THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN rose to call attention to the Annual Reports of the Scottish Land Court and of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, and to move—
That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament be appointed to inquire into the administration of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act, 1911.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, we have now had more than two years experience of the Scottish Small Landholders Act, 1911, and a great deal has taken place under its provisions. There has been a very great deal of litigation and of cost both to the public and to private individuals, and many things have happened which I think I shall be able to show your Lordships require that there should be some inquiry into the administration of the Act. Your Lordships will remember the principle of the Scottish Small Landholders Act. It was to take away small holdings in Scotland up to £50 from the management of private owners and to place them under the Land Court and the Board of Agriculture, which were constituted by the Act—in other words, to administer all Scotland under £50 by means of a central authority. This question is not merely a Scottish question. It interests every part of Great Britain, because, as your Lordships know, the Government have announced their intention at no distant date of proposing a Land Court and similar administration
for England, and not merely for holdings of £50 but for all holdings of every kind, and that, of course, would extend also over Scotland.
§ The appointments to be made under the Small Landholders Act were, of course, of the very first importance; it was necessary that those appointments should be filled by persons perfectly impartial, who had not in any way committed themselves to extreme views, and certainly who were not attached to any political party. As the Act was passing through this House Lord Pentland, who at that time was Secretary for Scotland, was warned over and over again by many noble Lords that the working of the Act and the amount of public confidence which it obtained would materially depend upon the character and the antecedents of the persons who were appointed. Lord Pentland promised us over and over again that his Land Court should be a thoroughly impartial and independent Court. He said that it would consist of skilled agriculturists, of valuers, of people who were 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.
§ How were those promises fulfilled? We know that the gentleman whom he appointed as head of the Land Court and to whom he gave the position of a Judge was a person who had expressed very decided views with regard to land questions. He had expressed them before and he has expressed them since his appointment. Of the other four members of the Court, we know that three were persons of Radical opinions politically and that they were all persons who held very advanced opinions on the question of land. They proceeded to discharge their duties. The powers which were placed in the hands of the Land Court were unheard of up to that time; they were very large indeed. In the first place, the Land Court decides all questions of fact and there is no appeal. On this point those of your Lordships who have looked at the records will have seen that there were complaints both of the way in which the evidence was received and also of the decisions of the Court. Your Lordships know, in dealing with land, that if you wish to be successful you cannot merely attempt to manage it by the words of a 61 Statute. The persons who carry on the administration must be possessed of practical knowledge and of common sense.
§ I am not going to-day to deal with individual cases, because I think individual cases are very often matters of argument. I am going to deal with actual facts as they have occurred and not make many criticisms of my own upon them. Let me give you an instance in which, in my opinion, the. Court displayed what I may call a want of common sense in dealing with the question. There are a species of allotments familiar to Scotland which are known as lotted lands. Those lands were allotments let in connection with particular houses. They were voluntary allotments, and were intended, as everybody knows, for the use of the occupiers of the houses. But in a strict technical sense lotted lands came within the provisions of the Small Landholders Act and in that case the Land Court held that they were to be dealt with as if they were statutory holdings. The result is that owing to these decisions the possession of the land has in ninny cases been separated from the inhabitancy of the house. The intention was, of course, that this so-called lotted land was to be a sort of convenience to the inhabitant of the house, and the understanding and practice which prevailed up to that time wits that when the man gave up his house he gave up the lotted land at the same moment. But the Court dealt with this matter in a different way. W hat is the result? In the first place these lotted lands will naturally disappear, because no one will create more lotted lands simply to place them at the disposal of the Land Court to be managed in any way that the Court sees fit.
Then there was another question. I am going to mention to your Lordships two cases. I only mention these cases because they are finished cases; they have been actually decided by the Court of Session on appeal. The first is the case of a man who lived near Polmont Junction, not far from Edinburgh. He possessed a small farm that he had bought from Lord Zetland, which had been in the possession of his family as tenants for many years, and on which he intended to end his days. He was a carpenter, engaged, I believe, at Falkirk, and he wished to follow his occupation for a few
years more. In these circumstances he let this farm to a tenant for a period of six years at a rent, which was agreed between them, of £45. When the time came to give notice of the expiry of the tenancy, this man gave the tenant notice. The tenant appealed to the Land Court, and the Land Court—your Lordships will find it at page 187 of the Report of the Land Court—held that although the lease had expired, yet the man was a statutory tenant and was entitled to a further period, and they fixed that period for two years longer, although they said that the rent for this prolonged period was to be £25 instead of £45. They gave this reason. They said—
Resumption of an entire holding at a short date has never yet hem authorised.
That was in face of a specific lease for six years, for a purpose of which both landlord and tenant were quite aware. The Land Court go on to say—
In the whole circumstances of the present case we think it would not be equitable to authorise resumption earlier than Whitsunday, 1911. As regards the landlord, there is no urgency for resumption.
That case was appealed against and was taken to the Court of Session, and the Court of Session decided that this action of the Land Court was wrong from the very beginning and the decision was reversed.
§ There is another case which happened just lately, that of Shepherd v. Yool. Your Lordships will find it at page 135 of the Report of the Laud Court. The tenant held a mill and land. The rent of the mill was larger than the rent of the land. He appealed to the Land Court on the ground that he was a statutory tenant because he held the land, and the Court decided that the use of the mill, although the rent of the mill was greater, was ancillary and supplementary to the use of the land, and therefore they made him a statutory tenant. That case was taken on appeal to the Court of Session, Lord Strathclyde, the present Lord President, presiding. The Court decided that that decision, too, was entirely wrong. So much, my Lords, for the first duty of the Land Court with regard to matters of fact, involving to a certain extent matters of law.
The next duty of the Land Court is to fix fair rents and to revalue rents at the expiry of what is known as the septennial
period—that is, the period for which the rent had been fixed by the Court before. First they have to fix fair rents—that is to say, for persons who apply on the first occasion to the Court to fix a fair rent. These transactions which I am mentioning now took place in the year 1913. The total number of first fair rents fixed was 525. Of these they reduced 507; they left unaltered 16; and they increased two. This is stated at page xxxiii. They say—
The old rents of these holdings … amounted to £5,398, and the fair rents to £3,515, the reduction being thus almost 35 per cent. The arrears dealt with amounted to £1,407. Of this sum we cancelled £1,029, a little over 73 per cent., and ordered the balance of £378 to be paid.
That is what they did with regard to first fair rents.
