motors or anything else, or whether they go on their own legs. The noble Earl defended this wonderful proposal of the two strips, one down each side of the road. They are to be on occasion, I understand, as much as 220 yards wide on either side; that is, a paltry strip of 440 yards which is to be taken under the compulsory powers of the Bill for these roads. My Lords, I really hardly think it necessary to argue such a proposal. What are the Road Board going to do with this land? Are they going to farm it, or are they going to turn it into one long series of small holdings? The truth is that they would not know what to do with it. The noble Earl defended this proposal on the ground that these roads would raise very much the price of property, and that therefore the State ought to have the opportunity of recouping itself by the enhanced value of the land for the price of the road. But I may tell him that the passage of a motor road through a district does not enhance the value of property; on the contrary, it always diminishes it. That appears to deprive the Government of the one and only defence they have for this remarkable proposition, so that I do not imagine they will shed many tears when that particular provision disappears from the Bill.
As the Bill now stands, what is in effect proposed is that there shall be two classes of main roads: the ordinary main roads which have hitherto existed controlled entirely by the counties, and these other main roads which are to be made with the money of the Road Board, and, I suppose, 1240 controlled by the Road Board. I do not think that the noble Earl has made out any case for these two classes of main roads. At the same time, it is quite true that localities deserve and ought to receive more assistance in the shape of national funds for the maintenance of main roads. I have some little knowledge of the matter myself as I have the good fortune to live in the county of Hertfordshire. That county is traversed by a number of very important main roads leading out of London, and those main roads are used increasingly by very heavy motor traffic. Since the motor traffic began the cost of the maintenance of these main roads has been enormously increased, and yet, of course, up to now motorists who have been the cause of this increase of cost have not contributed anything towards it, and it is a gross and indefensible hardship that the ratepayers of Hertfordshire should have to pay the whole cost of the maintenance of roads which are used and worn out by other people. Therefore, so far as the proposal of the Government goes that the authorities who maintain these roads should be further assisted by the taxpayers' money in order to maintain them, it will I am sure receive general assent from all parts of your Lordships' House. But when we come to the further conditions under which those grants are to be made, I only have to say this, that I do not think any charge by way of increasing the size of the roads or the making of new roads should be thrown upon the ratepayers without the consent of the representatives of the ratepayers. That appears to be a very clear and well understood principle, and I hope the Government will consider that before the Bill finally passes through your Lordships' House. Upon this subject I should like to add this, that I do think a case has been made out for the making of roads by the present local authorities with the assistance of the Government round dangerous places, or to avoid villages, or matters of that kind, as the noble Lord said. I think that is a thing that is very much desired in many parts of the country and would be warmly welcomed. For those purposes, and for other purposes connected with roads, it is quite right that there should be some form of compulsory power. I do not think it right, and I am sure your Lordships do not think it right, that any landowner should allow his own private convenience to stand in the way 1241 of the public convenience when it is a question of making a new road, or, indeed, any highway which is useful to the public; and so far as I am concerned, and I am sure I speak for all those who sit on this Bench, I should be quite ready to consent to compulsory powers being accorded to the road authorities through the instrumentality of the Road Board, or whatever takes the place of the Road Board, in order that these necessary improvements should be carried cut.
I have only one more word to say with respect to the clauses of the Bill, and that is as to Clause 18, which deals with the unemployed. I noticed that the noble Earl was very anxious to repudiate the idea that this was what he called a Right to Work Bill. I do not know that it is very important what phrase we use in order to describe the clause, but undoubtedly the clause embodies a principle which is of very doubtful value. I do not mean to say that in administering a Bill like this no regard should be paid to the difficulties of the unemployed. That, I think, would be going much too far. For example, it appears to me to be quite reasonable, where a great public work has to be carried out, that the season of the year which is likely to meet the wants of the unemployed should be chosen in which to carry out the work rather than some other period of the year. During the summer much labour is employed in agriculture, in building, and so on, which cannot be employed in the winter, and it might be very proper that any road-making, for example, which has to be carried out under the operations of this Bill should be concentrated in the winter months, in order, as far as possible, to provide work when work is most required. But that is a very different thing from saying that a particular public improvement or work should be determined by a consideration as to whether persons are or are not out of work in the district. That comes perilously near to starting relief works as we have known them in the last few years; and I have acquired the impression that all the best authorities now agree in saying that relief works are a profound mistake. I notice that so good a Liberal as the noble Lord, Lord Courtney, signifies his assent to that proposition, and I believe it to be true. I speak not with absolute authority, but I rather think the Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law was very strongly against the system of relief works.
1242 In the face of such a pronouncement of opinion I think it a very doubtful policy of the Government to put forward a proposal which it is somewhat difficult to distinguish from relief works as we have known them. That matter also will no doubt receive the consideration of your Lordships when we arrive at the Committee stage of this Bill. I think your Lordships will have perceived that so far as those of us who sit on this Bench are concerned, we desire to offer no opposition whatever to the Second Reading of this Bill. We recognise that there is something to be done, and we believe that some good can be effected by the judicious application of public money; and though most of us think that the machinery of this Bill is rather absurd, and that it goes very much too far, yet we may hope that in the course of its passage through its other stages in your Lordships' House some of the main dangers, I will not say all of them, which we see in the provisions of the Bill may be eliminated, and that at any rate some good will emerge to the benefit of the people of the country at large.
My Lords, in some respects this Bill falls far short of what I should wish to see in reference to the creation of roads. I cannot help thinking that with regard to the creation of rights of way we are in a very antiquated and inefficient condition in this country. At present, no new right of way can be created, not even a footpath, against the wishes of the owners of the land, short of by an Act of Parliament. I cannot help thinking that we fall very far behind other countries, and I feel myself that an authority like a county council might perfectly well be trusted with the absolute power of deciding within their area whether any new road, a main road or a by-road or even a footpath, should be created or not, and a right of way acquired, even against the will of the owner of the land. Under this Bill new roads will only be created with the approval of the Road Board. I agree with the noble Marquess that local authorities should be encouraged as much as possible, and I think the county council might be entrusted with the power, on the application of a local authority, to determine whether or not it is desirable that a new right of way should be acquired.
There is another point in the Bill with regard to which I should like a little 1243 explanation. I am not going to discuss the exact limit of 220 yards on each side of the road. I think in rural districts a frontage 220 yards deep is more than would be needful or useful for building, and much more than would be required for recoupment to the authority which makes the road. But I should not raise objection to the 220 yards if the Road Board thought it desirable. Assuming that it is desirable in order to enable the persons constructing the new road to recoup themselves to some extent by owning the frontages on the new road, as I read the Bill that right is only conferred on the Road Board if they make the road, but not on the local authority if they, even with the aid of the Road Board, make the road themselves. I see no reason why the local authority should not be able to recoup themselves also. It seems to me that whatever right of acquiring frontages is granted to one authority for the purposes of recoupment ought to be granted to the other. If the ratepayers of a county go to the expense of making a new road, why should they not have the same power of recoupment that would be granted to this Governmental body if they make the new road?
Another point that occurs to me as I read the Bill is that apparently when the Road Board make a new road through a person's land they may take the whole of the frontage down to 220 yards deep on either side, and there is no obligation on them, in setting out the new road, to give the owner, whose land will become back land, any title to claim rights of way over these 220 yards. It may be a very good principle, and I have not the slightest objection to it, that there should be recoupment for the public authority which is put to the expense of making a new road, but it does seem to me to be unfair when a new road is made through a person's land that the owner should find himself liable to have his land shut out and all access to it cut off; and if I may use the expression of an eminent Statesman, which has become classical, he might be blackmailed before he could get access over land which was at one time his own. I think, therefore, when one of these new roads is being made with the 220 yards on each side, that the owner of the land should be entitled to claim reasonable roads running back from the new road giving access to his land and preventing it from becoming back land. That is a matter which does not 1244 affect the principle of the Bill, and I have no doubt that the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will bear that in mind in Committee.
I rather agree with the observations of the noble Marquess with regard to Clause 18. I thought that in Committee the representative of the Government agreed to drop out the reference to employment. It seems to me that in going in for any work for the benefit of the community and paid for by the money of the ratepayers, the authorities ought to have regard to the most businesslike way in which it can be carried out; and although these words seem harmless, and have been represented as harmless, yet they have been taken hold of by some people as a recognition of the principle of the right to work; and to provide work for people who are not fit for the work is a most wasteful and demoralising way of spending public money. Again, I do not believe it will be practicable to construct an important main road only during the winter months. No railway contractor, for example, would ever dream of sending his men to construct a new piece of line during the winter months only. The construction of new roads is a matter of skilled work with experienced and good men working continuously at it, and I should much prefer to leave the road authority, whether the local authority or the Government, a perfectly free hand to carry out the work as efficiently and as economically as possible.
