§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [THE EARL OF KINTORE in the Chair.]
§ Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9:
Clause 9, page 5, line 29, leave out ("an") and insert ("a perpetual")—(Viscount peel.)
§ Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 10 agreed to.
§ Clause 11:
§ Duties of county councils with respect to sale or lease of land.
§ 11.—(1) Land acquired by a county council under the principal Act, shall be sold or let by the council at the best price or sum that can reasonably be obtained, and where sold or let for small holdings be sold or let, except where the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries for any special reason otherwise direct, subject to a reservation of all minerals vested in the council.
§ (2) Where land is sold for small holdings or an option to purchase a small holding is given at any time before the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, the sale or option shall only be made or given subject to the approval of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries.549
§ (3) A council may give to the tenant of a small holding an option to purchase the holding on such terms as may be agreed and be consistent with the provision of this section, and on any such sale any increase of the value of the land due to improvements executed by and at the expense of the tenant shall not be taken into account in estimating the best price obtainable for the land.
§ (4) A council, when selling or letting a small holding at any time before the expiration of two years after the passing of this Act, shall give preference to suitable men who have served at any time in the forces of the Crown and to suitable women who are certified by the Board to have been engaged in whole-time employment oil agricultural work for a period of not less than six months during the present war.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY (on behalf of LORD BLEDISLOE) moved to leave out subsection (3) and to insert the following new subsection:
(3).—(a) Subject to the approval of the Baird of Agriculture and Fisheries, a tenant of a small holding shall have the option at any time during his tenancy of purchasing his holding from the Council, and, if the tenant so desires, the purchase money shall be paid by means of a purchase annuity which shall be fixed by the Treasury, and the annuity shall be calculated at the lowest rate winch will, in the opinion of the Treasury, secure the Treasury against loss.
(b)The purchase annuity shall be paid until the whole of the advance is ascertained, in a manner prescribed by the Treasury, to have been paid, and the terms of purchase shall also include such other terms as are not inconsistent with this section.
(c)On any purchase under this section, any increase of the value of the land due to improvements executed by and at the expense of the tenant shall not be taken into account in fixing the purchase money payable by the purchaser.
§ The noble Earl said: I rise to move this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Bledisloe, who is unfortunately unable to be in his place in the House to-day. The point is really this, that the tenant of a small holding shall have the option to purchase the holding, and be able to do so by a terminable annuity on the security of the land. The history of the Amendment is this. A proposal of the Agricultural group in the House of Commons was discussed in the Standing Committee, and eventually came before the House of Commons on Report stage. During all those stages of the Bill an undertaking was given that this Amendment should be favourably considered, and on the Report stage Sir Arthur Boseawen, Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture, said he would carefully consider it with the President of the Board in order to see whether it could be inserted in another place. I think it is a much more 550 desirable way of enabling soldiers and sailors to settle on the land than that proposed by the Bill.
§ It is extremely difficult to legislate by reference, and this Bill refers to the principal Act of 1908. Under the Act of 1908, I believe I am right, the tenant can exercise his option of purchase provided he deposits one-fifth of the purchase value. Under this Bill the county council may, or may not, grant him the right to purchase, but at the present moment it is entirely with the county council to say whether or not he may purchase his holding. What I desire to do—I notice the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill has an Amendment down on time Paper—is that in case the Board of Agriculture approve of the application, and the Treasury makes favourable arrangements, the tenant may purchase his holding and do so by means of a terminable annuity.
May I call attention to a passage in the Preface which the President of the Board of Agriculture penned to a book on "Occupying Ownership of Land." He wrote—
Where the State lends to a public body or an individual the risk is the same. If it is reasonably safe to lend to a public body it is reasonably safe to lend to the individual. The risk is slight. If the first two yearly instalments are paid the risk is infinitesimal, and the land remains as security throughout the, continuance of the loan. Whether an owner or tenant will produce most from the land is a question which depends more than anything else on the character of the individual, but given two men of similar disposition experience proves that the strongest incentive to increase of output is that of ownership.
§ That is the opinion of Lord Ernle, and I submit it is a strong argument in favour of the Amendment. It is not one which comes solely from the brain of my noble friend or myself. This Amendment has behind it the whole weight of the Rural League. Those who know the work of the Rural League and its close connection with those who are desirous of becoming small owners, will know that it represents a very representative body of opinion in this country. It was only very recently that I had an interview with Sir John Green, the very able Secretary of the Rural League, and referring to the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Viscount opposite—the Government Amendment—he said that he did not consider that it really [...], the case, as there was no effectual option.
