MR. CHAINING (Northampton, E.)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether he has now considered the representations repeatedly made in the past year by leading practical agriculturists, and by various bodies representing agricultural interests, as to the unsatisfactory working of the present system of agricultural valuation and the failure of existing laws to adequately protect the interest of tenant farmers in their improvements; whether he is aware that, by an Act passed last year, the procedure under "The Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1883," has been amended by the adoption of the principle of arbitration by a single referee; and whether, having regard to the generally recognised necessity for amending existing laws, he will Mr. Chaplin 328 endeavour to secure facilities for the Second Reading of the Agricultural Holdings Bill and other Bills dealing with these questions, with a view to refer them to a Select Committee?
§ MR. CHAPLIN
It is within my knowledge that the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1883, has been amended in the manner referred to in the question, and I am quite aware that in that and in some other respects it is quite possible that the Agricultural Holdings Act for England might be amended with advantage. But no representations have been made to the Board, and I have no information of my own which leads me to believe that tenant-farmers are unable under the existing laws to secure the fair compensation for their improvements to which they are fully entitled. On the contrary, as far as I can learn, I believe there never was a time when the attainment of that object was more entirely within their own control than it is at present. In reply to the third paragraph of the question, the hon. Member must know perfectly well that in the present state of public business, when the available time of the Government is already counted by hours, it would be impossible for me to secure facilities for the discussion of the measure for which he is responsible, which deals with a great variety of very important matters, and some of which are of a controversial character. With regard to the other Bills to which he refers, I may remind him that I have already done my best to secure the Second Reading of one of the Bills, which deals with an admitted grievance, and on which there appeared to be no difference of opinion, namely, the Bill of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wirral Division of Cheshire (Colonel Cotton). This, however, to my great regret, was prevented by the opposition of the hon. Member himself. I venture to hope that he may be persuaded to withdraw his opposition and allow my hon. Friend's Bill to become law during the present Session. With regard to the question of valuation and the other matters arising out of or connected with it, they are now under consideration.
§ MR. CHANNING
Will the right hon. Gentleman consent to the extension of the Bill of the hon. Member for the Wirral Division in accordance with the 329 Amendment I have placed on the Paper; and will he consent at the earliest possible period to the appointment of a Committee to go into the whole question of agricultural valuation and the other questions dealt with in the Bill to which I have referred?
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I am afraid that I cannot add to the reply I have already given to the hon. Member. I must ask him to give notic3 of any further question.