§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Pentland.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [THE EARL OF DONOUGHMOREin the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Crofters Acts applied throughout Scotland.
§ 1. From and after the commencement of this Act, and subject to the provisions thereof, the Crofters Act shall be rend and construed as if the expression "landholder" were substituted for the expression "crofter" occurring therein, and shall have effect throughout Scotland.
§ THE EARL OF GALLOWAY moved to add to the clause the words "but nothing in this Act shall affect the statutory right of anyone, feeling himself aggrieved by any decision given under its terms, to appeal to the courts of law for protection."488
§ The noble Earl said: In moving this Amendment I feel to a certain extent inclined to apologise, because it is only within the last six years that any such Amendment would have been necessary. Hitherto we have trusted to the Courts of Law whenever there have been grievances between any of His Majesty's subjects that required to be settled. But there has arisen a bureaucratic system by which Courts that are not Courts of Law have a right to determine differences that may occur between one person and another. In this country we have a great many Law Courts and large sums are paid annually by the country, and justly so, for their existence, and I want to know why it is when we have all these Courts of Law in existence it should be necessary to lose the advantages for which we have paid and hand over the duties which the Courts of Law were established to perform to other people who have no legal knowledge to decide between parties. The public have not confidence in these bureaucratic Courts, because they know perfectly well that they have been appointed by politicians, and probably the appointments given to their political supporters, and I think you will all agree with me that at no time have so many awards been so lavishly bestowed upon different members of the Liberal Party. For that reason I think it is my duty to stand up and say that in a case like this, which affects so many proprietors throughout the kingdom, we should, where we have reason to object to any decision given by these sub-Courts, have the right to appeal to trained legal intellects in the Courts of Law.
Page 1, line 9, after ("Scotland") insert ("but nothing in this Act shall affect the statutory right of anyone, feeling himself aggrieved by any decision given under its terms, to appeal to the Courts of Law for protection").—(The Earl of Galloway.)
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (LORD PENTLAND)
The provisions of this Bill are confined to its subject-matter, and if the noble Earl wishes to introduce into its provisions at any point the right of appeal from any tribunal which it sets up, I would submit to him that his proper course would be to suggest an Amendment to that end. But so far as the general right of His Majesty's subjects to appeal to Courts of Law for their protection exists, this Bill does not affect it in the very least 489 degree. I would suggest, therefore, to the noble Earl that his words do not have any very direct effect, and so far as I am advised I am not disposed to consent to their introduction into the Bill. As to his general remark that His Majesty's subjects should have protection against injustice, I heartily agree.
§ THE EARL.OF HALSBURY
I venture to think that the answer which has been given to my noble friend who moved this Amendment is very inadequate indeed. This is a serious subject, and when we come to Clause 7 I think I shall be able to show the very serious consequences that will flow from making these Commissioners—five, I think they are to be, in number—independent of the law. I do not at all follow what is meant by saying that this is only a general right. What is intended obviously by the Amendment is that you shall not exclude the jurisdiction of Courts of Law from any order of this tribunal if it should be found in conflict with the existing law and with anybody's rights under the existing law. But I would recommend my noble friend to wait until we come to Clause 7, and then I, for one, shall heartily support an Amendment of that character, and be able to show that this is a very serious invasion of the liberties of the subject. In the circumstances I recommend him not to persist in the Amendment as it stands, but to wait until we come to Clause 7 when the Amendment can be appropriately discussed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Who to be landholders.
§ 2.—(1) In the Crofters Acts and this Act hereinafter referred to collectively as the Landholders Acts) the word. "holding" means and includes—
- (i) As from the commencement of this Act, every holding which at the commencement of this Act is held by a crofter to whom in respect of such holding the Act of 1886 applies (hereinafter referred to as an existing crofter);
- (ii) As from the commencement of this Act, and subject as hereinafter provided, every holding which at the commencement of this Act is held by a tenant from year to year who resides on or within two miles from the holding, and by himself or his family cultivates the holding with or without hired labour (hereinafter referred to as an existing yearly tenant);
- (iii) As from the termination of the lease, and subject as hereinafter provided, every holding which at the commencement of this Act is held under a lease for a term longer than one year by a tenant who resides on or within two miles from the holding, and by himself or his family cultivates the holding with or without hired labour (such tenant, or his heir or successor, as the case may be, holding under the lease at the termination thereof being hereinafter referred to as a qualified leaseholder):
§ Provided that such tenant from year to year or leaseholder—
- (a) shall (unless disqualified under section twenty-six of to his Act) be held an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder within the meaning of this sect; in every case where it is agreed between the landlord and tenant or leaseholder, or in the event of dispute proved to the satisfaction of the Land Court, that such tenant or leaseholder or his predecessor in the same family has provided or paid for the whole or the greater part of the buildings or other permanent improvements on the holding without receiving from the landlord or any predecessor ill title payment or fair consideration therefore; and
- (b) in every other case shall not be held an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder within the meaning of this section, but shall (unless disqualified under section twenty-six of this Act) in respect of the holding be subject to the provisions of this Act regarding statutory small tenants;
§ (iv) As from the date of registration, every holding which is constituted by the registration of an applicant in respect thereof on his application under the provisions of this Act respecting the constitution of new holdings (hereinafter referred to as a new holder).
§ (2) In the Landholders Acts the word "landholder" means and includes, as from the respective dates above mentioned, every existing crofter, every existing yearly tenant, every qualified leaseholder, and every new holder, and the successors of every such person in the holding being his heirs or legatees.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGHmoved to omit from Clause 2, paragraph (b)—
§ (b) in every other case shall not be held an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder within the meaning of this section, but shall (unless disqualified under section twenty-six of this Act) in respect of the holding be subject to the provisions of this Act regarding statutory small tenants;
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is one of the very greatest; importance. It raises one of the largest and most far-reaching points of policy which your Lordships will have to discuss in this Committee.491
§ If your Lordships will look at the framework of the clause, which is rather complicated, you will see that in the first subsection the Bill as a whole is applied to that individual whom we know as a crofter. In the second and third subsections it is applied to those who are existing yearly tenants without leases. That I can understand. Then there is a second category called existing yearly tenants with leases. I do not understand what a yearly tenant with a lease is, but that is not the point that my Amendment raises. If your Lordships will cast your eyes clown to the proviso you will see that in these cases of yearly tenants, with or without leases as the case may be, there are two categories. The first is the case of the man who has made the improvements, or the greater part of them, at his own expense, and has not been compensated for them. So far as he is concerned, I do not raise any question of its being right and fair that he should have an independent tribunal to fix his future rent. One may think and I do think, that it is a matter of very doubtful policy on the part of the landlord to allow the tenant to make improvements of this class. It is not known and has never been contemplated in any part of Scotland with which I am personally acquainted in the management of an estate. I know it has grown up in other places, and I have no doubt, having grown up, it suits the circumstances of those districts, and I have therefore nothing to say in regard to it.
§ But if your Lordships will look at paragraph (b)—the one which I propose to omit—you will see that in every other case the tenant shall not be held to be an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder within the meaning of this section, but shall, in respect of the holding, be subject to the provisions of this Bill regarding statutory small tenants. The statutory small tenants and the obligations put upon them and their landlord are found in the thirty-second clause of the Bill, and, of course, as a consequential Amendment, if my Amendment to this clause is adopted, Clause 32 will fall to the ground as being unnecessary. But I am obliged to raise the question upon this subsection because this subsection is the one which defines the class of person who is described in the Bill as the statutory small tenant. I think I have rightly described the state of matters.492
§ Now, my Lords, the point here is that this statutory small tenant, as he is called, has ex hypothesi done absolutely nothing to get a permanent interest in the holding. He is a gentleman who has taken a holding for a period of years and done nothing to it except cultivate it. If he has improved it, he gets his improvements under the Agricultural Holdings Acts. But here he is to be given two things for winch he has paid nothing—fixity of tenure, and what is called a fair and equitable rent. There has been a great deal of discussion round this question, and I have no doubt I shall I be told by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill that this is a matter on which gentlemen in the other House of Parliament have agreed to compromise. I brush that argument aside at once by saying that at any rate this House—certainly I myself am not—is no party to any compromise or bargain in regard to this matter. This question strikes at the very root of land tenure in Scotland. Our principle has been that the landlord does the improvements. He lets a certain holding for a period of years under the bargain that he will do the improvements. The whole interest which he gives to his tenant is that he shall cultivate it for that period of years, and at the end of that period his interest in it ceases. I have yet to learn what is the reason in fairness that this gentleman is to be given anything more than that for which he has bargained.
§ I dislike divided tenure, what is called the dual interest of the tenant who has done the improvements. I think it bad in policy and extremely pernicious in practice, because it makes it almost impossible fairly to decide what is the respective interest of the landlord who owns the land and some of the buildings, and the tenant who does not own any of the land but has put up some part of the buildings. If the landlord has bona fide done the whole of his duty, why is this dual interest to be created? What is the reason in sense or justice or fairness for bringing it in? I understand it in the case of the crofter. It was arrived at after a lasting inquiry, and it was found that there was not only a hereditary interest on the part of many of them in the land which they cultivated, but there was also the practical question that they had, as a fact, put up improvements. I say at once if the tenant has put up improvements the necessity of the case and the fairness of 493 the case is that his interests should be judged, but I have never yet heard of any reason for bringing in this dual interest where the landlord has clone everything in his power to improve and the tenant nothing.
§ I believe this proposal in the Bill to be absolutely ruinous, and I go so far as to say that any one who advocates it must be animated by some sort of insanity or ill-feeling towards the landlord. I can conceive of no other reason for making this departure in practice. It is the beginning of all the evils which will come upon us through dual interest as has been the case in Ireland and elsewhere. This is a revival of the original proposal to crofterise the whole of Scotland. Here is a case in which the landlord has done everything to preserve his interest, and yet by a stroke of the pen you are going to give the tenant two things for which he has paid nothing. I have asked for the reason why this is to be done, but at present no reason has been given. I may be told that there is a certain demand for it or that it is being done for some other reason, but this has not been preceded by any inquiry. Before you passed the Irish Land Act and the Crofters Act there was an inquiry, but in this case there has been no sort of collected evidence and no judicial inquiry by any impartial tribunal, yet you are asked to make this enormous and far-reaching change in the existing agricultural system of Scotland. I will not elaborate my argument further, but will simply wait to see whether on the ground of fairness and reason any case can be advanced for making this enormous change.
Page 2, line 25, leave out from (" therefor") to the end of line 31.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ LORD PENTLAND
The noble Lord who has just spoken has, of course, no doubt in his own mind that this Amendment strikes at the very root of this measure. He informed your Lordships that Clause 32, to which the proviso which the noble Lord is attacking refers, was introduced into the Bill this year as a result of conference, consultation, and agreement between both sides in the House of Commons. Before referring to that in detail, I should like to remind your Lordships of the case for this change. It is really identical with the case for the whole Bill. It rests upon 494 the admitted necessity, on national as well as on agricultural grounds, for doing something in Scotland to strengthen and develop the system of small holdings. The noble Lord said there had been no judicial inquiry. There was a Small Holdings Inquiry only a few years ago. There was another in the year 1883 by a Committee of the House of Commons.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I think it took evidence in Scotland. It was previous to the introduction by the noble Lord's own Government in the year 1895 of a Small Holdings Act which is now the law, and which has never done any good whatever to Scotland. But those inquiries revealed what I believe is the admitted fact, that while 5ear large towns there may Le some slight increase of small holdings, there his been on the whole a decrease of small holdings all over the country. Small Holdings are gradually being absorbed. Under the present conditions of their tenure and their circumstances they are not a paying form of property. That is part of my case. They are not paying to the tenant and they are not paying to the landlord, and. the consequence is that time after time these small holdings are absorbed and thrown into large farms. But, my Lords, this is the only civilised agricultural country in Europe in which small holdings are not a paying form of property, and the radical and vital difference between the system of small holdings in Scotland and in those countries to which I have alluded is that in Scotland the small holdings are not upon a basis of security of tenure.
I ask your Lordships' pardon for going into what is a Second Reading matter, but it was raised by the noble Lord. I say again that it is the common experience throughout Europe that it is only upon a basis of security of tenure and by grouping your small holdings so that they have economical marketing and purchasing of produce that you can hope to develop agricultural organisation, co-operation, and common effort which make small holdings in other countries successful. We are going to set to work, if your Lordships will allow us, in Scotland to do, not everything, but a little towards remedying this 495 great evil, and surely the first thing we ought to do, before we create new holdings, is to strengthen the economic position of the existing holdings—holdings which are the subject of agreement between landlord and tenant, holdings which have survived the economic decay which has absorbed other small holdings. Surely these form the nuclei round which this effort should Concentrate itself. We should do something for the existing small holder. What are we to do? These small holdings are not, of course, crofter holdings; they are outside the Crofters Act, but they form the vast majority of small holdings in Scotland, because, as I mentioned to your Lordships on Second Reading, landlords everywhere where they could afford it have done the improvements; so that if your Lordships cut out these holdings from the operation of the Bill you will leave almost no holdings in the Bill. That measures the effect of the noble Lord's Amendment, and it also measures the extent of the concession which the supporters of the Bill in its original form have made to the Opposition in another place. We have removed these holders from the category of crofters, or landholders as they are now called under this Bill, and we have applied to these statutory small tenants, as they are called under the Bill, the code of Clause 32.
Will your Lordships be good enough, as it is vital to this discussion, to turn to Clause 32. There you will see exactly what has been the arrangement come to. I carefully guarded myself on Second Reading from any implication that in this matter there was an agreement which should hind your Lordships' House. But we at any rate ought to be cognisant of what took place in another place. This clause is the result of conference and discussion there. What does it do? It gives to these existing tenants, tenants who are in their farms by the choice and sanction of the landlord, the right when they come to the end of their lease to a fair rent and to a renewal of their lease. They are to remain under the Agricultural Holdings Act. The landlord is to continue, if he so chooses, to do all improvements. They are not to increase—what the noble Lord objects to—their interest in the holding, but they are to remain there, awl if any difficulty or difference should arise between them and their landlord there is the Land Court to appeal to, and 496 the Land Court is bound to act within the limits of this Clause 32.
With regard to the equitable rent, there is no ground for thinking that there will be any great difference between the opinion of the Land Court and the opinion of a good landlord; and so far as continuity of tenure and the renewal of the lease is concerned, I should have thought that this was the very minimum of security of tenure that you could give to these tenants. Depend upon it this is the very minimum you can give if you are going to encourage these men to put their whole energy into their work and if you are going to put them upon a footing so that they can co-operate and organise with their neighbours and make these small holdings a success. I would repeat to the noble Lord that the justification is the national interest. If you do not have regard to this question of depopulation you will feel it in many different directions in your national life apart altogether from agriculture, and there is no safer or surer or wiser way to increase your country population than to offer to men who labour and live on the land the opportunity of making a secure home and a livelihood in the calling to which they have devoted their lives.
THE MARQUESS OF HUNTLY
I do not think the noble Lord has given full attention to the objections raised by my noble friend in moving his Amendment. Although I admit that Clause 32, which we are discussing along with this Amendment, was the result of what is called a conference between the different sides in the House of Commons, I do not think that the full extent to which it affects the tenants on the East and North-east of Scotland was fully realised by those who entered into the conference. In the district which I come from in Scotland, all the tenants who are affected by this subsection and by Clause 32 sit under agreements in writing. There is hardly a case, I believe, in which a tenant sits from year to year without an agreement in writing with his landlord.
The effect of this proposal in the Bill is that the tenant who is at the end of his lease or agreement and wishes to continue in his holding, can, if he does not agree with his landlord, go to the 497 Land Court and ask them to fix what is called an equitable rent. Then, as I read the clause as it stands, the Land Court may deal with this question, and may look at the holding under the very elaborate proposal in subsection. (8) of Clause 32; they may look into all these questions, and may decide what improvements have been mule respectively by the landlord and by the tenant, in what condition they are, and they may fix the rent to be paid in the future. Now that appears to me distinctly to be setting up a body which may go behind and beyond the written terms of the agreement between the landlord and tenant. You have two people coming to an agreement—that is universal in my part of Scotland—and you allow that agreement to be overridden in dealing with the tenancy in the future. If it was clearly laid down in Clause 32 that not only might the landlord and tenant, as it is said in subsection (6), make an agreement as to the conditions of the renewed tenancy, but that the past agreement dealing with any question connected with the tenancy should be held binding upon both parties, I should be rather agreeable to let the clause pass, especially if an Amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Clinton, asking that the arbiter under the Agricultural Holdings Act be substituted for the Land Court, is accepted.
I admit that there have been hopes held out under this proposal in Scotland, and that it would be hard to omit entirely to deal with these tenancies. But I quite agree with my noble friend who moved this Amendment that there is certainly room for improving the position of matters under Clause 32. I would suggest that this subsection should be postponed, and that when we get to the details of Clause 32 we should then deal with it and see whether we can put the clause into a shape which would be agreeable to all of us. If that could be done it would be better, as it is rather difficult now to discuss the most important principles contained in this clause upon a subsection which deals in this way with the matter.
