§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, the object of which was to make compulsory the proper cultivation of the lands of the country, said, he felt that his task was one in the discharge of which he should require the 1583 indulgence of hon. Members on both sides of the House; and especially he had the difficulty of introducing the subject from a point of view never before discussed in the English Parliament. His Bill had already been the subject of considerable animadversion. It was said that he was desirous of weakening the landed interest; and if by landed interest was meant the interests of the landlords, it was perfectly true that he was hostile to them as a class. It had been suggested by some organs of the Press that the Bill had been introduced by way of bravado; that it showed the folly of its promoters; and that its object was confiscation, by people who had no land, of the land of others. He hoped he should be able to show the House that the Bill was not an act of folly; that it was not, at least, an act of bravado; and, whether the House might think fit to accept it or not, the Bill was based upon principles which the English nation were beginning to discuss, and which the House would have to consider; that it was warranted by facts—facts not depending on any unauthorized statements, but facts officially vouched, and which showed the need of some measure, even if not such a measure as that he felt it his duty to propose. He would at once disarm himself, in the presence of any who might be antagonistic critics, by saying that he was not satisfied with his own Bill. It did not go far enough. He was not quite sure that the admission would recommend him to the generosity of anyone who criticized the Bill; but it was true that there were many scores of thousands of acres of land now uncultivated in this country which were cultivable with profit, but which the Bill, in its present form, would not reach. If the House should think fit to read the Bill a second time, he admitted it would require exceedingly wide amendment in Committee. He desired to submit to the House four propositions. The first was that there was a very large quantity of land in an uncultivated state. There could be no doubt about that. The Agricultural Returns showed it; and even of the land described in official Returns as cultivated, and which, of course, the Bill would not touch, there were many thousands of acres that were hardly cultivated at all; and he submitted that that land ought to be forced into cultivation. His second proposition 1584 was that a very large proportion of that land was cultivable with profit. The third was that the right of ownership of cultivable land ought to carry with it the duty of cultivation. He contended that the men who neglected that duty, and who allowed land they owned to evade and avoid its responsibilities, were unpatriotic and disloyal. And, fourthly, the cultivation of land now uncultivated would provide possible remunerative employment for the whole of the unemployed in this country. And, at least, this should be a matter for consideration by those who had been proposing to expend large sums in temporary relief works. The employment this Bill would provide would be continuing; it would develop self-reliant effort, and would be without cost to the taxpayer. He would first show the area of uncultivated land, adopting for the moment the definitions of cultivated and uncultivated given in the official Agricultural Returns. These Returns for the year 1885 showed that in England, with an area of 32,597,398 acres, there were 24,844,490 acres of cultivated land, leaving over 7,752,908 unaccounted for. Of course, unaccounted for was not all uncultivated. In Wales, with an area of 4,721,823 acres, there were 2,809,558 acres cultivated, leaving 1,912,265 acres unaccounted for. In Scotland, with an area of 19,466,978 acres, there were 4,845,805 acres cultivated, leaving the enormous area of 14,501,173 acres unaccounted for. In Ireland, out of a total area of 20,819,847 acres, there were 15,242,837 acres under cultivation, leaving 5,577,010 acres unaccounted for. It was, however, clear to any careful reader of the evidence taken before the Royal Commission that the cultivated area in Ireland was inaccurately stated. The aggregate figures gave a result, for the United Kingdom and Ireland, of a total area of 77,606,146 acres, of which over 47,708,698 acres were under cultivation, while over 29,897,000 acres were unaccounted for. In an article published in The Fortnightly Review, the space to be deducted—space occupied by cities, towns, villages, roads, rail, canals, rivers, lakes, &c.—was estimated by Captain (now Admiral) Maxse at 3,898,839 acres. In Ireland the proportion allowed in the Returns was 4.3 per cent. Assuming that the cities, towns, roads, rivers, &c. covered an area of some 4,000,000 acres, that would leave about 1585 25,000,000 acres unaccounted for. Nor ought even the land described in the Agricultural Returns as cultivated to be so considered without grave doubt. The Reports of the Sub-Commissioners of the Royal Commission showed that, in a vast number of instances in which land was described as being in cultivation, it was not only not being cultivated to the fullest extent possible, but was actually going out of cultivation, in consequence of the stringent restrictive clauses in the leases under which the land was let. It was in consequence of these restrictive clauses, and of the extraction of rents which exhausted all margin, that land which might be cultivated at a profit was being forced out of cultivation. Mr. Little, one of the Assistant Commissioners, said (p. 52)—The impoverished and beggared condition of farms, which have been given up by tenants on some estates and are now unlet, is due to the ill-advised attempts of the landlords to get an extreme rent for their land.Mr. Druce, reporting as to the counties of Bedford, Bucks, Herts, Cambridge, Leicester, Suffolk, &c., says—When so much arable land is either actually out of cultivation, or is only partially cultivated, and when, too, so much of that which is nominally in a state of cultivation is in such a foul and neglected state as much of the arable land in my district, I regret to say, is, the questions arise, can the land be brought back to a proper state of cultivation; and if so, how, and by whom?Coming back to the 25,000,000 acres unaccounted for, how many of these were cultivable with profit?—and this was not easy to arrive at. Mr. John Bailey Denton, in his evidence before the Royal Commission (6,325), stated the irreclaimable land in England and Wales at 4,722,100 acres, the cultivated land at 27,000,000 acres, and the uncultivated land "capable of improvement" at 5,596,600 acres. Professor Baldwin and Major Robertson, in their joint preliminary Report to the Royal Commission, affirmed "that there are 6,000,000 acres of land in Ireland comparatively worthless," and they declared that the greater part of that land ought to be cultivated, and could be profitably reclaimed. Professor Baldwin, in his evidence before the Duke of Richmond as to Ireland, said—There has been a good deal of exaggeration with regard to the waste lands of Ireland. I have gone very carefully into the matter, and 1586 I do not believe that there are more than 1,500,000 acres of waste lands that would admit of reclamation; but there are at least 1,000,000 acres of bog lands in Ireland that would admit of reclamation.and he added there was "at least three or four times that" of "semi-waste." These 4,000,000 acres of semi-waste Professor Baldwin thought could make provision for a large number of families if they were allowed to cultivate. Major Robertson agreed that there were large quantities of waste and semi-waste lands on which people might be profitably planted. For Scotland, he (Mr. Bradlaugh) had been unable to get any such total; but one witness stated that much land had recently been reclaimed in Caithness-shire, and there was an immense tract which might be reclaimed if the inducements were sufficient. Some years ago, in a discussion on a very valuable paper by Captain (now Admiral) Maxse, the waste land in this country cultivable with profit was guessed at about 11,000,000 acres. Personally, he (Mr. Bradlaugh) should put it at a higher figure; but he would assume that in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland the amount of land capable of cultivation, but uncultivated, exceeded 10,000,000 