HL Deb 23 April 1918 vol 29 cc827-42

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the object of this Bill is to prevent, during the war, the eviction of the tenant of an agricultural holding who is cultivating his holding to good advantage, having regard to the necessity for increasing the food supply of the country. It is submitted that such a tenant ought not to be arbitrarily disturbed, whether upon the occasion of a sale by the landlord or otherwise. It is proposed to effect this object by providing that an eviction shall require the sanction of the county agricultural executive committee, a practical body conversant with the state of cultivation of holdings in their county and entrusted with duties in relation to the production of food from such holdings.

The Bill is a very short one; there is only one clause in it, and I am glad to be able to say that it is supported and approved by the Central Chamber of Agriculture, who passed a resolution in favour of its proposals, and by the Farmers' Union, which, as your Lordships know, is a strong body of tenant farmers. It is also approved by the Federation of County War Agricultural Committees. But there is, of course, a strong feeling of opposition to it. I am speaking under correction, but I should say that the powerful federation called the Surveyors Institute would certainly be against it to a man. You would have also the skilled witnesses against the proposal, and the great army of land speculators who have sprung up in consequence of the enormous quantity of land which is being put on the market, owing to the high prices obtained at the present moment. Land, as your Lordships know, is about the only British security which has increased in value, all the other gilt-edged securities having dropped to a great extent. I believe also, though I am speaking under correction, that we shall have the opposition of the Charity Commissioners. I am informed that in the case of hospitals or public bodies wishing to sell so as to increase the income the Charity Commissioners would probably insist on the land being sold by public competition, so as to ensure the best possible price, even if it entailed the eviction of every tenant smallholder and allotment-holder on the estate.

Another objection of which I have been informed is that this is an agitation got up by farmers to enable them to maintain their present advantageous position. I have been told this two or three times. I am bound to say that I think the despairing protests from yearly tenants under notice to quit when estates are put up for sale surely answers this objection. The present profit of farmers would easily enable them to pay the new £5,000,000 war tax if security of tenure was assured to them. I hope the House will believe that I am in no way trying to bolster up any bad farmer in his holding. A man who cannot make both ends meet, who comes whining and whimpering with his grievances in these days, saving he cannot get labour or keep his land clean, is not a man who is a farmer at all under present conditions, and the sooner we get rid of such men the better. He is of no use to his landlord or to the country.

The third objection is that this is a socialistic conspiracy to destroy private property and landlordism; that it is the thin end of the wedge. It is said, "You are trying to initiate it as a war measure; the war will be over (as we all hope) in a short time, and then you will have this Bill to play trumps.'" If I thought that, I should not touch it with tongs, because agricultural rents are practically my only means of existence. I have been able for over half a century to rub along with nothing but agricultural land to live on, and I think, therefore, I should be the last man to suggest, and the first man to oppose, any proposal that would be calculated to do away with my means of existence. Then there is another objection, and I am bound to say that if it were a real objection it would be a very strong one indeed. It is the objection that the Government have already been approached on the subject and have refused to entertain any such proposal. If that was so, I should not have troubled your Lordships with a Bill of this sort, but as far as I understand it is not the case. Several war executive committees, one on which I serve (Bucks) amongst them, in February of this year asked the President of the Board of Agriculture, "Do the Board contemplate making any Regulations that notices to quit agricultural holdings during the war should become operative without the consent of county executive committees?" The President of the Board of Agriculture thought over this proposal for a fortnight, and then returned what is called a polite negative. He said, "The President of the Board of Agriculture has with regret"—I ask the House to take notice of those two words, "with regret"—" come to the conclusion that it would not be desirable for the Board to obtain such powers." Under this Bill no such request is made to the Board at all. It only, in the interest of food production in this tremendous crisis, attempts to secure an enlargement of the restrictions on the powers of landlords which have already been sanctioned by this House, of course only for the duration of the war.

Your Lordships have during the past four years passed many Acts. May I for one moment briefly refer to them;? In 1914 you passed an Act that no person could levy distress or enter into possession of any property for enforcing the recovery of any rent of £50 and under. This year the Lord Chancellor brought in a Bill which prevents notice to quit being given to tenants whom it is sought to evict in favour of those aliens—very undesirable persons—the bomb escapers who go from London and crowd out people in the Thames Valley, Brighton and other places. Your Lordships passed that Bill through this House without any difficulty, and it is now, I believe, before the House of Commons, and will be taken at an early date. In 1915 you passed an Act that where the rent of a dwelling-house had been increased over the standard rent—I believe the standard rent means the old rent the increase should be irrecoverable; and in 1917 you passed the Corn Production Act. This Bill is merely a natural consequence of the Act that your Lordships passed last year. You gave to the war executive committees of counties power to turn out at fourteen days' notice a tenant who is farming badly. Why should you not also give those committees the power to protect the tenant who is farming well and doing his duty by growing good crops in this great crisis when food production is of such great importance?