§ I do not want to detain your Lordships, but I hope that the Government will give 551 this very careful consideration. I confess I regret the fact that the advantage of this Bill should not have been limited to those who served their country overseas. I understood that the noble Viscount the other day referred to the fact that munition workers were included in the advantage; to be obtained from the Bill. I can only say that I rather regret that, because the greater the number of individuals who require holdings the more difficult will it be to come to terms, and I understood that most of the munition workers were skilled hands in other trades. If this is not so, then many of them should have served as soldiers, and therefore would be far better employed in other things than agriculture. I hope I have been able, on behalf of Lord Bledisloe, to make the case fairly clear for this Amendment, because it is difficult always to amend a Bill which deals with this subject by reference; but I trust I have been able to make the matter sufficiently clear. Under the old Act of 1908, I believe I am right in saying that if a tenant deposits one-fifth of the purchase money he is entitled to acquire the ownership of the holding.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
I have in mind a case of which I will give the noble Viscount particulars, in which a small holder in the county of Cambridgeshire leased fifty acres from the County Council, and he is doing fairly well. He wanted to put down one-fifth of the purchase money and to purchase the small holding under the Act of 1908, but the council would not entertain the application. Under the Act the council may sell. There is no mandatory power, and it is feared that precisely the same thing would happen under this Bill unless the right is given. The point which I wish to make, and which those who represent the case to me wish to make, is that if, under those circumstances, the tenant is unable to purchase the holding, under this Bill and under existing conditions the ex-soldier would be unable to purchase his holding, and I hope the noble Viscount on behalf of the Government will be able to meet the Amendment
Page 7, lines 4 to 10, leave out subsection and insert the said new subsection.—(The Earl of Malmesbury.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I think it will be clear to my noble friend that I cannot accept this Amendment. It gives an 552 absolute right to any of these small holders to purchase his small holding. His Majesty's Government of course do not object to, but in fact they favour, the purchase of holdings, but there must be some discretion left to the county councils as landlords. They could not allow any particular holding to be picked out and purchased without reference to the rest of the property, and very many of these estates could be purchased without having regard to the rest of the property. Moreover I think that my noble friend also will see that it would militate very much against the whole, purpose of the Bill, because if any small holder, the moment that he became a tenant, had this absolute right of purchase—and purchase also on very easy terms—it is quite clear that the county council would have to exercise a much severer judgment over the man if he were their tenant than if he were to purchase, because their whole security would rest on the character of the man and his capacity for keeping the farm in good cultivation, and they would think twice. before they put a man in if the moment they put him in he had the absolute right of purchase. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will not press his Amendment. I know that this is to be subject to the approval of the Board of Agriculture, but the Board of Agriculture is not nearly in such a good position as the county council for judging whether the man himself is the sort of man who can be a purchaser, and it would be a bad thing to so interfere with the discretion of the county councils in this matter as that they should be over-ridden by the Board of Agriculture. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will be content to leave the discretion in the hands of the county council.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I am sorry that I did not hear the opening remarks of my noble friend, but I presume we are on the Amendment in the name of Lord Bledisloe and which my noble friend Lord Malmesbury has moved. I regard this as an Amendment of the greatest possible importance. It is an Amendment for the first time definitely to embody in an Act of Parliament the right of a small holder, on fair terms, to acqure the freehold of the land which he starts, perhaps as a tenant. This has been a subject of considerable contention between the two main parties in the State for a good many years past. When Lord Lincolnshire (then Lord Car- 553 rington) was President of the Board of Agriculture he, believed almost. exclusively in the small holder remaining a tenant of the county council, and he did nothing to facilitate the small holder becoming an owner. The Act as it exists at present, although it includes a certain provision designed to enable the small holder to become owner, has been practically useless, because the terms of the Act, according to my recollection, require the small holder to put down such a sum of money in purchase of the land as is usually quite out of his power.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I am aware of the Amendment, but I venture to think that it does not go far enough. Speaking to the Amendment which my noble friend has moved, I first of all want to make the general point that it is immensely in the interests of the nation that as many men its possible who are small holders should become owners of the land they cultivate. You have only to point to the example of foreign countries, particularly France, to see what an immense element of stability that right introduces into the social system of the nation. Therefore on general grounds I cannot too strongly express my adhesion to the policy of giving the small holder on easy terms, through an annuity, the right to become the owner of the land that he tills. I am astonished that His Majesty's Government should put any difficulties in the way of the fulfilment of this policy. When you consider that two-thirds of the land of Ireland has been transferred to the Irish tenants by an exactly analagous process it does seem a strange thing that such a national Government as that which we at present possess should feet any difficulty in giving corresponding facilities to that comparatively small class of the population who are small holders under the county councils.
When you pass from the general considerations to the case of the sailors and soldiers who have served I contend that the case is stronger still. Here are men who, as we are told by the Board of Agriculture, are claiming in large numbers to become small holders. If they go to Canada or Australia or New Zealand what is offered to them? Not what the Government Bill offers them—practically a permanent tenancy with the opportunity of 554 becoming a freeholder under rather onerous conditions, but the certain opportunity within a short time of becoming a freeholder. It will not bear examination that the only part of the Empire in which these men who have fought for the Empire, and whose brothers have died for the Empire, are not to have an easy opportunity of becoming freeholders should be their own native land. 'That is my see, aid point.
Now I come to the objection which my noble friend raised—the difficulties of administration by the county council. I say as a past President of the Board of Agriculture that these difficulties are imaginary. I say it not only as a past President of the Board of Agriculture but as one who on his own county council has taken an interest in this matter, and knows how it. Stands. You have only got to go to the Report of the Agricultural Policy Sub-Committee. of the Committee on Reconstruction, of which I had the honour to be Chairman, to see the whole of this question dealt with and worked out, in detail, and there is not a single one of the arguments that my noble friend put forward in the closing part of his speech that is not answered in advance by that Report.