acres. The total cultivated acreage in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland at the present moment was about 47,750,000; so that if it were possible to throw into cultivation the 10,000,000 acres of good, but uncultivated land, there would be one-fifth more employment for the unemployed, and something like a reduction of one-fifth in the pauperism of the country, with an increase in like ratio of the land produce, and of the ability to contribute towards the local and Imperial fiscal burdens. To illustrate what might be done with land regarded as uncultivable, he would take the case of Penstrase Moor, familiar to all Members who had read the Report of the Royal Commission. That land, 478 acres in extent, looked in the highest degree uninviting. It had for surface-covering six inches of spar stone. The land belonged to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Wellington Division of Somersetshire (Sir Thomas Dyke Acland), and was worthless. More generous than many landlords, though he (Mr. Bradlaugh) regarded the terms as disadvantageous to the cultivator, the right hon. Baronet 1587 allowed, at a nominal 5s. rent—really no rent, for this was spent in an annual dinner—a number of persons to have the opportunity of reclaiming it, in plots of from four acres to 10 acres. With what result? The surface stone was used to build cottages, and now 70 persons were living comfortably on land that before was desert. And Mr. Little, in his Report, says—I was most agreeably surprised by the nature and condition of the homesteads.….I found comfortable and substantial houses;….nearly all the cottages had a gay little piece of flower-garden, and some had a number of fruit-trees.….That this moor, once a barren waste, exhibits a great improvement, cannot be doubted; that the gross produce raised from it is very large is equally indisputable.But this reclamation was effected under conditions which were really onerous. The land was let on lease for three lives, and the right hon. Baronetpermits a new life to be added, as one drops out, on payment of a fine, calculated on the existing value of the holding on the Carlisle tables at 4 per cent. Some of this 'worthless' land is now realising a gross produce of £10 per acre, not counting poultry or garden vegetables. The landlord has received in ten years for fines for renewals of leases no less than £1,087. He estimates the land which formerly paid no rent to be worth £1 per acre per annum.Without intending attack on the right hon. Baronet, he (Mr. Bradlaugh) considered that too much of the profit resulting from the cultivator's energy was absorbed by those payments. He would now give an instance in which, instead of a comparatively generous landlord, the cultivators were at the tender mercies of the Duchy of Cornwall, and for this he would trouble the House with an extract from a private letter, the contents of which he had carefully verified—South Tawton Common contains 2,634 acres, over about three-quarters of which the Duchy claims right as lord of the manor of Lydford. The other fourth belongs to a Mr. Fursdon, as lord of the manor of South Treal. There is no fence between; only a few stone posts mark the boundaries, so that cattle can go freely over the whole. In the Duchy's assumed rights there were inclosed 110 acres. The amount paid to the Duchy for the land was £55 7s.,, and £2 2s. costs of conveyance. It appears that the incentive to this claim was the desire to rob the poor men, who had reclaimed the waste, of the fruits of their industry merely to enrich the Duchy revenue. There were on both rights 208 inclosures, the gross value of which was £223 18s. 9d.—rateable, £217 15s.; the smallest containing 9 poles, the largest 4a. 2r. 34p. The consideration paid for these 1588 reclamations when sold is a fair test of their value. About two years since 5a. 2r. 11p. was sold for £160, about £28 per acre; another containing 3r. 30p. was sold for £19 7s. 6d.; about a month since another containing 1a. 1r. was sold for £27. There had been no loss to the Duchy by these inclosures; for until the poor men had reclaimed the land the Duchy had never received anything from the commons. There are 96 acres inclosed on the Fursdon rights; but no demand has been made on the cultivators, and as most of the inclosures were made more than 12 years since it is not likely that Mr. Fursdon intends to make any claim. Such conduct bears a favourable contrast to the rapacity of the Duchy authorities. It was a credit to the commoners to give up their rights to benefit the industrious poor; but it was not to the credit of the Duchy to enforce so paltry a claim on the poorest of the community.Mr. A. J. Kettle, in his evidence, illustrated the hindrance to reclamation in Ireland—In the greater part of Mayo, and, in fact, all over the mountain and bog sides in Tipperary and Kerry, the land had been reclaimed by the tenants.….They created property in a rude way, and the moment that it by means of their exertions furnished a crop, the landlords raised their rents from 1s. per acre to 2s. 6d. per acre, in order to reap a profit on it.Describing Connaught, the Most Rev. Dr. Duggan said—We have bogs and mountains unreclaimed; not only that, we have agricultural tenements not half tilled.Mr. E. D. Leahy said—There is no question that there is in Ireland a vast quantity of reclaimable land.Mr. E. Murphy said—I have seen large tracts in the South and West of Ireland where there might probably be a good deal of reclamation.Mr. J. Hegarty stated to the Commission that a large quantity of land in Ireland might be made into productive land. It was, therefore, hardly to be wondered at that we had an Irish Land Question troubling us. The difficulties of reclaiming waste in Scotland were shown in the evidence of T. Elliott, a Selkirkshire farmer (38,493)—I farmed for my father. He held 1,000 acres, with not a wall or drain upon it, and I reclaimed 800 acres of it, sub-divided it into fields of about 25 to 30 acres, with 5-feet stone walls. I drained it all pretty fairly, and made roads through it in different directions to gather in the crops, and drew lime for 25 miles to it, and improved it and made it good arable land, and we did not get a shilling from the landlord.Again, as to some marsh land reclaimed at Holderness, Mr. Coleman said— 1589Although the tenant has drained a large portion of the land entirely at his own expense and laid out much money in other works of a permanent character, he is a yearly tenant, and has not any security in the form of a tenant right on his outlay, so that he is liable to lose everything.This was a question which did not simply affect the class he was seeking by hi Bill to benefit; but it affected the whole of the labouring class throughout the United Kingdom, inasmuch as it would have the effect of raising their wages. It was impossible that men should try to redeem land for someone else; but they would make great efforts when they were increasing comfort for themselves and their children. He now came to the principle of his Bill which would most affront the notions of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. He submitted that the right of ownership ought to carry with it the duty of cultivation. In a crowded country like this, from which people were recommended to emigrate, a man who held land in an uncultivated state was guilty of an offence which, if not yet a legal, was certainly a moral offence, and an offence which the law ought to step in and deal with. He knew that the compulsory cultivation of land was said to be an unjust interference with the liberty of the subject. Why should it be so? At the present moment the non-cultivation of labour was a misdemeanour. Any able-bodied man who would not work might be treated as a rogue and vagabond, and sent to gaol. Why should not the law make the non-cultivation of land a misdemeanour too? The reason why it had not done so was plain. It was because the laws had been made by a House of Landlords, who considered their own pockets, and not the interests of the nation. Rights of property had in that House been everything; rights of life had been nothing. But now that the masses of the people were represented in that House discussions would take another tone; and it would have to be clearly understood that there would be from those who sat around him no recognition of rights of property which conflicted with rights of life. Unoccupied and unused land near great towns escaped the local rating; whilst its value for building purposes was enormously increased by the mere augmentation of population. 