HL Deb 22 July 1925 vol 62 cc291-304

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL Of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Loans by Commissioners to allotment societies.

(3) Lands purchased by an approved society, and in respect of which a loan is made by the Commissioners, shall thereafter be let to members of such society or others and used as allotments, provided that it shall be competent for the society to dispose of the land or any part thereof if so authorised by a resolution passed by two-thirds at least of the members present at a meeting of the society convened for this purpose by a notice stating the proposal for sale and if the consent of the Minister is obtained:

Provided also that if at the time of such sale any part of a loan made under this section remains unpaid the sale shall also be subject to the consent of the Commissioners.

Nothing in this subsection shall affect or apply to the use or disposal of any such land by the Commissioners or any persons deriving title under them in such manner as they may think fit.

THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (LORD BLEDISLOE) moved, in subsection (3), after "thereafter," to insert "while owned by such society." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is not a purely drafting Amendment. This clause authorises an allotment society to sell allotment land. It is obviously not intended to compel the land to be used for allotments after sale, and this Amendment is intended to secure that this shall not be done.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 8, after ("thereafter") insert ("while owned by such society").—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next four Amendments which stand on the Paper in my name are drafting Amendments.

Amendments moved—

Page 2, line 15, after ("Minister") insert ("of Agriculture and Fisheries").

Page 3, line 5, leave out ("Act, 1893") and insert ("Acts, 1893 to 1923")

Page 3, line 5, line 6, leave out ("and 1908") and insert ("to 1924")

Page 3, line 5, line 12, after ("Acts") insert ("1908 to 1918").—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Limit of expenditure on provision of allotments.

4. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section sixteen of the Act of 1922 the council of any borough or urban district may take proceedings under the provisions of the Allotments Acts relating to allotments if, in the opinion of the council, the expenses referred to in such section may reasonably be expected, after the proceedings are taken, to exceed the receipts of the council under those provisions by no greater amount than would he produced by a rate of one penny in the pound.

LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to leave out Clause 4. The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment of which I have given Notice, and I am sorry that it does not appear upon the Paper. Clause 4 provides that any borough or urban district council may take allotments if— the expenses referred to in such section may reasonably be expected … to exceed the receipts of the council under those provisions by no greater amount than would be produced by a rate of one penny in the pound. It also alters subsection (1) of Clause 16 of the Act of 1922 to that effect. That really means that a council can take land for the purpose of allotments and then let it at an uneconomic rent. They may then impose a rate of not more than ld. in the £ upon the ratepayer to enable the holders of the land to have it at an uneconomic rent.

The subsection of Clause 16 of the Act of 1922 which this clause seeks to amend runs as follows: A council shall not take any proceedings under the provisions of the Allotments Acts relating to allotments, unless in the opinion of the council the expenses of the council incurred under those provisions (other than such expenses as are hereinafter specified) may reasonably be expected, after the proceedings are taken, to be defrayed out of the receipts of the council under those provisions. That is to say, only three years ago, with a very extravagant Government in power, presided over by Mr. Lloyd George, it was enacted that a council should not let land for allotments unless they were reasonably of opinion that they could let it without a loss. Now we have a Conservative Government coming forward and saying: "Never mind this; it was three years ago. We will pit in a provision which will enable the county council or urban council to take allotments knowing that there will be a loss, and to make up the loss by a penny rate." That, again, is an instance of the way in which we are every day presented with Bills to increase expenditure, and we are told, as my noble friend Lord Peel told me a few moments ago, that it is only a small amount. But all these little amounts total up, and I sincerely hope that my noble friend Lord Bledisloe will consent to delete this provision. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 4.—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)


This Amendment is to delete that part of the Bill which, in itself, repeals Section 16 of the Act of 1922. Under that clause councils were not entitled to promote allotment schemes unless in their opinion the receipts would be equal to the expenditure. That was laid down in the Act, but I, like the noble Lord, am well aware that, while a council might endeavour quite properly to provide a scheme which would come within that clause, they, like many other people, were frequently disappointed, and the result was a loss which did, as a matter of fact, fall upon the rates. Upon the whole, I think that I would rather see a definite limitation of the burden upon the rates to 1d. in the £ than the haphazard proceeding of the Act of three years ago. The noble Lord said that the object of the Bill was to enable a council to let at an uneconomic rent. This was not the object of the clause—at least, I imagine that it was not—although I admit that under certain circumstances—


I think I said that it might be the possible effect.