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment to a Division. I do not wish for a moment to speak about the justice of Lord Balfour's statement of the case, because I think the justice is entirely on his side. A landlord who has come to an agreement 498 with his tenant and has erected the whole of the buildings molt in common fairness to have the right to fix the rent. But I would point out to the noble Lord, speaking, as I think I can speak, with a certain amount of experience upon this matter as I live in a crofter county, that in my opinion he will find that the danger of this clause is nothing nearly as great as many noble Lords think. In the case where the landlord does the improvements the average tenant in Scotland will not be such a fool as to go to the Land Court, because, although he might leave his rent reduced by a sovereign, he knows he would be faced with the certainty that when he wanted a new barn or other improvement the landlord would Hot do it for him.
I have some 400 or so of these small holders, and a certain number of them immediately after the Act was passed elected to go under the Crofters Act. I certainly do not pretend to be a beneficent landlord because I am a poor landlord, and poor and beneficent are not terms which usually go together. From the mere fact that my other tenants know that they have an average chance of getting help in the construction of their holdings, not one of them wishes to go under the Act, and many of the tenants who did go under the Act now wish they could come out of it. And if you go to the southern parts where estates are richer and where more is done for the tenants, I think you will find that at first there will be a certain number of applications from individuals to get a fair rent fixed, but after the first rush is over these unfortunate individuals who will, so to speak have been taken in by the measure of His Majesty's Government will find that they will not have that same freedom or, rather, the landlord will not be so willing to do the improvements for them, as was the case in the past. The landlord will take up the logical position, "You have a fair rent fixed, and why should I do any more for you? Go and ask the Land Court for any improvements that you want." I do not for a moment dispute the justice of Lord Balfour's contention, but I do not believe, once the small holders realise that they gravely imperil the chance of the landlord doing anything more to help them, that many of them will take advantage of this clause. For that reason I trust that the noble Lord will not press his Amendment to a Division.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I am inclined to second the proposal which was made just now by the noble Marquess, Lord Huntly, that your Lordships should not arrive at a decision on this point, which is really a point almost vital to the Bill, at this particular stage. If your Lordships were not to arrive at a decision until you had discussed Clause 32, it. would be possible if you saw fit afterwards, when you came to Report, to accept Lord Balfour's Amendment, which would really become a consequential one. That is a matter, of course, for the noble Lord himself to consider. The Secretary for Scotland said that there was a certain amount of consultation and agreement with regard to Clause 32 in the other House. Throughout the whole process of this Bill there has been no real agreement in the other House, because if your Lordships will refer to the proceedings which took place in Grand Committee and in the House itself on Report, you will find that the Unionist Members moved Amendment after Amendment and made proposal after proposal nearly every one of which was rejected. The difficulty in that House was that they were only about eleven or twelve in number, and they met the usual late which is encountered by a minority. But, my Lords, I certainly was surprised to hear the noble Lord put forward as part of his argument that small tenancies do not pay either the tenants or the landlords, and it struck me as very strange that in that case the noble Lord proposes to increase them.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I am afraid I cannot have made my point clear to the noble Lord. What I meant to convey was that under present conditions these small tenancies were not profitable, and that was one of the reasons which induced the Government to endeavour to alter the conditions.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I quite accept that alteration; but at the same time the words "under present conditions" were not used by the noble Lord, and it seemed to me rather a strange argument.. After saying that small tenancies pay neither the tenants nor the landlords he asked, "Why is it?" and he said that it was owing to insecurity of tenure. What ground has the noble Lord for making an assertion like that? It is contrary to all 500 my experience, and I believe it is contrary to the experience of every noble Lord here connected with Scotland. I can say this, that for nearly fifty years now I do not think I ever got rid of a small tenant, and I believe other noble Lords can say the same. I do not know whether my tenants have leases or not, but all I can say is that not one of them has ever put forward any complaint on that ground; and as to security of tenure, I can only say that the tenants—my tenants are, and I believe everybody else's, for I am not in the least better than other people—are just as secure as their landlords. If the noble Lord will produce any instances or any proof whatsoever in support of his assertion that the reason why small tenancies do not pay is that the tenants are insecure, then he will do a thing that he has never done up to the present time.
What has the noble Lord's argument always been when we have asked him for facts? He has said, "I know better than facts." The noble Lord shakes his head, but I think if I were to go into the other room I could produce proof of it from the reports because I have heard him say so. What has been his argument? He says that the people who know are the Members of Parliament for Scotland. He appeals to the representatives of the electors for facts with regard to agriculture. I do not want to say a single word of disrespect to any Member of Parliament for Scotland further than this, that a good many of them are Englishmen; and as for the knowledge which they possess, or any attention they have given to the subject of agriculture in Scotland—well, I will not say anything more about it. Then the noble Lord says we must do something for the existing small holders. I think he will find when this Bill comes to be worked that very few of the existing small holders will appear before your Land Court. That is my present conviction. But to say that there is no ground for assuming that the view of the Land Court will be different with regard to rent from that of a good landlordߞwell that is a question I should be much more ready to answer if I knew who is going to be the Chairman of this Land Court and who are to be the persons who will compose it.
Let me point out this, that whether your Lordships accept Clause 32 or whether 501 you do not, the proposals in this Bill are, I am afraid—and I have some reason to believe it—a death-blow to the application of capital to land in Scotland, and particularly to small holdings. Do you suppose that in future any prudent man will lay out money on a small holding? I have done it myself—I have been foolish enough—and other noble Lords have done the same. I quite agree with the noble Lord; it certainly does not pay me—not in one way, yet, it, does in another, because I have always endeavoured to be on the best of terms with my neighbours of all kinds. But now all this is to be placed under the Land Court, and the taxpayer is to pay for this in future; he is to make up the difference between a holding that pays and a holding that does not pay.
I do not think any one can in logic or having regard to facts argue against what Lord Balfour of Burleigh said. I believe Celt everything he said is quite true, but I do not go so far with hint as to advise year Lordships to strike out Clause 32. is will tell you my reason in a very few words. Under Clause 32, at all events, all questions of compensation have to be determined under the Agricultural Holdings Acts. Lord Clinton, in a subsequent Amendment which we shall conic to on Clause 32—and this is one of the reasons why I hope your Lordships will not come to a conclusion on this question just at this moment—proposes that rent should be fixed according to the terms of the Agricultural Holdings Acts with regard to these existing tenants. I think that is any great improvement. I cannot see any reason, when you are putting existing tenants under the Agricultural. Holdings Acts for everything else except rent, why you should bring in this Land Court. at all. Existing tenants are under the Agricultural Holdings Acts for compensation and other matters. Then why not put them under those Acts for rent and so make the thing complete? if that is adopted I hope your lordships will accept Clause 32–1 do not mean to say that I think it a perfect clause, because I do not at all. If I had been asked to suggest the way in which the noble Lord should have drawn his Bill. I would have said, "Have two sets of tenancies —one set the new holdings and holdings which are under the Bill, and the other set the existing holdings and all future voluntary holdings which shall 502 not be under the Bill." if would have said, "Make as many holdings as you like under your Bill; take the land, erect the buildings, do what you like with regard to new holdings; but, with regard to existing holdings, leave things as they are, if you do not want to do away with the good feeling winch exists between landlords and tenants and if you do not wish to divert to the Land Court capital which was applied notoriously under conditions that the whole tenure was voluntary both as regards landlords and tenants." That is what I should have done. I do not claim to be an authority on these matters, but that is the way I should have drawn the Bill if I had had to draw it.
Now with regard to Clause 32. The reason why I should not be in favour of striking it. out is this, that with the suggested Amendment Clause 32 will be all under the Agricultural Holdings Acts, whereas if you strike out Clause 32 you then fall under the Crofters Acts. To apply the Crofters Acts to the existing holdings in the Lowlands of Scotland would be an atrocious act of spoliation, because a crofter can do anything he likes; he can erect any sort of building he chooses, and it is then in his power to claim and to get compensation from the landowner who has not been consulted in the matter at all. Under Clause 32, however, he must be consulted with regard to a building. I think I have explained to your Lordships why Clause 32, although I do not approve of it, is less bad, in my opinion, than the ordinary proposals of the Bill, and therefore I cannot support. Lord Balfour of Burleigh, at all events at this stage, in striking the clause out.
§ LORD CLINTON
I think it is quite clear that on this side of the House we entirely agree with the arguments which my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh has used in proposing his Amendment, in that we can see no reason for placing these tenants under the Bill at all. They are in an entirely different position from the other tenants dealt with and from those who have hitherto come under the provisions of the Crofters Acts. They have no interest in their holdings save that of occupation, the whole of the improvements, buildings, and other: pings being entirely the property of the landlord. The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland gave us 503 his reasons for bringing them under the Bill, largely, I think he said, on the ground of national, social, and agricultural reasons, or some words to that effect. I can quite imagine an enthusiast for small holdings having many reasons of a national and social character, but I do not understand what social and agricultural reasons there can be for bringing them under this Bill. Does the noble Lord think that by turning large farms into a large number of small ones we shall increase the standard of agriculture and see a higher quality of stock kept, or a greater production from the soil? I do not believe that in any one of those particulars there can be any agricultural advantage in bringing these particular statutory tenants under the measure.
The noble Lord also told us that there has been a decrease in small holdings in Scotland. I have no doubt he has figures to show that, otherwise he would not have said so. But it is news to many of us that these small holdings have decreased. They certainly have not decreased in the part of Scotland with which I am acquainted, and there are a very large number there. The noble Lord gave as his reason that they were not paying either the landlord or the tenant. That may be true. But, how does he propose to make them pay? By putting them under Clause 32. The only reason that is given as to why they can be made to pay under that clause is security of tenure. I agree that these tenants should have as much security of tenure as possible. If they have not fixed rents at the present moment they have at all events full security of tenure, so that the only way the holdings can be made to pay is by a reduction of rent. The noble Lord has told us that in his opinion there will not be much difference as to a fair rent between the Land Court and a good landlord. We all claim to be good landlords; but if there is no difference of opinion between them, then the rental will remain the same. Therefore there can be no reason for thinking that because of the matter going before the Land Court these small holdings can be made to pay more than they do at present. I recognise that this part of the scheme is a portion of the framework which we accepted on Second Heading, and although I thoroughly agree with Lord Balfour's reasons for moving his Amendment I regret I am unable to support it.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I think this discussion has shown that the House is in a rather curious position. Lord Pentland dealt with the economic difficulties of small holders. I admit them. I agree that there are difficulties in their case from economic causes which are too strong for them. But how is this Bill going to help them? This Bill will not change the economic difficulties under which they exist; they will remain exactly the same, except. that I agree with one noble Lord who said that there will be a great deal more hesitation on the part of landlords now to put money into small holdings. I know, as far as I am concerned, that no power on earth would induce me to spend another penny on a small holding if this Bill passes and I am to be at the mercy of the Land Court.
Just look at the precedent we are creating. Lord Camperdown admits that what I suggest is logic, Lord Lovat said that what I suggest is just, and Lord Clinton, I understand, agrees with me, but for some curious reason those noble Lords are not going to support me on a Division. We are departing, in the case of Lowland holdings, from the one principle which has regulated that class of holding both in England and Scotland up to this time, that where the landlord does the improvements and does his duty he has a right to choose his tenants. It is all very well to talk of this being a case of small holdings, of their economic difficulties, and of the importance of small holdings to the nation at large. But you are making a precedent which does not stop at small holdings. The Lord Advocate in the other House gave that part of the case away, because he said there is no magic in the 50 acres, and that the moment it is wanted it would go over the whole of agriculture. The House is making a precedent which in the future will be held up against it as applicable to other holdings in Scotland and England, whether the landlord has done the improvements or not. Make no mistake about that, and do not say that you were not warned. I hope I am a reasonable person, but I am wholly unconvinced by the speeches that have been made. If possible I am strengthened in the view I hold, but I shall not put the House to the trouble of a Division on this particular subsection. I will wait until I see what form Clause 32 ultimately takes. But no power on earth will make me a consenting party to the 505 terrible precedent which the House is about to make, and when the Question is put I shall say "Not content."
§ On Question; Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ Constitutionof Scottish Land Court.
§ 3.—(1) It shall be lawful for His Majesty, on the recommendation of the Secretary for Scotland, at any time after the commencement of this Act, and from time to time as vacancies occur, to appoint not more than five persons, to be designated the Scottish Land Court (in this Act referred to as the Land Court) and to appoint one of such persons to be Chairman of the Court.
§ (2) The Chairman shall be a person who at the date of his appointment shall be an advocate of the Scottish bar of not less than ten years standing and shall forthwith on his appointment have the same rank as if lie hart been appointed a Judge of the Court of Session.
§ (3) One of the said persons shall be a person who can speak the Gaelic language.
§ (4) It shall be lawful for the Secretary for Scotland to remove any member of the Land Court for inability or misbehaviour. Every order of removal shall state the reasons for which it is made, and no such order shall come into operation until it has lain before both Houses of Parliament for not less than thirty days, nor if either House passes a resolution objecting to it.
§ (5) If and when the Chairman is temporarily unable to attend, or his office is vacant, the Secretary for Scotland may appoint to act temporarily in his place any person having the qualification required for holding the office of Chairman and the person so appointed shall during such inability or vacancy have the same powers and perform the same duties as if he were the Chairman.
§ (6) The Secretary for Scotland shall from time to time appoint a fit person to act as principal clerk to the Land Court.
§ (7) The Land Court may appoint or employ such assessors, surveyors, law agents, valuers, clerks, messengers, and other persons required for the due performance of their duties, as the Treasury, on the recommendation of the Secretary for Scotland, may sanction.
§ (8) Any Crofters Commissioner or officer of the Crofters Commission in office at i he commencement of this Act, who may not be appointed a member or an officer of the Land Court, shall receive such compensation as the Treasury may determine.
§ (9) There ball lie paid to the Chairman of the Land Court a salary not exceeding two thousand pounds a year, and to each of the other members a salary not exceeding twelve hundred pounds a year, and such salaries shall be charged on and paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or the growing produce thereof. The Chairman shall have the same right to a retiring annuity proportionate to his salary, subject to the like conditions and incidents as if he had been appointed a judge of the Court of Session, and every such annuity shall be charged and paid as aforesaid.506
§ (10) There shall be paid to each of the other persons appointed or employed under this section such salary or remuneration as the Treasury may sanction; and all such salaries and remuneration and the expenses of the Land Court incurred in the execution of their duties, to such amount as may be sanctioned by the Treasury, shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.
§ (11) The Lind Court shall submit such estimates and keep such accounts of their, receipts and expenditure, and their accounts shall be audited in accordance with such regulations, as the Treasury may direct.
§ (12) It shall be lawful for the Land Court from time to time to make rules for conducting the business of the Court.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
This Amendment deals with a much smaller matter. Subsection (2) of this clause says that the gentleman who is to be the head of the Land Court "shall forthwith on his appointment have the same rank as if he had been appointed a Judge of the Court of Session." Would the noble Lord in charge of the Bill tell us what that is intended to imply?
§ LORD PENTLAND
The noble Lord criticised this on Second Reading and asked whether there was any precedent for it. I may tell him that we have taken these words as nearly as possible from the Irish Land Act, 1881, Section 41. The words I do not say give an exact precedent, but it is the nearest precedent we can find. The words in the Irish Land Act are—The Judicial Commissioner for the time being shall forthwith on his appointment become an additional Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Ireland, with the same rank, salary, tenure of office, and right to pension.The noble Lord, I think, knows that later on in this same clause there is a further reference to this Judge with reference to his pension. It is in the latter half of subsection (9). I do not know whether the noble Lord objects to the form in which the matter is introduced, or to the introduction of any such reference at all.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I object to it because it is a farce. You are not giving him the position of a Judge and you are not giving him the salary of a Judge. The clause which the noble Lord read from the Irish Land Act gives the Commissioner in that case the same tenure and salary as a Judge. In this case you are giving this gentleman who is to have what is called the rank of a Judge £2,000 a year. That is not the salary of a Scottish Judge. You are not going to give hint the tenure of a Judge, because he is to be 507 removable in the event either of inability or misbehaviour at the instance of the Secretary for Scotland. I would like to ask the noble Lord, should this gentleman play golf on Sunday, which is not looked upon With favour in certain parts of Scotland, whether that would be misbehaviour within the definition of misbehaviour in the Bill? Then, again, it is said he is to have the same rank as a Judge. Is he to be called Lord So-and-so, and is his wife to be called Lady So-and-so, and what is to happen in that case if by inability or misbehaviour he is removed? You will not give him the ability of a Judge because you give him the rank of a Judge, neither will you give him the experience and the judicial attributes of a Judge because you nominally give him the rank. I myself think it is an absurdity, and I move to omit the words "and shall forthwith on his appointment have the same rank as if lie had been appointed a Judge of the Court of Session."