I should like to say one other word in conclusion. It is a well-known thing, unfortunately, that during the last twenty-five years or so this House and the whole of the country, certainly North of the Trent, were not in altogether harmonious or sympathetic relations. But a good deal of water has flown under the bridges during the last four years, and the country has not failed to notice that every Peer of military age and also the sons and grandsons of Peers have enlisted voluntarily and fought in the service of the country. Where everybody did so well it would, perhaps, be wrong to mention names, but as this is an Agricultural Bill I may be permitted to recall to the memory of your Lordships the conduct of the Lord Privy Seal, who was recalled from the duties of a private stretcher-bearer conveying wounded soldiers out of the firing line to take his place in the Cabinet and in the Councils of the nation. Nor do I think that anybody will ever forget his predecessor, also a President of the Board of Agriculture, Lord Lucas, the gallant Bron who lost his life in the air.

We, the parents of those who went to fight, including the mothers—for we must not forget how splendidly the women of England have behaved—and the grand fathers who were left behind, have tried to do what we could to follow our children's noble example. The way your Lordships' House accepted the Food Production Bill will not, I think, be easily forgotten. Without a murmur, without hesitation, without any opposition on the part of the great landlords in this House, your Lord ships accepted the Food Production Bill and gave up without a complaint all your great territorial, social, sporting, and political privileges. And you further pledged yourselves that no landlord during the war should raise his rent. The Government might fairly say, "When men have done so much for their country, it is perhaps a little hard to ask them to do more." But with all respect I ask whether, in this great crisis, it is not almost our duty to go a little further?

If your Lordships, without being asked, without in any way being compelled, of your own free will, would pass a measure of this kind I am confident that it would have a wonderful effect in the country. It would show that self-interest would not stop the House of Lords from doing their best to help their patriotic tenants and farmers to double their efforts to increase food production. The measure would be readily accepted by the country, because this proposal would not raise the price of food by a single farthing, awl it would bring us into closer touch with the great mass of the British people, who all over the world are at present facing every hardship, risk, and danger to support our Armies and Fleets and to help to bring this unprovoked war, which Germany has forced upon us, to a lasting and triumphant conclusion. It is in the hope that this Bill will increase the food production of which the country stands in such need that I have ventured to bring it before your Lordships' House, and it is in that belief that I most respectfully ask your Lordships to give it a Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Lincolnshire.)


My Lords, I am sure that we all give credit to the noble Marquess for his intentions in bringing forward this Bill, but I cannot help thinking that it goes a great deal further, and would have a much greater effect than he seems to imagine, judging from the speech which he has just delivered. In the first place, the noble Marquess frequently said that this Bill was going to increase the production of food, but he never explained how it was going to have that effect. Considering the limitations that there are at the present time with regard to notices, certainly I do not see, from anything that was said by the noble Marquess, how production is to be increased by this measure. I will give one case which is within my personal know ledge. I know a farmer who has taken another farm a long distance from the one which he holds, and his landlord seems to think that the only way in which the farm can be properly conducted with the present shortage of labour is that the farmer should continue to live upon it and not go to the other farm a long distance away and reside on that farm. Naturally, the landlord having put that to the tenant, he would make up his mind to live at the farm which he cultivated. What is there wrong in the landlord doing that? Yet that, according to the Bill of the noble Marquess, would be prevented. Certainly, if the farmer wished to live at one farm and cultivate another, in the present shortage of labour you may be quite sure that, so far from increasing the production, he would produce a very much contrary effect.

The noble Marquess talked gaily about security of tenure, and said that he did not wish to encourage bad farming. But, after all, he says this is to be subject to a third body—the war executive committee, who will say whether the man is farming well or not. Indeed, you may be quite sure that the landlord is as interested as any body else in having his land well farmed and the production of the country in creased, and I think nothing ought to be done by any legislation to introduce by a side-wind a different system of farm holding, as evidently this Bill is intended to do. Because although the Bill is proposed as a measure to last during the war it admits the principle that another person may possibly, after the war, be able to decide whether a landlord may turn out a tenant or not.