Not only that, but in the Report you will find an actual example of how this thing can be done, and has been done. The County Council of Bedfordshire, acting under the law which governs its proceedings, established on part of the estate of the Duke of Bedford a colony of small holders, tenants according to the Small Holdings Act. On the adjoining farm the Duke of Bedford of his own action established a colony of small holders under precisely similar conditions, but with the power for those small holders to acquire the freehold whenever they liked. There was no obligation on the whole of them to buy; all this question of the difficulties of administration has been proved by the experience of the Bedford estate to be absolutely imaginary. And side by side at the present time you will find one estate on one farm, owned by the County Council of Bedfordshire, in which nobody has any chance whatever of becoming the owner of the land he tills, and on the next farm you will find the colony established by the Duke of Bedford where at the present moment every single man is either a freeholder or on the way to becoming a freeholder.
In these circumetances I hope that my noble friend will insist on this Amendment. 555 In the House of Commons it met with very great sympathy. The Government did not take up as resolute an attitude of opposition as I understand from the closing remarks of my noble friend he has taken up on this occasion; and, as I believe a very great principle is involved in this Amendment I sincerely hope that your Lordships will support it.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
There are two observations that I think I ought to make in reply to what my noble friend has said. He was contrasting the property of the Duke of Bedford and the small holdings of the Bedfordshire County Council. I have very great respect for the County Council of Bedfordshire, and surely my noble friend very much over-stated the case when he said that on that neighbouring estate not one of these small holders had the least chance of acquiring his freehold. On the contrary; it is absolutely within the competence of the county council to sell these small holdings to their tenants.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I will deal with that in a minute. But what my noble friend Lord Malmesbury is asking is to put it out of the power of the county council for any reason to refuse to sell those small holdings. My noble friend laid very great stress on the fact that under the Act before they purchase their holding they had to deposit one-fifth of the purchase money. If I may, I will refer to an Amendment that I have later on the Paper under which the county councils are allowed to modify or to suspend altogether the operation of the one-fifth deposit. You could not very well have the purchase of a small holding made more easy than to say that the county council has the power not to require at all the deposit of this one-fifth or of any part of the 20 per cent to be deposited before the purchase. The whole could be repaid over the annuity, and the annuity is extended from fifty to sixty years. Therefore it is not just to say that the Government have not made any effort to make it more easy for the small holder, whoever he may he, to acquire his holding.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I agree that my noble friend's proposal is an improvement on the present law, but in my humble judgment it does not go far enough. I have been a member of a county council 556 ever since county councils existed, and, like my noble friend, I have a great respect and admiration for the way they do their work. But I am much more concerned in this matter for the men on the land than I am for the county council, and I think it is not too much to ask for the men who have fought for their country that they should have the right, irrespective of the wish of the county council, to own their land if they desire. Therefore I hope that my noble friend will go to a Division.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
In reply to the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill, may I say that I entirely agree with what has fallen from my noble friend Lord Selborne with regard to the importance of increasing the number of freeholders? I remember well that in the year 1911 I introduced into this House a small Land Purchase Bill in which a small sum was involved compared with the sums now spent by His Majesty's Government. That Bill was not favourably received by the Administration then in office because the Tenant Bill (as we called it) of 1908 had recently been introduced.
With regard to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Peel to the effect that the county councils would have to be very much more severe in their test, surely that is exactly what we want. We do not want to put undesirable men on the land; we want to apply the severest tests of a knowledge of agriculture before we put them there. There is another point that was raised by my noble friend Lord Selborne which I think is a strong argument in favour of the Amendment—namely, the case of Ireland. Why have all these advantages been given to the Irish, who as a unit of the United Kingdom have not taken on their full responsibilities as to military service, when they are denied to those here who have served their country well in these years of stress? Finally, like my noble friend Lord Selborne I have been a member of a county council for a great many years. I am on the Small Holdings Committee of that county council, and I can assure your Lordships that the number of applications we receive from men who are thoroughly qualified to become small holders is very large. Might I say, in conclusion, that with regard to the Rural League, which framed this Amendment in the first instance I believe, there are now over 1,000 applications alone for small holdings by ex-soldiers now waiting, which cannot possibly be satisfied.
§ On Question, whether the subsection proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?—
§ The voting being equal, the Amendment (according to ancient, rule) was not made.
VISCOUNT PEEL moved, after subsection (3), to insert as a new subsection:
(4) A council may by order in relation to sales or options for sale of small holdings provided by the council which are made or given while the order is in force, modify or suspend the operation of subsection (3) of section eleven of the principal Act (which requires the payment on completion of the purchase of a small holding of not lees than one-fifth of the purchase money) and extend the term within which the purchase money is required by subsection (5) of that section to be repaid, but so that the term shall not exceed sixty years. Provided that any order Wade under this subsection before the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and twenty-six, shall require the approval of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Treasury.
