§ Amendments reported (according to Order).
Power to require returns.
1.—(1) The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries may, in any year by notice served on the occupier of any agricultural Land in England or Wales or the person having the management of any such land, require him to make within such time, not being less than twenty-eight days, as is specified in the notice, and in such form and to such person as the Minister may prescribe by regulations made under this Act, a return in writing for that year with respect to the cultivation of the land, or the crops or live stock thereon, and, if the occupier is also the owner of the land, that fact shall be stated in the return.
(2) No individual return or part of a return made under this Act shall be used, published or disclosed, except for the purposes of the preparation and publication by the Minister of agricultural statistics or of a prosecution under this Act.
(3) (a) Any person who refuses, or without lawful excuse, neglects to make a return required under this Act to be made by him shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pow.ds.
(b) If a return made under this Act is untrue in any material particular, the person by whom the return was made shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds, if it is proved that he knowingly made such untrue return.
(4) Any person who uses, publishes, or discloses contrary to the provisions of this Act any individual return or part of a return shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.
(5) Any notice under this Act may be served on the person to whom it is addressed either personally or by post, and, in the case of a notice to an occupier, may be addressed to "the occupier" without naming him.
(6) The expression "agricultural land" includes land used as grazing, meadow, OR pasture land, or orchard, or for a market garden or nursery ground.
(7) Before any regulation is made under this Act, a draft thereof shall be laid before each House of Parliament, and if an address is presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent twenty-eight days on which that House has sat against the draft or any part thereof, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon without prejudice to the making of any new draft.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR) moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "with respect to the cultivation of the land, or the crops or," and to insert "of the acreage of land in cultivation, specifying the acreage of the several crops thereon, and of the acreage of land in fallow or used 478 for grazing and of the."The noble and learned Lord said: Your Lordships may recollect that when this Bill was being considered in Committee a question arose whether the term "cultivation" might not imply a power of interference with the methods of cultivation. I stated at the time that that was not intended. I have endeavoured to find words which would make it quite clear. The noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch, who raised the point, has written to me to regret that he cannot be here this afternoon, because he has to be in Scotland, but he says he is satisfied with the terms proposed. The other noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, I think is also satisfied.
Clause 1, page 1, lines 14 and 15, leave out ("with respect to the cultivation of the land, or the crops or") and insert the said words.—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, the Duke of Buccleuch has asked me to express to the noble and learned Lord his grateful thanks for the way in which he has met him in this Amendment, with which he is entirely satisfied, and to apologise to the noble Lord and to the House because the important business to which reference has been made has detained him from his duties here.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, after subsection (4), to insert the following new subsection:—"(5) This section does not apply in any case where the total acreage of the agricultural land occupied by a person does not exceed one acre." The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the subsection is intended to exclude very small tenants and to relieve the tenants or owners of them from making these Returns. I do not think there is any objection to that.
Clause 1, page 2, line 9, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
My Lords, I rather hope that the noble and learned Lord will not press this Amendment. As I understand, the object is to obtain something like a census of production in this country. As times goes on there is not only more intensive cultivation of reasonably good land, but there are necessarily more and more of these small holdings, 479 and, so far as I know, every Party in the State is doing its best to encourage these smaller, intensively-cultivated holdings. And, if I may say so, the absurdity of this new provision is demonstrated when you bear in mind that an acre of land, let us say in the Vale of Evesham, or in parts of Bedfordshire, will, in fact, produce more food or other agricultural produce than from 50 to 100 acres of land, say, on the Cotswold Hills, or the Wiltshire Downs. And when one comes to see further that the noble and learned Lord has, in subsection (6), a provision which specifically includes market gardens and nursery grounds, this particular Amendment is rendered all the more unnecessary, and, in fact, misleading if the noble and learned Lord seeks to obtain a reliable census of production.
Take the potato crop alone. It was frequently commented on during and immediately after the war that, although there was admittedly an enormous increase in the production of potatoes in this country, the actual Returns of the Ministry of Agriculture gave us little or no evidence of that augmentation of this most important of all vegetable crops, because the bulk of them are grown on holdings considerably smaller than one acre. If you were to omit Lincolnshire and Cheshire and the Lothians of Scotland I do not know that I should be in error if I suggested that nearly half the total potato crop in this country would be found to be grown on holdings of smaller acreage than one acre. I do not want to embarrass the noble and learned Lord on the eve of his getting his Bill, but I do humbly and respectfully suggest to this House that if you desire to get an accurate ascertainment of the crop production of this country you will make a mistake if you exclude areas of less than one acre, and at the same time include market gardens and nursery grounds.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Lord says as regards some possible irregularity in the Returns owing to this provision, but the provision was proposed in favour of the smallholder, and it was pointed out in the debate on the Committee stage that it might be hard on him to have to make these Returns. This is intended to be a concession to the smallholder, and the Ministry of Agriculture think it can be made without any 480 detriment to the general character of the statistics. It is proposed in order to meet objections that were made, and I hope your Lordships will assent to it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is quite right. This Amendment was very strongly pressed upon the Government when your Lordships were in Committee upon the Bill. I always look upon my noble friend as a great and almost overwhelming authority on agricultural matters, but I do not think he was present at that discussion, and that, of course, accounts for his intervention to-day—he is not aware of what was urged on the Government at the time. It would, of course, have saved a little time had the noble Lord been present, though, of course, I know he has many obligations which detain him. In the circumstances I do not think we can complain that the noble and learned Lord President has fulfilled the wishes which were pressed upon him by several noble Lords by proposing this Amendment. I hope, therefore, that it will be accepted. If any considerable debate was likely to be raised it would be rather awkward, in certain exigencies of which my noble friend is aware to proceed with it, but I think on the whole he would be wise to accept the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, in subsection (6), to leave out "or for a market garden or nursery ground "and insert" and any land used wholly or mainly for the purpose of the trade or business of a market-gardener or nursery-man." The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment, is designed to meet the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, called attention—the necessity of showing that there was no suggestion that a market-garden might include an ordinary garden. The matter was fully discussed in Committee and I am glad that the noble Lord is prepared to accept the Amendment.
Page 2, line 16, leave out ("or for a market garden or nursery ground") and insert ("and any land used wholly or mainly for the purpose of the trade or business of a market-gardener or nursery-man").—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.481
§ LORD PARMOOR
The remaining Amendments on the Paper, to subsection (7), are merely matters of drafting.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 16, line 23, after ("thereon") insert ("but")
§ Page 16, line 24, after ("draft") insert ("regulation").—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.