1590 Why should that land escape its proper burden any more than the labourer? There ought to be no doctrine of private property in land consistent with the retention of land in a state of waste. He held the doctrine that land should be compelled to contribute a full share of the local and Imperial burdens. All land in this country, he submitted, was held subject to the well-being of the State; and where the holding might technically, or otherwise, conflict with that well-being, it was not only the right, but the duty of the Legislature to deal with it. Mr. John Stuart Mill, in his Political Economy (Book 2, chap, ii., sec. 6), said—Whenever, in any country, the proprietor, generally speaking, ceases to be the improver, political economy has nothing to say in defence of landed property as there established. In no sound theory of private property was it ever contemplated that the proprietor of land should be merely a sinecurist quartered upon it.There is no right in land now known to English law that is not admittedly subject to the well-being of the State, as from time to time construed by Parliament; and if there be, at present, any such freehold right or privilege, Parliament ought not to permit its continuance. Land which could bear produce and did not, not only evaded its fair share of the local and Imperial burdens, but it denied to the dwellers about it occasions of earning an honest livelihood. If, as was probable, the produce of the present 47,750,000 acres of so-called cultivated land could be largely increased, and if some 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 acres of land, now uncultivated, could be forced into different kinds of cultivation, the effect in temporarily reducing the pauperism of the country would be magical; and if, at the same time, notions of prudential restraint could be encouraged amongst the newly-employed cultivators, the reduction of poverty and increase of happiness would be permanent. But then it was said that it would not pay to cultivate waste land; that land was already going out of cultivation; and that farms were being given up. That was too true; but what was the reason? He had already given it from Mr. Little and Mr. Druce, who were overwhelmingly corroborated. With reference to ands in Wiltshire which had gone out 1591 of cultivation, Mr. W. C. Little, Assistant Commissioner for the South-era District, said—I cannot state any particular reason why those lands should go out of cultivation rather than others, except that the margin of profit on them is smaller than on others; and that, therefore, they are the first to go out of cultivation. The expenses of cultivation being large, and the returns being comparatively small, the margin between expenditure and receipts has gone, and consequently the land has gone out of cultivation. Of course, where a landlord is in a position to cultivate his own land, he may prefer to do it for a time at a loss, with the hope of things recovering; on the other hand, the landlord may not be in a position, or may not care to cultivate his land, and that land goes out of cultivation.According to the doctrine of Lord Beaconsfield, there were three classes who must subsist on the land—namely, the landlords, the tenant farmers, and the cultivators. In that Bill he (Mr. Bradlaugh) challenged that doctrine. In his belief the discussion begun that afternoon would have to be continued until the principle of the Bill was accepted. If land would not keep the landlord, the tenant farmer, and the cultivator, it would, at all events, keep the cultivator; and in such a case the landlord ought not to be allowed to let it remain uncultivated and absolutely useless to anyone. If the land would not keep the three classes, it had better keep one of them than none. It was urged that the land now uncultivated could not be cultivated with profit—that was, that it would not keep landlord, tenant farmer, and labourer; that the farmer could not pay rent and wages, and escape ruin. That was very likely quite true; but if, at present, the land lay idle because it could not keep three, and if that land, cultivated, would find life for one who was now added to the ranks of the starving unemployed, then preference and opportunity for existence should be given to the one. The uncultivated area benefits neither the landlord, the tenant farmer, nor the State; in the hands of the willing tenant cultivator it would benefit him immediately and individually, and the State generally and certainly. That was a simple proposition. His views might be revolutionary—he could not help that—but, at all events, they were not novel, because in China, for some thousands of years, it had been the law that every person holding cultivable 1592 land in an uncultivated state should be imprisoned, and that his land should be taken from him; and, moreover, the Board of Land Commissioners, if in their opinion the land was not cultivated up to its full value, were empowered to flog the proprietor. He had always been a disciple of the late Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) in his hostility to flogging, and he had not introduced that into his Bill. As regarded the clauses of the Bill, he had only proposed to make the measure apply to agricultural land. But, from the information which had reached him, it was clear that there was very much cultivable land now uncultivated which would not be reached by the Bill. Besides that, he had now information as to reclaimable land in the Black Country, which was certainly not agricultural land. Huge unsightly heaps disfigured the country as pit spoil and rubbish heaps. The lords of the manors had pocketed the compensation for injury to the surface, which was paid to them in order that the surface over which the poor had rights might be restored to its original condition; and when the workings ceased they had left the heaps unlevelled and the holes unfilled. He had been astonished to find that much of this was cultivable, and he had instances of its cultivation with profit; but the Black Country difficulty would not be reached by his Bill, which was incomplete in many other respects. For instance, it proposed to confer certain powers on the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, whereas he himself should greatly prefer that they should be conferred on the Local Authorities; and he had hoped that a general Bill for local self-government would have constituted such Local Authority everywhere. He agreed that it would be an evil to increase centralization on such a question, which would be better dealt with by the several Local Authorities. The 25 years' payment to the evicted landowner should be calculated on the average annual net actual produce, such payments as for deer forest rents not being reckoned. He would authorize the Local Authorities to let on such terms as would encourage the cultivator to develop his best energy in rendering the land profitable, and would increase the term, without increasing the rent, where improvement had been 1593 made, so that the cultivator and the then living members of his family might reap the fruits of the cultivator's industry and energy. He did not propose that the land should be sold by the authorities to the cultivator, but only let to him. He was against any attempt at sudden wholesale nationalization of land. It could only be effected by purchase, for which they had not the means; or by force, for the use of which he could not find justification. But in his opinion, whenever land came into the possession of the State, the freehold, as it was termed, should never again be parted with, but the land should be let to the man who would make the best use of it; and the more a man improved his holding the longer should he be permitted to occupy it. He would authorize the Local Authorities to make advances to those who desired to make improvements on their land. In China eight or nine men became jointly and severally bound for one to enable him to cultivate, and it would not be harmful if in our higher civilization there was more solidarity. There ought to be no difficulty in Local Authorities making small advances at low rates with reasonable safety. In conclusion, he prayed the House to pardon his rude and rough attempt to bring this question under their notice, and to assent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Bradlaugh.)