Page 3, line 10, leave out from (" standing ") to the end of line 12.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ LORD PENTLAND
I am a little at a loss to know what the noble Lord wishes us to do. This official will be the chairman of the Land Court, and the noble Lord knows well that those who occupy positions of judicial eminence in Scotland have certain rank and precedence. For instance, in every county the sheriff has a recognised position and status, and it therefore became necessary for the Government to consider what status should be given to this Judge who will occupy a position certainly not less influential or eminent than any sheriff, and whose salary will be equal at least to that of the highest paid sheriff in Scotland.
§ LORD PENTLAND
We wish to place this Judge in a higher position than that of a sheriff, and we have therefore made the proposal in the Bill. The noble Lord complains that we are not giving a larger salary. I do not know whether it would make the proposal more agreeable to the noble Lord if we were to make the chairman's salary larger, or add the other attributes and titles which he mentions; but it seems to me that in making a proposal of this kind the Government were bound to give this Judge a certain status, 508 and those are the steps we have taken to do it. I do not quite understand what the noble Lord would wish us to do. lie calls this a farce. I can assure him it is a well-meaning intention to give this Judge a status which in the opinion of the Government his position deserves and requires; but if the noble Lord will make any suggestion the Government will be only too glad to consider it.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I have no objection to considering a proposal as to the tenure of the Judge if the noble Lord will make one.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGIH
My proposal is a simple one, and I will take a Division upon it if necessary. It is to omit the words, "and shall forthwith on his appointment have the same rank as if he had been appointed a Judge of the Court of Session."
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
My Amendment is not a very large one, but I think it is important that we should have some security that a certain number of the five gentlemen who are to be appointed to constitute the Land Court should have some knowledge of agriculture. Under the Bill as it stands at present they may be butchers or bakers or anybody. I think for our own sakes, as well as for those of the tenants, there should be an assurance that some of these gentlemen should be possessed of a practical knowledge of agriculture or have had experience in the management or valuation of agricultural land.
Page 3, line 12, after ("session") insert ("and three of the said persons shall be possessed of a practical knowledge of agriculture, or have had experience in the management or valuation of agricultural land").—(Lord Saltoun.)
§ LORD PENTLAND
The difficulty is not one of principle in this matter. It is the intention of the Government that not only three members of the Land Court, but four, should have qualifications akin to those described by the noble Lord in his suggested Amendment, and I am glad to take this opportunity of placing that on record publicly, but I 509 am advised that these words, which are general words and which, as the noble Lord himself will admit, would cover very varied qualifications, are really better omitted. They would, moreover, leave some doubt as to what qualifications the fourth or the fifth member should have. If the noble Lord will be good enough to be content at this stage with the assurance I have given, it will not deprive him of the power to move an Amendment at a later stage. I can assure him there is no difference of principle between the Government and himself on the matter.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
His Majesty's Government have it in their power to make this matter perfectly clear to noble Lords on this side of the House if they would, before we proceed much further with this Bill, give to the House the names of the persons who are to constitute the Land Court. It does seem to me to be a remarkable thing that, being about to constitute so important a Court as this the chairman of which is to be considered to be in rank equal to that of a judge of the Court of Session, the names of those persons should never have been given to the House of Commons nor to your Lordships' House. Considering that a good deal of the feeling with regard to this Bill does depend upon the view that may be taken of the persons who will administer it, their qualifications and their fairness, would it not be better from the point of view of the Government themselves that the names of the members of the Land Court should be given before we proceed much further with the Bill?
§ LORD PENTLAND
I should be only too glad to think that the Government were in a position to make such an announcement as that which the noble Viscount invites, but as a matter of fact the uncertainty which has attended the progress of this measure, and which has not, I think, been removed by the course which the discussion to-day has taken, has made it very difficult for the Government to proceed as far as they would wish with the constitution of this Court and so enable them to make public the names for which the noble Viscount asks. I hope at a later stage to be able to announce the name of the proposed chairman of the Land Court, but in regard to the remaining four members of the Court I can do no more than indicate 510 the lines upon which the Government would wish to proceed in making their selection. They would all be men having the qualifications which the noble Lord (Lord Saltoun) mentions in his Amendment. They would all be men knowing agricultural affairs in Scotland, and in their whole number embracing, so far as it is possible, knowledge of the whole of Scotland. There are four of them, and I hope it would be possible for the Government to obtain through them a representation on the Land Court of knowledge of all parts of Scotland. Let me say that political considerations should, of course, be subordinate in the selection of men for such offices as this. The endeavour of the Government will be at any cost to select the best possible men that can be procured to discharge these duties at the salaries which are offered to them in the Bill. I think so far as political opinions may be known no political Party should be at a disadvantage, shall I say, in the selection of these four gentlemen. I do not know if I can give the noble Viscount and the House any further information. I can assure him that it is the desire of the Government to do everything to satisfy any reasonable apprehensions in regard to this Court. Their desire is that public opinion should ratify anything that they may do in regard to it.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I am very glad that the noble Lord has gone as far as to indicate to the House that very probably before this Bill proceeds much further he will be able to give us the name of the chairman of the Land Court. Before he does that, I only wish to say this, that on the impartiality of the chairman and on his judicial qualities depends, I believe, to a very large extent the success of the operation of this Bill. If a lawyer is appointed who has not associated himself prominently either with one side or the other, who is well known at the Bar, and who is well known to be an impartial person, I believe it would give the greatest satisfaction in Scotland. At all events, I am sure it would give the greatest satisfaction to noble Lords sitting on this side of the use.
I confess that want of knowledge of the name of the chairman and of the members of the Court was a great factor in my putting down this Amendment; and in the hope that before the end of this stage of the Bill, or at all 511 events before the Report stage, the noble Lord will give us the name of the chairman, and, we hope, the names of the other four members, I will, with the permission of the House, withdraw my Amendment for the moment, reserving to myself the right of putting it down again on Report.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I should like to say a word in support of the proposition of my noble friend behind me. The appointment of the chairman of this Land Court is really a matter of supreme importance, both for the information of your Lordships and for the amicable passage of the Bill through this House. I would therefore earnestly press upon the noble Lord that we shall have the name of the chairman of the Court before we take the Report stage of this Bill. As regards the other members of the Court I would not apply such strong pressure, but we credit the noble Lord with having every desire in the appointment of these gentlemen to translate the principle he has referred to into practice. He said, however, in response to my noble friend, "We may find a certain difficulty in meeting your views with regard to this, because of the attitude which your Lordships have exhibited; your treatment of the measure so far has rendered it doubtful whether we shall be able to pursue our intentions." If the noble Lord was referring to our procedure here, I cannot imagine anything more remote from the facts. Your Lordships have only been engaged on this Bill for about three-quarters of an hour. We had a very serious discussion on my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Amendment, and Lord Balfour ultimately withdrew it, or, at all events, did not carry it to a Division. The only other Amendment we have carried was one of very subordinate importance upon which the noble Lord, Lord Pentland, did not choose to divide the House. Therefore he has really no right to turn round at this stage and say anything derogatory with regard to the procedure of noble Lords on this side of the House with regard to this Bill.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I think the noble Earl must have been mistaken in thinking that I used too strong words in reference to the conduct of noble Lords on the other side of the House thus afternoon. If he thinks I have done so, I am prepared to modify them. What I had in my mind was the position taken on a previous stage 512 of the Bill and also a remembrance of the Amendments on the Paper. With regard to the confidence the noble Earl invites, I have already said that I hope to be able to give the name of the chairman of the Land Court on the Report stage. I make my acknowledgments to him for what he said with regard to the other four members of the Court. The constitution of this Land Court is really a matter of great difficulty and responsibility, and I wish I had been in a position earlier to take more active steps in regard to the matter. I cannot, therefore, hold out a hope to noble Lords that I shall be able to give them until later the names of the four members to complete the Court.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
The noble Lord seems to have assumed that he would meet with difficulties here which he has not in fact met with up to the present moment. He referred us to the case of the Irish Land Bill. I have a perfect recollection, as the noble and learned Earl the Lord Chancellor will have also, that in regard to the Irish Land Bill of 1881 Mr. Gladstone gave the names of the Commissioners to be appointed under that Bill before the Bill ever came to this House, and I am quite certain that the course of that measure in your Lordships' House was one which might have caused Mr. Gladstone every bit as much hesitation as the noble Lord opposite himself can have felt with regard to the course of this Bill. Yet Mr. Gladstone on that occasion judged that it would be altogether unfair to the House of Commons and also to your Lordships' House that we should be asked blindfold to commit all these properties to the jurisdiction of a man whose name we were not allowed to hear. I must say, considering the circumstances under which your Lordships are asked to discuss this Bill and the very short time in which there is to do it, that we ought to have a definite pledge from the noble Lord that we shall know the name before the Report is entered upon.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.513
§ THE EARL OF GALLOWAY
My Amendment covers a very small point, and I trust my noble friend will be able to accept it. It is to amend subsection (2) by inserting "while Parliament is sitting" after the words "thirty days" at the end of the subsection.
Page 3, line 19, after ("days") insert ("while Parliament is sitting").—(The Earl of Galloway.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I wish to ask a question with regard to subsection (9), which says, "There shall be paid to the chairman of the Land Court a salary not exceeding two thousand pounds a year." I presume that means that he will give all his time to the office and will receive no other salary.
§ [No answer was given.]
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 4:
§ Constitution of Board of Agriculture for Scotland.
§ 4.—(1) It shall be lawful for His Majesty on the recommendation of the Secretary for Scotland, at any time after the commencement of this Act, and from time to time as vacancies occur, to appoint not more than three persons to be designated the Board of Agriculture for Scotland (in this Act referred to as the Board) and to appoint one of such persons to be Chairman of the Board. Any act or thing required or authorised to be done by the Board may be done by any one or more of the members thereof as the Secretary for Scotland may from time to time direct.
§ (2) The Board shall be charged with the general duty of promoting the interests of agriculture, forestry, and other rural industries in Scotland, and shall also exercise and perform any powers and duties which are or may be conferred on or transferred to them under the provisions of this Act. In the discharge of their duties they shall comply with such instructions or regulations as may from time to time be issued by the Secretary for Scotland, and they shall submit an annual report of their proceedings to him, which report shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament.
§ (3) The Board may undertake the collection and preparation of statistics relating to agriculture, forestry, and other rural industries, and may make or aid in making such inquiries, experiments, and research, and collect or aid in collecting such information relating thereto as they think advisable.
§ (4) it shall be the duty of the Board to promote, aid, and develop instruction in agriculture, forestry, and other rural industries.
§ (5) The Board shall take such steps as they think proper for the promotion and development of agricultural organisation and co-operation.514
§ (6) Without prejudice to the provisions of the immediately preceding subsections such one of the members of the Board as the Secretary for Scotland shall from time to time appoint shall be designated the Commissioner for Small Holdings and shall be specially charged with the duties hereinafter committed to him.
§ (7) The Secretary for Scotland shall from time to time appoint a fit person to act as secretary to the Board.
§ (8) The members of the Board shall hold office during His Majesty's pleasure. The Board may subject to the approval of the Secretary for Scotland appoint or employ such officers, clerks, and other persons as the Treasury may sanction.
§ (9) The members of the Board and other persons appointed or employed under this section shall respectively receive such salary or remuneration as the Treasury may sanction, and all such salaries or remuneration and the expenses of the Board incurred in the execution of their duties, to such amount as may be sanctioned by the Treasury, shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.
§ (10) The Board shall submit such estimates and keep such accounts of their receipts and expenditure, and their accounts shall be audited in accordance with such regulations as the Treasury may direct.
§ (11) It shall be lawful for the Secretary for Scotland from time to time by order under his hand—
- (a) To direct that from and after the date fixed by the order such powers and duties of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries exercisable in or in relation to Scotland as may with the consent of the Treasury be specified in the order, shall be transferred to the Board, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as may with the like consent be prescribed in the order; and
- (b) To direct that from and after the date fixed by the order such powers and duties under the Congested Districts (Scotland) Art, 1897, as may, with the consent of the Treasury, be specified in the order, shall (not being powers for the purchase of land) be exercised and performed throughout Scotland as well as in congested parishes or districts thereof, or made applicable, with any necessary adaptations, to the purposes of the Landholders Acts.
§ (12) Before any such order is made, the draft thereof shall be laid before each House of Parliament for not less than, two months, anal if either House, before the expiration of such period of two months, presents an address to His Majesty against the draft or any part thereof, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, without prejudice to the making of any new draft order.
§ (13) An order under this section may provide for all matters which appear to the Secretary for Scotland necessary or proper for giving full effect to the order, or to a previous order, including, with the consent of the Treasury, matters relating to the adjustment and disposal of any property, debts, and liabilities which may be affected thereby, or to the employment of any officers who may be transferred and the regulation of their duties.
§ (14) An order duly made under this section shall take effect as if it were enacted in this Act.515
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved to substitute the President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries for the Secretary for Scotland at the commencement of the clause. The noble Lord said: The Amendment which I am now about to move I think I may say claims at least equal importance with that of any other Amendment which is down upon the Paper. I regret that two Amendments of my own of such vital importance should come so close together, because nothing is further from my inclination than to monopolise the time of the Committee. But, my Lords, I am of opinion that this separation of agricultural interests into two parts, Scottish and English, is in the highest degree detrimental to the interests of agriculture as a whole upon both sides of the Border. I say primarily and essentially it is contrary to the best interests of Scottish agriculture. English agriculture has a large power and great influence behind it, and can to a certain extent stand by itself, but if you transfer the interests of Scottish agriculture to a mere sub-department of the Scottish Office you will do, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest injuries which it is possible to do to the interests of Scottish agriculture.
§ Scottish agriculture has but little political power behind it. There is hardly a county in Scotland in which the agricultural voter is in a majority. As a matter of fact there are only two, and I count in that the vote of every landlord, every tenant, and every farm labourer; and yet if you do that, there are only two counties in Scotland in which the agricultural interest pure and simple has anything approaching to a majority of the electorate. That being so, agriculture in Scotland can, I am sorry to say, bring but little influence to bear upon the administration supposed to be conducted in its interests if it is separated from the Board of Agriculture in London. Agriculturists in England have many interests in common. They have an interest in the good cultivation of the soil; they have interests in statistics; they have interests in getting information up to date; and they have interests, contrary to other ratepayers, for which they sorely need an advocate with a seat in the Cabinet. There is nothing especially Scottish in the interests of Scottish agriculture in the Lowlands. I frankly admit that when you go to the Highlands and to the crofting counties there it is a purely Scottish 516 matter and must be dealt with in the future as in the past by the Scottish Office. But if there is one point in the whole round of their interests on which Scottish agriculturists in the Lowlands are unanimous, it is that they will have nothing to do with the Scottish Office in comparison to the Board of Agriculture. They may be right or they may be wrong. In my opinion they are right, for the reasons which I have partly given and for others which I shall proceed to give; but at any rate make no mistake about it, that is their opinion.
§ Convene a representative body of agriculturists where you like, under what circumstances you please, and I defy you to get a resolution in support of the provisions of this Bill. At Perth there was a resolution passed and an amendment moved. Neither the resolution nor the amendment had any support for the proposals of this Bill. I am not going to quote the resolution again because it was quoted on the Second Reading, but there were two remarkable statements made in the speeches delivered on that occasion. The mover of the resolution, expressing strong disapproval of a Board of Agriculture for Scotland under the Scottish Office, said that in sixteen years there had been many discussions on Scottish agriculture, yet in all these debates covering that long period he had not come across a single speech which definitely acknowledged that the interests of Scottish agriculture would be better administered under the Scottish Office than under the Board of Agriculture. He said that he could not find a single speech by a Scottish agriculturist, and he had searched all the records, advocating that Scottish agriculture should be put under the Scottish Office. Later on I find this statement in the speech of Mr. Douglas, one of the vice-presidents. He said that the Bill as it stood was without a friend in the world—a Bill which it was said had the unanimous verdict of Scotland at two elections, and yet at that large assembly of Scottish farmers not one man had risen to give it whole-hearted support.
§ I say, after those statements which cannot be controverted, I stand here with a right to speak for Scottish agriculture whatever the instincts of Scottish Home Rulers may be; and if we are put under the Scottish Office the fear of Scottish agriculturists is this, that the interests of crofters and small holders will be thought 517 to be much more important than all the interests of those who cultivate the large farms and the broad acres of Scotland. I do not at this moment touch on the administration of the Contagious Diseases Acts, because there are various Amendments coming afterwards with regard to that matter, some in the name of the Secretary for Scotland himself and some in the names of other noble Lords. Of course as an illustration it would be useful to show how very evil the results of this policy would be, but as I even now hope that that matter will be given up I am not going to argue it at length. I say, however, that the mere danger of the separation of the administration of the Contagious Diseases Acts in England and Scotland into two different authorities has caused an absolute panic amongst agriculturists on both sides of the Border. The noble Lord opposite shakes his head, but I defy him to get a resolution from any body of agriculturists either in England or in Scotland in favour of that proposal. Not one has been produced as yet, and I do not believe he can get one. I do not know where the proposal came from or who started it. I have not seen a single argument in favour of it which is worthy of a moment's consideration.
