HL Deb 16 July 1918 vol 30 cc860-9

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a,—(Lard Clinton.)


My Lords, before the Bill is read a third time I should like, very briefly, to say something which I had not the opportunity of saying on the Second Reading—namely, to support with all the emphasis in my power the plea of those who represent the County Councils Association that the embargo now laid by the Treasury on the operations of the county councils in respect of the provision of small holdings should be removed. It is a subject that has been raised before in this House, but I doubt whether the Treasury realise its importance. I know, of course, that the whole difficulty is financial; but has the Treasury considered whether the difficulty could not be met in any way by making it a condition that the money borrowed by a county council for the purchase of an estate should be invested in National War Bonds and the purchase price paid in that coin, if I may use the phrase? I throw that out as a suggestion.

Here you have this cruel dilemma. Everybody admits that at the end of the war a great responsibility will be put on the county councils to assist in meeting the demands for small holdings, not only from returned soldiers and sailors but from others; and all this time opportunities are going by when the county councils could buy suitable estates on the market instead of hereafter taking them by compulsion. It seems to me an absurd thing that you should want to do by friction and by compulsion hereafter, and, perhaps, at greater expense, what can be done now with universal good will. Therefore the refusal of the Treasury to remove the embargo must be protested against on every possible opportunity.


My Lords, I, and everybody who is interested in the provision of small holdings, will sympathise very much with the noble Earl in the statement he has just made. It is in the last degree unfortunate that these funds are not available at the present moment. I understand that the whole system of loans out of the Public Loan Fund is under consideration now, and the case of one applicant, the county councils here, cannot be considered fully until the whole of the rest has been under the consideration of the Government; but I have no doubt that the remarks of the noble Earl will be noted, and I am sure that they will have sympathy.

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Clause 1:

Increase in area of land which may he acquired for purposes of a. 1 of 6 & 7 Geo. 5, c. 38.

1. Subject to the provisions of this section, subsection (3) of section one of the Small Holding Colonies Act, 1916 (hereinafter referred to as "the principal Act"), which limits the area of the land which may be acquired by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries for the purposes of that section, shall have effect as if forty-five thousand acres were therein substituted for four thousand five hundred acres, twenty thousand acres for two thousand acres, and sixty thousand acres for six thousand acres, provided that for the purposes of the acquisition, equipment, and settlement of the area hereby authorised to be acquired by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Board may, with the consent of the county councils, employ the county councils as their agents, and vest in them all the powers hereby or by the principal Act conferred upon them, in addition to those vested in such councils by virtue of the Small Holdings Act, 1908, and paragraph (c) of section eleven of the principal Act, which limits the area of the land which may be acquired by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland for the purposes of the said section one, shall have effect as if twenty thousand acres were therein substituted for two thousand acres:

Provided that where land which is to be acquired for the purposes of the said section one could not, if this Act had not been passed, have been acquired for that purpose without making the total area of the land for the time being so acquired exceed the amount authorised to be so acquired, the land shall not be acquired otherwise than by taking the same on lease or by taking the same in feu:

Provided also that no portion of the additional land authorised by this Act to be acquired by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries shall be so acquired except after consultation with the chairman of the council of the county in which the land proposed to be acquired is situate, or with a committee of that council.


The first Amendment standing in my name to Clause 1 is merely drafting.

Amendment moved— Page 1, lines 15 and 16, leave out ("with the consent of the county councils, employ the county councils") and insert ("as respects any county with the consent of the council of that county employ that council").—(Lord Clinton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is consequent on the foregoing one.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 19, leave out ("councils") and insert ("council").—(Lord Clinton.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE MARQUESS OF CREWE moved to omit the first proviso, from "Provided that where land" down to "taking the same in feu." The noble Marquess said: Your Lordships will, I am sure, remember what occurred at an earlier stage of the Bill with regard to this proviso. My noble friend Lord Galway, who is not able to be in his place to-day, moved the omission of certain words which at that time appeared in the Bill, with the result that the proviso read thus— Provided that where land which is to be acquired for the purposes of the said section one could not, if this Act had not been passed, be acquired for that purpose without making the total area of the land for the time being so acquired exceed the amount authorised and so acquired,— that is to say the amount which was authorised by the original Act, 6,000 acres— the land shall not be acquired otherwise than by taking the same on lease"; as my noble friend Lord Galway had moved that the subsequent words should be left out—those subsequent words being, "or by purchasing it on the terms that payment shall be made therefor by way of rent charge or other annual payment." Afterwards, Lord Saltoun moved to leave out the words "or by taking the same in feu," but that noble Lord was not successful in obtaining the omission of these words. The net result is, therefore, certainly not satisfactory.