I agree to a certain extent also with what the noble Marquess said as to the last paragraph of subsection (1) of Clause 1. As the Minister in charge of the Bill in the House of Commons said, it is a well known maxim of law that general words at the end of a long string of particulars are never taken to enlarge those particulars, but must be taken as matters ejusdem generis. Perhaps we shall have that repeated again in the course of the debate from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, but it ought to be quite clearly understood that it is not intended that there should be a roving commission to embark in wild or remote schemes, and that the letters of the clause down to (g) really embrace broadly the substance of the things intended to be done.
§ LORD BARNARD
My Lords, may I claim your Lordships' indulgence while 1245 I touch very briefly on a particular subject in which I am interested and with which this Bill proposes to deal—that is, the subjects mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 1. I have for a good many years past taken a great interest and actively participated in the administration of higher agricultural education. In that capacity I confess that I have been keenly disappointed with the speech in which my noble friend, Lord Carrington, introduced this Bill, in consequence of the fact that, beyond reading in very general terms those sub-clauses, he did not allude at all to the urgency and importance of this topic. The noble Earl will forgive me if I remind him that he is perfectly well acquainted with the history of the subject, but I have jotted down a date or two for the purpose of refreshing his recollection.
Towards the end of the year 1905 a deputation from the principal colleges waited upon the President of the Board of Agriculture to urge upon the Board the utter inadequacy of the funds at their disposal for carrying out properly and efficiently the work of agricultural education with which they were charged. Six months elapsed, and then I, in this House, asked the noble Earl whether the representations of that deputation had been considered and whether any steps had been taken to give effect to them. Lord Carrington very kindly informed me that he considered the matter one of very great importance, and he undertook to see that some kind of inquiry into the subject was made. Another six months elapsed, and in response to a further inquiry from myself Lord Carrington announced that a Departmental Committee was going to be appointed to inquire into the whole subject. I think most of your Lordships know that that Committee met under the Presidency of Lord Reay and issued a Report which I trust agriculturists both in and out of this House will agree with me was of very great value and importance. But meanwhile, my Lords, time is steadily stepping on, and nothing has been done. A year ago my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton very kindly brought the subject before the notice of the House, and the President of the Board of Agriculture informed him that he hoped that before very long he would have some more money at his disposal for these colleges, and Lord Belper said on that occasion that he trusted those were not idle words.
1246 What I regret the President of the Board of Agriculture has not informed the House to-day is whether or not paragraphs (a) and (b) are intended to give effect to the suggestions made by Lord Reay's Committee. If they are, I must for a second time express my regret that this means is taken of carrying out the proposal. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has already drawn the attention of the House to the somewhat elaborate procedure which has to be adopted for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the Bill. Supposing that the college with which I am connected requires, as it certainly will do, further funds to enable it to increase and effectually carry out its work, what are we to do? I assume that we shall have to make an application to Government Department No. 1, the Board of Agriculture. The Board of Agriculture will then make a representation to Government Department No. 2, the Development Commissioners. They will then prepare a scheme and submit it to Government Department No. 3, the Treasury. The Treasury, assuming for one moment that they approve it, will then return the scheme to the Board of Agriculture, which for this purpose might almost be considered Government Department No. 4, and they would eventually get the money. No money, I gather, will be available under this Act, if it becomes law, for some considerable time—not until the year ending March, 1911. So that it is quite evident, my Lords, there will be no money available for higher agricultural education for some considerable time.
I have already drawn the attention of the House to the fact that four years have now elapsed since the urgency of the question was first brought before His Majesty's Government, and the reason I am disappointed is that the noble Earl did not do, what we all hoped he would do, go to the Treasury as soon as he was fortified by the Report of Lord Reay's Committee, and say simply and plainly, "I am convinced in my own mind that further money is required in the interests of the country for this important object. Will you increase the grant?"—because there is at present a grant, although a very small one—" and place a sum of money at my disposal for distribution as I think best among these colleges?" Now what will our position be? There are seven or eight different objects to which the funds 1247 at the disposal of the Development Commissioners are to be applied, and the sum will not be a very large one, as has already been pointed out. Harbours, reclamation of land, light railways, and inland navigation are decidedly costly matters, and what I want to know is, what chance will the agricultural colleges have of getting anything at all when these very large interests have received adequate attention? I sincerely trust that the order in which the subjects are mentioned in the clause is an indication of their importance, although I fail to see the necessity for this very elaborate and circuitous system of arriving at a grant, and we should be glad if the noble Earl could give us an assurance that some simpler and straighter means will be devised for obtaining for these colleges the comparatively small sum they require in order to improve and extend the operations of their work.
I ask pardon for trespassing so long upon the time and patience of your Lordships, but I have only done so in consequence of the very strong belief I hold of the urgency of providing funds for extending our very important work, and because it appears to me that under the Bill as it stands we shall get very little and that only at a very deferred period. There is one observation I forgot to make. Whereas, at the present time, England is self-contained for this purpose, in future we shall have to compete with the whole of the United Kingdom, and, as far as I can Judge, Scotland and Ireland up to the present have not been backward in pressing their claims and getting them met; and it appears to me that there is some likelihood of the possibility of the predominant partner rather going to the wall in this matter.
My Lords, there is something, about this Bill which appears to me to be really a little grotesque. It reminds me in some respects of what happens in countries where duels are in fashion, where the combatant goes out accompanied by a second who bears in one hand a lethal weapon and in the other a medicine chest. We have not had the lethal weapon yet, but this Bill, particularly under Clause 18, apparently represents the medicine. It seems to provide harmless employment in planting trees and making roads for men who were once engaged as motor drivers or employed in motor works 1248 in the manufacture of commercial vehicles, and I have no doubt there may be others who will only be too glad to seek employment under it. We have been told that that is not the purpose of the Bill, and that it is in no sense a Right to Work Bill, but I have looked up the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing the Bill in the House of Commons nearly six months ago. At the very beginning of his statement he outlined the general character of the Bill and said—It also has an indirect but important bearing upon the question of providing useful and not purposeless employment in times of depression.That comes in the forefront of the statement of the Chancellor when introducing the Bill, and I think it will, perhaps, be well if it is made clear that it is not intended to provide work for the unemployed at a greatly increased cost.
What were the promises which were made in regard to the second part of this Bill when it was introduced? We were told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer welcomed the number of motor cars in use in this country—three times as many as in France and more than four times as many as in Germany—and the Chancellor looked forward to a great future for this industry; but when it comes to a question of roads and of considering the damage done to the roads of this country, Mr. Lloyd-George says—Here is a question which demands the immediate attention of the Government, and motors must be taxed.I listened attentively to the interesting speech of the noble Marquess on the Front Opposition Bench, and to a great extent I found myself in agreement with him; but he seemed also to fall into the same unfortunate error that the person who uses the roads should be the person to pay for them. He said that the ratepayers of Hertfordshire were suffering a definite injury and wrong because of the increased expense in the maintenance of their main roads through motor traffic. Might I point out to him, if that argument is right, that the ratepayers who pay for the maintenance of Piccadilly, for example, suffer wrong and injury because the people of Hertfordshire use that thoroughfare whenever they please. The proposition cannot be defended; but that is the ground on which these taxes are to be imposed, 1249 and that is the purpose for which they are to be used, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that it is clear that our present system of roads and road-making is inadequate to meet the increasing demands made by the new form of traction.
It has been constantly said that our roads have been damaged and worn by one form of traffic more than another, but without some definite and scientific inquiry being made and a definite result arrived at, no person is entitled to make such a statement and have it either accepted or rejected. I agree that it is a great misfortune that we have no central road authority in this country, and if such an authority, in the true sense of the word, were to be established by this Bill it would be a matter for congratulation. We are behind other European countries in the absence of a central road authority, but this Bill is a very ineffective and feeble method of beginning the establishment of such an authority, because a central road authority must obviously interfere with all the local authorities, and the Bill does not propose to do that. Under the Bill it is proposed to take existing roads and to make what I cannot but call little peddling improvements, certain places to be widened and straightened and the corners rounded off. The noble Earl who introduced the Bill said that at some time or other new roads might be made, and in the Bill as introduced undoubtedly there was that proposal. I recognise that that did not meet with public approval, and that it did not and does not meet with the approval of motorists themselves, because they do not want it suggested that motorcars are unfit to be used on the ordinary roads in the country. Nevertheless, in my opinion, a time must come in the development of this country when we must have a national road system with scientifically-made roads corresponding to those in France running from one end of the country to the other. This Bill does not go in that direction, but puts back the hands of the clock by stereotyping the present unscientific methods of making roads in this country.
Experts have pointed out again and again that roads can be made very much better than they are now, and an advance would have been made towards an ideal system if the main roads had been entrusted to the care of a central authority, which 1250 might have the money now spent upon roads by the local authorities, and in addition a small grant. The subject is such a difficult and complicated one that I think the first five years of the existence of this Road Board might very well be spent in hoarding their money and considering plans and proposals for making new roads. The matter is not an easy one and cannot be dealt with without a great deal of consideration. Your Lordships may recollect the very magnificent suggestion—it never got beyond that—made by Mr. Balfour a few years ago for the construction of radiating thoroughfares out of London. Those thoroughfares are very much required. In comparison to the population and wealth of this country the condition of our roads is really behind what it was at the time of the Roman occupation; they are not worthy of us; and my chief objection to this Bill is that it does not go far enough to meet that state of things.