I think the noble Marquess ought to be content with the law as it is at the moment, without trying to make out that this House is not doing its best for the food production of the country if it does not agree to the Bill in its present form. The noble Marquess said that the country realised the sacrifices which this House had made during the war. We all admit that, and sympathise with the noble Lords in the sorrows with which they have been afflicted; but I do not think that that is quite germane to this question. We have to consider whether the Bill will increase the production of food in this country. In my opinion, and, I think, in the opinion of many noble Lords, it will not do that, and I sincerely trust that your Lordships will not accept the Bill in its present form.


My Lords, it is no new experience to your Lordships to listen to the noble Marquess on agricultural matters, and we remember in the old days when he introduced an agricultural measure in this House it was frequently described as "my poor little Bill." May I describe this as a "poor little Bill." I cannot see that it will assist any one except the bad farmer. It does not discriminate between the bad farmer and the good fanner, except in the opinion of a war agricultural executive committee. Though I dare say the noble Marquess will disagree with me, I am bound to express my opinion that most of the legislation which the noble Marquess has introduced in this House has favoured the bad fanner at the expense of the good farmer. The noble Marquess has talked about "poor old John Barleycorn," who could pay as he liked, and farm as he liked, and pray as he liked. Well, we rather buried poor old John Barleycorn in the Food Production Act, and I hope that the noble Marquess does not wish to do any thing to dig up that corpse, which he helped to bury.

The noble Marquess talked about land speculators. We know that there has been a certain amount of land bought by people and cut up and sold, but I think that probably the worst cases of land speculation in agricultural holdings have been speculation by the farmers themselves. We know something about the Thorney estate, which was bought at a low price by the tenant farmers, and I do not think now that a single farm which was bought by the Duke of Bedford's tenants remains in the tenant's hands. They have all been sold, I believe at a very large profit. Then there was the well-known ease of the Mountford estate, when a considerable area of land was sold to a firm in London. There were fifteen farmers on this estate and thirty-five small holders—I believe my facts are correct, but I speak under correction. The firm in London which was going to farm the land in co-operation with the big farmers was going to keep the thirty-five smallholders on the land to provide the labour. Pressure was put on the firm in London and the benefit of the sale was turned over to the fifteen large tenants. What happened? My information is that only seven of the fifteen tenants wanted to buy the land. The seven large tenants bought the whole of the estate, and the thirty-five small holders were turned out, or are, to the best of my belief, under notice, and the whole of the farms are to be put up for sale.

Then the noble Marquess used the production argument. I cannot see how he imagines that this Bill will increase production. A tenant doing his best by the land and putting as much into it as he thinks right never loses. I do not believe that an outgoing tenant ever had the worst of a farm valuation. It is always the incoming tenant and the landlord who get the worst of it. And if a man is willing to pay a higher rent than a sitting tenant, or to pay a higher capital value for the land, is it not common sense to suppose that that man sees his way to produce more out of the land than the man who is sitting there at a rental based, perhaps, on the values of the 'eighties and 'nineties and really producing a minimum of food? Is it not rather reactionary that these men are to remain in their farms, and that the more progressive type of agriculturist is to be debarred by legislation from coming on to the land and increasing the produce? It seems to me that the progressive agriculturist who sees his way to an increased production is the man who ought to be encouraged rather than discouraged; and I think that the noble Marquess's Bill is discouraging to the progressive type of agriculturist.

The noble Marquess next passed to the question of security of tenure. I do not like to say that "security of tenure" is a dishonest cry, because that is a strong word to use, but I confess to having very little sympathy with it. How many tenants of landowners that your Lordships know have really been turned out who had no business to be turned out? We all know that there are certain hard cases. We probably all know of one case; I think I know of one. But why is the legislation governing security of tenure to be different from that governing security in houses? How many people in houses in London or any part of the country have had their leases sold over their heads? How many business firms have had their leases sold over their heads and suddenly terminated, and had to seek new offices at very great inconvenience and very great expense?