As I have said, this clause is necessary if the other clauses of the Bill are to be properly put into effect. Clause 3 of the Bill provides that in town-planning schemes arrangements have to be made for the provision of allotments. Under Clause 5 of the Bill the council may acquire land for allotments even if they cannot be immediately let. To carry out those ideas it would be impossible for the council to proceed unless they had some latitude in the way of expenditure. It seems to me that for the purpose of the Small Holdings movement, which is now of great social importance, it is necessary for a council to look forward. In the early stages of town development land can be bought, no doubt, cheaply, but as building increases the value of the other land also increases within the borough boundary. It seems to me unfair to the allotment movement to lay down definitely that a council cannot obtain land for allotments until the price has gone up in consequence of the land having reached a higher value, and unless you give the council some power to look a little forward in the matter I think it is quite certain that they will have to let allotments at a rent which it will be difficult indeed for the allotment holders to pay. I suggest to the noble Lord that it would be a good thing if the clause were allowed to remain in the Bill.


May I make an appeal to the noble Lord? We have had no Notice of this Amendment. It does not appear on the Paper and it does not seem at all clear, and therefore I suggest that we might discuss the matter on the Report Stage. It is quite clear that it is an intricate point, and I myself have an objection to Amendments which do not appear on the Notice Paper. There is always the Report Stage, on which it is easy to discuss such an Amendment, and I hope that the noble Lord will give us an opportunity, by now withdrawing his Amendment, of considering the matter, because not understanding much from the explanation given I shall certainly vote against it to-day.


I do not think it is my fault that Notice was not given, because I handed the Amendment in at the Table, but by some error, probably mine, it does not appear on the Amendment Paper.


I am informed that it was not handed in at the Table.


I said some error, probably mine. I thought I handed it in, but apparently I did not do so. I am quite willing to fall in with the suggestion of the noble Earl opposite, but I would like to say, in answer to Lord Clinton, that Clause 5 will be effective even if Clause 4 is taken out, and that Clause 4 does not limit the expenses to a 1d. rate, but only says that the council may take proceedings if the expenses may reasonably be expected not to exceed a 1d. rate. Therefore if, by any chance, it were found that the expenses do exceed a 1d. rate, I think the same thing would happen. I am, however, willing to withdraw my Amendment for the present.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.

Clause 7:

Amendment of section ten (4) of Act of 1922.

7. The right of a tenant to claim compensation under subsection (4) of Section ten of the Act of 1922 shall be exercisable notwithstanding that it is otherwise agreed in the contract of tenancy in any case where the rent payable by the tenant under his contract of tenancy for the land exceeds threepence per pole unless, in the case of a tenancy existing at the passing of this Act, the council within three months after the passing of this Act gives notice in writing to the tenant that the rent of the land is as from the last preceding date for payment of rent reduced to a rent et threepence per pole or less.

LORD STRACHIE moved to omit all words after "the right of a tenant to claim compensation" and to insert "in cases where notice to quit is given under Section 1 or 10 of the Act of 1922, the occupier shall be entitled to compensation for growing crops and unexhausted manures, and such parts of these sections as provide otherwise are hereby repealed." The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment on behalf of a very large Small Holdings and Allotment Federation, who have written to me to this effect:— This Federation of registered land-renting allotment societies, representing 16,000 allotment holders in Bristol and district, profoundly regret that on the Motion of Mr. Wood, Minister of Agriculture, the House of Commons agreed to the deletion of Clause 8 of Captain Bourne's Allotments Bill. And this Federation respectfully asks Lord Strachie to move the re-insertion of this Clause 8 when the Bill reaches the House of Lords. My Amendment merely puts back the Bill into the state in which it was originally introduced by Captain Bourne in another place.