It is true that my noble friend Lord Galway succeeded in his object of elimi nating the provision which only allowed payment to be made by way of rent charge, instead of by payment in cash; but he left the clause in this position, that the only method open to the Board of Agriculture of obtaining land at all was by lease. I think your Lordships will all feel that this is not a very satisfactory outcome of the whole discussion, and my noble friend Lord Galway asked me to state that he would prefer that my Amendment—namely, to omit the whole proviso—should be carried rather than that the clause should be left in the position in which his Amendment placed it.

The noble Lord in charge of the Bill proposes to restore the words struck out on the last occasion, and I wish to put it to him and to your Lordships whether in all the circumstances it would not be more reasonable to do what I propose—namely, to leave out the proviso altogether. What is the proviso required for? As the Bill would stand without it, it would be open to the Board of Agriculture to obtain land for the purpose of these colonies in any one of various ways; either by purchase, or on rentcharge terms, or on a lease, or by feuing in those parts of the kingdom where feuing is the practice. But what is important to remember is this, that they cannot buy the land outright and pay cash for it unless the money is forthcoming, and there is nothing in this Bill, if passed without the proviso, which will produce that money; it is, therefore, I think a somewhat unnecessary excess of caution on the part of the Treasury, directed against one of the Departments of their own Government and directed in some degree against the House of Commons, because I can quite imagine a case—undoubtedly a rare one—in which a particularly desirable area of land could not possibly be obtained except by paying for it, at any rate in part, in cash or in Government securities by the issue of Stock. Those cases might not be frequent, but it is possible that a serious misfortune might happen in the Department losing the chance of acquiring a peculiarly desirable site owing to the impossibility of the owner being content with a rent charge. In that case it would be for the Department to go to the Treasury and to obtain authorisation to add a certain sum to the Estimates of the year in respect of that particular purchase, but unless the money were voted by the House of Commons no such purchase could take place.

It does seem to me, I confess, rather a preposterous act on the part of the Treasury, which I will not qualify in the terms that I might if I were perfectly candid, to set up this barrier and make it impossible at any time for any amount to be paid down for the purchase of any of these colonies without the whole process of a fresh Act of Parliament being gone through. It seems to me an assumption on the part, of a particular Department, even though it is by way of guarding the national purse, which is I think quite unprecedented—I cannot recall a parallel—and one which your Lordships ought not to admit. It is not as though any kind of burden or obligation were being thrown upon the Department or upon anybody to expend money at a time when, as we all agree, it is undesirable that either particular Departments or public authorities should throw a burden upon the national credit by expending sums of money for any objects however desirable in themselves. But there is no question here of anything of the kind. All that the omission of the proviso would do is to leave the whole position absolutely open, no doubt leaving it in practice for the next year or two quite certain that money will not be forthcoming for purchase, and that if landlords are not prepared either to lease or to accept a rentcharge, no special arrangement is likely to be come to with them. But the time may come—circumstances may change—when it is desirable that at any rate some portion of the purchase money should be paid in cash, and we desire, therefore, to leave that possibility open.

I confess I feel so strongly on this point that I am bound to press my Amendment, and resist the restoration of the words which the noble Lord in charge of the Bill desires to replace. No suggestion has ever been made that payment for these purchases might be made after the fashion in which Irish landlords have received their payments—namely, in inconvertible security. Possibly some such suggestion, if the possibility of converting was withheld for a certain number of years, might produce a not unacceptable form of purchase in some cases, but no such suggestion has been made, and it is because I feel that the possibilities of obtaining desirable land may be seriously limited by this particular restriction that I feel bound to press my Amendment on the noble Lord and the Government.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 24, leave out from ("acres") to ("provided") in line 4, page 2.—(The Marquess of Crewe.)