§ MR. LLOYD (Wednesbury)
, in opposing the Motion, said, the question was, what was waste land in the eyes of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh)? He had not told them. Was it land that was only producing a low amount of produce? Almost all land was in some degree of cultivation, unless it was inaccessible rocky mountain, which, of course, the hon. Member could not mean. He (Mr. Lloyd) urged that cultivation was one of degree. Some land was used for sheep walks, which produced very little, only about 5s. an acre; other inclosed land was used for pasturage, which produced probably £4 an acre, and arable land, in corn crops, would produce more than £10 an acre. Hon. Members were quite content, and even advocated put- 1594 ting down land to pasture, which was a loss of more than £6 an acre in produce per year; yet they professed great anxiety to force barren and poor lands into cultivation, even though the admitted gain was not nearly so great as keeping their present cultivated lands in a higher state of cultivation. The hon. Member for Northampton had made a very great omission in not stating what would be the probable financial gain if those barren lands were brought into cultivation; he had not told them the present condition of those unclaimed lands, or what use he considered could be made of them. That he should have done; it was the very gist of the question. What would be the value of his proposal to the country? It was a serious omission. As the hon. Member had not given them any figures, he (Mr. Lloyd) would make an estimate. If all the 10,000,000 acres could be cultivated which had been referred to—and which, it was well known was quite impossible—and supposing that they could be made to produce £4 10s. an acre more than they did now, that would give a gain to the country of £45,000,000 per annum, and would help the labour market very largely. He would, and did, support all justifiable means to obtain such a result. The hon. Member's mode of encouraging the cultivation of land was to put increased imposts upon it in the shape of taxes, and to enforce penal penalties upon owners which would check money being invested in land—both which measures would retard rather than encourage the better cultivation of their land. He would ask the House, how could they expect more land to be brought into cultivation, when the present ownership and cultivation of land was so unprofitable? It was now quite out of fashion to consider the agricultural interest as worth anything. During the past few years the average annual produce of land in this country had fallen to the extent of £4 10s. per acre. That on 47,840,977 acres of cultivated land in the United Kingdom equalled a loss in the annual value of the products from our lands of £215,284,396. If £20,000,000 of that loss had fallen on their landlords, the remaining £195,000,000 had fallen on the labour classes, and had taken away the wage fund each year to that extent. One of the reasons for that serious fall in prices 1595 was the bad state of trade in their cities and in their manufacturing centres; and so they could not buy so freely from the country. Then, again, the country districts, earning less money, could not buy so many manufactures from the towns, and that, again, had increased the depression in the towns. The fact was that the trade of the towns and the country districts were very closely dovetailed together. If bringing 10,000,000 acres of barren land into cultivation would improve the wage fund of our people £45,000,000 a-year, the higher cultivation of the land now in cultivation would give an increased wage fund of more than £195,000,000 per annum—a most important matter to the working classes of this country. It would certainly be very difficult to get poor and waste lands into cultivation, when good land now under the plough was going out of cultivation. The fact was that, instead of trying to force additional land into cultivation by alterations in the law, Parliament ought to endeavour to create a market for the produce of the cultivated land, by stimulating the trade and industries of the cities and large manufacturing centres by looking after their trade. He contended that, in order to give effect to such a Bill as that before the House, public money would have to be provided for the purpose of cultivating these waste, barren, and poor lands. Would such a proposal as that be acceptable to the House? What was required to be done was to endeavour to improve the general prosperity of the country. The hon. Member who had introduced the Bill had spoken somewhat hardly of the landlords; but the landlords were not the cause of the land getting out of cultivation. It was to be accounted for by the extremely low price of produce, hence it did not pay to grow it. Again, it seemed a very strange doctrine that the produce of the land should be imported from abroad without taxation, while the land in this country was so heavily taxed, which was indirectly taxing the food produced in this country. The way to get the land cultivated was to take off some of the taxes. Putting increased taxes on land was taxing food, to which he was opposed. He was most anxious himself to see the waste land reclaimed; but he did not think the Bill before the House would effect that object.
MR. JACKS&c.) (Leith,
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had entirely mistaken the scope of the Bill. It had nothing to do with land intended for building purposes, but, purely and simply, with land that could be cultivated. He (Mr. Jacks) wished respectfully to protest against the custom that was prevailing in this House of introducing Party considerations when they were considering questions of this kind. In the great debate that was concluded last night he, like many new Members, had been greatly pained by the introduction of that element; and he was sure that one of the sources of satisfaction and pride which they all felt in British statesmen when the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) sat down was that he had left out of his speech every reference to Party strife. He (Mr. Jacks), therefore, protested against the introduction by the hon. Member for Wednesbury of purely Party questions when they were considering the question of the land.