From the point of view of the improvement of roads, I seriously suggest to your Lordships that the most important part of this Bill is Clause 14—that the Road Board shall make an annual report to the Treasury of its proceedings. By means of that report and the information contained in it, Parliament and the public will, I venture to think, be educated to realising that this subject of roads is an important one and deserves more serious consideration than has been given to it. In addition to motor roads there has also been cut out from the Bill every possible power of regulating and managing these roads in any way whatever. When you have made your road, any person is to be at liberty to drive a flock of sheep over it or to have a herd of cattle wandering along it, or a heavy traction engine cutting its surface up; and even if a council wanted to set aside a portion of a road, one part for motor traffic and another part for ordinary traffic, in order to arrive at a definite conclusion as to the difference in effect between motor traffic and ordinary traffic on the surface of a road, there is no power to do it under the Bill. The Road Board ought to have some sort of power of regulation of these roads in order to prevent their improper use. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the expenditure undertaken out of the fund must be directly referable to work done in connection with the exigencies of the motor 1251 traffic in this country. That is the promise, this Bill is the performance; there is nothing in the Bill which is directly referable to the motor traffic of the country, and nothing which is even required as regards motor traffic so long as the present exceedingly low speed limit of twenty miles an hour prevails. At present all the roads of the country are practically safe for the traffic they carry. But that was the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and on that understanding the assent of motorists to this Bill was obtained. Here we see the method in which it has been carried out.
It is still possible, however, that a great deal of useful work may be done under this Bill if what I believe and hope are actually the intentions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself are carried out by this new Road Board; but for that purpose everything must depend upon the personnel of the Board. In the interests of administration I do not at all dissociate myself from the suggestion of the noble Marquess opposite that it is a pity to have two Boards instead of one, but if you are to give confidence to the motorists of this country that this money is being spent wisely and not dribbled away in grants to local authorities you must place upon the Board a certain number of motorists recognised by the general community as capable and fair-minded men. I feel that a great opportunity has been lost for starting a real central highway system, but all of us interested in good roads hope that this may be the beginning or the nucleus or the seed of some such system, although we look with grave anxiety on the way in which the money is to be administered. If it is to be in tarring roads and dust laying and small improvements here and there of existing roads, really very little will have been achieved, and I would ask His Majesty's Government to consider for some time before they undertake any work under the Bill.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I do not desire to detain your Lordships more than a few moments with just one or two considerations as to the second part of this Bill. With regard to the Bill as a whole, I will not follow in detail the extremely interesting speech which the noble Marquess made. It seems to me that this Bill bears the hallmark of most of the Radical measures introduced 1252 this session. It is what art dealers would call "signed all over the picture." In order to develop the economic resources of the United Kingdom you have first to take something away from somebody or other by main force, and, secondly, you have to employ a whole army of paid officials for the doing of it. In that sense I think it might very fairly lay claim to be called a Bill for the purpose of creating employment in the United Kingdom.
Although we had a very interesting discussion about it yesterday evening, I desire to call attention to the attitude of the Government towards the occupiers of land in this country. The position of the tenant farmer is highly relevant to the consideration of the land which will be taken away under Part II, especially with regard to the making of motor roads. I well remember, if I may say so without disrespect, the almost painful earnestness with which the President of the Board of Agriculture used to appeal to us on behalf of the tenant farmer when the Small Holdings Bill was under discussion—what he was suffering from, and how he was liable to be turned out at any moment by a haughty and rapacious landlord. But when the land of the tenant farmer is required for carrying out those great objects on which the mind and the heart of the Liberal Party are set, he becomes a very different sort of person, and the victim of an absolute and oppressive feudalism for the purposes of small holdings becomes or the purposes of road development at once a selfish land grabber occupying land in an unfair and improper manner, and he must surrender it.
It is with regard to the land proposed to be taken in the neighbourhood of villages for the purpose of new roads generally that I desire to address your Lordships. It is quite true that the second part of this Bill is a very different sort of thing from what it was as the Bill was first introduced. I have not been behind the scenes at all in this matter, but I suppose it represents the compact that His Majesty's Government on the one side have been able to arrive at with the more moderate motorists on the other, ardent motorists being a kind of third party to the bargain. The original proposal of Lord Montagu would have been to have started an enormous road system all over the United Kingdom upon which motor 1253 cars might travel as hard as ever they liked. That system would also have found favour, I believe, in the eyes of certain other people because it would have had the additional advantage of constituting a formidable kind of competition with the existing railroad system. However, we will not go into that at the present moment. It has now resolved itself into what we are told is rather a harmless proposal for making new roads round certain villages.
I was very sorry to hear the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, give such an unqualified approval to the making of new roads round villages, if he will pardon my saying so, and I hope when such new roads are made that they will be embarked upon very cautiously indeed, because in my opinion you will never settle the motor problem in this country properly until you go to Parliament and get an Act passed and have it rigorously enforced for the purpose of requiring motor cars, and, in fact, all traffic, to go through country villages at a pace consistent with the safety and comfort of the inhabitants. That will be a far cheaper method of securing the comfort of the villagers than by constructing loop roads to travel round them. Is not this land in the neighbourhood of villages which it is proposed to take for the purpose of these roads the very accommodation land which we were told last night by the noble Earl, Lord Carrington, was occupied by dear old John Barleycorn and which his neighbours hung out of their windows looking at with longing eyes? Does the noble Earl suggest that to see a long and noble array of motor cars rushing along the road is a consolation to him for dear old John Barleycorn being deprived of his land? In my opinion that is the worst possible use to which you could put the land in the immediate neighbourhood of a village, and any one who has anything to do with country life knows perfectly well that if you are going to turn the accommodation land in the immediate neighbourhood of country villages into motor tracks by making it into new roads, you are putting it to a use which will neither recommend itself to the owners and occupiers of the land nor to the agricultural labourer or anybody else who has anything to do with it. I submit, with the very greatest respect, that England as a country is not big enough for an enterprise of this 1254 kind. What we wish to have in this country is something like the automobiles an pas or the al passo of Italy. Lord Russell foreshadows a time when these new motor roads that he and Lord Montagu are always talking about will ultimately be made, but I submit that the land we have at our disposal for such a purpose in this country is far too thickly populated and that the country as a whole is not large enough to carry out an enterprise of this kind; and to indulge in speculation and enterprise in road making such as has been foreshadowed by Lord Montagu and Earl Russell is nothing more or less than pandering to the lust of speed and the subsidisation of the road hog. I, for one, sincerely trust that our own Front Bench in their consideration of the Amendments which we are going to move to this Bill, will seriously consider whether it would not be better to apply the money that we have got, and the money that we are going to get, no matter from what source, first to the improvement, and then to the maintenance of the existing roads, before embarking in a speculation for laying down new roads in this country.
There is another kind of improvement to the existing roads which I know a great many people think will solve the greater part of the motor car nuisance, and that is lopping off the corners where the road turns round rather too sharply. If you are going to make the corners so that motor cars can go round them at their own pace, which is the sole object of this kind of improvement, let me tell the general public, and I am sure they will agree, that they will be removing the only natural and automatic restriction of speed on the part of motorists which exists at the present time, and which I, for one, will be extremely sorry to see done away with. It is only by the knowledge that he might be brought up sooner or later, probably sooner, at something like a sharp corner, that forms any check upon the ambitions of the motorist at the present day. And there is another reason. A sharp corner which is properly turned is often much safer than a wide corner, as these motorists have an awkward trick of not observing the rule of the road at such places. If you are driving and you come to a corner, you either hug one side of the road or the other, but the driver of a motor car when he comes to the corner suddenly changes from the right portion of the road he is on to the 1255 wrong one, in order that he may be able to turn the corner without any sensible slackening of speed. I am afraid I have described this manœuvre rather badly, but I have no doubt that noble Lords will be able to follow it. With regard to the public roads, which are the thoroughfares for the motor cars of this country and where motor cars are constantly going in one long steady stream, the first thing that the general public in these counties desire is that public money, no matter from what source it comes, shall be spent and given—a rather bold demand at this time of day—to the ratepayers and to the county councils to make up for the terrible amount of depreciation that has taken place in the roads during the last ten years. In a great many counties in England the highways are not only as bad as they were ten years ago, but many of them are a great deal worse. Just before the introduction of motor cars on a large scale, the main roads were never in a better state. The only people to whom the roads gave the slightest misgiving were the carriage builders in that a carriage with rubber tyres had a practically interminable life; but since motor cars were introduced the roads have become steadily worse, and in my own county, for instance, you can always notice this by seeing two ruts on each side of the crown of the road, with holes full of water in the other parts of the road.