§ The noble Viscount, said: This is the Amendment to which I have already referred, and I understand your Lordships are prepared to accept it at once. It is to enable a county council to do away with, suspend or modify that, particular provision under which, if the small holder wishes to purchase his land, he must pay one-fifth of the purchase money as a deposit. This, of course, makes it far easier for him to purchase the land. Moreover, the period of fifty years is extended to sixty years, thereby making the repayment instalments smaller. During the first seven years, in which the particular financial arrangement that I explained on the Second Reading still holds, this arrangement must be subject to the Board of Agriculture.558
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 18; Not-Contents, 18.557
|Bradford, E.||Peel, V.||Ranksborough, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Shandon, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Chalmers, L.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Lytton, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Onslow, E.||Emmott, L.||Wittenham, L.|
|Hylton, L. [Teller.]||Wyfold, L.|
|Sandhurst, V.(L. Chamberlain.)||Ludlow, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Wicklow, E.||Denman, L.|
|Brassey, E.||Hood, V.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Malmesbury, E. [Teller.]||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Stanhope, E. [Teller.]||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||St. Leavan, L.|
|Waldegrave, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Southwark, L.|
Page 7, line 10, after subsection (3), insert the said new subsection.—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 12 to 15 agreed to.
§ Clause 16:
§ Amendment of section, 41 of principal Act.
§ 16.—(1) An order under the principal Act may, notwithstanding anything in section forty-one thereof, authorise the compulsory acquisition—
- (a) of any land which at the date of the order forms part of any park or of any home farm attach-id to and usually occupied with a mansion house, if the land is not required for the amenity or convenience of the mansion house; or
- (b)of a holding of fifty acres or less in extent or any part of such a holding.
§ (2) Where it is proposed to acquire any land forming part of a park or any such home farm, or, except where required for purposes of allotments, a holding of fifty acres or less in extent or of an annual value not exceeding fifty pounds for the purposes of income tax, or any part of such a holding, the order authorising the acquisition of the land shall not be valid unless confirmed or made by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries.
THE EARL OF SELBORNE moved, in subsection (1), at the end of paragraph (b), to insert "except when such holding is the sole means of livelihood of the person who occupies it." The noble Earl said: The Amendment which I have on the
Paper is in respect of the clause which runs as follows—
An Order under the principal Act may, notwithstanding anything in Section 41 thereof, authorise the compulsory acquisition—
(b) Of a holding of fifty acres or less in extent or any part of such a holding.
The principal Act does not allow a small holding of fifty acres or less to be taken for the creation of another small holding.
§ Again, I must venture to appeal to my experience at the Board of Agriculture. I know the reason for the provision proposed to be inserted in this Bill, and it is this—that it has happened, not once or twice but fairly frequently, that a county council has found a small holding eminently adapted for a small holding, but held separately from a farm, very likely a big farm, by a farmer, who not only farms the big farm but also the small holding. That seems to be a case particularly suitable for the exercise of the compulsory powers of the Act, so that this small holding, which is not necessarily for the living of the farmer, should be taken and used as a small holding.
§ I do not for one moment oppose the powers proposed to be given under the clause so far, but the clause seems to me to go much too far. It would enable a county council to turn out a bona fide small holder in order to put in another small holder. It would enable a county council to turn out a man, to compulsorily acquire the small holding of a man, who was a small holder in the strictest sense of the word, and place another man on the small holding. I do not think that is at all in accordance with public policy or equity.
§ We all want to increase the number of small holders, but you are not increasing the number if you turn out one man and put another in his place. You are merely substituting a man who has probably less experience as a small holder for one who has more experience. It may be said that the case is never likely to arise; that a county council would never be so foolish.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I knew my noble friend would say that, but here I speak from personal experience of the Board of Agriculture, and I know of cases where county councils have wished to take land occupied by a bona fide small holder 560 in order to put in some other small holder, but were precluded from doing so by the terms of the principal Act. The Amendment I propose would leave it entirely in the power of the county council to take these small holdings for the purpose of small holdings unless occupied by a person who had no other means of livelihood. I maintain that it is a perfectly reasonable Amendment. From my own experience I say it is necessary, and I hope the Government will not oppose it.
Page 9, line 30, after ("holding") insert ("except when such holding is the sole means of livelihood of the person who occupies it").—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My noble friend speaks, of course, with wide experience on this matter, and I feel sure that one of the results of his experience must be to prove to him that it really is not very wise in these administrative questions to have hard and fast lines. For instance, as he rightly says, the old rule was that these small holdings could not be touched by county councils when they had once been created. And what was the result of having this rigid rule? The result was that all these little arrangements were made by which the whole object of the creation of these small holdings was defeated and were improperly protected by this division of farms into more than one portion. There are many other cases of the same kind where really improper protection, and unexpected protection, was given to these small holdings. There were also cases of accommodation land near towns where it was quite right they should be taken for small holdings and givers up to a different form of cultivation.