§ MR. JACKS
submitted that the hon. Gentleman did bring in considerations which were usually credited, at all events, to be the opinions of hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal side of the House. If the hon. Gentleman wished to know what land was available for cultivation, let him do what many of them had done, go through the country and see what it said for itself. In company with another hon. Gentleman sitting on the other side of the House he (Mr. Jacks) made a journey such as he suggested, and in the Midlands of Scotland they found hundreds and thousands of acres, which had formerly been under cultivation, now merely sporting lands, or sheep walks. The necessary consequence was, as they found, that not only cottages, but whole hamlets, which were formerly the homes of a happy and industrious people, were now deserted and cheerless; and, leaving, as they did, a crowded city, with people starving and begging for work—he did not know how it might appear to hon. Gentlemen who said that this land brought so much an acre as sporting lands, or so much an acre for sheep pastures more than it would do if it were under cultivation—he could only say he 1597 could not repress from his mind the words of a very high authority—"Much food is in the tillage of the poor, and there is that which is destroyed for lack of judgment;" and it was because they felt that that land was being destroyed for lack of judgment, and that the tillage of the poor was not being brought to it, that they very earnestly endeavoured to put forward any measure that would bring land within the cultivation of the poor. Reference had been made to the unemployed in the cities. He said, frankly, he was not in favour of getting these hundreds and thousands of people, so often referred to as the unemployed, out of the country. Every man connected with manufactures knew that whenever an improvement took place in trade the country was not over-populated; but they found that they could not get men for love or money to do their work. They found, on one side, hundreds and thousands of acres of land hungering and thirsting for the hand of the husbandman, and, on the other side, hundreds and thousands of men starving for want of work; and he said it was their bounden duty to endeavour to assist any Bill that would bring those two together. As to the Bill now before the House, he should vote against it, for the simple reason that it was simply taking a penknife to dig down a mountain; that it touched the fringe only of the matter, and did not deal with it in a straightforward, manly, and competent manner.
§ MR. TYSSEN AMHERST (Norfolk, S.W.)
said, he thought that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had himself condemned his own Bill. The hon. Member had not enlightened the House upon a part of the question upon which they were most anxious to be enlightened; and that was how to make the land pay, not only for a landlord or occupier, but even for the cultivator himself. A good deal had been said of the rent payable for land. At the beginning of the century a great many of the sheep-walks were broken up, so that more labour might be employed upon the land. It was also, no doubt, a great advantage at the time, both to the owner and the occupier; but now that land, to the extent of thousands of acres, had had its fertility worked out. It was only in the upper sod that the fertility of centuries had been collected, and now 1598 much of this land might be found showing very little, if any, fertility. He should like to know if any means could be found for tilling that land with a profit, even if no rent at all were charged for it. The hon. Member had spoken of the great extent of land lying untilled. That was exactly one of those matters on which the House needed more specific information than seemed at present obtainable. He could not think that, at this crisis, there were any landlords who were willing to let their land lie waste as long as they could get any rent at all for it, or cultivate it themselves at a profit. He knew that in his own county of Norfolk there was some land cultivated that paid no profit at all. As to labourers' allotments, he believed that so long as they could get a quarter or a half of an acre of land each, close to their cottages, they would not wish to have more land, but would rather depend upon daily wages. The hon. Member in bringing forward this Bill, had not grappled with the real difficulty at all.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. BROADHURST) (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, he hoped that, under the circumstances, his hon. Friend (Mr. Bradlaugh) would agree to the withdrawal of the Bill. His hon. Friend, who had brought it in strongly criticized it himself, and had shown that it did not properly put before the House his own desires on the subject. In so far as the hon. Gentleman had given them instances of the success attending the efforts to bring into cultivation land which had previously been thought quite incapable of cultivation, he had done a service to the House and the country. The instance he had mentioned in Devonshire was full of interest, and there was no doubt that, under similar circumstances, much other land might also be successfully brought under the spade, if not the plough. If hon. Gentlemen had read the Report of the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Poor, they must have seen another case in Cornwall, where land, thought to be perfectly worthless, had been hired for at a very small cost per acre, and had in the course of a few years become worth £5 or £6, through the success of personal interest and industry. It had been reclaimed from a wild state by a small capitalist, who had built cottages for the 1599 residents on it, and it had well repaid the labour of a considerable proportion of people. As he had said, in so far as his hon. Friend had raised this question he had done a good service, and he had no doubt the House would hear a good deal more of it in the future than in the past. Having succeeded in obtaining a very interesting and useful discussion, the hon. Member might be disposed now to be content with that discussion, and to consent to the withdrawal of the Bill.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North-West)
said, that though the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had introduced his Bill in courteous terms, he had not treated the House with due respect; because he had admitted that the real object he had in view was to make a speech on proposals which were not contained in his Bill. But it was not fair to the House of Commons, or to the country, and he would have better served the poor people, whose cause he professed a desire to advance, if, instead of laying this impracticable measure before the House, he had consulted with others who might have been able to assist him in framing a Bill that might have some favourable consideration. The House might have given a little deeper study to the question of how it was that land was going out of cultivation, instead of reflecting upon the conduct of the landlords, who, under the most trying and critical circumstances in the present serious state of affairs in regard to agriculture, had endeavoured, to the best of their ability, to do their duty by their tenantry and their labourers, as well as themselves. Did the hon. Gentleman suppose, for a moment, that there were landlords so foolish, so stupid, or so ignorant, as not to get men to cultivate their land, even at the barest profit, if they could do so, rather than put money into the soil themselves which they had never a chance of regaining? When the hon. Member came down to that House, and asked it to condemn, as guilty of a misdemeanour, men who were striving to the best of their means and knowledge to do their duty, he was going beyond the latitude permissible to an hon. Member. He hoped the hon. Member would find, from further consideration of the subject, that, with all their faults, landlords had some good qualities, and that in the past, as in the future, their 1600 object was to maintain the honour, dignity, and welfare of this great Empire. The hon. Member had not taken into account the waste land of Wales, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, used for pastoral purposes. Did the hon. Member wish to suggest that the land should be ploughed up and used for spade labour? How was the hon. Gentleman going to finance the poor