How many farmers have accepted a lease of a farm? It is very difficult to get them to accept the lease of a farm, because the farmers do not like it. They prefer a case of "heads I win, tails you lose." If farmers really want security of tenure, is it not better that they should in a straight- forward way press His Majesty's Government to bring in some legislation to enable them to borrow money at a reasonable rate to purchase their holdings when they come into the market? Their holdings could be valued by the Board of Agriculture, and the Government could advance them a certain sum of money on the Board of Agriculture valuation. If they liked to exceed the Board of Agriculture valuation the risk would be theirs, and the profit or the loss would be theirs. That seems to me to be a perfectly straightforward and intelligible way of setting about the business. But to come forward now, when they have had a very good time, and to press for security of tenure in these circumstances, thereby making it impossible even to get rid of a very moderate tenant—only a very bad tenant could be got rid of under the Bill—to come forward at this time and to ask to have absolute security of tenure at these old rents, is apt to make one suspicious of what is the real intention.

I trust that the noble Marquess will take my criticisms in the way in which they are meant. I hope that he will not ask your Lordships to go to a Division on this Bill, but that he will see his way to withdraw it; and if he is anxious that the farmers should have security of tenure, I want him to consider the possibility of inducing the Government to introduce some other form of legislation on a fair and equitable basis.


My Lords, I am sure that there are a good many of your Lordships who feel sympathy with the purpose with which this Bill has been introduced, and I am also confident that there are others of your Lordships who feel that the evil is one for which it is most difficult to find a remedy that does not go far beyond the evil. My own feeling is that the Bill of my noble friend goes beyond the evil with which it seeks to deal, and for that reason, while, as I shall show in a moment, I think he has hit on something which requires to be dealt with. I am not so satisfied that he has hit upon the right remedy; therefore I cannot vote with him on the Second Reading.

There are undoubtedly a considerable number of people who are doing something which ought to he dealt with; but it is not specially a war evil. There are a great many people all through the country who are finding agricultural land a profitable speculation. They buy it and then re-sell it at a great profit to the tenants or to people who have that hunger and desire for the land and are willing, in order to make sure of it, to give a higher rent than they have hitherto been paying or a higher rent than other people have been paying. I am speaking from my own observation when I say that there is a great deal of this going on all over the country, and I should he glad to see any Bill which dealt with that which to my mind is purely taking advantage of the strong desire that people have to get hold of their own land, and which enables these people to buy from a landlord and then to give notice to quit, recklessly and ruthlessly, in order to make a profit.

But these, after all, are only a fraction of the eases with which this Bill would deal if it passed. What is it that we want to see? We want to see the owner of land deal with his land in a thoroughly progressive spirit, and we want to see him dealing with thoroughly progressive tenants. You want, therefore, to leave him a certain amount of freedom. You must not take it out of the power of the really capable land lord to make such improvements as may involve the removal of an incompetent person who is not getting out of the land all that should be got out of it in the public interest.

When I turn to the Bill I find that, in the first place, this is not a war evil of which it is speaking; and, on the other hand, I find that it interferes with the best class of landlord whom I should like to see come into existence in this country more than he has yet come into existence—namely, the thoroughly scientific landlord who not only is scientific hut who is keen to see that the land yields the most for the benefit of the State which it can be made to yield. There are many such, but there is room for a good mans others; and unless yon leave them to deal with their tenants they will not get the best out of them. It may be that some restriction is required to see that it is that class, and that class only, which you are encouraging. But I feel that the Bill of my noble friend, although I sympathise with what he has in view, goes too far in the one direction and not far enough in the other. He is not dealing with a war grievance; on the other hand, he hits people who ought not to be hit. Very often a man will pay his rent and observe all the covenants in his lease, or his tenancy, which may be a tenancy at a very low rent indeed, although he may be a tenant who ought to be turned out in the public interest. We do not want to sec harsh things done; but, after all, it is vital to this country to keep our agriculture at a high pitch of excellence. The effect of this Bill would be to hamper that process. I can see wrongs which it would prevent from being done; bat for every one wrong thing which I can see being prevented, I can see five right things which it would make it impossible to do. For that reason, while I think that there is something to be dealt with, I doubt whether this Bill will achieve what is required.


My Lords, there is one point which seems to have been forgotten in the present debate. As the law now stands, notices can be given only next Michaelmas to expire at the following Michaelmas—that is to say, a year and a-half hence. If unfortunately the war lasts for practically six months longer, the Bill will have no effect whatever; and if the war lasts for a year and a-half the Bill will make a difference of only one year to the tenants. That is a very inadequate boon, I think, to give to the tenants. It appears to me that the Bill is designed to pave the way for a Land Court; and I am of opinion—and I believe that most persons who have studied the question from the point of view of the landlord and also from the point of view of the tenant hold the same opinion—that a Land Court would not be of advantage to agriculture as a whole.