The noble Marquess has detailed to the House the happenings when this Amendment, or rather when the words connected with this Amendment, were moved out by your Lordships' House on the last occasion when we discussed the matter. My recollection is that the sense of the House was not taken upon Lord Galway's Amendment. He moved it, and through my own inadvertence, mistaking the method—no doubt the perfectly correct method—in which the Question was put, I did not challenge it, and the Amendment was passed before the error was discovered. I did object to the Amendment in speaking to it at the time. It seemed to me that these are words which ought to be allowed to remain in the Bill, because they show owners quite plainly the methods, and the only methods, which the Board of Agriculture could adopt in obtaining land for this particular class of small holdings. The noble Marquess is perfectly correct in saying that this is a proviso, taken as a whole, which affects the Treasury alone. It is made quite clear that the Treasury is not in a position, or does not propose, to advance any money in cash for this purpose. With reference to a conversation which passed in this House a few moments ago, when the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, brought up the question of purchasing for small holding purposes, I think it would be probably incorrect in this measure, which is for somewhat similar purposes, to admit the possibility or probability of actually purchasing land for cash, when that probability or possibility is not admitted for county councils.


There is no Act of Parliament which forbids the advancement of money to county councils. It is the act of the Treasury in suspending these advances, and I take it that precisely the same thing will occur in this instance.


There is, of course, no Act of Parliament, but the Treasury is unlikely or unable to advance cash. It is quite true that it would be exactly the same under this measure. The Treasury is of opinion that this ought to go into the Bill to make it clear that they are not prepared to adopt that measure—to make it clear to owners who are voluntarily giving up land for this purpose that they are not in a position to claim cash from the Treasury itself. It is of importance in that respect. It does away with demands which would constantly be made on the Treasury if they were empowered to purchase land in this way. I think the noble Marquess said there is no mention of convertible security. It is not mentioned in those very terms, but I think the rentcharge with the Government guarantee is obviously a convertible security, and probably convertible, for its face value at all events, as easily as land.


I am afraid I did not express myself quite clearly. I meant to say that there is no provision in the Bill for payment in security which was not convertible, like the Irish Land Stock. I suppose that money might be borrowed privately on a Government rentcharge, although I do not know exactly at what rate of interest, but, it would be inconvertible security which was in my mind.


My point was that this rentcharge world probably be saleable at its face value. The noble Marquess has told us also that in any case he is not prepared to support the Amendment for putting the words back into the proviso. The proviso as it stands, the noble Marquess will admit, is a very peculiar proviso for an Act of Parliament, and while I am very anxious indeed that the proviso should remain, at the request of the Treasury I shall have to ask your Lordships also to put back the words which were moved out at the last sitting of the House.


I understand that the defence advanced by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill for this proviso is that be wants words in the Bill which shall negative any idea of the creation of ownership, and this contention he bases mainly on the ground of precedent. I do not think that the Act of 1908—the Small Holdings Act which passed in 1907, and was in charge of my noble friend Viscount Harcourt, at that time Minister for Agriculture—negatived entirely the idea of ownership to county councils. It is true that its clauses were so framed as to encourage tenancy rather than ownership, but the noble Lord's position is really not reconcilable with the attitude he takes up with regard to the next Amendment which we shall have to deal with, because he expressly proposes to replace the words "or upon grant of rentcharge," then the ownership will practically have passed, subject only to the payment of a rent- charge. The party who is liable to the payment of a rentcharge is the owner in fee who can pass on that ownership to a tenant or a small holder or any other person to whom, subject to his responsibility to the ratepayers, he thinks it best to pass it on. I do not know really what the origin or genesis of this proviso is. I can conceive it may have been imagined that it would place the Treasury in a better position for negotiation. I submit to your Lordships that it will have exactly the opposite effect. I remember that one of the best men of business I knew said that in all negotiations you should always allow the opposite party to think that he is not left with absolutely nothing. In any case here, where you want to bring in the landowner on a voluntary arrangement, you start by negativing all idea of paying cash. It is probably right from the point of view of our present financial position that you should not raise large capital sums where you can avoid it. Surely it is better to leave the negotiations as free as possible, because, as the noble Marquess says, you should be free to pay cash should there be a


The "Contents" are 40, and the "Not-Contents" also 40. The Motion was to leave out part particularly valuable piece of land which, for the purposes of the new legislation, you want to acquire.