men he would establish on the land? In Birmingham, it appeared, their great object was to place on the land the large amount of surplus population that had got into the towns. Unless the hon. Member was going to finance these people, to supply them with money, he could not place them on the land with the slightest hope of success. No doubt, near towns, the land might be able to pay under this sort of cultivation. There were hardly any landlords who were not ready to let his land for that purpose. [Mr. BRADLAUGH dissented.] The hon. Member shook his head, but if he would read the Allotments Committee's Report he would see that that was the fact. At present more than one-third of the labourers had allotments; and, therefore, it was not fair to say that the landlords were not endeavouring to help the labouring classes in that way. In conclusion, he was glad to gather that the hon. Member did not intend to press the second reading of the Bill. If, however, he had intended to proceed with it, he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) would have moved that it be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, that that Bill was proposed in the interests of those who wished to be cultivators of the soil, rather than in the interest of the landlords. It had been asked by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) whether the landlords were perfect fools. He (Mr. Labouchere) was sorry to say that many of them were fools. With regard to the possibility of land being cultivable at a profit, there was a very great difference between persons cultivating land at a profit so as to pay rent to the landlord, and cultivating it so as to get a living for themselves from it. The object of his hon. Friend was to bring land that was now uncultivated into cultivation, for it could not be denied that there was a large amount of land held by landowners which was not under cul- 1601 tivation, and which might be cultivated. He did not hold that the landlord had an absolute right to rent from land; the only right he possessed was either to cultivate it himself, or to see that it was cultivated by others; and his right should lapse after a certain time if the land was not cultivated. It was just because landlords had lost their power in that House, he was glad to say, that his hon. Friend was able to bring in such a Bill and to receive for it the support from many parts of the House which it had obtained. It was said that some land could not be cultivated so as to yield to the landlord a rent of 5s. an acre. Then let him take off the 5s. per acre. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to think that they had got a Divine right to rent; but rent was only the margin that was left after payment of the taxes due to the State, and after the cultivator had been enabled to live and thrive on the land. The sooner the landlords got rid of the notion that the State was going to enable them to get rent, the better it would be for them. So far as the State was concerned it did not matter at all whether a single shilling of rent was paid to the landlord or not; and he himself thought it would be a very good thing if land went down to such a point, unless under very exceptional circumstances, that there should be no rent at all, for he did not know in what way the State, or anyone else excepting the landlord, benefited by that tax upon agricultural industry. Landowners in the past had had it all their own way. He agreed with the Under Secretary of State for the Home Departmen (Mr. Broadhurst) that it would be better for his hon. Friend to withdraw the Bill. Although he (Mr. Labouchere) had endorsed it himself as far as it went, he thought it did not go far enough. He was, in fact, almost shocked that his hon. Colleague had not gone considerably further in the direction aimed at by the Bill; but he would advise him to be satisfied with the amount of support that he had received that day, as also with the sympathy that had been shown for the objects of the measure, and to bring it in again, on another opportunity, in a somewhat more drastic form, including in its provisions urban, as well as agricultural, land, which they did not at present deal with. He believed that not many years 1602 would elapse before such a Bill and other measures of a similar character were passed by Parliament.
MR. MAGNIAC (Bedford, N., Biggleswade)
said, he thought a Bill of this kind ought to have been brought in by a Member who had some practical knowledge of the cultivation of land. He was also sorry to see that the hon. Member (Mr. Bradlaugh) had been compelled to resort to China for illustrations in support of his proposals. Now, he thought there was no need to go to that country for an example in the matter, because the law there operated very cruelly against the cultivators of the soil. It was not for the benefit of the people in general of that country that the punishments referred to by the hon. Member (Mr. Bradlaugh) were inflicted, but for the benefit of the officials who imposed them. There were hundreds of thousands of acres at present under cultivation, which were being cultivated in Great Britain at the expense of the proprietors, who had to defray the cost of the buildings, the drainage, and the roads. In numberless instances the proprietors were not deriving a single shilling of interest upon the capital which they had invested in land. The instances which the hon. Member had cited as successful instances of the cultivation of waste lands were quite exceptional. The principles of some hon. Members were being carried too far, and were doing a great deal of harm; and there were many points in the Bill which betrayed much ignorance of agricultural matters, and showed that its author had not carefully considered the question it raised. The House would receive with gratitude any well considered measure dealing with the subject, which would be shared by the landowners throughout the Kingdom; but he did not think the Bill could be regarded as a well-considered measure for that purpose.
§ VISCOUNT GRIMSTON (Herts, St. Albans)
said, in opposing the Bill, that the landlords must have felt indebted to the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) for his great kindness in not having introduced into his Bill a clause to import into our laws the personal castigation of land cultivators, which appeared to find a place in the law relating to Chinese agriculture. He entirely disagreed from the view which 1603 the hon. Member took of the feeling and position of landowners. The hon. Member had spoken somewhat harshly of the landlord claps, and he (Viscount Grimston) was afraid that his language would tend to set the agricultural labourers against that class. The fact that he had been himself returned to that House by a constituency of agricultural labourers was in itself a sufficient refutation of many of the remarks of the hon. Member. The senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had expressed his regret that the Bill did not go further; but did the hon. Member desire that it should be in the power of any person to confiscate the house of a householder who could not reside in it all the year round himself? Did the introducer of the Bill intend that all parks, demesne lands, and grass lands should be broken up by the plough, and put to use as arable land? The financial difficulties in the way of carrying out the proposals of the Bill would entirely prevent any possibility of its doing any good; the agricultural labourer would not have the capital to cultivate the land which it was proposed to intrust to him. The Bill, in fact, was iniquitous, and should not be entertained for a moment. He maintained that its operation would be mischievous, that it would do no good to the labourers, that it would harm the landlords, and that it would be injurious to the country. Some of its clauses, and especially the 3rd, he considered, amounted to a simple act of robbery. He would ask how the case of a man unable to find a tenant would be dealt with under such legislation, for it was often best to keep a farm unoccupied for a-year, in order to find a suitable tenant? No man would be such a fool as to allow his land to go out of cultivation if he could get any rent at all, and he knew cases in which landlords had let the land at no rent at all rather than let it remain uncultivated. For instance, his father had been obliged to let land in Essex at one third of the rent it produced 10 years ago.