The Court was also called upon to revalue rents which had been fixed by the Crofters Commission seven years before, and I may remind your Lordships that Lord Kennedy himself was chairman of the Crofters Commission. What did the Land Court do there? In regard to revaluations, the total number of rents fixed was 556. The number of rents which they reduced was 502; the number of rents unaltered was 51, and the number of rents increased was three. And your Lordships will remember that those rents had been fixed by a public authority seven years before. During those seven years the prices of all agricultural produce had risen, as we know; yet the Land Court revised their former findings—because, after all, the Land Court is only the continuation of the Crofters Commission—and reduced the rents which they formerly fixed. This is the way in which they describe it—your Lordships will find this also at page xxxiii—
We revalued on the expiry of a septennial period 527 holdings in the seven crofting counties.
Of course, it could be only in the seven crating counties, because the former Act extended only to crofter counties and not to the whole of Scotland. They proceed—
The old rents of these holdings amounted to £3,187, and the first fair rents as fixed in various years by the Crofters Commission to £2,544. We made further reductions in these cases and fixed the new fair rents at £2,096, being a reduction of 17½per cent. on the first fair rents.
For those decisions and the principle upon which those rents were fixed there is no vestige of a reason given. I must say that this is really placing the whole country in the hands of five men as against whom there is no appeal whatsoever, and who do not even consider themselves obliged to state the principles on which they act.
But there is another form of rent which they were entitled to fix—namely, what is known as equitable rents. These were the rents paid by persons who in Scotland are called statutory tenants, and who. I may explain, are really the present tenants but whose rents were also to be submitted to this Court. But when the Act was passed there was this distinction made with regard to equitable rents. So far as fair reins and the revaluation of rents were concerned there were no directions given to the Court at all, but in this case of equitable rents there was a very distinct direction, which I will read to your Lordships—
In determining the rent the Land Court shall, so far as practicable, act on their own knowledge and experience, taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, holding, and district, including the rent at which the holding has been let, the proposed conditions of the renewed tenancy, the improvements made by the landlord and tenant respectively, and the then condition and value of such improvements: and shall fix as the rent to be paid by the tenant the rent which, in their opinion, would be an equitable rent for the holding between the landlord and the tenant as a willing lessor and a willing lessee.
That, so far as words can go, appears to me to be a direction to the Land Court that it was to be a fair rent in the ordinary market sense of the term. But what has happened? The Court have ignored this altogether. They have treated equitable rents in exactly the same way as they have treated fair rents and revalued rents, and the result has been this. Of first equitable rents the number dealt with was 175. Of these they reduced 164; they left unaltered eight; and they increased three. And when I say they increased three, I am bound to point out that the highest increase throughout the whole of these figures was £5 and in some of the other cases only a few shillings. This is the same thing expressed in money. They say—
The old rents of these holdings amounted to £3,307, and the first equitable rents to £2,447, a reduction of almost 26 per cent.
That represents the whole of the dealings of the Land Court with rents up to the present time, and unless Parliament intends that absolute despotic and uncontrolled power is to be given to five men to fix rents at any figure they choose, there ought to be some inquiry as to the principles on which this Court proceeds. I should have thought that they themselves would proprio motu have given some account of their proceedings.
§ I pass from the Land Court to the Board of Agriculture. The duty of the Board of Agriculture is, under the Act, to create and equip new holdings and enlargements of existing holdings. Their duty, as laid down by the Act, is in short this—to prepare a scheme, a full and definite scheme, to submit it to the owner of the land, and, if they cannot arrive at an agreement with him, then to apply to the Court for an order to take compulsory possession. How has this been performed? Nearly all the schemes have been without details and indefinite. When persons whose property has been affected have asked for information it has been refused. I know a case in which the Board volunteered in the first instance to give information, but they did not send it. Then when it was asked for they hesitated, and finally they said they were not going to give information as to the applicants and so on, of which they said they had a full list, but I have good reason to know that they had nothing of the kind. They said they would not give the information because they did not think the owner was friendly to themselves.
With regard to this, I cannot do better than read to your Lordships the statement of the Land Court with regard to these schemes. I forgot to say to your Lordships that the Land Court is to act in these cases as a Court of Appeal between the Board and the persons with whom they have any dispute. If your Lordships will look at page xxx of the Report of the Land Court you will see this—
Much of our time during the year has been devoted to the disposal of applications at the instance of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland.
They go on to say that they had a large number of applications, and they proceed—
The preparation of such a large number of applications necessarily involves much labour, and not a few of the schemes show that they were prepared without sufficient consideration
of details. We receive an application for a compulsory order to constitute so many holdings. When the case is heard the promoters present an amended scheme, the number of holdings being reduced or increased according to circumstances, and the boundaries as shown on the original plan materially altered. Further alterations are frequently suggested or required by the evidence led in course of the hearing or at the inspection, and every substantial alteration of this kind or transformation of a scheme necessitates the preparation of a new plan. We were much hampered in our work for the want of plans arising from this cause, and several large schemes which were ready for disposal at the end of last year had to be carried forward for want of receiving amended plans. Much time was also devoted to schemes involving only one or two new holdings or one or two enlargements. These small schemes often raised as much opposition as schemes for a whole farm might raise, while the claims for damage alleged to be caused by these small schemes, if carried out, are often out of all proportion to their utility—
No truer words, my Lords, were ever written—
Even if carried out, there is no appreciable addition made to the number of small holdings by such schemes.
But that is not all. Listen to what they go on to say—this is at the bottom of page xxxi—
We do not know, however, how many of these schemes will be carried out.
They proceed to mention one on a farm in the County of Argyll, and they say—
The case was called at three different diets of hearing. It was warmly advocated by the Board, and as warmly opposed by the proprietor, Mr. T. M. Macdonald. We inspected the farm, and after full consideration we issued an order authorising the constitution of four new holdings… It was afterwards intimated to us that the scheme had been dropped.
Just think what an amount of money has been wasted both for the public and for this unfortunate private individual; and yet the Board, at the time when they were pressing this scheme, did not even know whether they were going to carry it out. But what their reason may have been for not carrying it out I do not know.
§ Surely your Lordships will be of opinion that there really ought to be some inquiry. In the first place, the amount of litigation under this Act is endless. And what is the reason for the greater part of the litigation? It is this. Under the Act of 1897, which was a voluntary Act, many proprietors in the Highlands did their best to act in concert with the Crofters Commission and the Congested Districts Board. The result 67 was that there were many schemes made which, when they came to be worked out, have proved to be utter failures, as I have on several occasions had to point out to your Lordships. When those proprietors are told that a large proportion of their remaining land is to be taken and to be turned into more of these settlements, is it reasonable to suppose that any set of men would be in favour of such a scheme or that they would not oppose it to the utmost of their power?