It went through the Standing Committee, but, of course, not without protest, because I noticed that a Conservative Member moved to omit it on the ground that he did not want to commit the Ministry to the principle of limiting the compensation to between April 6 and September 29. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will remember perfectly well that when the Act of 1922 was being discussed in this House a great deal of objection was taken to that particular question, because many of us argued that it was not right that the allotment holder should not have compensation for the winter months, because there would be unexhausted manurial value. Very naturally the allotment holders objected to the limit to the compensation and thought that if they paid rent there also should be compensation. That is the reason why I move to put in what was originally in this Bill as introduced by Captain Bourne, and which was approved of by allotment holders generally.

When the Bill came back to the House of Commons Mr. Wood said that there was great difficulty in dealing with the matter and in moving what is now Clause 7, he said:— I need only add that I have had an opportunity of ascertaining the views of those who represent the allotment holders, and, although I should misrepresent them if I said that they were totally satisfied with this clause, I can with truth say that they appreciate the immense difficulty of upsetting the 1922 bargain, and that on the whole they are prepared to think that this is not an unreasonable compromise. That is all very well, but a very strong supporter of the Conservative Government, Mr. Hurd, who is a Member for one of the Wiltshire Divisions, and whom I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary knows very well, said: It is very difficult to understand this clause, and I should be much obliged if the right hon. gentleman would tell us between whom it is a compromise. What parties have been discussing this matter and how has this decision been reached? Mr. Wood only repeated exactly what he had said before—namely, that the matter had been discussed by the representative of the allotment holders in the light of the full discussions and known difficulties that revealed themselves in the course of the Departmental Committee's deliberations.

I cannot help thinking that he cannot have consulted any very large body of allotment, holders and that it must have been a hole-and-corner compromise. I may, of course, be wrong. He will no doubt tell us who they were, and, of course, they may represent more allotment holders even that the federation on behalf of whom I am speaking. I cannot see the advantage which is to be gained by saying that no compensation is to be paid when any rent is beyond £2 per acre. That is referred to in another part of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate in the House of Commons on the Allotments Bill, when Mr. Wood formally moved his consequential Amendment, and Colonel Wedgwood explained what was meant by that when he said:— I think, on the whole, we might be prepared to accept this compromise. I am moved toward accepting it by the fact that it will, to a certain extent, stabilise the idea that 3d. per pole is a legitimate rate to ask allotment holders. Threepence a pole is the equivalent of £2 per acre. That is a good enough rent for any land. It is with that in view that I think it would be wise to accept this Amendment. I hope the development of allotments under this clause will be of considerable benefit to the community. It is quite evident that Mr. Wood wanted to get the Bill through easily, and was able to do so by making a deal with the Labour Party; by putting upon record that no land was worth more than £2 per acre. I cannot see why a man who pays 50s. per acre should be excluded from any benefit at all. I am exactly in the position of Mr. Hurd, who is a much greater authority than I am—I am perfectly at sea as to what is really meant by this clause. No doubt the noble Lord will be able to explain.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 6, leave out from ("compensation") to end of clause and insert ("cases where notice to quit is given under section one or ten of the Act of 1922, the occupier shall be entitled to compensation for growing crops and unexhausted manures, and such parts of these sections as provide otherwise are hereby repealed").—(Lord strachie.)


My Lords, the noble Lord suggests that he desires to reinsert in the Bill the original Clause 8, as introduced in the House of Commons. That clause was quite meaningless, as was ultimately admitted by all parties who took part in its discussion. I am sure the noble Lord will not take any offence if I suggest that his proposed Amendment renders this clause equally meaningless. If these words are inserted the clause will read as follows:— The right of a tenant to claim compensation in cases where notice to quit is given under Section one or ten of the Act of 1922, the occupier shall be entitled to compensation for growing crops and unexhausted manures, and such parts of these sections as provide otherwise are hereby repealed. Although this Amendment would render the clause meaningless, I think I fully understand what the noble Lord desires, and, so far as his general purpose is concerned, I personally have a considerable measure of sympathy with him. But this is a case in which there is a conflict of equities, and we are bound in fairness to consider the equities of the other side.