§ MR. ARCH (Norfolk, N.W.)
said, he very much regretted that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) was about to withdraw his Bill; but, perhaps, after the intimation conveyed by the Government, he was quite right in doing so. Hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on the Bill did not know much 1604 of the state of the Land Question, for they had no acquaintance with it; but he thought that the House would not say that he had no experience of the land. It was quite true that numbers of gentlemen who owned land in this country let out land to agricultural labourers. If hon. Gentlemen who held the land were right in their statement, that the land would not pay for cultivation, it was putting labourers in a very invidious position. But he had reason to know that the rent paid for the pieces of land let out to agricultural labourers was as much as £4 or £5 an acre, while the tenant-farmers were only charged from 25s. to 35s. an acre. He thought that the question of making the land pay ought not to stand in the way of something being done to bring the land of the country into cultivation. Recently, they had seen, in London, a very terrible outbreak of rioting and disorder; but there were causes which accounted for it, if traced to its origin. They would find that behind it all was poverty and want, which would not exist if the land were properly cultivated and tilled. If that were done, many thousands of starving men would be taken out of the towns to go back to the country, where they would become customers to the manufacturers and food-producers for the people. Thus, the distress prevailing in the large towns would be relieved, and, instead of having 10 or 15 cottages standing empty in every village, they would have healthy men and healthy families, increasing the wealth of the country instead of pauperizing it. Pauperism was one thing they all deplored; but as long as they had thousands and tens of thousands of acres lying dormant, they would always have pauperism in their midst. If a man ceased to live, for instance, in a house for 12 months, in London, it would be very bad for the owner of that house; but where one acre of land only was thrown out of cultivation, it was so much taken from the whole produce of the soil. Mr. James Howard, who was a good authority upon agricultural questions—[Laughter]—hon. Members might laugh, but he (Mr. Arch) considered him one of the most practical agriculturists in the country. He had stated that the land might produce some £60,000,000 a-year more in the value of food, if a proper system of cultivation were pur- 1605 sued. That being the present state of affairs, he did not see that there was anything wrong, or anything confiscatory, in proposing a measure, by which the wealth of the country could be raised for the benefit of all, and to the detriment of none. The noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Grimston), who opposed the Bill, said that he had been returned to this House by the votes of agricultural labourers. Well, agricultural labourers had sent him (Mr. Arch) also to that House; and he did not happen to be a Viscount; he was only a labourer. During the past winter, there had been thousands of men belonging to the land doing nothing, because the land was lying idle. They might be told that the principle of the Bill before the House was an interference with the rights of property. Well, he considered that no man had a right to do what he liked with his own, except that which was right. Take the sanitary laws. For instance, no man could be permitted to commit a nuisance adjoining another man's dwelling. The Sanitary Inspector was authorized to interfere, because the law would not allow that to be done which was injurious to another person's health. If a landlord, like the dog in the manger, would not allow the people to cultivate the soil, and would not do it himself, the law should step in and say—"If you will not till it, somebody else must." If it was wrong to commit a nuisance to the injury of a neighbour, it was also wrong to restrict the labour of starving men. He (Mr. Arch) did not wish to waste the time of the House with any further remarks; but he desired to say, in conclusion, that the pauperism they had in the towns was owing to the fact that there were now 80,000 less men upon the land than there were 10 or 15 years ago. If the God-created machine for cultivating the land were removed from it, they must expect the present deplorable state of things. The means of arresting poverty and of keeping the labourer on the soil was the proper cultivation of it. There were thousands of men who would only be too glad to cultivate the land, in order to grow their own food, but they were not permitted to do so. Even if the Government were to spend a few thousands in putting labourers to work upon the soil, it would be a far loss reprehensible expenditure than that which 1606 had been incurred by former Governments in unjust wars. While millions of money were wasted in wars, not a single million to enable the poor people to get a hold of the land could be expended. Whenever and on whatever occasion such a Bill as that now before the House was brought in, he would support it. It had been said that the agricultural labourer had not got the capital to cultivate the land; but, at all events, the labourer had earned it, if he had not got it. The agricultural labourers had now a different position to what they formerly held, for their wants would now crave attention from those whose votes sent them to Parliament. He hoped the day was not far distant—and he would buoy the agricultural labourer up with the hope—when the rights of the agricultural labourer to live on the soil would not be denied, and he trusted to God that the time would soon arrive.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said, he did not oppose this Bill, because it was specially designed to acquire land in the manner described by the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Arch), but because it was an interference with natural laws. If land was to be dealt with in the manner proposed by the Bill now before the House, why should not the many looms now lying idle in Lancashire be dealt with in a similar manner? If an hon. Member were to bring in a Bill that day dealing with land, why should there not be another Bill brought in to-morrow, proposing to put into operation the looms in Lancashire, which it would not now pay to work? Some 30 or 40 years ago it was said, by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bradlaugh), that the House of Commons was chiefly composed of landlords; and from that the inference was drawn, that opportunity was taken by members of that class to get possession of many acres of commons and add them to their estates. He (Mr. Lawrence) would point out that the Members of the House of Commons in these days were largely composed of Liberals, who represented the interests of the lowest classes of the community. It was not private greed that led those Gentlemen to permit those commons to be taken; but a desire to have the land cultivated, with a view to getting as much as possible out of the waste lands 1607 for the benefit of the whole community. That was the reason why portions of the commons became property. That principle had been upheld for a long time; but, now, it was discarded, because of the influx of foreign food, which cut away the basis of that principle. Then there was another point to which he should like to refer, and that was the real desire among landlords to let their land, for they were now quite as anxious as anyone that their land should be cultivated, and regretted that it should be uncultivated. It was difficult now to let land, and there was a real desire on their part to do so. As an instance of that, he might mention that, a few evenings ago, he was talking to a friend who came as a visitor to that House. His friend told him that he was very hard up, and that he was the owner of a property in Buckinghamshire which formerly brought him a rental of £1,800, but that now he could hardly get £200 out of it. That was a fair index to what extent the landlords were now anxious to have their land cultivated. It was certain that the same desire that had influenced the landlords to inclose some of the commons in the past, would induce them to get as much money as they possibly could by renting that land to the labourers now.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
said, the House was indebted to the hon. Member who brought the Bill forward, for his interesting speech; but the object, probably, was to ventilate the subject, rather than to carry the Bill. There was uncultivated land in the country, and the idea was to call attention to the fact that part of this land could be cultivated with advantage to the country. He would suggest that when the Government came to deal with the Land Question, so far as the agricultural community interested in allotments and small holdings were concerned, they should deal also with the question raised by the Bill. He recognized the good intentions of the Mover of the Bill, but some of its proposals would never do. For instance, it would be absurd to create a new penal offence such as the Bill suggested.