The noble Earl, undeterred by this rigid rule which he says has not worked well in the past, wishes to provide, I quite admit, against these particular cases which have already arisen, but there are all kinds of other cases which may, and possibly will, arise which make it unwise to accept his Amendment as it stands. There are many cases where land has been sold and the small holder has often been anxious, for his own protection and in order that he may not be turned out, that his small holding should be acquired by the county council. If this rule holds, and if there was any difficulty about the price with the owner, the small holder would not be 561 able to avail himself of, nor would the county council be able to give him, that protection which he might have if more administrative freedom were allowed to the Board of Agriculture.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am afraid I have not stated it quite clearly. There are cases where an owner has on his property small holders. I have got a good many myself; and supposing I want to sell my property, how then does the man know that the purchaser may not wish to throw a lot of these small farms into a large one and turn out the small holders? It might perfectly well happen. Then this small holder appeals to the county council, and he says "Will you buy my small holding, because in that way I shall get protection." If this rule stands the county council would not be able to do it and give that protection he might fairly have.
Then my noble friend says "Oh, but how hard it would be, and how useless it would be from the point of view of public policy, if you are going to turn out one small holder to put in another." That is an extreme case. I certainly can answer for two county councils that I know, and say that it is incredible that they should perform so foolish an action. My noble friend opposite, no doubt, has wider experience than I have, and he says there are cases where that might happen, but they must surely be very rare cases, and public opinion would operate against them. How can we legislate for such extreme and foolish action on the part of county councils? Must we not assume that they will generally act with good sense? Again it would not be always the case that the county councils would want land to put somebody else in. There might be some portion of it which might more conveniently go in with another holding.
As regards the specific Amendment of my noble friend, I think it is a little difficult to interpret it, because he says that the small holding shall not in this way be 562 protected except when such the Sole of livelihood of the person who occupies it. I am not really sure what that means. A small holder with a holding of forty acres might have a small income from the Funds. Are we then to look into the matter in every such case and see whether the man has some other possible means of livelihood. I suggest that not only would it be unwise to shackle the county councils in this way, but that in practice the matter would be extremely difficult to administer, because you would have unlimited inquiries as to whether in fact a particular small holder bad or had not some other means of livelihood. I therefore strongly urge your Lordships to leave the matter as it is in the Bill, and to have some confidence in the common sense of these county councils, and not to put in this administrative regulation which has been shown in the past to have bad results, which may easily cause unexpected. difficulties in the future, which would be entirely removed or would not exist if we leave the Bill as it is.
LORD ST. LEVAN
I do not think my noble friend opposite has touched the point raised by Lord Selborne. His point is that if a man is dependent entirely upon his small holding of under fifty acres, and you take away part of that, you practically ruin him. Does the noble Lord opposite mean to say that people can invest in holdings under fort acres and make a living?
LORD ST. LEVAN
Yes, of a certain class no doubt. You can exist on thirty to forty acres of good dairy land, and you can exist on that amount of market gardening land, but the ordinary farmer cannot exist on a farm of under fifty acres. Do you say that that can be reduced without injury to the holder? Is the noble Lord going to reduce the amount of land that a man will held to ten acres or five acres? Does he say that if a man has ten acres the authority can take a portion of that land away from him? If so what will be the means of the man's livelihood then? I cannot conceive what means of livelihood will be left to him. Has the noble Lord any instances of county councils objecting to this limit of fifty acres? No such objection has come before me, and I have 563 had something to do with the subject. I would further point out that a great. many of these small holder during the course of the war have been called upon to cultivate their holdings in a manner which they did not intend to do, entirely for the good of the country, and that they have met the requirements of the country in an exemplary way. If the reward of these people, having done is to be that they are to be turned out of their holdings, or that their holdings are to be materially reduced, what sort of encouragement is that to them to act in the same way in future? I cannot conceive why the Government wants to make this alteration in the existing law when so far as I know there has not hitherto been any objection.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I hope that the noble Lord will not press his objection to this Amendment. In the majority of counties in England—I should say nine out of ten—you cannot cultivate a farm of under fifty acres with the slightest chance of agricultural success. The noble Lord in order to appease the land hunger, which has not arisen in a very acute form up to this moment, is going to undertake the most uneconomic action which has ever been undertaken in this House with regard to land.
I only wish the noble Lord—though I could hardly wish it for any individual—had had to deal with Irish land for a great number of years. He would then know what the penalty is of taking away land from a man who can hardly make a living from it, and giving it to another man who has had no experience of making a living on it. That is precisely what he is going to do. The Government says: "Here is a landlord at one end with a farm which we can encroach upon. We will encroach upon it, giving him only the resource of an appeal to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. And here is a man at the other end who has the lowest number of acres which can possibly be cultivated with economic success. We will give the county council power to take from him that land, even if it happen to be his sole means of livelihood." The thing is absolutely laughable.
