§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Main Question [14th February], "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty"s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Mount.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
said he wished to move as an Amendment to the Address, at the end, to add—But we humbly beg to represent to Your Majesty that, in view of the continued depopulation of rural districts and of the overcrowding and lack of employment in large towns, it is expedient to promote the more thorough cultivation of the land and to extend agricultural employment by legislative and administrative measures to give more security and freedom to agricultural tenants, and to encourage combination in the effective and economical working of the agricultural industry.He had read the actual words because he wished at once to draw attention to the omission of words originally in the 1217 Amendment referring to small holdings. As there were now two Bills on that subject before the House it was not in order to discuss that question on the present occasion. He also wished to point out that the Amendment had been expressly drawn in the form it was in order to remove any idea of its involving censure on the Government. They had recently had presented to them most lurid pictures of decay and impending ruin as threatening all manner of industries, but these had been promptly white-washed over by the figures issued by the Board of Trade. But the agricultural position was somewhat different, and those of them who had followed the varied fortunes of agriculture knew it had really suffered heavily during the last twenty-five years. The main fact on which the Amendment hinged was that the existing and the continuous depopulation of the rural districts was a real solid fact staring practical statesmanship in the face and demanding a solution. Whether the House looked at the subject as it affected the national physique or as it tended to aggravate the industrial problem and the social misery of the great towns—which he was heartily glad to know the Government were preparing to deal with in some form by extending the powers of the local authorities—rural depopulation was one of the most serious problems confronting reformers of to-day.
The causes of it were plain enough. He had the honour of acting with a gentleman whose absence from the House they all mourned—Mr. James Lowther—who was opposed to a great many of his views, and together they drew up a report to the Central Chamber of Agriculture on this very question of rural depopulation, indicating causes which were familiar to the minds of most hon. Members. He was aware that it would be improper for him on that occasion to introduce into that discussion any considerations of the fiscal question, and he would therefore only allude to it in order to express his own opinion that rural depopulation had not been caused by free trade and could not be cured by protection. Free trade had helped farmers even in the past almost as much as it had hindered them, and it had 1218 done immeasurable good to the agricultural labourer. He turned in other directions for his remedy, because he had come to the conclusion that the various suggestions made by the Tariff Reform League meant in their present form a heavy loss to the farmer, and absolute ruin to the more progressive branches of the industry. These proposals would compel the farmer to pay £3 additional for every £2 that was added by increased prices, while they would hang round the neck of the labourer an additional income-tax of 4d. in the £. At present agriculture was emerging into something like a state of equilibrium from a long and desperate period of depression. There was a modest and limited well-being, but agriculture was to a large extent starved both of capital and labour: it was only carried on—except in special and highly organised branches—at a minimum of profit. This greatest of national assets, the land, was being worked at far less than its true value if dealt with in a rational manner. What really stood in the way of agricultural prosperity could be summed up in two points—the insecurity of tenure and the lack of business organisation. Such a state of affairs would be deemed to be absolutely impossible in any other industry in this country. No one doubted for a moment that the land could be made to produce vastly more than it was now producing, and it might carry a very much larger population and give a very much larger range of employment. We had in our great centres of population practically inexhaustible markets for any amount of supplies were agriculture carried on under proper conditions. He did not believe in hothouse methods or in the State trying to create prosperity by ukase. We should never get what we wanted till we stimulated the strongest human motives, till we organised our methods scientifically, and till we created a solid hope of greater and more certain returns from capital and from labour.