§ Take the case of the Lews. At the present time the greater part of the Lews is in small holdings, and the Board have applied for—I have not with me the exact figures—something between 20,000 and 30,000 acres more to be cut up into small holdings. At the present time that land is some of the only land which produces any rent, and if that land is cut up the number of small holders will be greatly increased, the rates will be enormously increased, and the rateable value of the island will become so much less. Can any of your Lordships wonder that the unfortunate Major Matheson, who in past days did so much to facilitate the operations of the Crofters Commission, has been absolutely driven for self-preservation to oppose any extension of these schemes? Further than that, there is the cost of these schemes. I am not aware that there is any check of any kind or sort upon the Board with regard to the schemes that they put forward. I do not know what means they take, or whether they take any means—I shrewdly suspect they do not—to ascertain or even to make an estimate of what the scheme is likely to cost. The result has been, as I will show your Lordships in a minute, that the cost of many of these schemes has been out of all proportion to the benefit which could possibly be received.
§ When an order has been made and the land is to be taken, then conies the question, What is the compensation to be paid? The compensation in all cases of reasonable size has to be paid in the fairest manner that you can possibly conceive—namely, on the decision of an arbiter appointed by the Court of Session. I remember quite well when Lord Pentland was speaking on this matter in this House he used to talk of an appeal from the Land Court to the Court of Session as an appeal from a higher to a lower Court. Let any of your Lordships go into any 68 part of Scotland, or read any newspaper that you like, or speak in any marketplace that you like, and see what is the opinion which is held with regard to the Land Court. I have here a few of the cases which have been before the arbiters. Let me say tins with regard to the arbiters. One argument which was put forward very forcibly in this House against an arbiter appointed by the Court of Session was that you were going to lose time, that it was going to be a source of delay. All I can say is that the arbiters have been greyhounds as compared with the Land Court and the Board of Agriculture. Every case, so far as I know, which up to the present time has been referred to arbiters has been decided by them in less than three months, well within the specified time. I need not say anything with regard to the arbiters appointed by the Court of Session, because we know perfectly well that that Court would select the best possible persons in Scotland for this position.
§ Let me give your Lordships a few cases they are all, so far as I know, that have been decided up to the present time. The first case is that of Lindean, Mr. Scott Plummer's property. Fourteen new holdings are provided. On that land there were a considerable number of persons before; I cannot say how many, but I expect not less than fourteen. The amount of compensation which has been awarded in that case is £8,588, and, remember, that is not to provide for the fourteen men; it is to have permission to take possession of the land on which they will be located and which will have ultimately to be equipped for them—needless to say by whom—it will be by the long-suffering British taxpayer. Your Lordships must not suppose that in Scotland we act in the same way as you do in England. Not a bit. In England the small holding which is taken from a county council is an economic holding, and the man has to pay the rent, and so on, of the land; but in Scotland it is entirely different, because the whole of the equipment of the holding—the drains, fences, and matters of that sort—is provided and made a free gift to the holder by the British taxpayer. Indeed, the holder has gone so far as this, that he bitterly complains of the British taxpayer because the British taxpayer declines to find the money for stocking his farm. The next is the Harrietsfield case the property 69 of Miss Scott, of Anerum. There the number of holdings was 7, and the compensation that has had to be paid is £4,750. The next case is that of Bollencrieff, the property of Lord Elibank. There the number of holdings was 30, and the amount of compensation which has had to be paid is £8,000. The next is the case of Barguillean, the property of Mr. T. M. Macdonald. I do not know how many holdings are to be provided there, but it is a small matter, the amount of compensation being only £102. The next case is that of St. Martins, the property of Captain W. M. F. Macdonald. In his case, again, I do not know how many holdings there are, but the amount of compensation is £1,436. The next case is that of Clyth Mains, in Caithness. There the number of holdings is 12, and the amount of compensation £4,006.
§ The last case that we have up to the present time is that of Lady Gordon Cathcart at Ormielate, Bornish, and Milton—somewhere about 30,000 acres of land. In her case the amount of compensation to be paid is £13,049, and there are there 77 holdings. But I must say, with regard to that last ease, that that does not include all the cost of this holding, because the Board, as I am informed, and I believe it to be true, have actually themselves agreed to pay compensation to the tenant who is evicted for breaking his ten years lease and for taking over his stock. I think the stock was valued at £5,000, and part of it has been disposed of for £2,500. But including that; £5,000 the Board have agreed, I believe, to pay him a sum of £10,250. This sum, added to the £13,000 odd, makes over £23,000. Then there is Lady Cathcart's costs, which I suppose will be £1,500 or more, because she has been put to trouble without end and has been obliged to get expert witnesses and heaven knows what. So that in this particular ease, before they get into possession of the land, the Board will have spent something between £25,000, and £30,000. These figures appear to ale to constitute nothing short of a public scandal. What I want to know is this. Is there nobody who has any control over this Board? Apparently the Board make no estimates, and, so far as I know, there is no control over them except the control which comes ultimately from the Scottish Secretary finding his pocket empty. I do not know that the Scottish Secretary has any control 70 over the Board. I do not know that he has any over the Land Court. The Court is said to be an independent Court. The Board, too, seems to be a pretty independent Board. But the result to the British taxpayer is something which I am sure your Lordships would never have believed if you had not heard it.
§ In order to show that there is some case for inquiry, it has been necessary to quote at some length from these two Reports, but I have purposely, as far as I could, omitted cases. What I have gone for are classes of cases; and if your Lordships grant this Motion I believe that before the Committee I should be able to establish, not merely such things as I have said to-day, but a great many other matters of which there are complaints and which really demand inquiry. I have no wish to condemn the Court, or to condemn the Board. I do not wish, any more than any one of your Lordships, to condemn anybody unheard. All that I desire is that these facts should be investigated. As your Lordships know, on various occasions I have produced other cases, and to the lest of my knowledge I have never had one of them disputed. For these reasons I vesture to hope that your Lordships will grant the inquiry for which I ask.