Let me tell His Majesty's Government that this is by no means a final settlement of the motor car question. In fact, this only covers a small portion of the fringe. I had the honour of entering the House of Commons at the same time as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd-George, and the only thing I ever heard him say or ever read in any of his speeches that gave me the slightest degree of satisfaction was in connection with that very interesting measure which he calls the Budget, in which he announced his intention of dealing in something like a comprehensive way with the question of motor cars. Let me also remind the motor car party—I do wish my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu were here—
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
I am very sorry. If he had been here I 1256 should have told him, but as Earl Russell represents the motor car party in this House I will tell him instead, that what has brought despair to agriculturists and a very great deal of melancholy and disappointment to holiday makers, has been the most marvellous piece of good fortune to the motor car makers in this country—I refer to the wet summer we have had. If we had had anything like a dry summer there would have been the most formidable newspaper agitation ever known against motor cars—something more irresistible even than the demand that women should have the vote and transcending the excitement about the Budget. The motor car question would have overshadowed everything if we had had a dry and dusty summer. I hope we shall get one for many reasons next summer, and unless something is done I can promise the noble Earl he will see some printed matter in The Times over my name.
But, to be serious, there are other matters which require the attention of His Majesty's Government just as much as the light motor car. There is the alarming increase all over England of something like goods trains being dragged over the roads. It is almost impossible to go out for a ride or a drive in the country districts without meeting an enormous engine with two or three trucks behind, and probably followed by something more, making up the stock-in-trade of a travelling menagerie. They contribute practically nothing either to local or Imperial taxation. Those are the kind of nuisances which I hope His Majesty's Government will seriously consider, and which cause a very great deal of damage to the public roads. I agree with Earl Russell in thinking that a very great opportunity has been lost in which the whole of the motor car question might have been dealt with in a comprehensive manner.
THE EARL OF MEATH
My Lords, this Bill is a very ambitious one. We have heard a great deal about motor roads, and that question is certainly one of the most important to be considered. But the Bill which we have before us is not content with making main roads for motor traffic; it intends to develop agriculture, to improve rural industry, to assist in scientific research, to aid in instruction in science, to extend small holdings, to assist forestry and the reclamation and drainage of land, harbours, in and navigation, and fisheries. Now the 1257 proportion between means and ends to effect all this seems rather extreme; £500,000 is supposed to be all that is necessary for carrying out this gigantic scheme, but notwithstanding the disproportion between means and ends I think your Lordships' House, from the speeches that have been delivered, intend to give a very favourable reception to the Bill.
I regret that a Liberal Government should have considered that there was so little space in this country for improving roads and doing all that is necessary for increasing agriculture that they should have in their original Bill—I do not suppose it was intentional—put in clauses which would very seriously have threatened open spaces and commons, which have been gained for the public by great exertions and by large sums of money given voluntarily. However, I am thankful to say that, owing to the pressure of the Open Spaces Association, clauses have been put in—Clause 19 especially—which more or less safeguard open spaces. But still they do not altogether meet the full desires of those who are interested in these open spaces, and I hope in the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House that where there is a possibility of still further safeguarding these most valuable portions of land steps will be taken to do so.
It is rather extraordinary that there should have been three Bills brought in recently by His Majesty's Government which have threatened open spaces. One was an Irish Bill, the second the Housing and Town Planning Bill, and now we have the Development Bill. I am thankful to say that owing to representations alterations have been made in the first two of those Bills, and I do hope that in any other Bills that are introduced by His Majesty's Government thought will be taken in regard to this question, and that we shall not have again to bring pressure upon the Government to preserve open spaces, which are, after all, becoming every day a greater public necessity. The present Bill is an improvement in this respect especially as regards Part I, Clause 5, subclause (2), and in Part III, Clause 19, subclause (1). These clauses exempt open spaces from being taken possession of by His Majesty's Government; but there is still a great deal to be done before we can get that part of the Bill quite right. For instance, take rural commons. I do not 1258 see why rural commons are to be exempted from the operation of Clause 19. Rural commons apparently are not thought of sufficient importance that they should be prevented from being acquired compulsorily. Is this desirable? I do not think it is, and I trust your Lordships' House will do something to amend that part of the Bill. Now, in Part II, the exclusion of certain classes of land from the compulsory clauses appears to be limited to their not being appropriated to strips on either side of the proposed roads. This requires elucidation, and I ask the noble Earl who is in charge of the Bill whether this means that open spaces, gardens, &c., can be compulsorily taken for the making of roads as long as they are not taken for the strips on either side? I hope it does not mean that, because I do not see in the least why that should be the case.
THE EARL OF MEATH
The point is this. In Part II apparently it is not permitted to acquire compulsorily strips of land by the side of the road, but as far as I can make out land for the road itself may be compulsorily taken away from open spaces. Now I come to the clause by which the Road Board may take 220 yards on each side of the proposed road. It also says that the Road Board shall be able to sell, lease, or manage this land. What is the object? We heard from the noble Earl that he did not want the landlords to benefit by being able to build their houses close to the road and get higher rents for them, but I think it has already been pointed out by some former speaker that, whatever might formerly have been an advantage in having your house on the front of a road, now every one is trying to get away from the main roads. If you motor through the country you will see that nearly every single house that is close to the road is to let. You may say that that is an argument in favour of the Government having it. I do not think that at all, and I do not see why the Government should take possession of more land than they require, especially to the extent of a quarter of a mile, or that they should have the power to sell, lease, or manage this land. Do they intend to be large landowners, because that it what it comes to if they are going to take a quarter of a mile of land along all the roads they make. They are going to be the largest 1259 landowners in the country, and I do not see why Parliament should give them that power.
Now to come to Part III. By Clause 19, I am thankful to say, we were able to a very large extent to safeguard our open spaces, but they are not safeguarded as we wish them to be. We were obliged to accept the conditions which were made, but we repudiated the idea altogether that we took them to be perfectly safeguarded. With regard to the schedule, it will be noticed that one arbitrator is to be appointed. Of course, every possible confidence can be placed in these gentlemen; but I ask, Is this desirable? For myself, I think it would be better if there were more than one. In the Schedule, Clause 1, subclause (c), it is provided that no additional allowance is to be made on account of the purchase of land being compulsory. The noble Earl in introducing the Bill said—I need hardly say that no ten per cent. will be granted for compulsory purchase.But he did not say why. I do not see in the least why ten per cent. should not be granted for compulsory purchase. Motor cars are to use the roads as well as carriages, and I ask, Is it therefore fair that no compensation should be given? We know the nuisance that motor cars are to those who live upon the roads, although they are very pleasant to those who are inside the cars. We know also that especially amongst poor people motor cars cause the greatest possible deprivation. To my mind I cannot say how much I admire the common people of this country who have only got one little garden and one little cottage; they cannot open their windows without dust flying in; everything they eat is filled with grit; their houses are dirty; their children cannot go to school without danger of being run over. And yet how law-abiding they are! I am perfectly lost in admiration of them. It seems to me very hard, taking into consideration that motor cars are to use these roads, that no compensation should be given for the compulsory purchase of land along the sides of the roads. There is another point in the Schedule. It says that portions of dwellings may be taken. It seems to be very hard that half a man's house should be taken away from him and the other half left him. I know it is said that they are to consider the amenity, 1260 but still there might be circumstances where a certain portion of a tolerably large house might be taken away, and if a certain strip of land was lying between that and the other half of the house it might be thought that there was no need for compensation. It would be very hard lines indeed for the person who owned that house to have a portion of his house taken away.
Now, to come to a larger question. Under this Bill Parliament is to be ignored. The word "Parliament" occurs in Clause 2, subclauses (4) and (5), and in Clause 4, subclause (6). In no other part of the Bill does the word Parliament appear at all, and even in those clauses where the word comes in it simply deals with the placing of the Report on the Table of Parliament from the Auditor-General. The word "Parliament" certainly also appears in Clause 19, but that was introduced at the instance of the Open Spaces Association which I have already alluded to. Parliament as a whole is to be absolutely ignored. The noble Earl who introduced the Bill spoke about the horrors of bureaucracy. I am not going to dilate upon the horrors of bureaucracy although I could do so. He also told us that we were to trust to the commonsense and the sense of duty of those who would have to carry out the Act. I agree with him, and I certainly would give them every credit first for having commonsense and for having a perfect sense of duty; but I may point out to the noble Earl that the Development Commissioners might well consider it their duty to raise funds for development for public purposes under this Bill, and that there would be no question of their not having a sense of duty. They might consider it their duty to get possession of all this land in order to assist in the development of these public works.
There remains lastly the broad question, Ought the Treasury to be permitted, without the approval of Parliament, to make grants from public funds? It is an entirely new departure, as far as I know, in Parliamentary procedure, that the Treasury without the sanction of Parliament, should make these grants, except, of course, such sanction as will be given if this Bill be passed. Ought the Treasury to be permitted to carry out great public works without having to come to Parliament for approval? That is the principle 1261 which is going to be established if this Bill be passed and becomes an Act, and I think Parliament ought to consider it most carefully before giving sanction to such a new development.