With the leave of the House I should like to say that I think the noble Lord misunderstood my words entirely. I never raised any argument against ownership. Apart from that, the noble Lord's views really express mine. Under this scheme of rentcharge obviously you may obtain virtual ownership for tenants, but I made no arguments against the principle of ownership.


Does the noble Marquess move the Amendment down to the word "lease"?



On Question, whether the words in the proviso down to the word "lease" shall stand part of the clause?—

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 40; Not-Contents, 40.

Finlay, L. (L. Chancellor.) Knollys, V. Faringdon, L.
Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.) (L. Privy Seal.) Peel, V. Harris, L.
St. Davids, V. Hylton, L.
Kenyon, L.
Dartmouth, E. Annesley, L. Lee of Fareham, L.
Grey, E. Armaghdale, L. Muir Mackenzie, L.
Howe, E. Ashbourne, L. Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)
Lichfield, E. Cawley, L. Pontypridd, L.
Selborne, E. Clinton, L. Ranksborough, L.
Stanhope, E. Colchester, L. Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]
Strafford, E. Colebrooke, L. Stanmore, L. [Teller.]
Cottesloe, L. Sudeley, L.
Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.) Digby, L. Terrington, L.
Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.) Elphinstone, L. Wittenham, L.
Goschen, V. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Argyll, D. Chaplin, V. Hindlip, L.
Rutland, D. Churchill, V. Joicey, L.
Harcourt, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Crewe, M. [Teller.] Iveagh, V. Lambourne, L.
Lincolnshire, M. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Phillimore, L.
Ancaster, E. Anslow, L. Redesdale, L.
Beauchamp, E. Ashton of Hyde, L. Rotherham, L.
Eldon, E. Avebury, L. Sandys, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Beresford of Metemmeh, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Powis, E. Blyth, L. Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Brodriek, L. (V. Midleton.) Southwark, L.
Yarborough, E. Buckmaster, L. Strachie, L.
Allendale, V. Burnham, L. Stuart of Wortley, L. [Teller.]
Bryce, V. Farrer, L.

of the clause, and in these circumstances I submit to the House that the words do stand part.

LORD STUART OF WORTLEY moved, after "taking the same on lease," in the first proviso, to insert "or by purchasing it in consideration of the grant of a rent charge or other annual payment." The noble Lord said: I move the re-instatement of words substantially the same as those which were omitted on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Galway on a previous occasion. I think the House is familiar with the argument. The Bill itself negatives the payment of cash, and by retaining this proviso we have retained that prohibition, unfortunately as we think. It is clearly desirable—I speak as a landowner in a fiduciary capacity myself, one of the largest in the kingdom—that I should have all possible alternatives in negotiations, and all possible methods of compensation for the loss of my territory.

Amendment moved: Page 2, line 2, after ("lease") insert ("or by purchasing it in consideration of the grant of a r[...]nt charge or other annual payment").—(Lord Stuart of Wortley.)


A similar Amendment is also down in my name, and I wish to support the noble Lord. I have already told your Lordships that the provision was left out through a misapprehension on the last stage in Committee, and I am glad to support the Amendment now.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


An Act to authorise an increase in the Amount of Land which may be acquired for the purposes of the Small Holding Colonies Act, 1916.


My Lords, a doubt has arisen whether some alterations made by your Lordships in Committee, giving powers to county councils to act under this Bill, do not necessitate an Amendment of the title of the Bill, and whether the title should not have added the words "and otherwise amend that Act." The noble Lord, Lord Clinton, informs me that he has no objection and that the Government approve of this alteration. I therefore move the addition of those words.

Amendment moved In the Title, after ("1916") insert ("and otherwise amend that Act").—(Lord Strachie.)

On Question. Amendment agreed to.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.