§ I pass from that because I am on the general question, and to me it is a matter of the greatest importance for the administration of agricultural interests that those who have to administer it should have a real knowledge of agricultural wants and of agricultural needs, and it would be a distinct disadvantage to the agriculturists of Scotland to be separated in this matter from their English brethren. There are more than the proverbial three courses open to us in regard to this proposal. The first, which I sincerely hope this House will adopt, is to keep the administration of agriculture as it is under the Board in London, with or without special Commissioners. The second course is to nationalise it, as it is called, but to keep it to the Board of Agriculture. That, in my opinion, is a less satisfactory method than the former one, but it is not so unsatisfactory as either of the other two. There is another idea to have a special Minister for Scottish Agriculture with a special Department and a seat in Parliament. I do not think that the interests of Scotland in agriculture are sufficiently large for that course to be taken. It 518 might be satisfactory if they were large enough; but I look with some suspicion upon the multiplication of this class of office, because you could not hope that the Minister's office would be of sufficient importance to give him a seat in the Cabinet, and unless in these days the Minister who is responsible for agriculture has a seat in the Cabinet he is severely handicapped in carrying out his duties.
§ The fourth proposal is that the transfer should take place as proposed in the Bill. I venture to say that, while some friends may be found in Scotland for any one of the other three courses, you will not find a single individual who has a right to speak for agriculturists to support the proposal in the Bill. Therefore my suggestion is—the Amendments look elaborate, but they will stand or fall together—that there should be, if you choose, certain Commissioners of Agriculture specially appointed under the Board of Agriculture to look after Scottish interests. Of course it requires a certain manipulation of the framework of the Bill, because the Bill has been cast from the beginning with the idea of the transference of the whole of agriculture—crofting, congested districts, and everything else—to the Scottish Office. I do not propose in this Amendment to change the transfer from the Crofter Commission to the Land Court. It is quite right, if you are going to have a Land Court at all, that it should absorb the Crofter Commission—that I think is reasonable. Nor do I propose for a moment that the administration of the Congested Districts Board should be done from London. That is a purely Scottish matter. It has been arranged heretofore entirely under the Scottish Office, and I venture to think if there were more frequent meetings of the Congested Districts Board it would be a much more satisfactory administration than it is at the present time.
§ The proposal that I make is, while not interfering with the Crofter Commission being transferred to the Land Court, that the Congested Districts Board should remain practically as it is responsible to the Scottish Office, and that the remaining—which, after all, is by far the most important—part of agriculture in Scotland should remain with its responsibility to the Board of Agriculture in London and its interests looked after in common with 519 the other agriculturists of the whole country. I do not know that I need say more upon the subject, because it seems to me that at present we have not had any real reason given us why Scottish agriculture is to be separated from the English side of the question, and I should be constantly afraid, if you once set up a separate Department, that there would be continual efforts to get hold of the administration of things which ought to be administered in common. I am very loath to have taken up so much of the time of the House. I think I have made my point clear, and I shall be guided by the course the debate takes as to whether I shall press the Amendment to a Division or not.
Page 4, line 21, leave out ("Secretary for Scotland") and insert ("President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries").—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ LORD PENTLAND
The noble Lord has brought forward a proposal which, of course, goes to the very root of this Bill, and which I had to say on Second Reading was vital to the Bill. The noble Lord assumes that this scheme has been brought forward, not in the interests of Scottish agriculture, but from some notion as to Home Rule. I can assure the noble Lord that the sole consideration which has animated the Government in making this proposal has been how to get the best possible administration of agricultural business for Scotland. I do not wish to controvert what the noble Lord has said. He knows of his own knowledge with regard to agricultural opinion in Scotland that it is quite undeniable that there has been for many years continuous and constant dissatisfaction with the administration of agricultural business in Scotland. There is evidence of that to be found in the proceedings which are published annually of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, of which, if I mistake not, the noble Lord is honorary president—at least, if he is not now he was until quite recently.
§ LORD PENTLAND
The noble Lord will find in the records of that body continual dissatisfaction expressed at the administration of agricultural business in Scotland, and, as I said on Second Reading, 520 that is not due—far be it from me to imply it or to say it—to any defect in the work done by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. It is due to remoteness, to want of familiarity with the conditions, which always characterises administration carried on in Scotland from London. The best proof of what I have said is to be found in the proceedings at Perth, to which the noble Lord referred. Everybody sought for a remedy, and while it was not the case that the proposal which is in this Bill was put forward, it is the case that everybody wanted some change; and I submit that if that is the case and the true condition of opinion the proposals of the Government, which have not varied for four or live years in this matter, are at least deserving of some consideration.
As the noble Lord said, the main, if not the sole, reason for the opposition of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture to this change has been the question of the administration of the Diseases of Animals Act. I shall say what I have to say on that point when my noble friend's Amendment comes before the House, and I shall follow the noble Lord in not dwelling upon that point now. But what I have said as to dissatisfaction applies to the present work carried on in Scotland by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. What is the remedy? The remedy which the noble Lord proposes is that there should be a strengthening of the stall of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in Scotland, that there should be a sub-department located in Scotland to deal with the Scottish business. That system would work in exactly the same way as the present system does. The supreme authority would be in London; reference would have to be made to London, and the same predominant interests—English opinion and English interests—would sway the Board. Those interests are more intimate, they are more insistent, they are more proximate, and with every intention to be fair to more remote interests the people at the door are likely to get the best chance. In confirmation of this view I may quote one of the recent Presidents of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. Mr. Waiter Long, when President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, was interviewed in Edinburgh on this very subject by Sir Mark Stewart and other prominent proprietors and agriculturists in Scotland. They went to him with a proposal for a 521 branch board—exactly what the noble Lord wishes now. Mr. Walter Long, in refusing it, said—Depend upon it you must not make two bites at a cherry. If you are going to alter anything you must alter the whole thing and have a separate and independent Board.That was really the effect of his criticism. He was against it; he thought it would be disastrous; and he said, "]f you are going to make any change at all change it altogether, and do not make an alteration which will not bring you really any nearer to the supreme authority than you now are by posting a letter from Edinburgh to London." That deals with the present work done by the Board supposing there were no Bill and no small holdings and no machinery provided by this Bill to promote new agricultural work.
But the Bill itself proposes that there shall be a Commissioner for Small Holdings. One member of the Board is to be a Commissioner for Small Holdings; he is to initiate schemes for small holdings. Then, again, the general interests of agriculture and of forestry are to be undertaken by the Board. Let me lay some stress upon forestry as an industry in which in the future from its national characteristics Scotland is bound to play the leading part of either of the three countries in this Kingdom. Then there is horticulture, poultry keeping, market gardening, and so forth. I submit that all this work is purely local in character, and to successfully carry it out you must have familiarity and understanding of local conditions and local circumstances. The Congested Districts Board is carrying out such work in the Highlands now, inadequately, perhaps, but still to some good purpose, and I think increasingly so as it is widening its field. Under the Bill the Congested Districts Board disappears, and you get rid of one of these main authorities of which complaint is so frequently made. Under the noble Lord's proposal, on the other hand, the Congested Districts Board remains, and you do not have the economy and the unity and the simplicity which you have under the system of the Bill. You will have two separate administrations. You will have in one part of Scotland the Congested Districts Board promoting agriculture and forestry and poultry keeping and other small industries of the kind, and in the rest of Scotland you will have this branch Department of the Board of Agriculture 522 doing precisely similar work. You will have the Congested Districts Board, unless you make some alteration, making small holdings in the Highland counties. On the other hand, you will have the Commissioner for Small Holdings under the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries making small holdings throughout Scotland, not only in the Lowlands but also in the Highlands. My Lords, I confess I do not see—and I have tried to think—how the small holdings administration under this Bill can possibly be carried out successfully under the proposal of the noble Lord.
Then let me remind the noble Lord, and your Lordships as well, of this. There is a considerable part of agricultural administration now carried on in Scotland besides the work of the Congested Districts Board. There are three Agricultural Colleges which are carrying on not only training, experiments, and research in their colleges, but in the country districts they are carrying out an increasing amount of extension work among the farmers and the farmers' sons and others in these districts. These three colleges are under the Scottish Education Department; they are doing excellent work. what do you propose to do with them? It would. certainly be much more difficult for them to carry on their work if all the other agricultural development work is handed over to the London Department than it would be if, as proposed by the Bill, this work is committed to a Scottish Department working in Edinburgh.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
The noble Lord talks about its being handed over to the London Department. I would point out to him that it is there now. The Agricultural Colleges are going on under the London Department at the present time, and I have never heard of any difficulty or inconvenience having arisen because of that fact.
§ LORD PENTLAND
That may be so, but you are handing over work under this Bill which is far more extensive than any work that has ever been done by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. If the noble Lord will turn to the Schedule which shows the Acts that are administered by the Board of Agriculture he will see that there is nothing which can be called development work in Scotland carried on at all by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. It carries on the administration of the 523 Contagious Diseases Act and the other administration under the eight or ten Acts which are mentioned in the Schedule; but no work of a kind that would assist the development of small holdings and would assist agriculturists generally, and no work of a kind that would promote forestry, is done by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in Scotland. Everything done in these respects has been done either by the colleges working under the Scottish Education Department or by the Congested Districts Board. I must say, in conclusion, that I think this is a most retrograde proposal. It is turning the clock back, and not only wrecking the whole structure of the machinery of this Bill but adding to the expense of administration by preventing what would otherwise prove to be the economy of the abolition of the Congested Districts Board. I can only repeat to your Lordships that I have heard with the deepest regret the noble Lord's proposal, because it is vital to this measure.
§ [The sitting was suspended at eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
My Lords, in considering the question of the government of Scottish agriculture this House has not only a right to be heard but a right to demand that His Majesty's Government should consider fairly the arguments brought forward on the other side. I think that we can fairly complain of the answer which the Secretary for Scotland gave to Lord Balfour. I do believe that members of your Lordships' House honestly consider that there is the bulk of agricultural opinion behind the Amendment of Lord Balfour. We see that not only in the expressions of public opinion which have been given at various meetings of farmers and of Chambers of Agriculture in Scotland, but exactly the same demand has been put forward in the northern part of England. I am sure there is hardly a Peer here who does not receive from day to day numbers of communications from individuals and societies stating their objections to this Bill. We have a right to be heard, because these are not questions in which one can say that any prejudice such as that concerning landlordism has played a part. It is a question affecting the tenants much more than the landlords. The landlords do not farm any extensive amount of land compared with that which the tenants 524 farm, and the question is one of making the agriculture of Scotland more prosperous than it is now.
I do think that Peers know more about agriculture than some of the Scottish Members in another place. If you look through the list of those gentlemen you will see that a large portion come from this side of the Border, and a considerable portion have no knowledge at all of land, or only what they derive when they visit it, probably at one time in the year. Speaking of the Highland representatives, there is only one man I believe, certainly there are very few, who bear even a Scottish name. The majority of them may have done a summer or two through the Highlands, but as to getting to know the agricultural question—well, you have only to listen to the House of Commons debates to learn how uncommonly little they know of the subject at all. Therefore I do think we have a right to have our arguments considered fairly. The noble Lord, Lord Pentland, argued against the statement of Lord Balfour as if the idea was that the Department of Agriculture should be sitting in London. We propose by this Amendment to have a Department sitting in Edinburgh, composed entirely of Scotsmen, in touch with the people and the agricultural interests there; which is a very great move from what we have now. I remember also that Lord Pentland mentioned that these men would have greater powers of initiation; but the President of the Board of Agriculture sits in London, and so does the Secretary for Scotland. There is no difference, provided you have got your Department of Agriculture in Scotland. You would have all the advantage of not being guided, perhaps, by the Secretary for Scotland, but by a man appointed ad hoc for his knowledge; and though the Secretary for Scotland may be omniscient he is not appointed primarily to look after agriculture. Presumably your President in the past has been a man chosen for his particular knowledge of the subject, and we would sooner have a man chosen for his special knowledge of the subject with which he has to deal.
As to Lord Pentland's argument that this is a wrecking proposal, I would like to take exception to that. It is not so very far differentiated from Lord Pentland's own suggestion. He suggests that this body should be under the Secretary for 525 Scotland. We suggest that it should be under the Board of Agriculture, and that instead of having the Department separate it should be a subordinate branch of the Board. It would carry out exactly the same function. There is no reason why the men should be changed. The gentlemen whom Lord Pentland has his eye on to be there, instead of being responsible to the Scottish Department, will be responsible to the people to whom they ought to be responsible—namely, to the Board of Agriculture. So much for what the Secretary for Scotland has said.
May I be allowed to touch in the briefest way possible on our overwhelming case, as we hold it to be, for a sub-department of the Board of Agriculture? We regard as the most important of all questions in this connection that of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. We consider that all important; the whole of the agricultural interests are concerned with it, and every single owner or farmer of land is interested in it, because without the certainty of overcoming disease you cannot get that fixity of prices by which alone farmers can hope to compete. Agriculture has sufficient variety of disadvantages to fight against without introducing another disadvantage in the shape of disease. We have in Scotland some of the best blood in the various breeds of cattle and of sheep, not only in the British Isles, but in the world. A considerable portion of our stock is not consumed in the country, but goes out to better the breeds in other parts of the world—to the Argentine, Australia, Africa, and so on. By a, double control and the lack of similarity in method and the lack of rapidity in dealing with disease we would risk very considerably the chance of spreading infection.
I would point out again what I consider is a most important matter. The British Isles is the only country in Europe practically clear of foot-and-mouth disease. The whole Continent is seized with it. The returns from America show that it is very prevalent in many parts there. If we have a satisfactory condition of things now, why in the name of fortune should we change it? The question of development, which, may I say, Lord Balfour touched very lightly, also concerns the Board of Agriculture at the present moment. No society has voted in favour of Lord Pentland's measure. At the present moment the farmers farm three-fifths, 526 probably five-sixths, of the whole of Scotland, and we ought to be allowed to consider the opinion of those people.
Then on the question of research, how much better shall we be placed if we are in touch with the authorities? What difference is there in the various lines of inquiry we want to have as between England and Scotland? There are the same breeds of cattle; even our black-faced sheep you get in the south of England now. Where is the difference? Would it not be advisable to make one inquiry rather than have all inquiries duplicated or going over the same ground? It is all important that we should have our Department of Agriculture in touch with and subject to the same control as your Board of Agriculture here. Then there are two other points which Lord Pentland raised. He talked of forestry, and I would like to ask whether it is not the fact that he is going to take forestry out of the control of the Department? Certainly he sent a letter the other day to say he was going to appoint a Board—
§ LORD PENTLAND
I do not wish to interrupt, but what I said to the Arboricultural Society was really what I said on the Second Reading on this subject—that it was not the intention of the Government to name one of the three members of the Board as a Commissioner for Forestry, but that it was our intention that there should be under this Board of Agriculture, as an integral part of its administrative machinery, a department dealing with forestry; and I am glad to say that I have since received a letter expressing the gratification of the society on that score.
I am sure every one will receive with pleasure the statement of the Secretary for Scotland, and will agree that it will tend very considerably to advance matters. But if you are going to have a department for administering this branch, why should it not form a portion of the sub-department of the Board of Agriculture sitting in Scotland?
Now as to the congested districts areas, I must say that I think there are two points where there may be some difficulty. I see, on the one hand, that under the suggestion made by Lord Balfour the Congested Districts Board would still exist. I think there is something to be said on that. We in the north of Scotland, at all events, shall welcome the £87,000 voted 527 by the Conservative Government which is not to be taken away from the congested area; and that, no doubt, would be so if Lord Balfour's Amendment were carried. We would also be very glad to receive in that very poor part of the country the £35,000 as certain, instead of the further £15,000 problematical. I can quite imagine, from the congested area point of view, this being received very well, but, on the other hand, I do see there is a great deal of force in the argument of the Secretary for Scotland that you do not want to have two bodies administering in Scotland. But may I ask the noble Lord why should not this sub-department of the Board of Agriculture undertake these duties? The duties of the Congested Districts Board as at the present moment carried out are very well set out on page 1 of their last year's Report. I need not go into them in detail, but I say that there is not a single one of these congested district duties which could not be carried out by the Board of Agriculture. There is aiding and developing agriculture, providing suitable seeding, making provision for crofters, the migration of crofters, aiding and developing fishing—exactly the work of the Board of Agriculture. Why should it go to another body? Then these men are not going to be, as Lord Pentland appeared to imply, some alien body out there, but Scotsmen in Scotland who are going to administer Scottish affairs. And why should not they also go in for improving lighthouses, piers, bridges, footpaths, and so on? That is all part of the development referred to. And then there is aiding spinning and weaving, and so forth. That seems to be all part of agricultural and fishery matters. There was only the sum of £764 spent last year in Scotland in that respect, so that it will not make much odds what you do with it; and in the development of industries £63 only was spent. Therefore when the point comes, which I think occurs in Clause 28, as to whether the Congested Districts Board should form part of the Department in Scotland or whether it should be in London, that can best be discussed at that stage. But I submit now that it would be better for the Congested Districts Board to be merged entirely into the Department for Scotland, because the duties are absolutely those which the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries through these Scotsmen placed in Edinburgh could best perform in the interests of Scotland as a whole.