§ LORD ASHCOMBE
My Lords, I am not going to follow noble Lords on the various philanthropic features of this Bill if it becomes an Act, but I would like to say something in support of what has been said by a noble Lord on this side of the House, Lord Barnard, as to the needs of the agricultural colleges. The noble Lord is interested in a large college in the North. It is my fate to be interested in a college in the South-east of England. It was founded by the County Councils of Kent and Surrey, and to a certain extent has been assisted by the Government; but the council of that college are not yet satisfied that they have had from the Government the support they should receive, and I hope if the happy day comes when this Bill passes that funds will be at the disposal of the noble Earl as President of the Board of Agriculture to assist the wants of this college. I need not speak of the increasing demands that agriculture is making and the great amount of science that is required for its development, or mention the fact that the appliances of an agricultural college are different from what they were twenty years ago. I believe the noble Earl is well aware of the college I am referring to, and he has had many demands for increased subsidies from those who are interested in it. Unfortunately, he has not yet seen his way to visit the college, although we hope to see him there some day. Urgent reasons have hitherto prevented him attending, although policy may have been connected with his absence, and he might have thought that he would have been overcome by the demands made upon him if he had shown his face there. I would appeal, however, to the noble Earl whenever he has an opportunity not to forget Wye College.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I think this Bill is a remarkable instance of the way in which measures may come to your Lordships' House in a very different form from that in which they were originally introduced in the House of Commons. One would naturally have supposed that a Bill of this importance and magnitude would have received the most careful and 1262 mature consideration at the hands of His Majesty's Government before it was introduced; but it is quite clear, I think, from the shape in which the Bill comes to your Lordships that His Majesty's Government found that the form in which it was originally cast was one which would not be acceptable to either House of Parliament.
What does this Bill do that could not be done before? There is only one small portion of the Bill to which I attach any great importance, and that portion is one which I do not suppose that your Lordships will attempt to amend. It is sub-clause (2) of Clause 2—There shall be charged on and issued out of the Consolidated Fund, or the growing produce thereof, in the year ending the 31st day of March, nineteen hundred and eleven, and in each of the next succeeding four years, the sum of five hundred thousand pounds.All the rest of the Bill, or nearly all the rest of the Bill, makes provision for that which can already be done. The real fact of the matter is that if at any time His Majesty's Government had chosen to give money for the purposes of this Bill there are ample powers in existing Statutes to do so. If your Lordships will look at the Act which constituted the Board of Agriculture you will find that provision is there made for aiding any school, for aiding instruction, lectures, experiments, and research, and the collection of information for promoting agriculture or forestry. All these things can be done now. All that is wanted is the money. That is the one thing which has been lacking in order to do that which this Bill now proposes to do.
There is one change which, however, is not a change of the Government's own making, but to my mind it is a change of very great importance in the Bill as we have it now, as compared with what it was when it was introduced. That is that the first object in the first clause is now the promotion of agriculture. I think it was my noble friend Lord Barnard who asked the noble Earl who introduced the Bill whether he could give any guarantee that agriculture would receive sufficient consideration at the hands of the Government. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to answer that, specifically and not generally. The noble Earl very often 1263 in this House says, "The object is one which has my deepest sympathy and I trust the Government may see their way to give the assurance asked for"; but then there is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the noble Earl, as we know in other branches of administration, is constantly, if I may use a hunting expression, headed off by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I notice that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in speaking upon this Bill in another place, said—We propose a grant for the purpose of doing that class of work largely done by the great landowners themselves in relation to agricultural development, and this will come to at least a quarter of a million a year.Will the noble Earl say that that pledge is going to be fulfilled, and that a quarter of a million a year will be earmarked for this purpose? I venture to say that if it is not so the agricultural community will be very greatly and legitimately disappointed after the promise made by His Majesty's Government in another place.
I notice that amongst other things for which the Bill is to provide is to be the promotion of small holdings. A clause has been put in which has been referred to already by one noble Lord to-night providing that no advances shall be made for the purposes of small holdings except on the lines of the Act which passed your Lordships' House only two years ago. I ask the noble Earl this question —I have asked him before and I ask him again, and perhaps I may get an answer this time—What has he done with the Small Holdings Fund? When the noble Earl introduced the Small Holdings Bill he told us that the Treasury were going to place at his disposal £100,000 a year for small holdings. How much of that has been spent? He has had £100,000 for three years, so that is £300,000. How much has been expended? We hoped that the noble Earl would have instituted some model small holdings to show us how small holdings may most economically and satisfactorily be managed in this country. We wanted him to take not a very good piece of land, but a moderate piece of land, and put on it a moderate man, situated at a moderate distance from the great markets, and show us if he could make a moderate profit. The noble Earl has got the power to do it now, 1264 and I venture to say this Bill is not in any way necessary to enable him to carry this into effect.
I confess I am sorry to see no provision in the Bill for earmarking any portion of this fund for any particular purpose. I should have been quite satisfied if it had been divided between England, Ireland, and Scotland, in such proportions as the Government might have thought fit. But I confess, notwithstanding the appointment of these Commissioners, I look with some fear and trepidation on the ultimate veto of the Treasury, and I still foresee that dangers may arise. The moment might come when the Commissioners might make a recommendation to the effect that a considerable sum of money should be spent in the promotion of agricultural objects, and the Treasury might think it would be very inadvisable in the then state of political affairs to give sanction to the proposal of the Commissioners in this direction. On the other hand, they might be told that there was the draining of the Barrow and the Bann which was a matter of much greater importance, and that in view of an important division likely to take place in a few days time it would be better to devote the money to that process. I would like to see something in the Bill to obviate any possibility of that. I have had some experience, as has the noble Earl, of what happens in the Colonies, and I know quite well the demands which arise for the construction of works in certain constituencies just before a General Election.
Then I do not see any definite relation between the Commissioners and the local authorities. I cannot help thinking there ought to be something in the Bill showing quite clearly what will be the relation between local authorities who now spend money on many of these objects, not only on roads but on agricultural education as well. There is not a single word in the Bill as to how far the expenditure by a local authority is to be governed by the central authority, or vice versa. I certainly welcome one part of the Bill, and that is that part which provides for something being done to defray the cost of maintaining the roads of the country in a proper and efficient state of repair and fit for motor traffic. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell), who represents the motor interest in this House in the regrettable absence of 1265 Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, is not wholly satisfied with the Bill, but, at any rate, perhaps he will allow me to say that speaking as a ratepayer, I do feel that the very heavy cost to which the county councils and highway authorities have been put in consequence of motor cars, not for the benefit of their own ratepayers but for the benefit of ratepayers living at a great distance away, is one which to some extent, at any rate—I think to the whole extent—ought to be borne by the taxpayers and not by the ratepayers of the country. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, was very facetious and very amusing in his criticism of the objects and provisions of this Bill because they seemed to encourage motorists. He appeared to think that it would be much better that a motor car should run through a village and over a child rather than round a village and avoid running over the child. I cannot say that I sympathise greatly with the noble Lord in that view. But there is something more than that. The Duke of Northumberland lives near Brentford, and the noble Duke may know that the tramway traffic and ordinary traffic causes great inconvenience to His Majesty's lieges who make use of the High-street there. I think all of us who have to use that road would greatly rejoice to see a road taken round Brentford instead of having to go through it, and if that would be to the safety of the public I cannot imagine that any of your Lordships would seriously contest the advantage of such a proposition.
I welcome this Bill. I think it may do a considerable amount of good, especially to the rural districts, but I venture to say that His Majesty's Government might have done a very great deal of what they are talking about very magniloquently in the country by the provisions already at their disposal in existing Acts of Parliament. I am not going into the financial question whether we can afford to have motor roads, and improved roads, and all the other things proposed in this Bill, as well as Dreadnoughts and old age pensions. That is a matter for His Majesty's Government. They are plunging into these things with what I think is a considerable amount of recklessness; but that is their affair, and if they see the r way to provide the money no doubt an opportunity will be afforded to your Lordships for giving your consent to the means proposed for raising the necessary funds in due course. As I say, I do not profess to offer 1266 any observations on that portion of the Bill. But I hope you will give it a Second Reading, and that the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture will take care that a very considerable portion of this money is devoted to agricultural purposes and not allowed to be deflected to any other.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down said in the beginning of his speech that the Bill was considerably different from what it was when originally introduced into the House of Commons. That is tolerably self-evident; but I think my noble friend would have found it unnecessary to make that remark if he had not failed to listen attentively to the speech with which the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture introduced the Bill. We are always glad when the noble Earl rises to make a speech, because intermingled with the instruction he is good enough to give us there is always a slight vein of humour which amuses and interests the House; at all events, it does me.
