§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (EARL. CARRINGTON)
My Lords, I have a little Bill to which I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading. It is a Bill which I do not think will take up much of your Lordships' time, and on which I hope and believe you will be practically unanimous. It provides compensation for tenants on whom notice to quit is served with a view to the use of their land for the provision of small holdings under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act which your Lordships were pleased to pass in 1908. This Bill is unopposed and has been agreed to by the Commons House of Parliament. As a matter of fact, it is a consequential Bill.
The result of the Act of 1908 up to date has been that 80,000 acres, or 125 square miles, of land have been secured for holdings for 0,000 applicants, 4,000 of whom are already on the ground. In the vast majority of eases I ant glad to be able to assure your Lordships that the land has been secured without any hardship being imposed on the sitting tenants, but I do not disguise the fact that there may have been a few cases in which loss, or at any rate inconvenience, may have been incurred, and this Bill provides, I hope, a practical remedy by granting compensation in such cases. This we propose to do without placing any charge whatever on the rates or on the landlords. The Bill is a simple one, and well drawn. There is no reference to any other legislation, and any man who runs can read it, and, what. is more, can understand it.
The first clause, which is perfectly intelligible, runs—Where a council, or a landlord at the request of a council, terminates a tenancy of land by notice to quit, with a view to the use of the land or any part thereof by the council for the provision of 190 small holdings, the tenant upon quitting shall be entitled to recover from the council compensation for the loss or expense directly attributable to the quitting which the tenant may unavoidably incur upon or in connection with the sale or removal of his household goods or his implements of husbandry, produce, or farm stock on or used in connection with the land.It is also provided that no compensation under this section shall be payable if the claim for compensation is not made within three months after the time at which the tenant quits. Under the Land Tenure Act the tenant has to give notice of his intention to claim within two months after the receipt of the notice to quit. Under this Bill the tenant whose land is required is better treated. Your Lordships will also see that differences are to be settled, in default of agreement, by a single arbitrator. That is following the lines of Section 13 of the Consolidated Lands Acts.
Clause 1 also gives the procedure that we recommend. The county council is to pay the compensation to the tenants but is repaid by the Board of Agriculture, and the money is found out of the Small Holdings Fund. I have no doubt that we shall get a good many applications for compensation. When there is money going about it is very natural that many people should try to get what they can. I remember that some years ago, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Balaclava Charge, a dinner was given to the survivors of the gallant Six Hundred, and between 400 and 500, military gentlemen were found under the hallucination that they had been at that memorable battle. They had to be weeded out, and I hope that we shall also be able to weed out any of those gentlemen connected with the agricultural industry who may be under the hallucination that they have been unfairly treated. I venture to think, and I hope, that cases of hardship, will really be few and far between.
There is a proviso in Clause 2 that no compensation shall be payable if the claim for compensation is not made before September 1, 1910. To-day is July 14. That would leave only six weeks, and the Bill is not through yet. Therefore I think your Lordships will probably be of opinion. that the time given is rather short, and I shall be prepared—and I think it would be only right to do so, as we want to act perfectly fairly and justly to agriculturists—to give a longer time than that now stated. 191 in the Bill. Clause 2 also makes the Bill retrospective. In such cases compensation will be paid direct by the Board of Agriculture, not through the county councils, and the amount is left, as I think your Lordships will agree it should be, to the discretion of the Board. It would be absolutely useless to try and hold an arbitration on a tenancy that had expired a year or eighteen months ago. Therefore I think your Lordships will agree that the proposal that the matter should be left to be decided by those who have the public duty to pay this compensation out of the public funds is a wise one. It is very easy to be liberal with other people's money, and I think the matter ought to be dealt with by those who are responsible to Parliament, so that if they make any mistakes they can be called over the coals.
I may be asked the very natural question why no provision is made in the Bill for compensation where tenancies are brought to an end under compulsory orders. The county councils have been obliged to use their compulsory powers in connection with something like 1,200 acres. I may be asked why, in these circumstances, the same indulgence is not to be given to those tenant farmers on whom compulsory orders have been issued. The answer to that is that in those cases the tenant can obtain full compensation under the Lands Clauses Acts, and therefore there is no reason to protect him in this Bill. That is all I have to say as regards this little Bill. I hope your Lordships will look as favourably upon it as the House of Commons did. It may be a very small Bill, but it perfects a work which will not only add to the social, moral, and physical welfare of the people at large, but will redound to the credit of the Parliament which passed it into law. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this Bill be now read 2a2014;(l Carrington)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I think there would have been some disappointment among the members of your Lordships' House, at any rate on this side, if we had not heard from the noble Earl opposite to-night a reiteration of the remarkable figures he has quoted on previous occasions of 192 the extension of small holdings in this country. But I rise for the purpose of congratulating the noble Earl on having brought in this Bill, because, as he is perfectly well aware, for it has been pointed out both in this House and in the other, there has been a great feeling of soreness left in the minds of tenant farmers in the country on account of land being taken away from them compulsorily, great damage being done to the remainder of their holding, and no provision being made for compensating them for the damage done. The noble Earl has now remedied that, and he has done it out of the source which I venture to think is the right and proper one — namely, the Imperial Exchequer—and not the rates which are levied by county councils.
I was very glad to hear that the noble Earl had been impressed by the representations made to him that September 1 is rather short notice for those who may wish to proffer a claim where land has been taken from them before the commencement of the Act. I should like to draw the noble Earl's attention also to another point in connection with that clause, and that is that the "claim" must be sent in. I believe that by "claim" is meant the whole of the details of what the dispossessed tenant may consider to be the amount which ought to be paid to him as compensation, and I should like the noble Earl to consider, if he will, whether it would not be possible to substitute for the word "claim" the words "notice of claim." Whatever date may be fixed it should not be the claim that should be sent in by that time, but notice should be given to the Board of Agriculture that the dispossessed tenant intends to make the claim, and then a time should be stated in which the claim should be sent in.
I have only one other observation to make, and that is to congratulate the noble Earl on making Clause 2 retrospective. I venture to hope that it will not be without some effect on the noble Earl himself, because we remember that some time ago the noble Earl entertained the House by telling us how he went down to a farmers' ordinary and made the observation to them, which was common property at the time, that a General Election was pending, and he added that he did not wish that they should go to that General Election 193 with a bad taste in their mouth. So the noble Earl produced a fifty pound note out of his pocket, which, with that generosity which always characterises him, he gave to the unfortunate tenant farmer concerned. As this Bill is to be retrospective, I hope that the noble Earl will make some representation to that gentleman and get his fifty pound note back, because it is clear that the tenant will get the £50 out of His Majesty's Government, and the end of it will be, if the noble Earl does not get his money back, that this man will have the £50 from the Treasury and also the £50 from the noble Earl. I congratulate the noble Earl on the introduction of this Bill, and sincerely hope that your Lordships will pass it into law without further delay.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on. Tuesday next.