§ *LORD BURGHCLERE had an Amendment later on the Paper to amend subsection 11 (a)—
§ (11) It shall be lawful for the Secretary for Scotland from time to time by order under his hand—
- (a) To direct that from and after the date fixed by the order such powers and duties of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries exercisable in or in relation to Scotland as may with the consent of the Treasury be specified in the order, shall be transferred to the Board, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as may with the like consent be prescribed in the order.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have an Amendment on the Paper as to the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, an Amendment which I believe is warmly supported by English and Scottish agriculturists and would, if accepted, be considered as a satisfactory way of meeting the anticipated danger of the proposed transference. But I am placed in rather a strange position, because, obviously, if Lord Balfour carries his Amendment mine will be shut out, and I shall have no opportunity of putting my case. I would venture to say, with regard to the proposed sub-department, that it may be called, in my humble opinion, a counsel of perfection. My noble friend is not the first person who has thought of setting up such a sub-department. As far back as 1892 some of us had dreams of a department and offices in Edinburgh, with officials in close and continuous and intimate touch with special Scottish interest, but we certainly never dreamed of making that department independent, or of transferring to it the administration of these highly important Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts.
§ Had the setting up of a sub-department been the original proposition of the Government, I would say with all respect that it would have been a wise and statesmanlike act, and I think it would have received the approval of agriculturists generally. But that was not the course adopted. A more ambitious plan has been before the country for some time past—namely, that of setting up in Scotland an independent 529 Board of Agriculture solely for that country. That proposition has been before Scotland for a good many years. It has been put forward at two General Elections, and it has been mentioned at by-elections. It has been proposed by two Cabinets, and it has been several times before the House of Commons. The Third Reading of this Bill was passed there only the other day without a dissentient voice and therefore, with all my predisposition to favour the noble Lord's Amendment, I think it would be impossible for any Government in such circumstances to accept so drastic an alteration of their measure; moreover, to expect the House of Commons to reverse their verdict would be to expect too much. Therefore although I think that it may be the counsel of perfection, I could not myself under the present circumstances give the Amendment that whole-hearted support which I should have done at an earlier period and under different conditions.
§ But, on the other hand, my noble friend's Amendment has a bearing on the very important question of the transference of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts to an independent Board of Agriculture in Scotland, and I would ask the indulgence of the House if I go somewhat fully—I hope not too fully—into the reasons why such a proposal seems, I believe almost generally, very dangerous to British farmers and stock breeders. If you transferred these Acts to an independent body in Scotland you would obviously destroy the central authority and you would set up in the island of Great Britain a divided or dual control. In my humble opinion that would be a great and serious mischief. We have only to look back to what has been brought about for agriculture by the central authority, which has been in force now for a good number of years, to see what danger will result if we return to the conditions which existed a great many years ago. Those of us who are unfortunately old enough to remember it, know that prior to the establishment of the central authority to administer these Acts the duty of suppressing cattle diseases rested with local authorities. I have no hesitation in saying that the condition that ensued was chaos, and chaos of a very extensive nature. Luckily since 1877 we have had no outbreak in this country of cattle plague, or what used to 530 be called rinderpest, but some of its can remember when it came into this country and wrought great havoc over Great Britain and entailed an enormous expense on the ratepayers of the country. I have been told of one county in the west of England in which during one outbreak of rinderpest no less than £10,000 a year was entailed upon the ratepayers in that county, and I am not at all sure that they are not paying it at the present moment.
§ Then a central authority was set up. Originally it was an Agricultural Committee of the Privy Council, under the direction of the Lord President, and then in 1889 the present Board of Agriculture was instituted. I know your Lordships do not like to be troubled with figures, but I must give a few to show what great success followed the establishment of one central supreme authority for Great Britain with regard to the administration of these Acts. Perhaps I had better say, first, that there are two major diseases of animals which afflict farmers—pleuro-pneumonia, and foot-and-mouth disease. In 1883 there were 75 counties in Great Britain afflicted with foot-and-month disease; there were 18,752 outbreaks of that disease; 219,289 cattle, 277,492 sheep, and 24,332 pigs were affected by that disease all at the same time. With regard to pleuro-pneumonia, 40 counties were affected—there were 439 outbreaks. That was rather a good year for pleuro-pneumonia, and I could quote easily another year in which 71 counties were affected and in which there were thousands of outbreaks. What is the position at the present moment, after twenty-two years or more of the Board of Agriculture? My Lords, the last statistics are these. In 1910 there were 3 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, and 13 cattle affected; there is no pleuro-pneumonia in the country at all, and it has not existed for the last eleven years. Now what I say—and I say it with some knowledge of the matter—is that the main factor in bringing about this most satisfactory result to our farmers is the existence of a central and sole authority for the whole of Great Britain. If that the case I think we are justified in asking why this central authority should be destroyed, and what arguments there are which should induce us to reverse a policy which has been so highly successful. I confess that personally I have heard none. 531 I have read many letters and articles in newspapers in support of the proposition, but I am bound to say that I could not find in any one of them anything of a convincing nature.
§ There are two arguments, it is true—specious arguments—which might affect those who are not thoroughly acquainted with the subject. But, in the view of those who really know, I venture to think that these two arguments contain the minimum of knowledge and the maximum of misunderstanding. I will now state to your Lordships, if I am not detaining you too long, those two arguments, and tell you the answer to them. In the first place it is said that stock breeders in England and elsewhere in Great Britain are made very nervous by this Bill, because they are afraid that if you set up an independent Department in Scotland there may be some future Minister—it may be under some scheme of Home Rule—who will be foolish enough or ignorant enough to let animals into that country from some infected place on the Continent. That is absolutely a mistake, say these gentlemen. You have got Mr. Walter Long's Act of 1896 which orders that every animal is to be slaughtered at the port and not allowed into the interior of the land, and you are perfectly safe, they say, because Mr. Long's Act can only be reversed by an Act of Parliament, and therefore the admission of animals by some foolish Minister in some part of the country would be quite impossible. My Lords, the people who say that do not know what Mr. Long's Act means. Mr. Long's Act is directed amongst minor diseases against one major disease, that is pleuro-pneumonia, and its success has been enormous, for, as I have already said, we have not had a case of that kind for eleven years. But it is not a safeguard against foot-and-mouth disease, and for this reason—if I am not getting too scientific. Pleuro-pneumonia is one of those diseases that can only be communicated by what is called "immediate infection" —that is to say, the diseased animal must cone into contact with the healthy animal before the latter can contract the malady. But foot-and-mouth disease and cattle plague are conveyed by what is called "mediate infection"—that is to say, if the animal has got into the country, even at the ports, and any one has been near it, even an animal, perhaps a bird, 532 infection can be carried all over the country at a moment's notice. Therefore slaughtering at the ports is no remedy against foot and mouth disease. The power of prohibiting animals absolutely from landing in the country, which is the only remedy, still rests with the Minister of Agriculture, and that power would undoubtedly be transferred to an independent Minister in Scotland.
§ It may be said, that the two Ministers would act in unison, but when you come to a lesser area than the whole, the pressure that is brought to bear upon a Minister is far greater than it is when the Minister represents the whole country. I know a case in which some people in Scotland were very anxious to upset the Minister for Agriculture of the day. Some time ago in the nineties, it was found necessary to prevent the introduction of Canadian cattle from the Dominion on account of the prevalence of pleuro-pneumonia there. Many people in Scotland resented that action, because a great many Scottish feeders were accustomed to get their store cattle from Canada, and they thought they got them cheaper than from Ireland. A great agitation was set up in Scotland, deputations were sent to London and resolutions passed, and Members of Parliament moved in the House on it. My Lords, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that bad there been at that time a purely Scottish Minister invested with this power, he would have found it extremely difficult to have resisted the very powerful influences in Scotland that were then at work against him. All the same, I think that the Board of Agriculture of that day was not mistaken in what it did, because in 1802, in the year that. Canada was scheduled, ten counties in England were affected with pleuro-pnuemonia; there were thirty-five outbreaks, and 3,477 cattle were slaughtered; whereas three years afterwards, in 1895, there was only one county affected, and only one outbreak.
§ The other argument, which, as I have said, is a specious one, is what I will call the analogy of the Irish Agricultural Board. It is said, "Oh, you have an independent Board in Ireland with full and plenary powers and with a Minister of their own who administers these Contagious Diseases Acts. It has been a great success there; 533 why should you not have that also in Scotland? "The reason, I think, is very obvious. Between Great Britain and Ireland there is a great stretch of sea, between Scotland and England there is nothing but a land frontier. If under any possible conditions an Irish Minister were to let in any diseased animals from foreign countries, which he might do under the powers which I pointed out just now, and he allowed them to land at the ports for slaughter, then of course the British Board of Agriculture if it did its duty would absolutely prohibit the landing of Irish cattle in this country, and it would undoubtedly do so under those circumstances whether there was disease in Ireland or not. As long as they let animals from a country in which there is disease enter Ireland, one may look upon Ireland as merely a funnel by which disease might come from foreign countries into this country. But supposing the same thing happened in Scotland, how could you possibly hold the frontier of Scotland against disease? It would be almost impossible to stop stray cattle or sheep crossing the Border. There would be much the same difficulty as the Canadians feel with regard to their long land frontier. If there is disease in America itself the introduction of it into Canada may occasionally take place whatever precautions may be taken.
§ Now, my Lords, this transference of the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts to a purely Scottish Minister not only destroys the sole central authority in Great Britain, but, I venture to think, also weakens and endangers certain important qualifications in the Minister which are absolutely necessary for the successful administration of these particular Acts. One thing that is necessary is what I may call firmness of administration—not only with your officials but against all pressure, whether it be your own Party pressure or Parliamentary pressure. I could not give a better example than by referring to the way in which Mr. Long cleared this country of hydrophobia. Everybody knows the opposition there was to that measure. Almost everybody who had a dog objected to having it muzzled. There was a strong agitation in the country. It was made, I am almost ashamed to say, one of the subjects at by-elections, and yet Mr. Long stood firm, and we are at this day one of the very few countries whose inhabitants 534 need not dread that most terrible disease. If Mr. Long had been the Minister of only a portion of the country, however important that portion might be, and if the agitation had been especially strong in that portion of the country, he would have found it extremely difficult, courageous as he might be, to maintain his position in this matter. Mr. Long spoke as the Minister for Great Britain, and therefore he spoke with authority, and naturally he carried his point.
§ There is only one other subject to which I wish to refer with regard to the transference of these powers. It carried out it may very reasonably and possibly interfere with another important point of administration—promptitude of action. There is nothing so essential to carrying out these Acts successfully as acting promptly and at once. I remember a good many years ago an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, in London of all places. It was late in the Autumn. It was not so very far off the Cattle Show, from which you will see what great danger would have come about had it spread amongst the prize animals gathered together in the metropolis. That outbreak, as soon as announced almost, was scheduled, officials were sent immediately, the infected area was surrounded, and in, I think, not more than a few weeks the disease was suppressed, and so effectively that very few people in London knew it had occurred. Well, such an outbreak as that might also easily happen on the borders between Scotland and England, and if you had two Ministers it is quite possible that those Ministers might differ as to what their action ought to be. I know that all members of all Governments live together in brotherly love; but Departments very often differ on subjects which are of interest to both Departments and differ sometimes very strongly. These two Departments might very well differ in such a case; it is quite probable they would. The veterinary officer on one side might take a view of the diagnosis different from that of the other officer. And what would result? Delay might result whilst the two Departments were coming together, and that delay would be fatal to the administration of these Acts, because a delay of hours. to say nothing of days, would be a source of infinite danger in the case of highly infectious diseases, not only to the locality affected, but practically throughout the whole of Great Britain.535
§ Then, again, when outbreaks take place it is necessary to send down at once a sufficient number of veterinary and other inspectors. At the present moment the British Board of Agriculture has 112 inspectors, veterinary and other, at its disposal. Those inspectors are not confined to England; they are British and go also to Scotland. But in Scotland, allocated to Scotland for special Scottish purposes, there are only five inspectors and one veterinary officer. Therefore it is easy to see what would happen if you set up an independent Board for Scotland to-morrow and cut it off from the British Board and made the British Board into an English Board. The latter would still require a large number of inspectors; but the whole of those inspectors now are at the service naturally of Scotland. My noble friend Lord Carrington knows very well that in 1908 there were outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Scotland. What did he do? He sent down a proper number of these inspectors to Scotland, and the disease was promptly suppressed. Therefore you must only have, as now allocated, five inspectors for Scotland, or you must set up in that country a great number of what I should call unnecessary inspectors, and at a very high expense.
§ What expert opinion is there behind the proposition of my noble friend in this Bill? Expert opinion I say advisedly, because you would not stop a man in the street and ask his opinion casually as to whether a microbe was of a particular nature, or how you ought to set about the culture of a particular bacillus. You go at once to an expert. These Acts are based upon science and are carried out in a scientific manner. Now what is the opinion of agricultural experts in Great Britain on this subject? I think I am right in saying that all the great agricultural societies of England with their expert knowledge are against the proposition in the Bill. And in Scotland the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, which represents all the associations of Scotland and which has, I understand, amongst its members 16,000 farmers, voted against a Scottish Board of Agriculture and put forward as a main reason the danger of the transference of the administration of these particular Contagious Diseases Acts in Scotland to a Board independent of the central authority.
§ Then, my Lords, what is the opinion of 536 those on whose shoulders the burden of administering these Acts has fallen during the last twenty years? Mr. Chaplin is against the proposal in the Bill, and he was the first President of the Board of Agriculture. Mr. Walter Long is against it. So also is Sir Ailwyn Fellowes. As to Mr. Hanbury, unfortunately he is no more with us and therefore I cannot state his opinion definitely, but nobody who followed his strenuous career could for a moment doubt what that opinion would be. Another Minister of Agriculture, lately passed away, Lord Onslow, so much respected by all agriculturists, was against it. I can speak with confidence of his opinion, because I often discussed the matter with him, and I know that in putting down my Amendment I am not merely carrying out his wishes but his ardent desires.
§ There is only one other point of general interest upon which I wish to touch. It is said that the establishment of this proposed new Board of Agriculture is much desired by those who are in favour of Home Rule for Scotland. They think that the establishment of a separate Department, with full powers in a Scottish Minister of their own, is a principal stepping stone, an important stepping stone, towards the fulfillment of their wishes. All I can say about that is that the transference of the administration of these special Acts to a Scottish Department is going beyond any Home Rule that ever entered into the minds of the wildest Home Ruler, and I will show the House why. What is the definition, the authoritative, accepted definition of Home Rule for Ireland? It is control over purely local, purely Irish affairs. Now I suppose for Scotland it would be the same—control over purely local and purely Scottish affairs. But cattle disease as long as Scotland remains an integral part of Great Britain is not a purely local affair, nor a purely Scottish affair; it is a British affair. If that is the kind of Home Rule that Home Rulers desire there, we might as well give them the Post Office, and I venture to think that, when the people understand what it means, this proposition will not further the cause of Home Rule amongst the intelligent electorate of Great Britain.
§ I have gone fully—I hope at not too great length—into this subject, and I did so because it is one that is little discussed 537 and little understood. It is very technical, not suitable for platforms, and very dull, as I have no doubt your Lordships have discovered for yourselves during the progress of my speech. But at the same time it is a question of the highest importance to agriculture. It is, moreover, the most important, as it is the most successful, duty the Board of Agriculture has to perform. It is a question that affects most vitally the interests of breeders and feeders in the United Kingdom, and during the lust twenty-two years hundreds of thousands, nay possibly millions, of pounds have been saved to the country and to agricultural interests through the proper administration of these Acts. Therefore if I had an opportunity of moving my Amendment—and I am afraid I shall not—I should have hoped that it would have received favourable consideration, not only from this House but from the Government, because I believe that in opposing this proposed transference of the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts to an independent Scottish Minister I have at my back the almost unanimous support of the expert agriculturists of Great Britain.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat clown has addressed the House with the knowledge and experience of a past-President of the Board of Agriculture, and all he has said mast surely command the sympathy and approval of the great majority of your Lordships. for myself, at any rate, I may say this, that I think he has dealt with what I may call the crux of the question, but at the same time the subject of the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts is not, perhaps, directly raised by the Amendment now before the House. However, it is indirectly raised, and therefore the noble Lord was quite within his right in making the speech he did, because no doubt if the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Balfour is carried, though it might not be practically impassible, it would be technically difficult for Lord Burghclere to move his Amendment. The Amendment of Lord Balfour proposes that this body which is to have power with regard to agricultural affairs in Scotland should be a merely subordinate department of the Board of Agriculture, and clearly, that being so, there would not technically be a divided administration 538 of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts in the two Kingdoms.