§ Moved, That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, be appointed to inquire into the administration of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act, 1911.—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
My Lords, I rise to support the Motion which has been made by Lord Camperdown. My noble friend said that he was not quite clear whether the Board of Agriculture was above the Land Court. I think it is evident that the Land Court is the superior body, because they have to give the judgment, and the Board of Agriculture have to carry out the judgment given by the Land Court; but I do not think there is an appeal from the one or the other. I should like to emphasise what my noble friend said with regard to what took place when the Small Landholders Act was passing through your Lordships' House. Again and again the Secretary for Scotland was asked by us who was to be appointed to the presidency of the Board, and again and again the information was slurred over or refused. Then at last, when we heard who was to 71 be appointed, I can only say that we received the name with the greatest disappointment and distrust, and the way in which the Act has since been carried out has fully justified that feeling on our part.
I would recall to your Lordships' attention the paragraph in the Act of 1911 which directs that, in the fixing of an equitable rent, a rent shall be fixed which, in the opinion of the Land Court, would be an equitable rent for the holding between landlord and tenant as a willing lessor and willing lessee. At page xxxiii of the Report of the Land Court, they state that they have fixed first equitable rents for 259 holders. They go on to say—This extended to 4,419 acres arable, and 4,367 acres outrun in individual occupancy. The township common grazings dealt with ex-tended to 9,836 acres, and the general common grazings to 12,925 acres. The old rents of these amounted to £4,888, and the first equitable rents to £3,626, or a reduction of almost 26 per cent.If you analyse this innocent little paragraph you find that the average of the 259 holdings comes out at 17 acres arable and 17 acres, or very nearly 17 acres, outrun—that is apart from the privileges of the township common grazings and the general common grazings—and the first equitable rent fixed by the Land Court comes out at £14, as compared with the old rent of £18 7s. 5d. If we deal for a moment only with the arable land, the equitable rents average 16s. 5d. per acre. The Report does not show any value put to the township common grazings or the general common grazings, but if we put on them a value of £600, which your Lordships will allow is a very small amount, and subtract that from the first equitable rents of £3,626, the average rent per acre is reduced to 13s. 8d. Your Lordships will understand that in what I have said so far I have been dealing entirely with what are known as equitable rents—that is, the case of the statutory small tenant; the provision and maintenance of suitable holdings is incumbent on the landlord in the case of these holdings.
Let me turn to the Report of the Board of Agriculture. It seems that they had serious difficulty in equipping new holdings during the last year. At page x the Board state—The Board have been seriously exercised about the effect of the recent rise in the 72 cost of building upon the initial expense of providing the dwellinghouse and steading for which the small holder assumes liability.And in the next paragraph, at the top of page xi, the Board say—On some of the larger holdings of about 50 acres or mixed holdings of 80 or 90 acres or more, the cost of complete buildings will range from between £650 and £750, varying in different districts. The cost of the building equipment of smaller holdings varies from £40 to £450 or £500, but as the Board desire that the new holder should directly assist by labour or otherwise, the actual expenditure upon holdings does not represent the whole value of the completed buildings.I think we can fairly assume, in the case of the larger holdings of 80 or 90 acres or more, that there is a considerable outrun and grazing, and therefore that smaller buildings and equipment are required than on ordinary arable holdings. But if we take the 50 acre holdings, and take the average cost of the complete buildings as ranging between £650 and £750—say £700—the cost of providing buildings alone conies to £14 per acre, and that, as the Board themselves point out, does not represent the whole value of the completed buildings. The paragraph I have read points out that the cost of building equipment varies from £40 to £450 or £500. It is clear that the figure of £40 can only allude to a small holding in connection with which some small repairs are required. As for the other figures, the information is hardly specific enough to be of any value.
But if we turn to page 9, Appendix No. 6, of the Report we find a plan showing a cottage, the smallest cottage which the Board supply, the cost of which is £180. The cost of the rest of the equipment, steadings, and buildings that would be required for a 14-acre holding would be another £100 at least. There you have a total of £280, or a cost of £20 per acre. For still smaller holdings, of course, the cost of equipment would be in proportion materially increased. With an 8-acre holding, the cost would be at least £30 per acre. But even after the houses, steadings, etc., have been built, there is a considerable additional outlay required for roads, water supply, fencing, and different other things, which would add largely to the cost per acre. It is quite impossible for the landlord at the present time to borrow money under 4 per cent., and the security has to be exceptionally good or 73 else the rate will be considerably higher. Therefore it is clear that, after an allowance for rates, maintenance, and depreciation, he cannot possibly charge less than 5 per cent. for the outlay on equipment. It follows, therefore, on the basis of the figures which are supplied by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, that the provision of buildings alone involves to landlords a cost of 14s. per acre in the case of a 50-acre farm, rising to 20s. per acre for a 14-acre holding, and to probably 30s. or more per acre for an 8-acre holding. I have already shown your Lordships that the equitable rents fixed by the Laud Court are 13s. 8d. per acre for the land fully equipped. Therefore it will be seen that Lord Kennedy and his colleagues do not allow the landlord even a reasonable interest on the cost of buildings and equipment, and nothing at all for the rent of the land and nothing wherewith to meet rates and management and cost of maintenance. It is a simple little sum that I have given you, and it is perfectly easy for any one to work out the figures from these Reports. In this calculation no allowance for the cost of equipment other than buildings has been made. If it had been, the inadequacy of the rents would have been more striking.
In the Appendices of the Report of the Land Court there are cases of sixty different holdings for which the Court have fixed equitable rents ranging from £1 to £5. The average area of the arable land on these holdings is a little over 4 acres, and the average rent is £3 lls. 8d. If, in combination with these figures, you take the fact that the smallest cottage built by the Board costs £180, you will see that in order to get 4 per cent. the landlord would have to let it at £9 per annum. It is clear that generally speaking the small holdings, even at the old rents, have been main-tamed by the landlord at a considerable sacrifice, and upon whatever principle or lack of principle landlords proceeded in fixing the rents in the past it is obvious that the new equitable rent has no connection whatever with equity. The whole thing up to the present time has been a systematic spoliation of the landlord, and a corresponding popularisation of the small landholder. I think I have proved out of the Reports of these two bodies that the rents put upon the small holdings are most certainly not economic.
74 But there is one further point to which I would like to call attention. By this system a man who becomes a small-holder cannot possibly hope to get on, because once he is fixed he becomes part, proprietor, at an events, of his holding, and there he must remain, because it is difficult for him to realise the value of what he has got in the holding. Up to the present time and I am sure most landlords in Scotland, have been in the habit of giving a small holding to a small man, probably the foreman of a tenant farmer, and if he does fairly well out of that holding and a larger holding becomes vacant, he is put on to the larger holding and some one else takes his place on the small holding; and so they go on, in continual rotation, increasing the value of their holdings as they make money; and I am glad to say that I know one striking case where the tenant began as a small holder of 5 or 10 acres, and is now the owner of a farm of at least 120 acres.
*THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD EMMOTT)
Lords, I have on more than one occasion bespoken your sympathy in replying to the noble Earl opposite in reference to questions connected with land in Scotland. The land question in Scotland, particularly in the congested districts and in the poorer districts, is very difficult and complicated. It is not in my own Department, and I am not connected with its working from day to day or from week to week. On this occasion I ask for your special indulgence, for I did not know what points the noble Earl was going to raise; I could only guess. I have been spending very laborious days, not over the Hebrides in the North Sea, but over the New Hebrides on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, where the considerations are very different except that in the long run they are liable to come down to questions relating to land. At the same time I should like to recognise the fact that the Scottish Office always place all their resources at my disposal, and if it may be that I do not answer anything satisfactorily it will not be due to any lack on their part. I want, first of all, to refer to a question which was only incidentally touched upon by the noble Earl, and that is the Ret urn for which he asked on June 24 last. I refer to it because I want to ask him a question. The figures have been got out for the Return, but those figures, instead of going 75 up to the end of December, are carried on to the end of March of this year. I want to ask the noble Earl whether he will accept it in that form?
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I do not know whether the noble Lord wishes me to answer him now. I will if he likes.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I did not want to interrupt the noble Lord. I may say that nobody in this House is more sensible of the difficulties under which he has necessarily to suffer than I am. The Report goes up to December 31, 1913, and the exception which I took to it was that the finance only went up to the previous March 31. Now I really cannot sufficiently thank the noble Lord, because he proposes that his financial information is to go three months further than his Report. Of course, I have no objection. But I confess that I am a little surprised to hear that it is so easy to do it, especially when I was told before that it was absolutely impossible.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I do not know that the noble Earl was told that it was impossible before. But the reason that I ask him to accept it in this form is that the accounts have to be made up to March 31. We have them, but they are not audited.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
For the purposes of Parliament audit does not matter. Of course, you have to have them audited subsequently. But really what Parliament wants to know is, what are your receipts and what is your expenditure. Whether the accounts are audited or not, it is quite clear that receipts are receipts and expenditure is expenditure.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I do not want to spend time over this, because there are a good many other matters to deal with to-day. I may say that, taking the question of rents and annuities in arrear, this Return when it is presented will show that the condition in Kilmuir as to arrears is rather worse; but I am authorised to say that the Board are now going to take more energetic proceedings in order to try and get some of these arrears cleared off. The position in Glendale is much better than it was two years ago; the arrears of annuities have decreased from 76 £844 to £147. In Barra the arrears in 1912 were £38; in 1913 they were £130, and this year they are £125; and out of that £125;, £90 is an arrear in respect to the shooting rent. Seafield I dealt with quite recently. In Syre the position has very materially improved, but that is largely due to the fact of the estate being resettled and the small holders having now become landholders. The arrears there have been reduced from £871 in 1912 to £344 in 1914; out of that £314, £262 is an arrear of rent with regard to shootings and the lodge, and does not arise in reference to the small landholders. There is one other remark which I want to make in reference to the other part of the Return for which the noble Earl moved—that part which asked for figures showing the losses on the resettlement of certain estates. On June 24 my noble friend Lord Beauchamp said, in reference to Barra, that the loss in that case might be seen in a certain footnote in the Report recently issued by the Board of Agriculture. I may say that that information was supplied to him in error. The difference between the original cost of land in Barra and the 20 years purchase of the landholders' rents, as refixed by the arbiter, is £3,655.
The noble Earl attacked the personnel of the Land Court. I did not know that he was going to do that, and I do not; propose to deal with that question to-day. He complained of the reductions which the Land Court had made in the rents, and he complained of the despotic power that has been given to them by legislation. Well, in regard to these matters there are, no doubt, other people connected with Scotland who take a very different view. I will not pretend to decide which view is correct; but what I say in regard to the Land Court is this. They have worked excessively hard under conditions which have not been easy; they had to organise a new Department. Besides schemes; they have dealt, as your Lordships know, and indeed complain of the fact, with a very large number of applications for fixing fair rents and fixing equitable rents. This work is naturally disliked by the landlords; it cannot fail to be disliked by them. The equitable rents and fair rents have been reduced, and arrears have been dealt with; and even if an Angel of Light from above had come to do work of this kind he could not possibly, in doing it, have secured the sympathy of the landlords. I do feel, my Lords, that 77 we are not in this House a Court of appeal against the Land Court. When the noble Earl dealt with cases on points of law which have been taken from the Land Court to the Court of Session, he mentioned first of all the case dealing with lotted lands, and unless I am entirely mistaken the judgment of the Land Court in that case was affirmed by the Court of Session.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Lotted lands come within the Act according to the strict terms of the Act. But what said was that anybody who was administering that Act from the point of view of common sense would have dealt with lotted lands as the originating donors of the lofted lands had dealt with them—namely, would have treated them as part of the holding.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I am inclined to think that there may be a good deal to be said for the noble Earl's opinion in regard to that matter, although I do not understand it fully.
§ LORD EMMOTT
But what I say is this, that this was an appeal on a point of law taken to the Court of Session, which decided in favour of the Land Court. That is no argument to be used against the Land Court. Out of eight appeals which have been taken against their decisions six, as referred to in the Report which is before your Lordships, have been decided in their favour, and two, of which the noble Earl spoke have since the publication of the Report been decided against the Land Court. The noble Earl further complained that various members of the Land Court had given personal expression to opinions of a partisan character even after they were appointed members of the Land Court. All I can say is that if members of the Land Court have taken that action I sincerely regret it. Apart from any question of propriety, it must be perfectly plain that the expression of partisan opinions must interfere with the smooth working of an Act which in itself is not the easiest of Acts to work. Before I forget it, I would like to refer to the argument used by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Saltoun. It is quite true, if it costs 14s. per acre to erect buildings and steadings, even on a considerable holding, and if the equitable rents are reduced to 78 13s. that there is apparently an anomaly; but I must remind your Lordships that the original rents were, according to him—I have not worked them out myself—only 16s. 5d. Therefore the anomaly is almost as great when rut compare the original rent before reduction as it is with the reduced rent.