§ MR. LONG (Wilts, Devizes)
said, that, no doubt, from the hon. Member for Northampton's (Mr. Labouchere's) point of view, the Bill was aimed at the landlords; but he believed the 1608 intended object of the Bill was a larger and better one. There was land out of cultivation, and the object of the Bill was to have it cultivated; but while admitting that a great grievance was constituted by the fact that, in some parts of the country, land had been allowed to go out of cultivation which might have been made to contribute to the wealth and comfort of the people living in those localities, he (Mr. Long) doubted whether the placing on the Statute Book of any such measure as that under consideration would effect the object which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had in view. It would pay a landlord to keep his land in cultivation, and what the House should do was to facilitate the cultivation of land, or, rather, to increase the profit attending the cultivation of land. The question of rent was no answer to agricultural distress; and he agreed, where land was let to agricultural labourers on fair terms, the result was satisfactory. Indeed, his experience was, that where land was so let they were as good tenants and as regular payers as any tenants in the country. He regretted that, in the discussion, hon. Members opposite had exhibited a feeling that they themselves monopolized the desire to benefit the agricultural labourer, and to suggest that the Conservative Party were only desirous to guard the interests of the landlords, and to destroy the interests of the agricultural labourer. He denied that, and he also denied the charge that the landlords, as a body, were opposed to the system of small holdings, or that they bad not advocated the adoption of that system until the agricultural labourer had the franchise. The latter charge was unworthy of notice; but, as to the former, he knew that many landlords were willing to let small plots of land to labourers; and, for his part, he sincerely hoped that, in some form or other, they would have legislation which would facilitate the letting of land for allotments. There was no scarcity of land. Plenty of land was in the market, but there were no purchasers for it. He desired to know what the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Arch) meant, by saying that if the labourers had no capital, they had earned it?
§ MR. LONG
said, that was no answer to his question. It was impossible to avoid the conclusion that the proposal appeared to be rather intended, by some hon. Members opposite, to make Party capital than to promote the real interest of the classes interested in the question. Did the hon. Member mean to assert that they had done work, for which they were not paid; or, was he merely alluding to the allegation that they had not been sufficiently paid for their work? With regard to the question of wages, he should be glad to see the agricultural labourers earning better wages; but that result would not be attained by measures of this kind. The hon. Member thought that money might be lent to the labourers, on the same principle as it bad been lent to the landlords. Most earnestly, however, would he advise the labourers not to follow the unfortunate example of landlords who had borrowed money on that system, and who had to pay heavy interest on that money without deriving any of the advantages they had anticipated.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
said, he considered that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had done good service to the community by bringing on that Land Question for discussion, as it was a question of vital interest to the community at largo, upon the solution of which depended, in a large measure, the prosperity of the country. It was, however, a question which could not be settled with regard to the interests of the land-owners alone. The interests of the public at large must also be taken into account; for any settlement, which did not take the public interest into account, would be utterly inadequate and futile. As there were 35,000,000 of persons in that country, only half of whom could be supplied with food grown in the country, he thought it was self-evident that the tillers of the soil need not suffer from any scarcity of markets for their produce. As to any question of levying a duty upon agricultural produce, he assured hon. Members opposite that it was an idle dream. Whatever else might be done, there would never be a tax again put on the food of the people. The days of protective duties were gone, 1610 and gone for ever. What agriculturists should do was to apply their minds to solving, in a practical way, the problem of how to produce more food from the land. For his own part, he believed that much good would not be done in that direction, till the land came to be treated on commercial principles. Then he had not the slightest doubt that the value of the land would go up, and the amount of the produce from the land would be considerably increased. He had the authority of Lord Derby for saying that the land at the present time did not produce more than half what it ought to do; and he (Mr. Cossham) contended that the way to make it produce more was to bring more labour upon it; and more labour would be brought upon the land, if it were let out in smaller lots; and, also, of course, the bringing of more land into cultivation, by inclosure, would add to the production of the country, and increase the amount of labour required upon the land. And there was another important side to the question. The employment of increased labour upon the land would act beneficially for the country in two ways. In the first place, it would be the means of greatly increasing the home food production for the people, and thereby rendering the country less dependent upon foreign sources of supply, and it would, at the same time, tend to increase the value of labour, by increasing the demand for it. From every point of view, therefore, the solution of the Land Question was a matter of the most vital importance to the country.
§ MR. MORE (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said, that, practically, a holding could not be prepared under an expense of £300; and although landowners had spent very large sums in improving their properties, he did not think there were many who could spend an unlimited amount of such sums in making small holdings. He thought that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), in calling attention to the amount of land uncultivated, should not have omitted to call attention to the large amount that had been brought into cultivation of late years. He was of opinion that the Government ought to lend money to the agricultural labourers to enable them to cultivate their allotments, otherwise they would 1611 not be able to cultivate them successfully.
§ SIR EDMUND LECHMERE (Worcestershire, Bewdley)
said, he had some experience of small holdings, and he could not think that their success was such that farm labourers ought to be encouraged to embark in them. What was best for them was that they should obtain garden allotments close to their cottages. It was his opinion that the providing of small holdings must be left to private enterprize. Last year a meeting was held of Members of all political Parties, with the object of establishing some means for providing smallholdings for those who were desirous of entering upon the cultivation of land in a small way, and the result was the establishment of the Small Farm and Labourers' Company; and he could not but think that if this Land Company, which had already divided and let an estate of 400 acres in small holdings, should prove to be a success, it would be followed by the establishment of various other Companies with the same object in view. But if land were to be cut up into allotments and small holdings, for the purpose of being cultivated by men in towns, as well as by agricultural labourers, something must be done to educate such men, so that they might understand the work which they had to do; and if they were to be educated we must have agricultural schools. He, therefore, considered it to be well worthy of the attention of the Legislature whether a Commission should not be appointed to take into consideration the whole question of small holdings; and he thought, moreover, that it would be well that agricultural schools should be formed throughout the country, in which men desiring to take small holdings should be able to obtain such an education on agricultural subjects as would enable them to cultivate their land with success. In conclusion, he would express his conviction that if the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had done nothing else by the introduction of the Bill, he had given an opportunity for the discussion of the important matters involved, and such discussion, he (Sir Edmund Lechmere) believed, would not be without good result.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he would take the advice of his hon. Friend (Mr. 1612 Broadhurst), and would ask leave to withdraw the Bill.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.