I sympathise most thoroughly with all that my noble friend Lord Balfour has said with regard to the mistake, as it seems to me it is, of the proposal to divide the Board of Agriculture in Great Britain. I should like to see the Board of Agriculture in Great Britain maintained precisely as it is, with power over the whole Kingdom, administered from Whitehall. That is what we have at present, and I believe it is the best thing. But now we have to choose between the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Balfour, who would set up a Committee of the Board of Agriculture at Edinburgh subordinate—so he thinks—to the Board of Agriculture in London, and the proposal of His Majesty's Government for a separate Board of Agriculture for Scotland. Now if I could believe that a separate Committee of the Board of Agriculture once set up at Edinburgh would continue subordinate to the Board of Agriculture in London I might be more favourably disposed towards my noble friend's proposal. But I have had some experience of public administration, and I am quite sure of this, that if you were to set up a Department of the kind, from the very moment that it was set up, it would endeavour to attract to itself more and more authority over Scottish agriculture, as compared with the authority of its nominal superior, the Board of Agriculture in London.
Now let us see how it would be set up. The Secretary for Scotland is a member of the Board of Agriculture ex officio. We may be quite sure—it would be his duty—that the Secretary for Scotland would take care that the Committee set up under my noble friend's proposal was a purely Scottish Committee, that it was representative of what he believed to be simply and solely Scottish opinion, and that it would do what it had to do in administration or in recommendation to the Head Office in London in accordance with Scottish opinion. It would be, in fact, a separate tribunal front the Head Office in London. I believe it would be perfectly certain that that tribunal would become practically independent of the Board of Agriculture in London. And why? What is the reason for setting it up at all? It is because you want some kind of separate 539 administration in Scotland of matters connected with agriculture. That is the principle on which it is to be set up. That, I think, would result from my noble friend's proposal. It would, to my mind, be very much like taking two bites at a cherry, and I think the opinion which Lord Pentland quoted from Mr. Long upon this subject was a wise opinion, and it is one with which I cordially agree.
On the other hand, what is the proposal of the Government? It is to set up a Board of Agriculture with power to administer for Scotland all the Acts relating to agriculture, as a separate authority from the Board of Agriculture in London. Well, my Lords, I dislike that proposal, but I dislike it mainly on account of the very matter which Lord Burghclere dwelt upon with such force—namely, the question of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts. If you were to retain the administration of the Diseases of Animals Acts in the Board of Agriculture in London and make almost all otherpower over to a Board of Agriculture in Edinburgh, I do not believe you would be doing very much harm. At any rate you would not do the infinite mischief that would be done by a divided administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts by two authorities in the United Kingdom. I must say that of all proposals that could be made by His Majesty's Government I believe nothing could be more hateful to every fanner in England than that, and from what has been said to-night I believe it to be objectionable to the farmers in Scotland. Then why is it to be made? Simply, as far as I know, because it is supposed to have the support of the Scottish Members in the other House. I have never been able to understand, why Scottish agriculturists have not the same influence over the Members for Scottish counties as agriculturists in England have over their Members. I do not profess to have a knowledge of Scottish affairs, but that does appear to be the case. I am quite sure that, whatever his political opinions, you would not find an English county Member representing anything that could be called an agricultural district who would not vote against the proposal of His Majesty's Government upon this matter.
Now is it not possible for His Majesty's Government to yield to what has been said with such force and power by one of 540 their own supporters, Lord Burghclere? Is it not possible for them to exempt the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts from the powers of the Scottish Board of Agriculture? I do not say that it is a good thing to set up a separate Scottish Board of Agriculture at all, but I do feel that the matter has now gone so far that it is extremely difficult for your Lordships to resist it. It has been supported, no doubt, by the great body of Scottish opinion in another place. It has been the policy of His Majesty's Government for years past; they have practically nailed their flag to the mast upon the subject, and there could be no reasonable doubt in the minds of any of us that if this proposal is struck out of this Bill the Bill would be dropped for the session, and would not at any rate for some time become law. Do any of your Lordships desire that, because of the difference, which in my belief would not be a permanent difference, between the proposal of my noble friend Lord Balfour and the proposal of His Majesty's Government upon this subject, the Bill should be lost for this session? In my belief the point we ought to insist upon, and as to which I believe we shall be backed up by the great body of agricultural opinion in the whole of Great Britain, is the exclusion of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts from the power of the new Scottish Board of Agriculture. Let us insist at whatever cost, even the loss of the Bill if necessary, that there shall not be in this island a divided authority upon that most important subject, and I believe we shall have with us the support of everybody interested in agriculture both in Scotland and in England.
§ LORD REAY
My Lords, I rise to ask my noble friend the Secretary for Scotland to accept Lord Burghclere's Amendment. I think His Majesty's Government would be well advised to give satisfaction in this respect. It is the absolute and general demand of nearly all experts on the subject north arid south of the Tweed. With regard to the proposed Board of Agriculture, I think that we in Scotland ought to have a Board of Agriculture within easy access of all those who have any agricultural interest to put before it. I need only point out that the Bill which we are at present discussing has not been introduced by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries but by the Scottish Office. It 541 strikes me that it would be very abnormal in the case of a Bill introduced by one Department to give the administration of it to another Department. I am fully aware of the excellent work achieved in Scotland by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, and of the great experience which during recent years it has gathered. But, on the other hand, when we see how admirably agricultural education has been developed in Scotland by the Scottish Education Department, I do not see that there is any reason to doubt that if we obtain a separate Board of Agriculture, that Board will, under the guidance of the Scottish Office, be of immense use for the development of agriculture and forestry, and that, at all events, there will be plenty of work for it to do. I need only point out what has been done for agriculture in Ireland by the Irish Board of Agriculture, and the same results will I think accrue in Scotland if the choice of the members who will constitute the Board in Scotland is made with great care and discrimination, for obviously the members of that Board will have great influence in the exercise of the powers which they will have to give effect to the provisions of this Bill. I agree with what has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, that if the Amendment of Lord Balfour of Burleigh were accepted the situation thereby created would inevitably develop in destroying the control of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries over the department which would then become independent. There is another proposal which has been put forward—namely, that the Scottish Board of Agriculture should be represented in another place by one of its members. Sooner or later that result may follow, but for the present I do not think it would be desirable to create this appointment. I shall vote against the proposal of Lord Balfour, but I shall feel bound to vote for the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Burghclere.
§ LORD PENTLAND
Perhaps it might be convenient if I stated the opinion of His Majesty's Government on this question of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts which is raised by the Amendment and speech of my noble friend Lord Burghclere. I should like to say that I recognise the spirit in which the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, has advised the House in this matter. There are two points of view from which this matter is considered: 542 one the point of view of English farmers and English agricultural opinion generally, and the other—as to which I do not express any opinion at this moment—the point of view of Scottish opinion and of Scottish farmers. Various noble Lords have severely criticised the Government for so directly flying in the face of what is deemed to be the unanimous Scottish agricultural opinion adverse to the proposal in the Bill. I would fain be as little controversial as possible and therefore shall be brief, but your Lordships will perhaps allow me to draw attention to a passage from a letter which appeared in the Morning Post on the day of the Second Reading of this Bill. It was written by a member of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture. He is not known to me, and he describes himself as a Unionist in politics. These are his words—So far as the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture is concerned, the majority present at the different meetings where this subject was discussed (lid vote against the separation, but there was always a very respectable minority, and, as a member of that minority and later a director of that body, I have always maintained that the Chamber on this question did not represent the true views of the great mass of agriculturists "—
§ LORD PENTLAND
So be it. The writer proceeds—So far as the first meeting was concerned, one has only to know how the meeting was got up and to remember the names of those present to realise that it was in no way a representative gathering,and so forth.
§ LORD PENTLAND
Mr. James Elder. Instead of giving my own opinion, I quote that opinion which is easily accessible. I can assure noble Lords that from members of local authorities concerned in the control of these diseases, from practical agriculturists, from owners of stock, and from those engaged in the selling of stock, I have opinions' heartily supporting the proposals of the Government. I say this simply to assure the House that this proposal has not been inserted in the Bill 543 and has not remained in the Bill without substantial support being behind it. Much of the criticism which has been levelled at this proposal proceeds on the assumption that we in Scotland do not recognise the importance of keeping that country as well as England free from contagious diseases. On the contrary, it is entirely from a desire and belief that we can in Scotland make the administration of these Acts more efficient, and therefore a better protection for Scotland and for England, that we make this proposal.
In the first place there is the question of delay. Can it be maintained for a moment that more prompt administrative action cannot be taken by a Board located in Edinburgh than when everything has to be referred for decision to a Board in London? I could cite cases where disease has existed in a locality for eight or twelve days before it has been publicly announced, and in our belief all these delays might have been greatly reduced if an authority more accessible to farmers was absolutely on the spot. Then let me mention another point in which this presses very hardly upon Scottish farmers. This year there has been an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in England. There has been no foot-and-mouth disease in Scotland, yet the export of pedigree stock from Scotland has been prohibited because of the existence of the disease in England. A number of Ayrshire cattle were bought early this year for export, but their export has been forbidden because of the foot-and-mouth disease in England.
§ LORD PENTLAND
But surely it is possible to imagine an efficient Board in England and an efficient Board in Scotland under circumstances which would not inflict a disability on one country when it was free from diseased? This brings me to the question of the Board, and I confess I cannot follow my noble friend in comparing the Scottish Border of eighty miles, fifty or sixty of which is river and mountain, every acre of which is closely farmed and confined by fences on either side—I cannot follow Lord Burghclere when he compares the difficulty of preventing disease crossing that Border with the Canadian Border of 2,200 miles, where, as he knows, there cannot be the same control. Moreover, with the exception of 544 a few sheep, the great mass of stock go by rail. The great export from Scotland is fat cattle, and they go by rail, and hundreds and thousands of sheep travel in the same way from Scotland to England.
But I did not rise to dwell upon this point, but rather to endeavour, so far as I am able, to meet the suggestion of the noble Viscount. In saying what I have said on this point, I have merely touched the fringe of the subject in order to assure your Lordships that the Government and those who have advised them in this matter have proceeded on what, in their opinion, is wholly substantial ground. Scottish farmers do not see why their country should not be as free from disease as England or freer than England. From its proximity to the Continent, from the large number of ports through which there is a traffic from the Continent, from its very much larger area, England is much more prone to disease than Scotland, and it is solely owing to a recognition of the importance of freeing the country from disease, and from the belief that a Scottish authority would be at least competent to keep Scotland free from disease and so aid in the protection of English flocks and herds as well as their own, that the Government have made this proposal. But I recognise that the opinion of this House is overwhelmingly against what the Government propose in this respect, and it was not my intention, had the Amendment of Lord Burghclere been reached—or if it be reached it is not my intention—to advise my noble friends to divide against the Amendment, and I shall represent to my colleagues the strong views which are held by this House on this subject. I differentiate this point from the general question of the establishment of a Board of Agriculture for Scotland. That is a vital and integral part of our proposal, and from that, my Lords, I am afraid I cannot budge.
§ LORD CLINTON
My Lords, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, in moving his Amendment, stated very clearly the objections which Scottish agriculturists have to the proposals under this Bill for a separate Board of Agriculture in Scotland. I had intended to add many objections which have come to me from a large number of agriculturists in England, but the admirable remarks we heard from Lord Burghclere make it, I think, unnecessary for me to deal with that particular matter, and 545 I should like to say how gratified we are at his admirable contribution to this particular part of the debate. We do recognise, from his own personal knowledge and the authority which he has obtained as a President of the Board of Agriculture, that he brings weight to bear in this particular debate which none or very few of us are able to do. I agree very largely with a good deal of what the noble Lord has told us. He described the present Amendment of Lord Balfour as "a counsel of perfection." I gather he would like to have supported it, but he has been unable to do so because he considers the last two General Elections in Scotland have settled the question. Is not that attaching too great importance to the General Elections that have taken place? I admit it would have been reasonable if the Secretary for Scotland had said that in consequence of those elections they could say that Scotland had supported the Small Holdings Bill. But in going to one detail of this, and the Board of Agriculture is only a detail—to say, because at the General Elections in Scotland the electors returned a larger number of Liberals as compared with Unionists, that therefore the whole of Scotland was in favour of this separation, and to use that as an argument against the Amendment of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, is, I think, going a great deal too far.
The noble Lord opposite, Lord Burghclere, spoke in the highest terms of the absolute necessity for a central and supreme authority for the administration of the Diseases of Animals Acts. In that the noble Lord agrees with letters which I have received from a large number of Chambers of Agriculture in England pointing out the grave danger of any decentralisation of the management of these Acts. Lord Burghclere also paid a very high tribute —one which we will all gladly acknowledge—to the management of these diseases by the Board in recent years. I know agriculturists themselves acknowledge the debt of gratitude which they owe to the Board and its very efficient staff for keeping down the spread of these diseases. But the noble Lord told us that his Amendment, which he fears he may not be able to propose, would be a satisfactory settlement of the question. I understand the noble Viscount, speaking for the Front Opposition Bench, agrees with that.
§ LORD CLINTON
The noble Viscount says it is all we shall get. But is it the best solution of the question? The Secretary for Scotland, on behalf of the Government, has, f understand, offered not to oppose it. I admit at once that if you can prevent the separation of the administration of these Acts you are doing a very great thing. Yon are doing that which English agriculturalists ask for, at all events, and which they would be satisfied with, but I would like the noble Lord to consider this. Supposing you do carry, even with the consent of the Government, this keeping of the administration of these Acts under the English Board and at the same time set up a separate Board for Scotland, how long will the separate Board for Scotland allow this English and therefore alien Board to exercise any control over their field of agriculture? I do not believe it possible that the noble Lord himself could withstand the pressure which would be brought to get an alteration of that arrangement. Consider what happens now in an ordinary outbreak of disease. A certain area has to be scheduled. It is very difficult indeed for any one to describe or define that area. You will get the very gravest objection from anybody who happens to be, unfortunately, within that area, and if the slightest thing went wrong with the administration in Scotland I do not think the Secretary for Scotland could prevent bringing forward a measure to bring the management of these diseases entirely under his own Board. That is my objection to this proposal. I do not think English agriculturists should be put off with the idea that it will be in any sense a permanent arrangement. If the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh is carried, there would be no difficulty about the matter. It would remain under the management of the British Board, not the English Board but the Board responsible for the agricultural management of the whole of the kingdom, and I have no doubt whatever that it would be a lasting arrangement.
The proposal to set up this separate Board for Scotland, as has been shown, has received very strong opposition in Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Pentland, has read a communication from, I presume, an eminent agriculturist doubting whether 547 it is the fact that there is such an opposition. I understood from the letter that he was doubting whether the people of Scotland generally were opposed to the separation of the two countries in this matter. There may be a large number of people in Scotland who would like to have a separate Board entirely for agricultural work, but I do not believe there is any body of agriculturists, indeed no agriculturist as far as I know, willing to have the management of agriculture put into the hands of the Scottish Office. That is the main objection which Scottish agriculturists have always taken to the measure, and I do find it difficult to understand why the Government themselves should be so bent upon forcing this proposal against the large body of Scottish agricultural opinion.
I would go further and say I find it difficult to understand why a proposal for the alteration of the Board of Agriculture should come into this measure at all, for, after all, this is a measure for the creation of small holdings. The question of the Board of Agriculture really does not arise. We can have the small holdings, if we require them, entirely apart from the Board. The only excuse for bringing it into the Bill would be that by your proposed separation you bring some benefit to agriculture, but there has been no suggestion whatever of any benefit to agriculture. I do not know whether the noble Lord can give any idea of how the actual separation is going to be of any advantage. It is difficult to find any advantage at all, but there are certain disadvantages which are obvious to any one who considers the question. At present agriculture in Scotland is managed by a Department fully equipped for the purpose. True from time to time there has been dissatisfaction about the management of the Board of Agriculture in Scotland, but so there has been in England. We are all agreed that we ought to have more money to carry out agricultural improvements; but I understand that the reason Scottish ideals have never been carried out is that, so far, Scotland has not been anything like unanimous as to what its desires are. But now they are more unanimous than they have ever been. They do not want the Scottish Office to control their agriculture, and by a large majority, at all events in the Central Chamber and the highland Society, they are anxious to have a Department 548 as proposed by Lord Balfour of Burleigh. To take the control from a body which is thoroughly equipped for the purpose and put it in the hands of the Scottish Office, which has not the knowledge or experience possessed by the Board of Agriculture, appears to us to be very bad business indeed.