It is not only unpractical but absolutely opposed to all economic laws, and if my noble friend does not succeed in carrying it on a Division in the Committee I hope we shall renew the attack on Report. There is not a landlord sitting on that side of the House, whatever vote he may have to give, 564 who does not know that he would never think of planting anybody on his land with less than fifty acres if he could possibly avoid it because he knows that if he has no other means of livelihood he has no possible chance of making a livelihood out of a less amount. And may I add that if my noble friend would hot insist in fighting on his bad points as well as his good points, in a Bill which is bristling with bad points, I think it would be of advantage to the Committee.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I really think my noble friend should not assume that this Bill is so full of bad points when he has completely failed to meet the arguments of my noble friend Lord Peel He has not attempted to meet the arguments of my noble friend. Lord Peel said that in his own experience, quite apart from what he learned from the Board of Agriculture this difficulty had arisen in the past. I am only acquainted with two county councils, but, if I may say so, they are men of substance and of common sense. The Lancashire County Council, in particular, I am acquainted with. They are not going to turn a man from a fifty-acre holding in order to put in another man who has a fifty-acre holding. If this power is exercised by them it will be probably to effect a combination—one small holding perhaps in the centre of a field they may buy or one small holding with two or three other small holdings. By acquiring that small holding they might get more men on to the land. That is the kind of thing that will arise. I have no experience of south country holdings, but I will engage to say that, a substantial county council such as the Lancashire County Council, is not going to commit the follies that Lord Midleton attributes to them.
Let me now refer to the Amendment itself. Lord Selborne's Amendment excepts the cases where the holding is the sole means of livelihood of the person who holds it. That is drawn in very drastic terms. What is the result of it going to be? Lord Selborne proposes to exclude from this subsection (b) any man who owns a cottage besides a small holding, any man who has got £100, or even £10 in War Stock, any man who does occasional carting or casual labour—which is what we want our small holders to do. He excludes any man who works elsewhere, a fisherman, for instance or—as there are on my estate in scores—colliers who have got small hold 565 ings. Above all, he excludes every soldier who is receiving a pension from the State.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
What an extraordinary argument for my noble friend to use! He tells you that in regard to the county council I am quite wrong; there is not the slightest chance of any county council using this power which is given, and then he turns round and says this Amendment is drawn so drastically that it excludes men who have other small means of livelihood. A more absurdly inconsistent argument I never heard across the floor of this House.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
No, I was replying to Lord Mildeton, who said we were absurd—that the noble Earl's Amendment went so far as to exclude everybody who had got a sixpence outside the small bolding.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
You ought to be very glad of that, according to your own Amendment. You ought to welcome it as the most reasonable feature of the Amendment. I say quite definitely that there are county councils of England and Wales who will misuse this power if they get the chance. That is my personal opinion based on experience. And the whole reason for this change in the law is the fact that holdings have been held in plurality. I admit that as a general reason. I say that when holdings are held in plurality let the county councils take the small holding. When the small holding is the sole livelihood of a man I say let him be undisturbed in his holding.
§ used by my noble friend Lord St. Levan. With dramatic gesture he said. "What! These Mill have been told during the War not to use the land in the way they prefer; they may have ploughed up this and they have ploughed up that; they have been directed as to their method of agriculture; and now you are going to turn them out." Are we going to listen to a general attack of that kind on the county councils? Many of your Lordships are chairmen of county councils, and many others of you sit on those bodies, yet we are to assume that they will act with injustice towards men who have fought for their country during the war. This is an attack on the whole Bill. If you are going to assume that the county councils will conduct their business in the absurd fashion suggested by my noble friend, you had better throw out the whole Bill Because it depends on good administration by the county councils. We must attribute to those bodies some degree of common sense, and not suppose that they are going to occupy their time in hunting off the land men who have been discharging their duty to the State honestly.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I do not see that my noble friend is justified in making that observation. You have no right to hold out to a county council an indication of the course they can pursue as being the considered opinion of Parliament when everyone knows it is a thoroughly uneconomic doctrine.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be inserted shall stand part of the clause?—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 28.565
|Northumberland, D.||Selborne, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Stanhope, E. [Teller.]||Erksine, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Waldegrave, E.||Forester, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Brassey, E.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Churchill, V.||St. Levan, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Hood, V.||Sandys, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Willoughby de Broke, L. [Teller.]|
|Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Birkenhead, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Annesley, L.||Ludlow, L.|
|Chalmers, L.||Ranksborough, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Cochrane of Cults, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Crawshaw, L.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Emmott, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Faringdon, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Cave, V.||Hylton, L. [Teller.]||Wittenham, L.|
|Peel, V.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Wyfold, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly
§ Clause 16 agreed to.
§ Clauses 17 to 25 agreed to.
§ Clause 26:
§ Recoupment of losses incurred in exercise of powers under principal Act.
§ 26.—(1) At the end of the financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March in the year nineteen hundred and twenty and of each of the six succeeding years the Board shall pay to a council of a county the loss (if any) which may be shown to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries to have been reasonably or necessarily incurred by the council during the financial year in the exercise of their powers under the principal Act otherwise than in relation to small holdings of lees than one acre.
§ (2) The Board shall, on the passing of this Act, pay to a council of a county the loss (if any) which may be shown to the satisfaction of the Board to have been reasonably or necessarily incurred by the council in the exercise of their powers under the principal Act during the period from the first day of January nineteen hundred and eight to the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and nineteen.
§ LORD WITTENHAM moved to leave out subsection (2). The noble Lord said: On the Second Reading of this Bill I made a few remarks on this subsection. I now raise the point once again in order to get a fuller explanation if I can from the noble Viscount who has charge of the Bill. The answer he gave me on the Second Reading was that the past losses would really be quite inconsiderable—probably £10,000 or £20,000 at the most. I raised the point not so much on the question of amount, although that came in; but I did not quite understand why it was that the old Act of 1908 did not contain within its own four corners a complete system of finance which enabled it to deal with the losses incurred.