The account of the genesis of this Bill which the noble Earl gave your Lordships was somewhat peculiar. He described how this Bill, when originally introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was such that t would have produced a general scramble for money. He said that, thanks to Lord Robert Cecil and Mr. Rufus Isaacs, His Majesty's Government came to observe that that would be the case, and they therefore proceeded to change it. This is not the only Bill which His Majesty's Government have dealt with in that way. I have no doubt your Lordships know to what I allude; but at the same time it is by no means certain that this scramble is not going to take place now. Indeed, attempts have already been made to start it. The Scottish people have put in their claim, and have said, "Divide this up, and let us know how much we are going to get." And the Irish—well, we know they can always get a lot, and it was quite unnecessary for them to make a similar demand. But His Majesty's Government objected strongly to anything which approached a definite statement. As the noble Earl, Lord Onslow said, £250,000 is to be devoted to agriculture. Well, does English agriculture think it gets its fair proportion in that, or does Scottish agriculture think the same, and will the noble Earl the Leader of the House give us any definite informa- 1267 tion as to the amount of money which is going to be expended under this Bill?
The Bill is full of general assertions which really, when they are looked at, come to nothing. For instance, in Clause 1 it says—and for any other purpose calculated to promote the economic development of the United Kingdom.Well, "economic" is a blessed word, like Mesopotamia. It may mean anything or everything or nothing. Then you come to Clause 5, which is a sop to the agricultural labourer, or intended to be so. It says first of all that they are not to take this, that, and the other land, and it goes on—and shall also as far as practicable avoid displacing any considerable number of agricultural labourers or others employed on or about the land.Take, for instance, that somewhat ambitious scheme, the greater part of which has been dropped, about new roads, and this idea of taking 220 yards on each side of the road. How could they take quantities of land like that without displacing agricultural labourers? I know it says "as far as practicable," but that means you reduce your statement to absolute indefiniteness. Just in the same way Clause 18, on which some comment has been made says—In approving, executing, or making advances in respect of the execution of any work under this Act involving the employment of labour on a considerable scale, regard shall be had, so far as is reasonably practicable, to the general state and prospects of employment.Why? I presume the unemployment will be chiefly found in the towns. Is the noble Earl going to make these new roads by employing persons who are out o employment in the big towns? If it does not mean something of that sort, what does it mean? This is stuffing, padding, put in with no particular meaning, and I do not think that the unemployed or anybody else would be any the worse off if that clause Were left out.
Now let me proceed to a more definite point, and that is with regard to the manner in which it is proposed to take land under this Bill. The manner in which it is to be taken and purchased is new. I am glad to see from the schedule that the course which is to be pursued when land is taken 1268 is quite different from my noble friend's beloved schedule in his still more beloved Small Holdings Act. As this Bill started, his schedule was there, with all the prohibitions of expert witnesses and all the rest of it. That schedule has been struck out. Why? I believe, although I am not certain, that it was done either on Report or in Standing Committee. I believe it was put in on the motion of the Government by the Solicitor-General, but, at all events, this schedule is far better and more just, and a wiser schedule than the one which is always quoted to us for our acceptance, and which was endeavoured to be thrust down our throats the other day with regard to the Housing Bill. But not only that, this new Department—these Development Commissioners—who are empowered to take land—before long every Department will have power to take land—are entrusted with powers which I think were not even proposed for the Local Government Board. These Commissioners can simply make an order without any procedure, without giving notice of the sale, just simply at their own free will. That, at all events, is what is intended in the Bill. In the schedule of the noble Earl in regard to taking land under the Small Holdings Act certain notices and so on were to be given; but here there is not one word about procedure of any sort or kind. If your Lordships will look through the Bill perhaps some of you can find a thing which I cannot find, and that is where power is given to the Development Commissioners to make an order. I do not think it is in the Bill. I have asked one or two people who ought to understand these things to find it for me. We all thought it must be there, but at all events we were not able to find it. You will find plenty of what is to be done when they are applying for an order, and what is to be done when they get an order, but as to making an order they seem to have omitted giving the Commissioners any power.
With regard to Clause 19, when you come to deal with commons you deal with them in an entirely different way from what you do when you take anybody else's property. You say that when it is a question of touching a common you must have a Provisional Order. I thought that was anathema maranatha to His Majesty's Government. Why do you want this expensive and troublesome way of doing things? The object of everything with 1269 this Government is cheapness. Justice is a secondary consideration. The great thing with them is that provided a thing is cheap and costs little, that is the way to proceed, and that is the course which they are endeavouring as far as possible to pursue. At any rate, if His Majesty's Government have not much regard for the property of private people, I am glad to see they have some regard for the commons.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, I desire to present some points affecting the position of local authorities, especially county councils, to which I think attention should be called in Committee. I am not at all satisfied that in Clause 4 as it stands adequate protection is afforded to local authorities from having schemes imposed upon them which will lead to expenditure on the roads without their consent. I think if anything is to be put forward which means a permanent charge on any locality, that locality ought to have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it before it is adopted. I think that Part II of the Bill, after what we have heard to-night, is likely to be very materially altered before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House; but Clause 11, providing for these great roads of magnificent widths, is likely to break down of its own weight. The width proposed of 220 yards on each side from the centre of the road would mean that every eleven yards of road would involve the taking of an acre of ground, or 160 acres to every mile of road; whereas a light railway, as I am informed, can be made on four or five acres, representing, say, a fortieth part of the same area. But I think it is very important that where advantage is taken of the provision by the Road Board or the Development Commissioners to make advances to county councils or others for the improvement of roads, they should be empowered also to contribute towards the maintenance of existing roads. A very large part of the improvements made might consist of the widening of the roads, and if you add eight feet to a road which is already sixteen feet wide, you increase the cost of maintenance by fifty per cent., and if that is done for the benefit of the public generally rather than the locality it is only fair, I think, that it should be permissible, at any rate, to the Road Board to make contributions to the maintenance. Then there are words in Clause 19 which I think may be found 1270 of very great practical inconvenience in dealing with commons. It says there need be no Provisional Order where there is provision made—for giving in exchange for such land other land, not being less in area, certified by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries to be equally advantageous to the persons, if any, entitled to commonable or other rights, and to the public.I know a good many commons a mile or more from a village, and land near a village of better quality is of much greater advantage to the people than worse land at a distance, and I think the words, "not being less in area" might oblige people who tried to effect an exchange to go to all sorts of expedients to get an exactly equal area, which might involve very great practical inconvenience in carrying the thing out.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
My Lords, I had not intended to make any observations at this stage of the Bill, but my noble friend Lord Onslow appealed to me so very directly to support this Bill in consideration of the advantage I should get by a road round Brentford that I cannot help saying a word. If the noble Earl thinks that this is one of those baits which he says are so often held forth in the Colonies before an election, then noble Lords opposite will not get my vote by engaging in any such undertaking as that, because it seems to me that these are just the cases where this Bill will be absolutely useless. The only way in which a road might be made round Brentford, or round places of the same kind, is at enormous expense, and the only way in which the Government could face that expense is by taking 220 yards on either side of the roads. I want to know what the landowners in a district like that will think of having that amount of land taken from them which they may hope will develop, if, indeed, the development of land is ever justified in these days. Noble Lords opposite sometimes seem to think it is not, but if it is at all legitimate for a landlord to look forward to the development of his land, and if 220 yards on each side is taken from him compulsorily for such a purpose as this, I cannot see how it is to be carried out. Therefore the provisions of the Bill seem to be perfectly useless in such a case. I cannot myself see what is to be done with these new roads in other parts of the country. It does not seem to me that we want new roads in this country. What we do want is improvement of our 1271 existing roads. I cannot look forward to the multiplication of roads for the purpose of facilitating the operations of motorists as being a thing which in itself is very worthy of the consideration of Parliament. I confess I cannot join in the chorus of approbation—I must say it is about the only bit of approbation the noble Earl has received—which he has received from some quarters of the House in favour of his scheme.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, my noble friend beside me (Lord Salisbury) has explained so clearly the attitude which we desire to maintain in in regard to this Bill that I need add very little to what he has said. At any rate I shall endeavour to say nothing which might be out of harmony with the note of good humour struck by the noble Earl the President of Board of Agriculture at the outset of this discussion and maintained throughout its course. If there has been an occasional attempt made to criticise the proposals of His Majesty's Government, or to regard them with a certain degree of suspicion, it is largely the fault of His Majesty's Government themselves, or, at any rate, the fault of those who are in the habit of acting with them. For we have seen this Bill recommended to the country upon very different grounds and in very different tones from those used by the noble Earl in charge of the Bill this evening.
The noble Earl gave us an explanation of the origin of the Bill which struck some of us with considerable amazement. He produced from the official box at his side—I am not sure that the document was not eventually found elsewhere—and read to the House with great gusto a statement from which we were led to suppose that the opinion, at any rate of one of the colleagues of the noble Earl's, is that this Bill is really a measure for the relief of the great landlords, and in support of that statement he called attention to the fact that in Clause 1 the first place is given to the promotion of agriculture. May I be permitted to remind the noble Earl, however, that the first place was not always given to agriculture? In the original version of the Bill agriculture only ran second; and it was the friends of agriculture who succeeded in promoting it to the prominent place it now occupies.