The noble Lord has confused two entirely different types of allotment holders, as provided for in this and the previous Bill of 1922. These two types are as follows. There is the first type who is the ordinary tenant of an allotment gar- den, who is generally referred to as Section I type, referring, of course, to Section I of the Act of 1922. The other type, to which this particular Clause refers, is a Section 10 type of allotment holder, who always has been, and always will continue to be, a person in a somewhat precarious position. He is the person who occupies what was previously unoccupied land, and only became subject to cultivation during the period of the War, very often on what was previously a rubbish heap in the middle of a town, in order to produce food during that critical period. One effect of the 1922 Act, so far as he is concerned, was to stabilise his position, otherwise when the Defence of the Realm Act ceased to operate his tenancy would similarly have ceased.

I hope the noble Lord realises this, because he is now submitting an Amendment as though it related to both types of allotment holders, when, in fact, this clause relates to one only, and that a class of person who is admittedly and necessarily in a precarious position. What is his position? He is informed that he is not going to be entitled to any compensation for unexhausted manures if he is charged no more than a nominal rent—a nominal rent which was fixed by the House of Commons at 3d. per perch. If his rent is more than 3d. per perch he will be at once transferred to the category of persons who will be entitled to receive compensation, and who have a particular measure of stability of tenure provided for them under Section I of the 1922 Act.

Now, what about this first group of allotment holders? Their reasonable claims have repeatedly come before the Allotments Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, over whom I have the honour to preside, and who are composed of the various interests—local authorities, owners and allotment holders—who are concerned in this allotment movement. The allotment holders, through their representatives, have repeatedly told us—and the same has been given utterance to in the House of Commons—that what they want is rather stability or security of tenure than compensation. In effect, this security of tenure is given to them, and was given after a great deal of discussion and negotiation, by Section 1 of the Act of 1922. The owners there were subjected to all sorts of obstacles which would stand in the way of their vexatiously or unreasonably disturbing these people in their allotments unless they were wanted for purposes of superior importance from a national standpoint; and the arrangement then made, as amended by this Bill, is that six months' notice, which will expire outside the cropping period, shall be given to these men to enable them to harvest their crops. But where land is wanted at short notice for a purpose of superior importance this Bill itself provides that they shall be given compensation not merely for their crops, but for the manures, exhausted and unexhausted, which have been applied to those crops.

In fact, in this case, unlike the case of the agricultural tenant, the allotment holder obtains a larger measure of compensation than is provided by the Agricultural Holdings Act, because Section 2 (3) of the 1922 Act sets out that he is able to obtain, when dispossessed at short notice, the value of his crop and the value of the manures applied to it, although part of the value of that manure has passed into the crop. In other words, he gets the whole value of the manures, and not the unexhausted value only. However sympathetic we may be with the claims of the allotment holders, we have to bear in mind that this land at present occupied by them may be required for municipal purposes of greater importance, and one effect of attempting to charge any large amount by way of compensation upon these allotments, when the tenants are dispossessed, is almost necessarily to force up the price of the land, and to make it more expensive for the purpose of cottage building, or for other purposes of municipal importance. I hope, in these circumstances, that the noble Lord will see his way not to press his Amendment, especially in view of the fact that this is an agreed amendment of the original Bill which has been the subject of a considerable amount of discussion and negotiation between all parties interested, and, as the matter left the House of Commons, it was deemed to be finally settled.

On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Clause?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 11.

Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.) Onslow, E. Bledisloe, L.
Plymouth, E. [Teller.] Clinton, L.
Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.) Stanhope, E. Danesfort, L.
Deramore, L.
Bedford, D. Cecil of Chelwood, V. Desborough, L.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Dynevor, L.
Clarendon, E. Jessel, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Sempill, L.
Askwith, L. Somers, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Banbury of Southam, L. Templemore, L.
Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.) Russell, E. Muir Mackenzie, L.
Rathcreedan, L.
Allendale, V. [Teller.] Stanmore, L. [Teller.]
Beauchamp, E. Strachie, L.
De La Warr, E. Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.) Thomson, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 7 agreed to.

