§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
My Lords, during the debates on the Agriculture (Amendment) Bill of last year the late Lord Balfour of Burleigh emphasised the necessity for a Consolidation Bill as regards agricultural holdings, and I was then able to assure your Lordships that such a Bill was being prepared. A measure dealing with the Agricultural Holdings Acts applicable to Scotland has already been introduced and is now before the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills. This Bill refers to England and Wales, and consolidates and repeals The Allotments and Cottage Gardens Compensation for Crops Act, 1887, The Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908, The Agricultural Holdings Act, 1913, The Agricultural Land Sales (Restriction of Notices to Quit) Act, 1919, the whole of Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1920, The Agriculture (Amendment) Act, 1921, and Section 5 of the Corn Production Acts (Repeal) Acts, 1921. Your Lordships will therefore realise that we are doing something to make the law a little clearer, and I hope we shall be able to do the same thing with regard to allotments.
If your Lordships are good enough to give this Bill a Second Reading I propose that it should be referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills, of which Lord Muir Mackenzie is Chairman. I should also like to take this opportunity of acknowledging the great assistance which the Ministry of Agriculture has received in the preparation of this measure from the Central Landowners' Association and Lord Clinton. Their suggestions have been most helpful, and it is only right I should acknowledge their valuable assistance.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2£.—(The Earl of Ancaster.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I rise to ask the noble Earl to assure us that there is nothing but consolidation in this Bill and that no change of the law is involved. My only other question has some reference to the debate which has just closed. I should like to know whether the noble Earl intends to proceed with Part II of the present Bill which deals with allotments, cottage gardens, compensation for disturbance, and other matters. Having regard to what has just passed on the Second Reading of the Allotments Bill one would imagine that he will probably not proceed 273 with Part II of this Bill until Parliament has decided what is to be done with the allotments question.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
My Lords, I can assure the noble Marquess that there is nothing in this Bill except consolidation. If there is anything more in it no doubt Lord Muir Mackenzie's Committee will quickly find it out. With regard to the question of proceeding with Part II, I think it would be something to get this Consolidation Bill and even that part of it dealing with allotments and cottage gardens. After all, we do not know that the Allotment Bill is going to pass into law; and if it does, then the most convenient way would be to amend the Consolidation Bill afterwards.
§ LORD MUIR MACKENZIE
My Lords, reference having been made to the Consolidation Bill Committee, I should like to say one word. I have looked sufficiently at the Bill which is now before the House to see that it corresponds very closely indeed with the Bill consolidating the Acts applicable to Scotland with which we have already dealt to a considerable extent in the Joint Committee. It would appear, however, as if the two Bills had been drafted quite independently. The result is that I can already see that some of the points which arise for the consideration of the Committee as to consolidation are the same in both Bills, and yet in the Bills themselves they have been drafted somewhat differently. That seems to me to be rather awkward, and I think it would be natural for the Joint Committee to try to make the Acts correspond, so that wherever these questions arise they should be solved in the same way for both Bills. It does not always necessarily follow that that should be so, but it would generally be so. What I suggest to the noble Earl is that perhaps he might consult with the noble Lord who is responsible for the Agriculture Bill for Scotland and give instructions that at the next meeting of the Committee, which is next Wednesday, the draftsmen of both Bills should be present, so that we may have presented to us one aspect rather than two aspects of the consolidation of certain sections. That would certainly assist the work of the Committee, and would, I think, produce a satisfactory result.
The next thing which I wish to say has already been anticipated by the noble 274 Marquess opposite. On looking at the noble Earl's Bill, I was surprised to see that a small Part II was inserted which dealt with one of the Allotments Acts, and it appeared to me that, unless there was going to be a complete consolidation of the Allotments Acts, it was better not to bring it into the Agricultural Holdings Bill. I should rather like to support what was suggested by the noble Marquess opposite, that Part II should not be proceeded with unless very strong reasons are given before our Committee as to why it has been added to the Bill. I should like to point out that in the course of the discussions in the Committee in relation to the Bill applying to Scotland, it was suggested by some members that the Allotments Acts relating to Scotland—I am not quite sure whether I am using the right expression in calling them Allotments Acts, but I mean the Acts dealing with small holdings in Scotland—should have been incorporated in this consolidation, and something has fallen to-night from some noble Lords suggesting that they thought that in the Bill now before the House the consolidation of the Allotments Acts would have been desirable at the same time.
I venture to comment upon the remark of the noble Earl that he was not responsible for the drafting of the Bill. I have always understood that the Minister in charge of a Bill is responsible for the drafting. He may find fault with his draftsman if he thinks fit, but before the House your Lordships can appeal only to the Minister in charge of the Bill as to the drafting. What I particularly wanted to say, however, was that I agree with him entirely that the proper course on Bills of this kind is to take amendment first, by itself, and then to consolidate. If you put the two together you find yourself in a great difficulty, because you throw open to debate the whole of the legislation on the subject, and, if the House will forgive me for saying so, a Bill which comes before us in that form is very seldom really examined in this House. The substantial Amendments are examined, but the consolidation Amendments are passed without examination. I venture to think, therefore, that this House will be well advised to adhere to the general principle of taking Amendments first and then consolidating them. If the noble Earl will forgive me, I shall take the liberty of repeating these remarks next Tuesday when I see his Bill relating to Fisheries.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has raised two or three very technical and interesting questions. I have consulted with my noble friend beside me, and he suggests that in going into Committee on Tuesday next, as he proposes, he should make a statement to the House on the general question raised by Lord Muir Mackenzie. The two subsequent points raised by the noble and learned Lord are clearly points which must arise upon the Committee stage of the Bill itself. The main question of principle, however, is one which I think could most suitably be dealt with on going into Committee. If your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading now, we shall put it down for Tuesday.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.