I took the trouble last night to go through the number of tenants on my own estate who, during my experience of ownership and including the portion with which I dealt in my father's time, had left the estate or had died. I found that between forty and fifty tenants had died or had left during the time in question, but that not one had been evicted by my father or myself. That shows that the idea that there is a want of sympathy between landlord and tenant in this matter is abundantly proved not to exist. I think it would he a great misfortune if the priceless heritage, which we have received from our fathers and carried on in our own experience, of sympathy between landlord and tenant, should be interfered with, and this national and most valuable asset be jeopardised by any such legislation as this.

Owners are being shot at in every way. They have to bear increased taxation; they have to bear the expense which the additional cost of materials, upkeep, wages, and everything else involves upon them. On the other hand, the tenants have what I believe to be a valuable increase of their profits, due to war conditions, which has been recognised in the Budget that was introduced yesterday in another place. It is therefore very hard upon the landlord that he should be the only person to suffer and bear the brunt, and that at the same time it is proposed that he should be further curtailed in his rights by interference from an outside source—an interference which I think I can well put in this way, that in regard to the figures which I quoted just now in respect of my own estate, the only one person who was dispossessed in the whole of the time- in question was dispossessed at the instance of the war agricultural committee. I cannot think, there fore, that tenants welcome the harsh treatment of a public body as compared with the good feeling which has always existed between landlord and tenant in that locality. I do not think I can usefully add anything more, but I think it would be a public misfortune if we were to jeopardise this valuable, and, as I have said, national asset of good feeling. I trust, therefore, that the Bill will not be supported in your Lordships' House.


I regret to say, my Lords, that my noble friend Lord Goschen (Joint Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Agriculture), who had proposed to speak on this Bill, has been seriously indisposed for seine few days, and I am afraid is not quite strong enough to address your Lord ships this afternoon, as he had desired to do. I therefore can only offer to the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, some general remarks upon the Bill which he has placed before the House. I think Lord Lincoln shire will be satisfied, by the general trend of the speeches to which he has listened, that everybody agrees with him in thinking that food production should be stimulated as much as possible. The only difference of opinion between us is as to whether the scheme which he proposes is most likely to achieve that result. Lord Lincolnshire is confident that it will, but I am bound to say that he certainly failed to convince me that change of tenancy involved decrease of production. I expected that he would give a number of concrete examples to show that the good tenant had been evicted and had been replaced by the in competent farmer. He gave no such example, and, to tell the truth, I think that if he were pressed, he would find it difficult to substantiate that case on general grounds. Certainly, my own knowledge and experience during the last two, three, or four years show that change of tenancy has in nine cases out of ten been followed by increased production, and the change of tenancy has taken place because, in the opinion of the responsible person managing the estate, increase of production is most likely to follow a change of tenancy.

Lord Hindlip pointed out to us, what I think everybody will agree with, that the good tenant is not in any danger of capricious eviction. Lord Hindlip made that point very clear. The good tenant is not only a valuable asset to the estate, but he is universally recognised as a valuable asset to the nation. He is not the man who is evicted, or who in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred stands in the smallest danger of being evicted. The tendency is quite in the other direction. Many tenants, indeed, ought to be removed who are not removed. On the ground of bad cultivation, lots of men ought to be removed—or shall I say promoted?—but they remain, especially if the man is an old tenant on the estate, very likely succeeding two or three generations of his own family. The reluctance to remove that man, although his removal would be in the interests of production, is so great that each one of your Lordships' probably can cite individual cases where the tenant is allowed to remain, although his remaining is against the interest of production. I therefore submit to Lord Lincolnshire that his argument from the point of production fails.

I wish to submit to the House another point of view to which neither Lord Hindlip nor the noble and learned Viscount on the Front Opposition Bench paid any attention, but which in my judgment should not be overlooked. Lord Lincolnshire is thinking of the tenant farmer and the allotment holder. I respectfully direct your Lordships' attention to the effect of this Bill upon the agricultural executive committees. Is this Bill going to help those committees to do their work? I confidently submit that it is going to be gravely injurious to those committees. I admit that some of the commit tees have agreed that if the Bill goes through they will be prepared to carry out its obligations, but I very much doubt whether they have fully considered what the Bill would really involve. Let me remind your Lordships what are the duties of these committees. They were established by Lord Selborne, they were at my instance developed, and under the guidance of Mr. Prothero their duties have been enormously increased. But they have one duty and one duty alone, and that is the technical promotion of cultivation. Their composition and personnel have been framed exclusively with that object in view. They have been successful. Lord Lincolnshire is certainly a member—I rather think he is chairman—of one of these committees, and I am sure that so far as his county is concerned, great success has been achieved. But are these agricultural committees suited, from their knowledge, personnel, or experience, to become landlords? I submit that they are utterly unfitted for that purpose, because that is what is involved.