§ I remember sitting for many days upstairs in the House of Commons in 1908. The then Mr. Harcourt was in charge of the Bill, and I know the question of finance was most thoroughly gone into, and the Bill was supposed to have been made watertight in that respect. Evidently it was not so in fact, because now your Lordships are asked to sweep out any losses that may have been incurred under the principal Act between 1909 and March 31 of this present year. I ventured to say on the Second Reading that I thought the country had quite sufficient liabilities to meet in 568 the future under the terms of this Bill without being called upon 'to sweep up old losses incurred under the principal Act. The noble Viscount said, in his explanation, that it was part of a bargain made with the county councils, who, in return for this and as part of their duty, would be content to act in this way as agents for the Board of Agriculture for the ensuing seven years. Perhaps when the noble Viscount deals a little more closely with the losses, if he is able, he will also be good enough to tell your Lordships what is meant by a bargain with the county councils. I should have thought that if it were a right thing to do under the Bill, it would be done without making some bargain behind the scenes. When I say "behind the scenes" I do not mean improperly, of course. Probably, there is some further explanation. If there is I would ask the noble Viscount to give it.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am very glad to do what I can in order to explain to my noble friend. I do not know that I can add very much to what. I said on a previous occasion. I do not know whether I should have used the word "bargain" or whether that word suggests to my noble friend something of an unpleasant nature. It merely means, of course, an arrangement with the county councils so that they shall act for the ensuing seven years as the agents for the Board of Agriculture and the Government in the creation of these small holdings. As my noble friend knows, they are financed by the Government in so doing. The whole of their properties, both newly created small holdings and old ones under the previous Act, are to be treated for this purpose as one estate.
They will act therefore as agents for the Board of Agriculture for their estates in the county for seven years and at the end of that time, as I think I have explained, the whole of this property, subject to the valuation arrangements made under the Bill, will be handed back. Perhaps "handed back" is not the correct phrase, because no actual transfer takes place. The county councils will be fully responsible for them for the future and for the financial operations. My noble friend asks, Why should these back losses be made good? That is part of the arrangement with the county councils. They take this very onerous duty upon themselves, and it is thought not an unfair arrangement that the small amount of loss should be met. 569 My noble friend knows that half the loss had to be met before.
I am not sure that I did not overstate the amount of possible loss to be met in that way, when I spoke on the last occasion. I said it would certainly not be more than £20,000. I am advised that it will be somewhere about £10,000, so that the figure is getting smaller and beautifully less. Perhaps my noble friend may think, in these circumstances, that it is not really an unfair arrangement to be made, and that the assumption by the State of these particular liabilities is one which my noble friend may fairly accept as part of the general arrangement with the county councils.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 26 agreed to.
§ Clause 27 agreed to.
§ Clause 28:
§ Provisions as to commons and open spaces.
§ 28.—(1) Any land which is, or forms part of, a metropolitan common within the meaning of the Metropolitan Commons Act, 1866, or which is subject to regulation under an order or scheme made in pursuance of the Enclosure Acts, 1845 to 1509, or under any local Act or otherwise, or which is or forms part if any town or village green, or of any area dedicated or appropriated as a public park, garden, or pleasure ground, or for use for the purposes of public recreation, shall not be appropriated under this Act by a council for small holdings or allotments, and shall not be acquired by a council or by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries under the principal Act except under the authority of an order for compulsory purchase made under the principal Act, which so far as it relates to such land shall be provisional only, and shall not have effect unless it is confirmed by Parliament.
§ LORD DENMAN (on behalf of LORD EVERSLEY): moved, in subsection (1), after "under any local Act or otherwise," to insert "or which is a common suburban within the meaning of the Commons Act, 1876." The noble Lord said: Although I ant afraid I am not conversant with the question of common lands as are Lord Eversley and many members of your Lordships House, I desire to say one or two words on behalf of this Amendment. I understand that the position is this. Early this year Lord Ernle, who was then President of the Board of Agriculture, received 570 a deputation from the Commons and Footpaths Preservation Society, the National Trust and Nature Preserve Society asking him to afford protection to common lands tinder this Bill. I understand that some members of this Society fear that the adequate protection which Lord Ernle outlined should be given was not provide in this clause. There are one or two drawbacks assuming the Bill passes as it stands. Where common lands are taken under this Bill small occupiers and cottagers will receive no compensation at all for fuel and pasture' and other benefits, which at present they enjoy. Again, a though land can be taken by a county council for the purpose of experiments is agriculture there is nothing to prevent them selling the land later on if they choose to do so. In the Forestry Act there is a clause providing that where common lands are taken the, scheme shall be confirmed by Parliament, unless there is due protection of the public interest. If this protection is given in the Forestry Act a similar protection should also be provided in this measure. I quite understand that it may be desirable that in the case of common land in some parts of the country parts of which may not be very useful that it should be taken for the purposes of this Bill, but I would like to ask the noble Viscount whether it would not be fair that suburban common lands should receive more protection titan is given in this clause.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The clause as it appears in the Bill represents, I understand, a general agreement after long discussions with the different Commons Societies. It is quite true that Lord Eversley does not quite agree with the rest of the Commons Preservation Society on this particular point, and the effect of the Amendment is to give the same protection to "commons suburbia" as is given to commons set out in Clause 28—that is, that such lands shall only be taken under a Provisional Order which must be confirmed by Parliament.