Now I want to say a few words about the cost of these schemes. The method by which the cost is arrived at has raised in the past, and does raise at the present moment, a question of very acute controversy. The reference to the arbiter in case of dispute, which was inserted in your Lordships' House when the Act of 1911 was being passed, has formed the subject of difference between the two Houses, and, I am afraid, may form the subject of difference in the future. The experience of the working of that particular section has not added, apparently, to the affection with which those who opposed it in the House of Commons regarded it in the past.
§ LORD EMMOTT
Yes; it was inserted as part of a bargain for the time being, as I understand. It was not inserted by Lord Pentland because he desired to insert it; he was pressed to do it.
I do not think the noble Lord can hold by both those arguments at the same time; either there was a bargain in the other House or there was not.
§ LORD EMMOTT
I am not going into that question before the Bill comes up here from another place. I understand that a question will be raised as to what the understanding was. I am not familiar with the question myself. The pages of Hansard do not throw much light upon it; but I am certain it will be carefully examined when the Bill comes up here, and I would prefer not to deal with it at the moment. The noble Earl complained that the Board of Agriculture made these schemes in a very haphazard fashion without attempting to count the cost. I do not think that is the case, but I must 79 point out that the Board of Agriculture is quite unable to know in the first place what the cost is going to be. Remember that under this section of which I speak, as altered in the House of Lords, there are practically three references. There is the reference in the first place to the Land Court, then there is a reference to the Court of Session to appoint an arbiter, and then there is the rather formidable process of arbitration itself. That at any rate adds to the cost of the transaction the expenses of the arbitration; and in the cases decided, as the noble Earl has pointed out, a large sum has been added "in respect of depreciation in the value of the estate" "in consequence of and practically attributable to the constitution of the new holding or holdings." I am there quoting from the Act itself. The result is that landlords claim—I am not expressing any opinion on this point—that the value of the new holdings is reduced to something like twelve or fourteen years purchase, instead of being, as it was when they were farina, twenty to twenty-five years purchase, and they claim for that difference. The landlords also state that the new holders are more independent, less subject to control, and that that diminishes the value of the estate.
§ LORD EMMOTT
Yes; and that also, if the noble Earl wishes. And the arbiters have allowed heavy compensation for loss of selling value and general depreciation. On this question a test case is being taken before the Court of Session; it has not yet been decided, and therefore I will say no more about it. Also compensation has to be paid to the tenant. In some cases in congested districts it is impossible, where there is a very large demand for land, to wait until leases fall in; and where a farmer has to be dispossessed, of course, compensation has to be paid to him. The noble Earl mentioned two cases of compensation payable to tenants. I have the figures here of two cases—one of those mentioned by him. In one case, the case of Hynish, there was an arbitration, and the compensation awarded was for an unexpired period of seven years.
§ LORD EMMOTT
Yes, compensation to the tenant. I am not speaking of landlord's compensation now. The compensation given to the tenant was six and a-half years purchase, or thereabouts. The arbitration expenses were £500, or another one and a-half years purchase. The value of the sheep stock—and in this case the sheep stock was taken at an acclimatisation value—was £2,656. Therefore I agree that the compensation is very heavy. But in another case, the case of Lady Gordon Cathcart's farms—the three farms which the noble Earl mentioned—the compensation was £10,000, and all but £2,700 of that was for sheep, but the sheep were not taken at acclimatisation value; I understand they were at valuation prices.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
What I heard was that the value of the sheep was £5,000, and that a considerable portion had been resold for £2,500; that would mean the difference between acclimatisation value and so on. I can only speak front private knowledge; therefore I cannot say positively that I am right, but I have understood that the sum paid for breaking the lease, which was for ten years, was £3,000.
§ LORD EMMOTT
The sum is £2,700 It was a sum agreed upon. There were no arbitration expenses in this case. It was agreed upon at £2,700, and the remainder of the £10,000 was payable for sheep; and, as I ant informed, that was not acclimatisation value but the ordinary valuation price. As the noble Earl has said, the result of compensation both to tenant and landlord in cases where both have compensation is very serious financially. Take the case of the farms that have been bought recently from Lady Gordon Cathcart. The amount allowed for depreciation in respect of shooting and fishing and depreciation in capital value—I am not taking the buildings now—is £6,849, or nearly twelve years purchase of the rent of the farm. Take another case, which has attracted a great deal of attention—the Lindean case. In that case there is a profit on the letting value if allowance is made for the value given for the buildings, and yet, in addition to that, £4,600 is allowed for depreciation of the selling value of the estate, or over twelve years purchase. I am not expressing any opinion as to whether this is right or wrong—I understand that the whole ques- 81 tion in the first place is to be decided by a superior Court—but I do say it is a very serious addition to the cost of this purchase.
§ LORD EMMOTT
There are a good many other matters in the Act of 1911 as to which I understand there is agreement that they should be altered. The Board cannot insist on the production of a lease. The result is very often that a landlord may re-let during the time when negotiations are actually taking place, and sometimes a scheme has to be thrown on one side on that account. Of course that is not right, and by general agreement that is a point which will have to be put right in future legislation. Again, there is no definition of a scheme, and the result is that unreasonable claims are often made for particulars which, at any rate in the opinion of the Board of Agriculture, ought not to be demanded from them. But in regard to these matters probably agreement can be arrived at. I think it was the noble Earl who referred to particulars having been refused in certain cases. I always listen to anything he says with great respect. He knows much more about this question than I do. But in regard to this particular matter I am told that the Board submits a list of applicants and discusses them with the proprietor, and practically never insists on an applicant to whom the proprietor reasonably objects.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I do not know whether the noble Lord is on particular case just now, but the particular case I mentioned I certainly saw myself. The Board in the first instance volunteered to give a list of applicants—and, of course, they ought to have done so. Then after that when it was requested that it should be sent they declined. In another case, in the case of the Lews, they absolutely refused information with regard to particulars, and an action for suspension, for interdict, was actually entered against them. Then they sent the information and paid the costs of the interdict.
§ LORD EMMOTT
There may have been mistaken action here and there, but evidently what I have stated is the ordinary pratice—
§ LORD EMMOTT
Is the ordinary practice of the Board of Agriculture; and I think, as they have told me that, your Lordships may take it that in most cases that practice is carried out. The noble Earl has asked for a Committee of Inquiry. His Majesty's Government cannot agree that the time has come for a Joint Committee, and I regret to say that they cannot consent to an Inquiry. In dealing with this matter in your Lordships' House I have never concealed my own opinion that this is an extraordinarily difficult question. It is a question on which, when you get down to the fundamentals that lie at the root of the case, there is a very real difference of opinion between people who are acquainted with the question even as to the equities of the case. But it does seem to His Majesty's Government that the facts of the case and the reasons for the differences that exist are well known to antagonists who take different sides in regard to this question, that they can be argued out here or in another place, and that no need exists for a Joint Committee such as that for which the noble Earl has asked.