I am ready to believe that the intention of this Bill is to afford more liberal treat- 1272 ment to certain somewhat neglected enterprises, and to do so in a more systematic manner than heretofore. If, however, that is all that it is intended to do, I do not quite understand why it is necessary to construct all the ponderous machiney by which the Bill is to be carried out. I say ponderous, but I am careful not to say expensive, machinery, because we gather that the official part of the machine is to be run on the cheap. The remuneration of the Commissioners—the official machinery—amounts to only £3,000 a year. But of a total of five Commissioners three are to receive no salary at all. I think it is time to ask ourselves whether we really can rely upon securing the services of gentlemen who will possess all the conspicuous qualities which the noble Earl imputed in advance to the new Commissioners and will consent to place those qualities at the disposal of the public without any remuneration at all. I believe it was a kinsman of the noble Marquess beside me (Lord Salisbury) who once observed that to make a project of this kind work successfully you require to discover a "laborious archangel with private means" who will take charge of it. That really is not an inapt description of the kind of man whose unpaid services you are endeavouring to secure for the purposes of this Bill.
Then is it not the case, as was said by my noble friend the Lord Chairman, that nearly every one of the objects which are enumerated in the first clause of the Bill are objects which can now be accomplished by the action of existing Departments, which are, in fact, accomplished by the action of these Departments, and that they are objects for which at the present time the Treasury can, if it likes, grant sums of money, and with regard to which the Government of the day can, if it likes, secure expert advice by whatever means is pleases? I am therefore rather at a loss to understand why this machinery is to be set up. But I am bound to admit that the Bill seems to me much less open to criticism than it was when it first made its appearance in public. I note in particular the disappearance of that flagitious proposal that the Old Sinking Fund should be diverted for the purposes of this Bill. It would no longer be true of the Bill to say, as was said in the explanatory Memorandum which at first accompanied it, that is enables the Treasury to make free grants 1273 and loans at its own discretion. But the scope of the Bill nevertheless remains enormously wide. I will not again go through the different subjects enumerated in the first clause of the Bill. It is no exaggeration to say that there is literally no enterprise, however remotely connected with the industrial life of this country, that cannot be taken up under the wording of the Bill as it now stands.
The financial limits of the Bill are equally wide. The only limit I can discover is the limit of half a million to be drawn from the Consolidated Fund. There is no reason why unlimited grants should not be taken under appropriation Acts for any of the purposes of the Bill. Unless the expectations held out by His Majesty's Ministers are to be entirely falsified this Bill must impose an enormous burden on the public. I have an uneasy suspicion that the real object of this new departure is to withdraw that large expenditure from the cognisance and control of Parliament, and I cannot help hoping that it may be possible for us in Committee to suggest some means whereby that control shall be effectually exercised. Such a safeguard appears to me absolutely necessary if the Departments concerned are to be protected from the constant pressure which will beyond all doubt be put upon them for grants from these new funds. It was quite clear from the tone of the noble Earl's observations and his reference to his own experience in a great colony that he was well aware of the extent and the gravity of this danger.
I will not at this hour enter into details with regard to Part I of the Bill, but I should like to say one word only with regard to that part of it which deals with the question of road making. Here, again undoubtedly the Bill has been greatly modified, and, to my mind, greatly improved. It is a much less ambitious project than it was when first introduced, and I hope that we may succeed in Committee in rendering it a little less ambitious still. On that point I will not attempt to improve on the statement made by the noble Lord who spoke just now. I cannot see why it should be necessary that these Road Commissioners whenever they want to make a new road should take up a strip on each side of it which, as the noble Lord told the House, would work out at the rate of 150 or 160 acres per mile. My 1274 suspicions with regard to this point are greatly increased when I find that under Clause 11 of the Bill the Road Board are to have power not only to acquire this land but to sell it, lease it, and manage it. That seems to open up a prospect of a new public Department owning enormous tracts of country in different parts of the United Kingdom, and entrusted with the task—for which I do not think they will be particularly well qualified—of managing those tracts as owners.
In view of the very considerable reduction in the powers and responsibilities of the Road Board, I cannot help feeling a doubt whether it really is necessary to insist upon the maintenance of the Board as an organisation distinct from the Development Commissioners. Let us not forget that the Development Commissioners are to be men not only of high character and great ability, but that they must be most versatile people. They have to deal with agriculture, forestry, rural transport, harbours, inland navigation, fisheries, and any other matters concerning the economic development of the United Kingdom. If these gentlemen have these versatile powers, is there anything very improper in suggesting that they should also assume charge of the roads? I cannot see what argument there is against it. Surely there is more difference between harbours and small holdings, or forestry and fisheries—of all of which the Development Commissioners are to have charge—than between the roads, which are given to the Road Board, and rural transport, which is given to the Development Commissioners. I trust that when we arrive at the Committee stage we shall be able to induce His Majesty's Government to consider whether there is not a case for simplifying and rendering more economical the machinery of the Bill at these points.
There is only one other matter in the Bill about which I wish to say a word. I think your Lordships will have to consider in Committee whether it is not absolutely necessary that the wording of Clause 18, which deals with unemployment, should be considerably modified. I heard—I think we must all have heard—with satisfaction the noble Earl's explicit statement that he did not intend this to be a Relief of Distress Bill or anything of that kind. [EARL CARRINGTON: Hear 1275 hear.] Having heard that statement from his lips we are entitled to ask him whether he will not see to it that the clause agrees with the speech he made this evening, because it seems to me perfectly clear that the clause as now drawn is one which would render it possible for those who have the interpretation of this measure to use it for the express purpose of undertaking relief works which are not desirable on their own merits. This is not a vain imagination on my part, because the Bill has been read outside the walls of Parliament very much as I suggest that it may be read. Mr. Keir Hardie the other day said that the Labour Party had claimed work or maintenance. He proceededstate insurance against unemployment took the place of the demand for maintenance. The Development Bill, which he regarded as the most revolutionary measure ever introduced into Parliament, would meet in large measure the second of their schemes.That is how the Bill is interpreted by gentlemen who think with Mr. Keir Hardie. But it is not only Mr. Keir Hardie who holds that opinion. Here is a statement made by a distinguished colleague of the noble Earl's—the President of the Board of Trade. He said on September 5—In connection with unemployment I must direct your attention to the Development Bill which is now before Parliament.The object of this Bill, he said, was to provide a fund for certain works, and then he proceeded—I should like to draw your attention to a very important clause in that Bill, which says that the prosecution of these works shall be regulated, as far as possible, by the conditions of the labour market, so that in every bad year of unemployment they can be expanded so as to increase the demand for labour at times of exceptional slackness.That seems to indicate clearly an intention on the part of a section at any rate of the Cabinet to use this Bill for the purpose of creating work which otherwise would not be created, of undertaking enterprises which otherwise would not be undertaken on their merits, for the simple purpose of relieving unemployment. I earnestly trust that His Majesty's Government will once for all dismiss from their minds any idea of the kind. May I at the risk of wearying your Lordships read one sentence from the recent Report of the Royal Commission 1276 on the Poor Laws dealing with this matter? They say—We have now shown that municipal relief-works have not assisted but rather prejudiced the better class of workmen they were intended to help. On the other hand they have encouraged the casual labourers, by giving them a further supply of that casual work which is so dear to their hearts and so demoralising to their character. They have encouraged and not helped the incapables; they have discouraged and not helped the capables. Moreover, the provision of artificial work for unskilled labourers in particular localities can only tend to fix in such localities these agglomerations of unskilled labour, to disperse which is one of the solutions of local unemployment.Those are weighty words, and I trust that His Majesty's Government will lay them to heart and will take care that nothing is allowed to find its way into this Bill which is inconsistent with the wise policy thus described.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
My Lords, I should like to be allowed to say a few words in closing this discussion. I am grateful to the noble Marquess opposite and to the other noble Lords who have spoken for what the noble Marquess called the very good-humoured reception of this Bill. The noble Marquess said I gave the impression that this Bill was intended to be a Bill for the relief of great landlords. The policy of His Majesty's Government when it came in with the enormous majority that it now possesses in the House of Commons was to do jutsice not to one class only, but to do justice all round. There is no intention merely to give relief to great landlords.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
The object is to give relief to agriculture generally. The noble Marquess thought the sum of £3,000 a year was not enough for the two salaried Commissioners and that there might be difficulty in getting men who would volunteer to undertake the duties of the position. That is not the view of His Majesty's Government. They hope to obtain first-rate men to act in this capacity. A request was made earlier in the evening that the names of these Commissioners should be at once laid before the House. I quite see the force of that. I am naturally unable to-night to give even the faintest suspicion of the names of these gentlemen, 1277 but I will lay the request which has been made before the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I promise that all I can do will be done to meet the wishes of noble Lords opposite. In regard to the demands of the different Departments, to which the noble Marquess referred, I thought I had explained that. As it is now, there is a sort of competition amongst different Departments. They rather vie with each other, and if any money is supposed to be available one Department tries against the other to get it from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. According to this plan I think there will be a great improvement, because all these demands will be carefully considered on their merits and the most important will be taken first.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
May I ask whether there is any hope that the promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a quarter of a million will be devoted to agriculture will be fulfilled?