LORD STRACHIE moved, after Clause 7, to insert the following new clause:— No land at present cultivated as allotments shall be taken for recreation unless it can be proved that the land was acquired for recreation before it was used for allotments.

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is really self-explanatory and 1 should think that the noble Lord would be ready to accept it. It seems only reasonable that men who are doing good work by cultivating land and producing food for the country should not be turned out merely to allow a cricket club or a football club to occupy it. It seems only right and natural, and I am very much surprised that the noble Lord has not himself suggested an Amendment of the kind. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 16, at end insert the said new clause.—(Lord Strachie.)


I find it difficult to believe that the noble Lord seriously means this Amendment and I hope he will consider for a moment what is likely to be its effect. According to him, having once earmarked land for allotment gardens, whatever may be the recreational requirements of a large town or city under an improvement scheme or otherwise, that land has always to be used for allotments and can never be devoted to the purposes of recreation. If I may be allowed to say so, it is so obviously absurd a contention that I hope your Lordships will not accept the Amendment.


After what the noble Lord has said I, of course, withdraw my Amendment at once. I do not think, however, that the 16,000 men who asked me to move the Amendment would think that it is absurd, but would really think that the noble Lord was absurd in saying so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.

Clause 10:

Rating of new allotments.

10. Where after the date of this Act coming into operation land which is not used for allotments commences to be so used the gross value, or the gross estimated rental at which the land is assessed immediately before such user, shall not be increased during the first three years of such user, and where the land so used was immediately before such user included with other land in one assessment, the gross value or gross estimated rental of the land included in that assessment shall for the purposes of this section be apportioned according to acreage as between the land used for allotments and the other land.


I beg to move the two drafting Amendments which stand in my name on the Paper.

Amendments moved—

Page 5, line 38, after ("rental") insert ("for the purposes of any enactment relating to rating")

Page 5, line 42, after ("assessment") insert ("in the valuation list in force").—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

LOUD BLEDISLOE moved, at the end of the clause, to insert: "provided that if on the application of any person interested, or without any such application, it appears to the Assessment Committee that apportionment according to acreage would work an injustice, the gross value or gross estimated rental shall be apportioned in such manner as the Assessment Committee may determine." The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to prevent any injustice being done by an attempt to apportion the assessment equally according to acreage. The point is a simple one. Assuming that this Chamber were divided up and that on half of it there stood a house and other buildings and that the other half was vacant, it would be obviously unfair to spread the assessment equally over the whole area when one part of it clearly had a higher value than the rest. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 3 at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 (Allotment committees of urban authorities):

LORD BLEDISLOE moved to add the following new subsection:"(3) This section shall not come into operation until the first day of November 1925." The noble Lord said: The object of this Amendment is to give sufficient time for the local authorities to adjust their committees in accordance with the provisions of this clause. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 25, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 13:

Records of purchase price, rent, and rateable value of land required

13. Where land is purchased or leased by a local authority under the Allotments Acts, 1908 to 1922, or this Act, the local authority shall record the purchase price or rent agreed to be paid for the land, and the gross value, or gross estimated rental at which the land is assessed for rating purposes at the date of its acquisition, where it is separately so assessed, or an apportioned estimate when it is not so separately so assessed, and the particulars so recorded shall be included by each local authority in their annual report to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries under Section fifty-nine of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1908.

LORD BLEDISLOE moved to leave out "an apportioned estimate when," and insert "the apportioned part thereof as estimated by the local authority, where." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is consequential upon one that I moved previously and I think it speaks for itself. I beg to move.

Amendment moved Page 6. lines 32 and 33, leave out ("an apportioned estimate when") and insert ("the apportioned part thereof as estimated by the local authority, where").—(Lord Bledisloe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.