My Lords, I had not intended to speak on this particular section of the subject, but I must submit—and in my protest I trust I shall be supported by others with greater authority—that the time has come when Scotland should be represented in this House by an official member who is thoroughly cognisant of facts about the land and who can give us answers about the many details of which that very complex question is made up. In marking these remarks I do not want to say anything to detract the courtesy or knowledge displayed by the noble Lord who has replied on many occasions, but I think the dignity of Scotland demands that we should have a representative in this House, who can speak with authority and personal knowledge.
The noble Lord raised the point of the cost of the schemes, and then the question of equity. Could not one put almost in a sentence the reason why this small-holdings scheme for Scotland has broken down? It is this. For Ireland Parliament considered £100,000,000 necessary for the settlement of her land question; in Scotland you think that a mere dole of £200,000 a year is going to get you out of all your trouble. When this matter was brought up in this House, many noble Lords on this side 83 pointed out the inadequacy of this sum, in view of compensation, the taking over of sheep stock, legal and travelling expenses, and the whole question of dealing with the existing tenant as well as the establishment and equipment of these small-holdings which, as has been pointed out by Lord Saltoun, must always amount to a considerable sum. I think, if you did away entirely with the landlord's compensation, you would not be able ever to get the establishment of these small-holdings under something like £1,000 a small-holding. This being the case, I think the first criticism we make is that the money provided is not sufficient; we say further that you have not made these schemes as cheap as they might have been because you rejected the Motion pat forward on this side of the House for "settlement by consent." I am sure there is not a single noble Lord here experienced in dealing with land who is not fully aware that if you can arrive at a settlement by consent in dealing with matters connected with land it is invariably very much cheaper than going to an arbiter or before a Court. For the Government to have objected to settlement b consent and then complain about the cost of the schemes is. I think, most unfair.
Another reason why these schemes are so costly is on account of the subordinates of the Board of Agriculture. In the Report of the Land Court, on page xxx, there is some very adverse criticism of the method of preparing these schemes, and I am sure that, any noble Lord who has any local knowledge in Scotland would agree that most of these men have been appointed for purely political reasons; most of them have no knowledge of land, most of them have no standing in the county, and every act of theirs is viewed with the greatest suspicion. A further reason for the cost of small-holdings is connected with the taking of small parts of farms. You have the loss of rent and value which occurs to the proprietor and tenant arising from cross cropping and putting the land out of gear, selling stock and erecting fences, which necessarily conies to very considerable stuns; and, as is pointed out in the Report of the Land Court, these small schemes add enormously to the cost and add very few people to the soil. In the majority of cases you put down two small-holders, but at the same time you displace an equal number of agricultural labourers. There are many other reasons why these schemes 84 cost a great deal more than they ought to, of which not the least is the cumbersome method of procedure. The attack which is made on the compensation to landlords is a thing which may gain political credit, but I do not think it is doing much good in Scotland; there they say that von are trying to cover faulty administration by cheating the landlords of fair compensation.
Mention was made of the case of Lindean. I happen to know something about it. Lindean is a case in which you say the compensation was excessive. I dare say it was. But had the Small-holdings Commissioner taken the trouble to go to another farm which the owner of Lindean pointed out to him and which would not hurt the property nearly as much as the one which was taken almost opposite the house, the land might have been had for much less compensation. This I have been told by the proprietor, and I have his leave to quote it. I understand that the Small-holdings Commissioner admitted during the case that he had not taken the trouble to find out where the other land was. I believe the records of the Court will show that to be a fact. Then there is one further matter which, in addition, adds to the cost of smallholdings—namely, the Land Court. If we had, as we ought to have, a fair Court like the original Crofters Commission, which had the confidence of both sides, the opposition to the smallholders on the part of many landlords would not be what I regret to say it is at the present day. I am certain the majority of landlords in Scotland wish to co - operate in the matter of small-holdings. It is only the suspicions of the methods by which these schemes are carried out that make the matter so difficult.
Now I should like to say a word about what the noble Lord calls the "equity" of the question. He stated that we had attacked the Land Court on the question of the reduction of rents, and that naturally there were different views as between landlord and tenant on the subject of rent. I quite agree. But I wish to make this point. At a time when agricultural depression was at its highest we had the Crofter Commission, a body who were appointed to fix fair rents, a body who had no sympathy for land- 85 lords. Now how is it that, notwithstanding that the price of everything that the crofter sells off his croft has gone up 50 per cent. and in sonic cases 100 per cent., the rent is reduced by 17½ per cent? This percentage of reduction of rent, mind you, is in certain cases in addition to improvements which have been made by the landlord. And this 17½ per cent. is, therefore, comparing like with like, a higher figure than that given in the Report. I will mention one or two facts. Black-faced wool in the last fifteen years has been as low as 4½d. a pound; it was sold last year for 9d. a pound; and at a scarcely less price to-day. The stick—your Lordships no doubt know what that is—has gone up one-third, and in many cases one-half in value. These are the things on which the crofter makes his profit. Sheep in the same way, now that the new method of farming is adopted with cast ewes and taking a crop of crossed lambs from them—sheep were selling 8s. higher at last wool market, and 2s. higher this market. This is a thing which has gone on for years, and is the reason in the open market for agricultural land being let at a higher figure. The Report of the Board of Agriculture in this connection says that, "The general improvement in the price of stock and agriculture produce, while promising for the success of small-holdings," etc.—showing clearly that it is proved that there has been an increase of value in the last few years. Yet, notwithstanding that, as I have said, the rents have been reduced by 17½ per cent.! That, we say is not equity; and, unless the Government prove to the contrary, we must either say that the Crofters Commission did not give fair decisions or that the error lies with the present Board.
Again on the question of equity, What is going to be the, future policy? Several cases have been quoted ill which the rents have been reduced to such an extent as to pay no return at all for the land, and a bare three per cent. interest on the buildings. If you think it is right to take the whole of the land from the landlord you ought to let him have some proper return for the buildings he has put up. There is no equity in this; and it is likely to deter—in fact, it has already deterred—landlords from spending money on their small holdings. I notice from the Report of the Board of Agriculture that you have only 86 made loans to tenants to the tune of £5,500 this year. If the landlord is not going to do his duty in equipping the holding properly the public will have to pay, and I submit that it would be one of the most foolish and dangerous policies ever adopted to "choke off" the landlords from doing their proper duty.