Now a Land Court is a very big and solemn thing. Most carefully considered and highly complex legislation is required for its establishment. So far from this Bill being adequate, if the duties sketched by Lord Lincolnshire are to be imposed on a Land Court, the Bill, of course, will have to be withdrawn and completely remodelled, because it does not touch the fringe of that great subject. Yet Lord Lincolnshire is asking us to establish, not one Land Court, but fifty Land Courts in England and Wales. Each county will have its own Court. Each county will give different and divergent decisions. Take one obvious example. If it becomes the duty of the agricultural executive committee to say that notice is not to be given to a tenant farmer, the correlative duty upon the agricultural committee will be to guarantee the solvency, the competence, perhaps the sobriety, of the farmer to whom they forbid the landlord to give notice. Think of fifty different types of decision being given on points like that. The whole idea is so bewildering as to be really almost impossible. I say there will be disparity of decision in a most marked degree. Litigation, of course, must follow.

Many of your Lordships are well aware of the stupendous mass of litigation, lasting in some cases for years and only finally determined by your Lordships in your judicial capacity, which has arisen out of the Irish Land Acts. The same principle, cœteris paribus, must arise and apply in these cases. I ask your Lordships, and I ask Lord Lincolnshire in particular, what is going to be the effect on agricultural committees of having duties of this kind thrust upon them? We are placing upon them an obligation for which they are not constituted. They will have to have permanent legal advisers to deal with the difficult questions which will arise. We are distracting them from duties which they are now perforating admirably. The most notable thing about agricultural committees is their unity of aim, and the extraordinary co-operation and harmony with which they have carried out delicate and often extremely distasteful duties, and now, for no adequate reason, it is proposed to cast upon them the determination of controversial and litigious problems. If that is done, we shall run a grave risk of impairing, even if we do not actually ruin, the valuable work now being performed by these committees. That would be a grave decision for your Lordships to take. I am sure it is the last thing in the world which Lord Lincolnshire would desire, and I beg him to pay a little more attention to this particular side of the problem.

I am quite ready to admit that there are points to which Lord Lincolnshire has alluded where the law may require further consideration and amendment. I submit to him that this is scarcely the moment to proceed, and that the authority he has proposed is not well fitted for the object in view. I would, therefore, with great respect, suggest to the noble Marquess that he should consider the propriety of being satisfied with the debate we have had, and perhaps allow the Bill to be withdrawn, rather than run the risk of an adverse decision being recorded, so that, if it be proved to the satisfaction of your Lord ships that something in the nature of a Land Court should be established, it may be of such a character as will obviate the dangers I have mentioned, which I believe are very real and very grave.


My Lords, I cannot honestly say that I am at all satisfied with the Debate. I am very greviously disappointed at the way in which the House has received the Bill. But I was six years at Eton and many years in the "Blues." and I know how to take a licking. I see that my Bill has not the smallest ghost of a chance of being accepted by your Lordships' House. I have not had any support from any quarter of the House. I am bound to admit that this will be a great disappointment, not only to me but to the 200,000 food-producers in this country—I believe there are 200,000 tenant farmers in the country—all of whom are very anxious for the Bill. Although it may be a matter of merriment in this House, they look upon the present state of affairs as a matter of life and death to them. Nor will it be pleasant news to a large number of small holders and allotments holders. As your Lordships know, if an estate is put up for sale you not only sell the land but you may sell up every tenant upon the land. Whether that is a proper state of things to continue it is not for me to say. Of course, I shall not think of going to a Division, but I am not going to withdraw the Bill. I shall let the Motion for the Second Reading be negatived, and I shall have, at any rate, the poor satisfaction of having done the best I could to carry out the wishes of a very patriotic and hard-working body of men who are doing their best in a time of great national crisis. I have only one more word to say. I am afraid that the speeches which have been made in this House will not go far to convince the country of the real danger we are running of being within measurable distance of a very great and dangerous shortage of food.

On Question, Motion negatived.