The position really seems to be this. The Government are proposing a Department of Agriculture under the Scottish Office, and the other proposal is for a Scottish Department of Agriculture under the Board of Agriculture. It is essential that whatever body we are to have in Scotland should be controlled and managed by those who are competent to carry out the matter from experience. I feel certain that the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal (Earl Carrington) would agree that the work of managing an Agricultural Department is quite sufficient to occupy the attention of one man as a principal. The noble Earl, whose too early retirement from the Board of Agriculture has caused regret to agriculturists because we have the pleasantest possible recollections of his work and the energy and ardour he threw into it, would, I am certain, readily recognise that agriculture must Le managed by a President and by a Department who are there for the purpose of managing it; and it would be a misfortune to agriculture generally if it was put in the hands of another Department, where it would really become one among the many other details to which that Department has to attend.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, we have listened to three or four very able speeches since dinner but I must remark with regard to two of them that they appear very clearly to some of us to be speeches of Englishmen delivered on a Scottish subject. Let me take the remarks of Lord Burghclere first. He referred to Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Amendment as "a counsel of perfection," and said he would have been willing to support it but could not support it at this stage. But I was very much surprised to find that right to the end of his speech he went on and on giving nothing but support to Lord Balfour's Amendment. The reason was perfectly plain. The part of this question in which Lord Burghclere is interested is the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts. Exactly the same thing applies to the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn. He feels very strongly 549 on the administration of those Acts. But what neither of those noble Lords feels upon this is the question which most agitates us; they are Englishmen and do not enter into it. My noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn went so far as to say that he did not understand why Scottish agriculturists had not more influence upon Scottish Members. If the noble Viscount had lived in Scotland he would know that the agricultural portion of Scottish constituencies is, comparatively speaking, very small in almost all the constituencies.
The question which really agitates us is this: We do not want a Department under the Secretary for Scotland. That is what Scottish agricultural opinion has declared against. As was pointed out, at not one of the meetings was there any one who would propose the Government plan of a Department under the Secretary for Scotland. The Secretary for Scotland is a member of a number of Boards already. He is very much overworked. If there is a more overworked man, I should say it is the Permanent Under-Secretary for Scotland. Both are members of several Boards. I see sometimes that Lord Pentland, as Chairman of the Congested District Board reports to Lord Pentland as Secretary for Scotland, and I have no doubt you will find the same thing with regard to other Boards. The truth is the Secretary for Scotland has a great deal more work than he can do, and has no time to give to any of these things. Yet he says to-night, "Give the Secretary for Scotland this Department, and it will be attended to." The noble Lord did not add "for the first time"; but that was hinted by the remark that the President of the Board of Agriculture resides in London and we were left to suppose that the Secretary for Scotland lives in Scotland. But he is just as much in London as the President of the Board of Agriculture. Therefore that really does not touch the question.
I am quite free to say that the difficulty I see in Lord Balfour's proposal, as he laid it before us, is with regard to the Congested Districts Board. I have been speaking and thinking of it a good deal since he mentioned it to us, and I cannot myself see why the Congested Districts Board cannot be part of the Scottish Department of the Board of Agriculture. Take this Commissioner for Agriculture. Why cannot he be a part or one of the Board, one of the Scottish branch of the Board? And with 550 regard to rent and questions of that sort, of course they will be dealt with by the Land Court all over Scotland. It seems to me, making that slight change in Lord Balfour's proposal, that it might be acceptable. At all events, Lord Burghclere says it is "a counsel of perfection." I rather agree with him. I believe it is the best way in which you can manage this business.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I hope the House will not grudge me a few moments in reply, because a great many criticisms have been passed upon the arguments which I used earlier in the evening. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Scotland says it is undeniable that dissatisfaction exists in Scotland with the present state of matters. I do not think the dissatisfaction is as great as is sometimes represented. But let us, for a moment, say that dissatisfaction does exist. Because there is dissatisfaction with the present state of matters, that is no reasons why you should give a particular change which nobody wants. This gentleman of the name of Elder can be produced as a witness. I am not thoroughly acquainted with the whole of the circumstances, and I am not quite sure I can pass Mr. Elder's Unionist qualifications. I have no doubt he can use as good an argument whatever side of politics he represents. But let us suppose he is in favour of this proposal. Why is Mr. Elder's view to obtain to the disadvantage of the whole of the other agriculturists in Scotland? I am not converted even by hearing that Mr. Elder holds the opinion attributed to him.
The point with me is this. I want efficient agricultural administration. I would rather have agricultural administration from a good agricultural Englishman, than I would from the best Scotsman who does not know much about agriculture. It is a disadvantage, no doubt, from my point of view, that he should be an Englishman, but at any rate it is a much greater disadvantage from the point of view of the Scottish agriculturist to have a Scotsman who is not an agriculturist. I hold strongly that the lasting interests of agriculture in Scotland are bound up with keeping the administration solid for the whole of Great Britain. My noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn seemed to think it extraordinary that there was no agricultural influence brought to bear at elections in Scotland. I have no doubt 551 he was not in the House when I stated earlier in the evening that there are only two counties in Scotland in which the agricultural vote is predominant. In every other constituency the agricultural vote is swamped by other interests. I do not, of course, count the crofting counties as in this sense agricultural. The noble Viscount went on to say that this was a separation from the present Department of Agriculture, that it would not rest there if you had this amount of separation and you might just as well go, as I understood the argument, further at once. My point of view is this, and I want to emphasise it. The separation which would take effect if my Amendment is carried, is, at any rate, only a separation of the Department as between England and Scotland. The separation proposed in the Bill is a complete cutting adrift and having nothing to do with England, except in the matter of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, because I understand that is practically, though not absolutely, conceded by the Secretary for Scotland in his last speech.
I put to your Lordships that if you make a completely separate agricultural authority under the Secretary for Scotland it would be much less likely to be content in the future without the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts and much more harm would accrue, than if you have merely a separation and the two Departments remain under allegiance to the President of the Board of Agriculture. As far as I am concerned, I agree with my noble friend Lord Clinton. I cannot understand why this matter is introduced into the Bill at all, and if I had my way I would cut it out altogether. But after looking through the Bill I find it impossible to draft Amendments. If I propose to take out Clause 4 there are other duties connected with the Board of Agriculture which are provided for. No one will contradict this, that if one attempted to leave agricultural matters as they are now, it would be a much more drastic proposal to change the Bill than the one I have proposed. I am afraid I must persevere with my Amendment. Suppose I withdraw it I never can again move it. But suppose I adhere to it and am fortunate to get a majority, some other proposal may come up in some other form, such as that adumbrated by the Secretary for Scotland, and we can judge it on its merits. But the Amendments 552 in the name of the Secretary for Scotland are worse than the Bill itself, because they propose to transfer the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts by a simple Order in Council. Under the Bill the authority of Parliament is allowed, but under this proposal which was put down a day or two ago for the first time we are actually to be transferred by Order in Council without the slightest authority of Parliament at all. In these circumstances I am bound to persevere in my Amendment.
§ LORD PENTLAND
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say one word in reference to the last remark of the noble Lord. I think he is rather hard to please, or at least I have not succeeded in meeting his objections. These Amendments were put down to meet some of the proposals made by the noble Lord on Second Reading. The House will recollect what I said in regard to the position of the Government in respect to the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, and we may put that out of the present discussion for a moment. If we put that out, the noble Lord is not correct in saying that it leaves the transfer of other powers to be done by His Majesty in Council without any further reference, because the machinery which has been put clown transfers all the powers of the Board of Agriculture to the new Scottish Board according to the schedule which is stated in the Bill, and the clause to which the noble Lord refers is simply a clause providing for any later adjustment which may not have been foreseen at this moment, any comparatively unimportant consequential adjustment to be carried out by means of an Order by His Majesty in Council. If the noble Lord wishes to put any other safeguard upon that proceeding, there is really no difficulty about it.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I am sorry to interrupt, but Lord Burghclere has apparently shared my mistake because he proposes an Amendment to avoid the difficulty.
§ LORD PENTLAND
May I say that there is a mistake really as to where Lord Burghclere's Amendment should be moved. I have pointed it out to him, and he agrees to move it in the place which I have indicated. If it were moved in the place where it is on the Paper, it would not have the desired effect.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I only wish to remove the difficulty which is in the mind of Lord Balfour. The place to move the excision, or rather the refusal to transfer the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, is after the words "Nothing in this section shall transfer or authorise the transfer of any powers or ditties under the Survey Act, 1870." We propose to leave the geological survey with the Board of Agriculture, and it is there that the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts should be placed. My noble friend Lord Burghclere understands that, and therefore I do not think Lord Balfour need dwell upon the point. But may I say that I am profoundly disappointed that the House should be inclined, if it is so inclined, to take the view put forward by Lord Balfour. I have already stated the decision of His Majesty's Government on this point, and I should like to point out further that my noble friend has not put upon the Paper the many consequential Amendments which must necessarily follow the carrying of his Amendment. It will be necessary for me to ask the House to defer proceeding with the Bill to-morrow. We cannot possibly get the Bill into shape because it makes such a radical change throughout the whole construction of the Bill. It would be quite impossible to proceed with the Bill to-morrow if the noble Lord persists in his Amendment.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I am inclined to think that my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh is justified in the appeal which he made to the House in his concluding remarks. I speak, of course, with the utmost apprehension, both as an Englishman and as a non-agriculturist, but after all one does not require to be either a Scotsman or an agriculturist to follow the main points of this debate. The impression left on my mind by the discussion to-night is, broadly speaking, this. The debate has ranged over two fields, one large and the other small. The larger one was opened by Lord Balfour and traversed with great ability by my noble friend Lord Clinton. The narrower ground was taken up by Lord Burghclere and endorsed by Lord Reay. What has been the attitude of His Majesty's Government with regard to these two 554 scenes of operations? Following upon the powerful speech of Lord Burghclere—and I rarely remember a speech in this House delivered with greater fulness of knowledge or greater success of demonstration—and the appeal by another noble Lord below the Gangway, the Secretary for Scotland at once indicated a willingness to consider the suggestions put before him. He says that when the Amendment comes on he will not divide against it; he will represent what has happened to his colleagues, and consider whether or not the Bill can be modified to meet the views of the noble Lord.
But he metes out different treatment to noble Lords on this side of the House, I listened most attentively to his speech. On many of the aspects of the case I am wholly incompetent to submit an opinion, but on two aspects I am. Lord Balfour of Burleigh repeated over and over again with insistence the proposition that Scottish agricultural opinion is almost unanimously against this Bill. I have heard no answer whatever to that. Lord Pentland did not attempt to contravene it. All he did —I wish to be quite just to him—was to quote a letter in the Morning Post by a single gentleman, and to say there is some dissatisfaction in Scotland with the existing administration. of agricultural affairs. That is quite a different thing from saying that Scottish opinion favours his proposal; and he did not say anything in his speech to indicate that he has behind him any-weight of agricultural opinion in Scotland in favour of this Bill.
The second point which it seems to me Lord Balfour established in his case was this. He argued most powerfully, in the interests of agriculture in Scotland, in favour of administration by a body the head of which should be a Minister at Whitehall instead of a body practically under the orders of the Secretary for Scotland. That was emphasised by the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown. I have heard no reply to that. Is it not fair to ask His Majesty's Government, who are, as we know, about to consider the proposition of Lord Burghclere, to consider also the arguments put forward by Lord Balfour of Burleigh, by Lord Clintion, and by the Earl of Camperdown? In my opinion, my noble friend is entirely justified in asking the House to accept his Amendment. I think we understand perfectly well the attitude of the 555 noble Lord opposite and the form in which the Bill is likely to come back to us. Yet we are not without hope that in the interval the Government may give some consideration to the arguments urged by Lord Balfour.
§ LORD PENTLAND
I hope the noble Earl will be under no misapprehension on this matter. I should like to speak
§ Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH then moved the consequential Amendments.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 4, line 24, leave out ("Board") and insert ("the Scottish Department")
§ Page 4, line 25, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 4, line 26, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 4, line 27, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 4, line 28, leave out ("Secretary for Scotland") and insert ("President")
§ Page 4, line 30, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 4, lines 36 and 37, leave out ("Secretary for Scotland") and insert ("President")
§ Page 4, line 40, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")556
§ perfectly clearly. The two fields, as he has described them, are in different categories, if I may say so. On one point we are prepared to consider; on the other not.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 18; Not-contents, 51.555
|Loreburn, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Allendale, V.||Pentland, L.|
|Carrington, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Reay, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Chesterfield, E. (L. Steward.)||Colebrooke, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Emmott, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Craven, E.||Haversham, L.||Willingdon, L.|
|Liverpool, E. [Teller.]||Herschell, L. [Teller.]|
|Devonshire, D.||Churchill, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Colville of Culross, V.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Halifax, V.||Lamington, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Lovat, L.|
|Bath, M.||Balfour, L. [Teller.]||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Zetland, M.||Barnard, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Blythswood, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, E.||Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)||St. Levan, L.|
|Devon, E.||Saltoun, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.)||Sandys, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Sempill, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Sinclair, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Mansfield, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Clinton, L. [Teller.]||Stuart of Castle Stuart, L. (E. Moray.)|
|Northesk, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Powis, E.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Wynford, L.|
|Waldegrave, E.||Elphinstone, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Hindlip, L.|
§ Page 5, line 4, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 5, line 7, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 5, line 11, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 5, line 12, leave out ("Secretary for Scotland") and insert ("President")
§ Page 5, line 16, leave out ("Secretary for Scotland") and insert ("President")
§ Page 5, line 18, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 5, line 19, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 5, line 20, leave out ("Secretary for Scotland") and insert ("President")
§ Page 5, line 22, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 5, line 25, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 5, line 29, leave out ("Board") and inert ("Department")
§ Page 5, line 33, leave out ("Secretary for Scotland") and insert ("President"). —(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.557
LORD BURGHCLERE intimated that he would not move the Amendment standing in his name—
Page 5, line 38, after ("Scotland") insert ("Except any power or duty exerciseable by the Board under the Diseases of Animals Acts, 1894 to 1911, or any Act amending the same").
§ LORD LAMINGTON moved to amend subsection (12) by inserting, after "before the expiration of such period of two months," the words "while Parliament is sitting."
Page 6, line 14, after ("months") insert ("While Parliament is sitting"). —(Lord Lamington.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved a further consequential Amendment.
Page 6, line 20, leave out ("Secretary for Scotland") and insert ("President"). —(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 5:
§ Moneys placed at disposal of Board of Agriculture 59 & 60 Vict. c. 37.
§ 5. The following moneys shall be placed at the disposal of the Board for the purposes hereinafter specified:—
- (a) The annual sum of fifteen thousand pounds available under subsection two of section four of the Agricultural Rates, Congested Districts, and Burgh Land Tax Relief (Scotland) Act, 1896, during the continuance of that Act; and
- (b) Any sums not exceeding one hundred and eighty-five thousand pounds annually voted by Parliament for the said purposes.
§ The said moneys shall in the financial year commencing on the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twelve, and in any subsequent financial year, be paid into one fund hereby constituted under the name of the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund.
§ Any sum standing to the credit of the Congested Districts (Scotland) Fund at the commencement of this Act, and any sums required by the provisions of any Act to be carried to the Congested Districts (Scotland) Fund, shall at and after the commencement of this Act be carried to the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund.558
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved to substitute "Department" for "Board" at the beginning of the clause.
Page 6, line 29, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department"). —(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 6:
§ Application of moneys.
§ 6. The Agriculture (Scotland) Fund shall be applied for the following purposes, that is to say, for the purpose of facilitating the constitution of new landholders' holdings, the enlargement of landholders' holdings, and the improvement and rebuilding of dwelling-houses or other buildings of landholders and cotters in terms of the Landholders Acts or the Congested Districts (Scotland) Act, 1897, and for the purpose of exercising the other powers and duties conferred on or transferred to the Board under the provisions of this Act, in accordance with schemes to be approved by the Secretary for Scotland.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I move, after the words "the enlargement of landholders' holdings," to insert "the acquisition of holdings by the occupiers thereof." This Amendment must be taken in connection with another Amendment which follows in my name on the next page, to insert a new clause. I may as well allude to it now; it will save time, because it is consequential. The new clause which I propose reads—The Department out of the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund may, if satisfied with the security, advance to any tenant for the purpose of purchasing his holding the whole or any less part of the price of such holding on such terms and conditions as the Department may with the sanction of the Treasury prescribe.The object is that the Department may advance money to tenants for the purchase of their holdings. It places no obligation on the Department; if the Department has not got enough money it will say so. The Amendment merely says that it shall not be impossible for the tenant to purchase his holding. This matter has been discussed more than once, and therefore I can deal with it very shortly. The noble Lord says that the occupiers have no desire to buy. How does he know that? If there was even one occupier who desired to buy, why should he not understand that he may at all events apply to get money? The Aberdeenshire Members in the House of Commons say that there is a desire on the part of the tenants to buy. I may also say that the Committee of the late Lord 559 Onslow recommended that there should be this power of purchase; that at all events it should not be impossible for the tenants to purchase. Why have the Government such a rooted objection to insert the possible power of purchase? It has paid extremely well and has been very much used in Ireland. How do the Government know it will not be used also in Scotland?