My Lords, if I criticised the administration of the Board of Agriculture I would do so for three reasons. In the first place, it has done absolutely nothing for forestry in Scotland. Except issuing a small pamphlet on the beetle—a particular pine weevil—it has done nothing for forestry in Scotland, except, perhaps, that it has appointed an official. The encouragement of forestry was one of the promises made by Lord Pentland. The cost of settlement being what it is—in some cases up to £5,000 per additional family on the farm—it is obvious that if you invested that in forestry you would be able to provide for many more families. For every one thousand acres-1 state this on the authority of well-known experts—you could keep ten families; 1,000 acres could be planted for under £5,000. My second criticism would be that the Board of Agriculture has not faced the question of the Lews, the biggest and most clamant question for settlement today. The state of the outer islands is a crying shame to the civilisation of the whole of Scotland. In their Report the Scottish Land Court state that no schemes have been made for the Lews by the Board of Agriculture.
A third criticism of the Board of Agriculture would be their administration of their own property in the village of Gig. There the people are in a worse condition than on any privately owned property in Scotland, with the exception of the Lews. There has been a great deal of clamour in another place on the subject of Rosyth. I have visited both Rosyth and Gig. On the latter property you have still got cattle housed under the same roof as men; you have dung from the cattle and human excrement lying there and even flowing into the very rooms where the people are living; you have houses there far worse than any Kaffir houses I have ever come across. No steps have been taken that I am aware of to better this state of affairs, notwithstanding that the Board of Agriculture 87 has had two years' rule. These three questions are matters quite outside Party politics. The question of forestry is not one which the landlord is interested in more than the people. The question of the Lews demands immediate attention. And, finally, it is a standing disgrace that on your own property at Gig you have men housed with cattle, a form of housing every landlord, even the poorest, has put a stop to.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I do not think any one can have listened to this discussion without a feeling of profound uneasiness as to the manner in which our recent agrarian legislation has operated in Scotland. Some of us, when these Bills were before the House, made no secret of our apprehensions. I am not going at this time of day into the principles on which that legislation was founded. For myself I may say that it has always seemed to me to be, on the one hand, a defensible thing that the State should come in for the relief of the small and helpless holders who presumably are not able to help themselves and who have been in the habit of doing themselves such improvements as have been executed upon their farms. That has always seemed to me to be quite a distinct proposition front the proposition that the State should step in and come to the assistance of farmers who, except for the fact that they pay a rather lower rent, are absolutely undistinguishable from their neighbours who had previously been regarded as without the scope of these Acts of Parliament. I do not desire to call these things into question to-day. I will only say this, that if you are to interfere in cases of this kind it seems to me that you cannot be too careful to see to it that the administration of the law is carefully conducted and carefully watched, and, above all, that the personnel whom you entrust with these powers and duties is very carefully selected.
My noble friend Lord Camperdown, think justly, reminded the House of the pledges given to us by Lord Pentland as to the care which it was intended to exercise in the selection of the officials who were to man this Scottish Land Court. That Court is given enormous powers. They have the power of fixing rents without reason assigned; there is no appeal from their decision; and, so far as I am able to ascertain, they are not in the least hound to have regard to market prices. It is for them 88 to conjecture what the value of a holding is likely to be within the term of years for which they are empowered to fix the rent. My noble friend behind me said; I think very justly, that when you set up a Court of this kind you ought to make it your endeavour to choose officials who will command the confidence of both sides, and whose antecedents are of such a nature as to put them on a kind of pinnacle of impartiality from which they will deliver decisions which will be respected by all concerned. I do not want to enter into the question of the fitness of individuals, but it is a matter of notoriety that little regard has been paid to these conditions in the selection of the personnel of the Scottish Land Court.
Then my noble friend dwelt with some force upon the manner in which the Board of Agriculture has prepared thee schemes which we have been discussing this evening. I am hound to say that from the description given by m noble friend it is impossible to resist the conclusion that the work has been done in. I should say, a very amateurish and bungling fashion. I do not think that the noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite really contended with much energy that there was no fault to find; but he dwelt rather, and I think dwelt quite correctly, upon the great difficulty of the task which these gentlemen have to perform. But I am afraid we are driven to the conclusion that it has been performed in a very infelicitous manner.
The case of the Lews was mentioned by my noble friend behind me. Your Lordships have seen the figures, and you know what an immense expenditure has been incurred upon those islands, with the result that, after all, the people are very badly housed and occupy their land under thoroughly uneconomic conditions, which so far as we are able to judge are not in the least likely to improve. The result of the whole of these proceedings seems to be that there has been an immense waste of public money, a great, unsettlement amongst all the parties concerned, owners and occupiers, and I think to that must be added that the effects upon agriculture as an industry have been extremely bad. In these circumstances I think my noble friend Lord Camperdown was justified in asking for some inquiry into the action of these tribunals. He has been officially informed that such an inquiry is not to be granted, and I do not 89 imagine, with the House in its present condition, that he is likely to press his Motion to a Division. But we all feel that an inquiry sooner or later will be necessary, and I think that the discussion which has taken place this evening has usefully pre-pared the way for such an investigation.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, perhaps I may trouble your Lordships with one or two more words. I have certainly not been able to gather from the speech of the noble Lord opposite that he had any real objection either to the statements that I made or to the facts which I produced. He said that his reason for declining to grant an inquiry was that these are matters which we can argue out in the two Houses of Parliament. I am very anxious to agree with the noble Lord as far as I possibly can, but really how can these questions be argued out in the House of Commons? Take this one. Rents which were fixed by the Crofters Commission seven years ago are again fixed and are cut down 17½ per cent. We ask, What is the reason? How can you argue that out in the House of Commons, and how can you argue it out here? It is not a case for argument; it is a case for inquiry. With regard to most of the other things it seems to me that the same remark applies. I do not intend, however, in the present state of the Muse and at this period of the session to insist upon an inquiry, but this whole question is not at an end. We know that there is a Bill in incubation in the other House of Parliament which proposes to give much larger powers to the Board and much larger powers to the Land Court. Well, it stands to reason that it will be necessary to make a very strong case after what has happened to-night, when really the case which has been made against them has not been seriously disputed, for giving any larger powers to those bodies. At the present time I do not wish to press for this inquiry, and I beg to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.