I would point oat that there is real protection given to these commons suburbia, because under subsection (2) an inquiry will have to be held. Absolute 571 publicity is therefore given. What are these commons suburbia? Under the Commons Act of 1876 it means commons within six miles of a town of 5,000 inhabitants. The reasons why these commons are required are for recreational purposes, and to enable the commoners to exercise their rights, but I understand there are some of these commons which have become obsolete, and that possibly some of the land might be drained and made useful I submit this should satisfy the noble Lord. It satisfies the main body of the Commons Preservation Society, and as nothing can be done without a full inquiry I hope the noble Lord will be content.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hold no brief for this particular Amendment, and though I have had a long and valued acquaintance with Lord Eversley, who does not belong to my way of thinking on most matters, I must say I was a little influenced, and not a little bit touched, by a long letter from him this morning, addressed to myself and urging me in the most urgent terms to do all I could for this Amendment. I feel that after his very long and honourable connection with this particular subject, his protection of the rights of commoners and the rights of the poor in commons, it would not be fair to treat with any kind of disregard an appeal coming from such a quarter.
I am sure your Lordships will agree with me in this. I do not desire to press the Government now but I observe that the noble Viscount did not reply to the noble Lord behind me in respect of the preservation of commoners' rights. That appears to me to be a material point. I quite followed the clear and courteous explanation of the noble Viscount, that there would be all sorts of publicity under Clause 2, but what powers are there in the Bill to secure the rights of the commoners in fuel and such things, if they can be shown to be damaged by enclosures? My mind goes back to a long series of debates and speeches delivered mostly by gentlemen and noble Lords of Liberal politics, against the Enclosure Acts of the last century, and how the poor were done out of their rights by what was thought at that time to be very good policy but which was very hard upon the poor in many cases. I know this is a trivial matter compared with those great enclosures of the last century, but still the same principle applies.
572 I am entirely in the hands of the noble Viscount as to the actual facts, but I do not think it would be right that the poor should be deprived of their grazing and fuel and common rights even for such a purpose as this, where there is other land available for the purposes of the Bill. I would suggest to the noble Viscount that if he cannot answer me straight off he would do well to make inquiry whether the Bill does provide for compensation in the event I have indicated, and that if it does not he should produce words before the next stage of the Bill.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
I rise to support what has been said by the noble Marquess. I can possibly claim in one sense, as a Verderer of the New Forest, to represent a larger body of commoners than any other member of the House, and we regard it there as vital to the interest of these commoners that their common rights should not be disturbed. Therefore I second the appeal of the noble Marquess that before the Report stage of the Bill the noble Viscount should take into consideration some means of protecting the fuel and other rights appertaining to the commoners.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
In reference to what Lord Montagu of Beaulieu has said, I think the commons to which he refers would be protected under Clause 28, subsection (1). With reference to what the noble Marquess said, I am advised there is under the Lands Clauses Act compensation paid for the extinction of common rights. If, however, further reassurance is wanted I shall be very glad to give it.
THE EARL OF SELBOHNE
the noble Viscount knows that the real point of the argument is that the compensation is not compensation.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL moved, in subsection (2), after "appropriation" to insert "and in confirming an order for compulsory acquisition." the noble Viscount said: This is inserted at the request of the Commons Preservation Society, and merely states what is the practice—namely, that the Board, when confirming orders, shall deal with the matter on the same lines as other applications for the enclosure of such lands.573
Page 13, line 38, after ("appropriation") insert ("and in confirming an order for compulsory acquisition").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question Amendment agreed to.
Page 16, line 22, leave out ("1917") and insert ("1907").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 28, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ First schedule agreed to.
§ Second Schedule.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
the second of the Amendments that I move on this Schedule is for the purpose of enabling landowners whose land is taken for allotments to be able to give shorter notice in order to get the land back if they want it to build upon.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 20, line 40, column 2, leave out ("boroughs") and insert ("a borough").
§ Page 21, line 19, at end insert:
|Section 46||In subsection (1) after the word ("do") there shall be inserted the words ("or such shorter notice as may be required by the order for the compulsory hiring of the land").—(Viscount Peel.)|
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Third Schedule:
Page 22, line 14, column 3, after ("boroughs") insert ("and 'other than a borough' ").—(Viscount Peel.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Third Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT SANDHURST
My Lords, this is the first of seven Bills promoted under the Charitable Trusts Act of 1853 which I shall ask your Lordships to assist 574 me to pass. Your Lordships are familiar with the procedure and in the case of each of these Bills the necessary procedure has been complied with. Notices have been posted as required, and no objection whatever has been raised.
The schemes have appeared in the reports of the Charity Commissioners and I propose to move each Bill formally. If your Lordships should wish for any explanation I will do my best to give it.
§ Moved. That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Sandhurst)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a