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I will come to that. Then the noble Marquess spoke about there being no limit to the enormous burden that might be laid on the public. I was sorry to hear that he thought there might be some intention to withdraw the expenditure from the cognisance of Parliament. I can assure the noble Marquess that there is no intention of any sort to do that. The simple object of taking the money from the Consolidated Fund is that when you get these laborious archangels, as I think the noble Marquess called them, it would be only fair to them to let them know what they have got to spend. It would be hard if they were left absolutely at the mercy of an annual vote from the House of Commons It is almost too small a grant to give them, but we thought it desirable that they should know how much there is to spend so that they could shape their course accordingly. In regard to the strip of land on each side of new roads, about which we have heard so much, that would only be taken in certain cases. When Imperial money is expended there should be an Imperial return for it. We do not propose to spend a large sum of money out of the public exchequer and then for some landlord to step in and reap the benefits. The noble Duke opposite was terrified at the idea that this large strip of land should be taken through Brentford. But any Commis- 1278 sioner who proposed such a scheme as that would probably lose his place.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
As I understand it, the noble Earl says there is not much money and therefore this land on the side of the road must be obtained so that the Government may recoup themselves. How are the Government going to recoup themselves?
§ EARL CARRINGTON
One noble Lord said that a highway driven through agricultural property would decrease its value. I do not see that it would. It cannot be denied that the construction of a new road would enormously increase the value even of agricultural land, and the Government should get the betterment instead of its going into the pockets of private landlords.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
There is a provision in the Schedule empowering the compulsory acquisition of land by which it is enacted that—the arbitrator shall have regard to the extent to which the remaining and contiguous lands and hereditaments belonging to the same proprietor may be benefited by the proposed work or road for which the land is authorised to be acquired by the undertakers.A landlord will not be able to exact very much from the Government if he is benefited by the road.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
A very good suggestion was made by my noble friend behind me—namely, that a road should be driven through this strip to develop the hinterland belonging to the landed proprietor, who would in that case have a legitimate advantage from the improvement brought about by Imperial funds. The noble Marquess rather cavilled at the idea that the Road Board should be an organisation distinct from the Development Commissioners. I think there are two very good reasons for that. In the first place, as we have heard to-night, there are a great many interests involved and there may be great difficulty in getting all these interests properly represented. There is this other 1279 very good reason, that the Development Commissioners, as noble Lords well know, will not be an administrative body at all while the Road Board will; so that there is a perfectly distinct duty and obligation on the two bodies. Attention has been called to Clause 18 and suggestions made that it should be modified. I need not enter into that at this late hour; but nobody in any way wishes this to be a Relief Bill or a Right to Work Bill. Mr. Keir Hardie has been quoted as having said that this Bill was revolutionary. But "revolution" is such a curious word; it has a different meaning in many people's minds; and I remember Mr. Keir Hardie to have said in the Standing Committee that he did not in any shape or way look upon this Bill as in any sense a Right to Work Bill, or upon Clause 18 as being for the relief of unemployment.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
Oh, please! There have been a great many criticisms on the Bill. I hope the House will not think me discourteous if at this late hour I do not go through them chapter and verse. But I will take the principal ones. Lord Camperdown spoke about the possible scramble. I believe Mr. Chaplin introduced the idea that there should be eighty per cent. of the money given to England, eleven per cent. to Scotland, and nine per cent. to Ireland. But I think the House will see at once that any idea of that sort would defeat the objects of the Bill, because supposing there was a large scheme of afforestation in Scotland and Scotland only received eleven per cent. of the total grant, the scheme would break down and the Bill would not have the useful purpose which is hoped for it. The noble Earl the Chairman of Committees feared that there would not be enough money spent on agriculture. Of course that is a very natural fear on the part of one who has occupied the position which I now have the honour to fill; but my right hon. friend stated in the House of Commons that he was prepared to give a quarter of a million of money to that object. A quarter of a million is a good increase on what we get now, and with that money we shall be able to get the horse scheme through and the various other matters which ought to be 1280 proceeded with at once. I think we ought to be satisfied—
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Do I understand from the noble Earl that the Government undertake that a quarter of a million will be given to agriculture?
§ EARL CARRINGTON
My right hon. friend has said that he is going to give a quarter of a million, and there is nothing which he has said either in the House of Commons or elsewhere that he has any desire to retract. What he has said he has said, and I quite believe I shall get the money. Then as regards experimental small holdings, we have gone beyond that. They are not experimental. They are an actual fact. It is no use experimenting to know whether small holdings will pay or not when applications are coming in at the rate of 1,000 acres a week. The child has grown into a healthy man, and I dismiss that altogether. Then I was sorry to hear about Irish drainage being regarded as a bribe to the Irish. I am quite certain that there will be no bribe or any hanky-panky of that sort. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who is ill, has written to say that he had intended to have spoken on behalf of this measure. He adds—I think it is a useful Bill, and I should like to have supported it on behalf of motorists in general.That is very satisfactory. Lord Barnard spoke about agricultural colleges requiring more assistance. They come under the first clause as bodies that are not working for profit, and I can assure the noble Lord that I will do everything that is possible to support the must claims of agricultural colleges to financial aid. The noble Earl on the Cross Benches, Lord Meath, was not satisfied with Clause 18 and spoke about altering the clause which relates to commons Lord Willoughby de Broke gave us a most interesting speech. I can assure him that the highway authorities are, after all, composed of people possessing a certain amount of commonsense, and they will not drive roads through allotments and through farmyards. I daresay the noble Lord, who is fond of hunting, has an intense horror of roads and motors.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
The noble Earl behind me, Earl Russell, talked about the peddling improvements we propose to make; but I would point out that the rounding off of these corners, of which the noble Earl spoke, are matters of immense importance, and might, for instance, have saved the valuable life of Lord de Clifford, who risked and gave his own life to save those of his fellow creatures. Some noble Lords complain that we are doing too much, and the noble Earl behind me says we are doing too little. The noble Marquess on the Front Bench opposite, Lord Salisbury, in asking who were to be the Commissioners, said that suitable men would not be easy to find. With that I quite agree, but we must hope for the best. In regard to the request which has been made for information as to what schemes the Government have decided to be necessary, I think that if we had any idea of the schemes which ought to be undertaken at once we would be blameworthy if we made an immediate announcement on the subject, because such an announcement would be a direct incentive to an open scramble to participate in the funds. Then the noble Marquess asks as to the amount which the Government contemplate spending at once. I would point out that the amount of money to be appropriated under the Bill is limited. Within that limit I suppose we should spend as much as the Commissioners thought right and as much more as Parliament in its wisdom might think fit to grant in future. I think I have briefly gone through most of the objections, and have tried to answer them to the best of my ability. I can only once more very respectfully thank the House for the reception which has been given to the Bill.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
There are two questions which the noble Earl has not answered. I asked him if he could show me where in the Bill power is given to the Development Commissioners to make an order; and Lord Onslow asked him what had become of the money voted by Parliament for three years, I think it is.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
The practised eye of my noble friend opposite has detected what may be—I will not say is—an oversight in the Bill. There is the intention in the Bill, and we are very much obliged to my noble friend for calling attention to the matter. It is not my business; it is a 1282 matter of drafting, but I will have it looked into.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
There is nothing about it in Clause 5. I will read the provision—Where an advance is made … the Department … may acquire and hold land for the purpose, and where they are unable to acquire by agreement on reasonable terms any land which they consider necessary they may apply to the Development Commissioners for an order.That is not empowering the Commissioners to make an order.
§ LORD HAVERSHAM
If the noble Earl will look at subsection (3) he will see the words, "The Commissioners in making an order," &c.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
That is subsequent. That is in making an order, but it does not give them power to make the order.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
The noble Earl the Chairman of Committees asked me what had become of the Small Holdings Grant and how much had been spent. I think something like £6,000 has been spent out of that grant. I do not see why because a Minister has money to spend it should be spent if it is not wanted. My effort has always been to save public money as much as possible, and as there was no object in spending more money I thought it my duty to leave it in the Treasury.
THE EARL OF MEATH
May I ask the noble Earl to give me an answer to my question whether roads can be compulsorily run through commons or gardens although land may not be taken from for the strips?
§ EARL CARRINGTON
You cannot take land from a common for the strip on each side, but you can take it for the road if it is absolutely necessary for national purposes. It can be taken for the road itself, but it will be seen in the Bill that a certain amount of land is to be given back again in return for the land which might have been so taken.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.