Page 7, line 10, after ("holdings") insert ("the acquisition of holdings by the occupiers thereof"). —(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ LORD PENTLAND
But this is a tenancy Bill. It is founded upon the principle of tenancy, and in the view of the Government it is really impracticable to graft purchase upon this Bill. The noble Earl's proposals would require considerable extension before they would effect his purpose, and I can only say on behalf of the Government that we cannot accept the Amendment. Our view is that there is a purchase Act already in Scotland—the Small Holdings Act—and it is there that any developments of the existing law should be proposes.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I will not put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division, but what Lord Pentland has said leaves me still quite unaware why the Government should obstinately oppose anything in the nature of purchase. I know a very large number of their supporters object to any one holding land, but so far as any reasonable argument is concerned I submit that none has been adduced.
The noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, alluded to the statement of a Member for Aberdeenshire that there is a great desire for the purchase of small holdings. To my certain knowledge there is this demand for purchase in that county. I will not go further with it than that, but I would like to inform Lord Pentland that that is the case.
I may go further and say that I am in treaty with tenants for the purchase of their holdings.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 7, line 14, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department"). —(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 7, line 16, leave out ("Secretary for Scotland") and insert ("President"). —(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 7:
§ Powers to facilitate the constitution of new holdings.
§ 7. (1) It shall be lawful for the landlord of any land and any other person to agree that in respect of such land such person may apply to the Land Court to be registered as a new holder under this Act, and such person may thereupon apply accordingly, and subject to the provisions of this Act may be so registered.
§ (2) It shall be the duty of the Commissioner for Smallholdings to report from time to time to the Board after due inquiry what demand for small holdings exists in any district, and after consultation (where practicable) with the landlord or landlords what land (if any) is available to meet that demand, without causing undue displacement of farm servants presently employed on or about such land, under what conditions such land is cultivated, and what employment it affords.
§ (3) Where the Commissioner for Small Holdings is satisfied that there is a demand for small holdings and that suitable land exists it shall be his duty to negotiate with the landlords of such land with a view to the adjustment of a scheme for the registration by agreement of any one or more new holders in respect of such land.
§ (4) Failing agreement, such land may, otherwise than by agreement, be made available for the registration of new holders in the manner and subject to the conditions hereinafter prescribed.
§ (5) In proceeding under this section the Board shall take steps to ascertain what land is falling or is about to fall out of lease where the present tenant is not an offerer, and shall preferably select such land (if otherwise suitable) for the constitution of new holdings otherwise than by agreement.
§ (6) Where a new holder is registered under this section by agreement, the rent agreed between the landlord and the new holder shall not, if the same shall have been agreed upon for a specified period, be altered by the Land Court during such period, and shall not in any ease be altered, by the Land Court for a period of seven years from the term at which it first becomes payable.
§ (7) Where, with a view to, or as incidental to the registration of a new holder or holders in respect of any land, whether by agreement or otherwise, the Board are of opinion, upon consideration of a report by the Commissioner for Small Holdings that assistance should be provided for the purpose of dividing, fencing, or otherwise preparing or adapting the land, making occupation roads, or 561 executing other works, such as works for the provision of drainage or water supply, or erecting or adapting a dwelling-house or dwelling-houses or other buildings, or for any similar purpose, the Board may provide such assistance by way of loan or (except as regards dwelling-houses or other buildings) by way of gift, and subject to such conditions as they may prescribe. Conditions so prescribed and the provisions for their enforcement or for the ease of their violation shall be as effectual as if they were contained in this Act.
§ (8) Where the Board are of opinion that damage or injury will be done to any tenant in respect that the land forms part or the whole of his tenancy, they shall pay compensation as may be agreed between the Board and such tenant.
§ (9) Where the Commissioner for Small Holdings reports that the landlord refuses to negotiate, or where, after submitting to the landlord a scheme for the constitution of one or more new holdings on the land, he reports that no agreement can be reached, it shall be lawful for the Board, after due notice and after hearing any party who desires to be heard, to intimate to the landlord and to other parties concerned that it is in the public interest that one or more new holdings should be constituted on the land in accordance with the said scheme, and that they propose to apply to the Land Court to make an order or orders for the constitution of one or more new holdings on the land in accordance with such scheme, to be occupied by new holders, at a fair rent and upon such terms and conditions not inconsistent with the Landholders Acts as the Land Court consider just; and thereafter to apply accordingly.
§ (10) Before making such an order the Land Court shall give all parties having a right or interest in the land an opportunity of being heard.
§ (11) The Land Court shall thereafter determine with due regard to the provisions of the Landholders Acts, and by order or orders declare—
- (a) In respect of what land, if any, specified in the scheme, one or more holdings for new holders may respectively be constituted, and up to what date the power to constitute them otherwise than by agreement may be exercised;
- (b) What is the fair rent for each new holding;
- (c) What land, if any, specified in the scheme is to be excluded therefrom; and
- (d) Whatever else may be necessary for the purpose of making the scheme effective and of adjusting the rights of all parties interested in or affected by the proceedings:
§ Provided that where the Land Court are of opinion that damage or injury will be done to the letting value of the land to be occupied by a new holder or new holders, or of any farm of which such land forms part, or to any tenant in respect that the land forms part or the whole of his tenancy, or to any landlord either in respect of an obligation to take over sheep stock at a valuation or in respect of any depreciation in the value of the estate of which the land forms part in consequence of and directly attributable to the constitution of the new holding or holdings as proposed, they shall require the Board, in the event of the scheme being proceeded with, to pay compensation to such amount as the Land Court determine after giving parties an opportunity of being heard and, if they so desire, of leading evidence in the matter.562
§ (12) In or after making such an order the Land Court (without prejudice to their other powers) may do, provide, or decide anything incidental to or consequential on such an order as if it were an order under section twelve of the Act of 1886, and may, if they think fit, provide for the incorporation with the order, subject to the necessary adaptations, of any provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts which appear to them requisite for carrying the order into effect.
§ (13) Upon such an order providing for the constitution of one or more new holdings on any land being issued the Board may proceed to make it effective by entering on the land, carrying out works, and otherwise as may be required (due compensation to such amount as may be agreed or as, in case of dispute, may be determined by the Land Court being made for surface damage), and may negotiate with one or more duly qualified applicants with a view to their registration as new holders in respect of the land.
§ (14) A new holder shall not be duly qualified for registration otherwise than by agreement who does not satisfy the Board as to his ability to fulfil the obligations incumbent on him.
§ (15) The Board shall give reasonable consideration to objections stated by a landlord to any applicant for a new holding, and ceteris paribus shall give a preference to applicants preferred by the landlord.
§ (16) Except by agreement a new holder shall not be registered—
- (a) in respect of any land being or forming put of a farm not exceeding one hundred and fifty acres occupied by a person who has no personal interest in any other farm: Provided that nothing herein contained shall operate to prevent the registration otherwise than by agreement of two or more new holders in respect of the whole of such farm, where no other land is available in the neighbourhood of any existing village or township; or
- (b) in respect of any land being or forming part of a farm occupied subject to a lease which was in force at Whitsunday nineteen hundred and six, so long as the lease remains in force.
§ (17) All parties being possessed of lands or any right or interest therein who under the Lands Clauses Acts have power on behalf of themselves or of others to convey and dispose of such lands, or of such rights therein for the purposes mentioned in those Acts, shall have the like power to enter into any agreement or give any consent for the purposes of this section.
§ (18) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Congested Districts (Scotland) Act, 1897, the expression "landlord" in this section includes the Board in respect of any land purchased under that Act and transferred to the Board under the provisions of this Act.
§ (19) Any member of the Land Court, or the Board, or any person authorised in writing by the Land Court or by the Board, may for the purposes of the Landholders Acts enter upon and inspect any lands or buildings at all reasonable hours on any lawful day.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
The Amendments standing in my name to this clause are consequential. I beg to move.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 7, line 24, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 7, line 41, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 8, line 13, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 8, line 20, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 8, line 26, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 8, line 29, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department").
§ Page 8, line 34, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department")
§ Page 9, line 31, leave out ("Board") and insert ("Department"). —(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
The purpose of my Amendment to Clause 7 is to give an appeal against the decision of the Land Court with regard to questions of compensation where the amount in dispute exceeds £400. This question of there being some appeal seems to me absolutely vital. Just consider what powers are being placed in the hands of the Land Court. It is said that private individuals cannot be safely trusted with the administration of small holdings under £50; yet the Government propose to place the sole management of practically all the small holdings in Scotland under the Land Court, and that without any appeal of any sort or kind.
I must ask your Lordships to look at subsection (11) of this clause. First the Land Court are to make an order in regard to the land. Then by this subsection they are thereafter to determine and by order declare, first, in respect of what land, if any, specified in the scheme, one or more holdings for new holders may respectively be constituted, and up to what date the power to constitute them otherwise than by agreement may be exercised; secondly, what is the fair rent for each new holding; thirdly, what land, if any, specified in the scheme is to be excluded therefrom; and, fourthly, whatever else may be necessary for the purpose of making the scheme effective and of adjusting the rights of all parties interested in or affected by the proceedings.
Now those are powers such as have never been given, so far as I know, to any Land Court in the world. But the clause proceeds—and this is what I wish to call attention to—Provided that where the Land Court are of opinion that damage or injury will be done to the letting value of the land to be occupied by a new holder or new holders, or of any farm of which 564 such land forms part, or to any tenant in respect that the land forms part or the whole of his tenancy or to any landlord either in respect of an obligation to take over sheep stock at a valuation or in respect of any depreciation in the value of the estate of which the land forms part in consequence of and directly attributable to the constitution of the new holding or holdings as proposed, they shall require the Board, in the event of the scheme being proceeded with, to pay compensation to such amount as the Land Court determine after giving parties an opportunity of being heard and, if they so desire, of leading evidence in the matter.Take the words "where the Land Court are of opinion that damage or injury will be done." Suppose they say, "We do not think any damage or injury is done." There is no question then of any compensation to any of these persons, however much they may consider that damage or injury has been done; there is no appeal of any kind or sort against the Land Court. Then we come to the words which deal with compensation. "They shall require the Board, in the event of the scheme being proceeded with, to pay compensation to such amount as the Land Court determine."
First, the Land Court are to determine whether any damage or injury has been done, and, secondly, the amount of the compensation. Just think of the cases of damage which may arise out of this. Take the case of an application to take over sheep stock at a valuation which may run into thousands of pounds. Take the case of their establishing some crofters in an important part of a deer forest. That might depreciate the value of the estate of which the land forms a part, and yet if they do not choose to give compensation no compensation whatever is to be given. I do not think any one will maintain that it can be right to give five men, of whom, so we are told, one only is to be a lawyer, this enormous power without any appeal of any kind whatsoever.
I think it was stated in the other House that this would be a very important Court and sure to be fair. It will depend very much upon who are the persons placed on this Court. But, even if they were the most perfect men in the world, surely in cases where considerable damage is alleged to be done it cannot be right that there should be no appeal. I venture to hope that an appeal of some sort will be given by Parliament; for if an appeal is refused then no Bill that you could produce hereafter could possibly be more unjust than this Bill.
565 In my Amendment I have suggested an appeal to the Court of Session. In another place it was suggested that it should be to the Judges of the Valuation Appeal Court; but that was objected to on the ground that the appeal would then be from a higher Court to a Court of less authority, to a lower Court consisting of three Valuation Judges. I should have formed exactly the reverse opinion; but, that, after all, is only my view. It may be said that some delay may occur in settling these questions. I hope that very little will occur, but, even if some delay did occur, in matters of large pecuniary importance a little delay is preferable to manifest injustice. It is for that reason that I venture to place this Amendment before your Lordships. You will see that under the Bill as it is the Land Court is both judge and jury. There is no appeal of any kind, and I cannot imagine any more despotic authority.
Page 9, line 35, after ("matter") insert ("Provided always that it shall be competent for any person aggrieved by the determination of the Land Court, if the amount in dispute exceeds four hundred pounds, to require the Land Court to state and sign the case upon which the question arose, setting forth the evidence, together with the determination thereon, and to transmit such case for the decision of either division of the Court of Session, subject to such regulations as may be prescribed by Act of Sederunt, and such decision shall be final"). —(The Earl of camperdown.)
§ LORD PENTLAND
In moving this Amendment, though I quite understand his meaning, the noble Earl goes rather further than I think the facts justify when he says there is no appeal of any kind provided in the Bill. I would like to draw attention to Clause 25, subsection (5), where there is a provision in the first place for the rehearing by the full Court—
§ LORD PENTLAND
Allow me to continue. I only wish to put the case fully before the House. It is a hearing by the full Court. It is quite a common procedure that there should be a rehearing, so that any additional evidence, or whatever it is, may be put before the Court, and points of view may, if necessary, be corrected. Again, in the second subsection you will see provision for an appeal on questions of law—
§ LORD PENTLAND
To the Court of Session. Really what the noble Earl wishes is to go further, and to give an appeal on questions of fact.
§ LORD PENTLAND
The Land Court has duties in connection with two sets of subjects. It has duties, which are laid down in Clause 7, as to the creation of new holdings, and duties under subsection (17) in regard to compensation—
§ LORD PENTLAND
That is so. How are such points decided as to compensation, points which are commonly remitted to an arbiter? Almost invariably by the arbiter, whose judgment is final. So inasmuch as we are substituting a Court of Arbitration, it is not fairly to be described as a new departure when we place the decisions of this Court in the same position as the decisions of an arbiter—namely, that they are final. The noble Earl suggests an appeal from the Land Court on the familiar ground that they are judge and jury in their own case. I do submit that that shows a complete misapprehension of the true position of the Land Court in this scheme. It has no power whatever in the Bill to initiate proposals for the creation of small holdings. It has no responsibility whatever for the success or the failure of any proposal or any scheme for the constitution of small holdings. That power of initiation and that responsibility lie, not with the Land Court, but with the Board or with the Department of Agriculture, as Lord Balfour's Amendment has now changed it. The functions of the Land Court are judicial. After hearing the parties it is their duty to decide between the parties. They have no concern in the cost of the scheme, or whether it shall be economical or extravagant. They have no more interest than the Court of Session itself whether a large or small amount of money is spent on these schemes, but from their special constitution they ought to be more competent than any other Court to give right awards in these transactions.
567 There are four obvious disadvantages in the proposal of the noble Earl. In the first place there is delay. The procedure under Clause 7 for the creation of small holdings is most careful and deliberate. Stage after stage is to take place. There is the official ascertainment, of the demand for land, and tenants willing to take up holdings to promote the scheme are to be submitted to the Board, and the Board is to decide what compensation they can offer. They then have to ask the landlord whether he is willing that such a scheme shall be inaugurated. If he is, it goes on to the Land Court to fix the rent; if he is not willing the whole scheme is to be reheard and both parties appear at the public inquiry, and only then does the Land Court come in. Necessarily, weeks and months must elapse at the very least before such schemes can be carefully promoted and finally completed, and on the top of all this you are going to impose the inevitable delay of an appeal.
Then there is the expense. I would ask your Lordships to consider what it means. In the first place all the evidence will have to be recorded at length and in full. It will have to be printed on the productions, as they are called in Scottish Courts, printed and prepared for the Appeal Court. Over all the procedure of the Land Court itself will be present this possibility of an appeal. All its arrangements will be much more elaborate, much more costly, much more formal. But the delay and the expense are the least part of the mischief which this change in the Bill would do. The change—and this is my third objection to it—will inevitably alter the whole character of the procedure before the Land Court. Except in the consideration of evidence the Land Court would not be able to rely upon these very expert members whom you are anxious shall form this Court. They will have to decide on the recorded evidence, because the Appeal Court can only decide on the recorded evidence. The first result of that will be that both parties to a case before the Land Court will have to produce expert witnesses, a form of evidence which is not, perhaps, the most satisfactory—certainly it is the most expensive. Your Land Court would be utterly changed in character, and, as I say, the judgment of your own expert members of that Court would not be fully utilised.
568 Then, fourthly, let me put this to your Lordships. The noble Earl objected to a phrase which was used that such a proposal as his would be an appeal from a higher Court to a lower Court. In one sense that is absolutely true, because it would be from a more competent Court to a less competent Court. Your Land Court is to be composed of skilled agriculturists, valuers, people acquainted with such subjects as what a fair rent should be and what compensation there should be for taking this or that bit of land. If these points go to the Court of Session they must be decided on the recorded evidence, because we must take it that Judges do not have ordinarily the experience of trained agriculturists or trained land valuers. So that in that sense it is perfectly true that this appeal will be from an expert Court to an inexpert Court. That is the substance of my fourth objection to this proposal. I would earnestly beg your Lordships to consider what the very serious effect of this proposal will be on the whole character of the procedure before the Court which is set up by the Bill—not only delay, not only expense, but the fact that you will not be utilising to the full the very Court which we are all anxious to set up to carry out the provisions of the Bill.
§ LORD CLINTON
I think this point will take a considerable time to discuss, and if it suits your Lordships' convenience I would suggest that the House do now resume.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I suppose I am right in assuming that the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland will continue the Committee stage of this Bill to-morrow.
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before Twelve o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.