They had before them the astounding fact of the enormous growth of Danish prosperity within the last twenty years. The Danes were actually exporting at the present time from £9 to £10 per head of the entire population of agricultural products alone, whereas we, even 1219 in this record year of industrial exports, were only exporting from £6 to £7 per head in all kinds of exports. How had it been done? Exactly on the principles he had laid down. The Danes had security of tenure, and were thus enabled to throw their skill, their energy, and their capital into the endeavour to bring out better results year by year. Most of them were of course freeholders, but there was also in Denmark a landlord class, and in the relations there between landlord and tenant there was harmony and freedom. There was no such thing as confiscation of improvements; no such thing as running out the fertility of the land in order to reduce the rent, but landlord and tenant worked side by side, joining in the most energetic effort to stimulate and expand the progress of agriculture. There was a solid business position and an absolute community of interests in Denmark. And then, too, there was the wonderful spirit of combination which had enabled them to attain the highest standard in stock and products, and a most thorough systematisation of the grading and placing of products on the market so as to minimise the cost of production and marketing. These were the corner-stones on which this miracle of progress had been built up. It might be asked why they could not have just the same results in England. Though the soil of Denmark was thin and unproductive, and the original stock of cattle was below the level of that possessed by most nations, the Danes had quadrupled their agricultural exports in the last twenty years, and raised themselves to their present astounding position. Here we had a soil twice as rich as that of Denmark, with millions of consumers close at hand in our great towns, a race as industrious, intelligent, and masterful; and we had too in this country the highest spirit of co-operative enterprise together with the widest understanding of co-operative methods. It might be said that co-operation was a slender reed to lean upon. But he had talked with some of his friends who had made a study of what was going on in Denmark and who had described experiments there in agricultural co-operation. In this country, as the right hon. Member for Bordesley knew, experiments in the farming of a 1220 single farm by a number of men had sometimes proved disastrous economic failures, but every one knew that the co-operation practised by the Danes was something of a wholly different kind. While its object was to work up to the highest point every detail of the industry by combined action, the system rested on individual force and energy of character in working the land. He was glad to see the hon. Member for Chester in his place who was rendering such great services through the Agricultural Organisation Society, of which he (Mr. Murray) was also a member. This was not a Party question. He was glad to do honour to such agricultural reformers as the late Earl of Winchilsea, Sir Horace Plunkett, the hon. Member for Chester, and other Gentlemen belonging to the Party opposite. He had divested his Amendment of anything like a Party aspect.
§ MR. CHANNING
said the hon. Member might rest assured that that result would not happen. He had expressly disclaimed any Party hostility, and the Amendment would only be made hostile by the Government themselves. He might be expected to offer some practical suggestions. He did so with great diffidence. In inserting the term "administrative measures" in his Amendment he had wished to point to direct or indirect action of Government Departments in stimulating organisation of this nature. He hoped that his hon. friend the Member for South Molton would, in the course of the debate, throw some light on the proceedings of the Departmental Committee on Railway Rates. That was a very important Committee. He was not sure as to the scope of its reference, but he did trust that the initiative which had very wisely been taken by the Board of Agriculture in this matter might lead up to something more than mere fixing of railway rates. He wished to see the service of our railways simplified and cheapened so as to secure to the British producer the most direct command of his gigantic and inexhaustible markets, and if this Departmental 1221 Committee could recommend a way of organising the collection, grading, packing, and despatching of the produce of the land, in truck loads or train loads, they would solve a double problem; they would increase the dividends of the railway companies and they would enable a large reduction to be made in railway charges. They would also solve the vexed question of the preferential treatment of foreign produce. He invited them to follow up this good example and he would suggest to the hon. Member for North Huntingdonshire, who represented the Board of Agriculture in this House, that they should hold conferences, to which the best men in each district should be called; that, if possible, those conferences should be held in connection with the great agricultural societies, and that their object should be to discuss, formulate, and start combined action in regard to the whole systematising of the collection, grading, and forwarding of articles of agricultural produce. He would advise similar consultations for better systematising the methods of stamping out cattle disease and for raising to a high uniform level the qualities of the stock and produce. The report obtained from Denmark for Sir Horace Plunkett"s department by Lord Ikerrin"s Committee showed how societies could help individual agriculturists to raise the level of the quality of their stock and produce to the highest point. The hon. Member for South Molton had taken a very active part in the question of agricultural education, and he would not, therefore, touch upon that beyond pointing out that there was obviously a field for useful activity on the part of the Board of Agriculture in stimulating and helping to organise these various reforms which could but develop the strength of the agricultural community. Agriculturists did not want State help, but State direction and the removal of unnecessary difficulties. The key of the success attained in Denmark had been reliance on self-help and mutual help. They could not import into England the mere Danish methods. They had only to learn this lesson and apply it to English conditions in their own English way and according to the conditions and limitations with which 1222 they had to deal with agriculture in this country.
He had ventured to allude to two or three lines of administrative action which ought to be taken to encourage agriculture, and doubtless other hon. Members might later on suggest additional points. The whole of this group of combined activities for the benefit of agriculture was a work of peace, getting rid of the conflict of interests and cementing the interests of the various classes engaged in agriculture, and harmonising the relations of landlord, farmer, and labourer so that they might all join together in building up the common interests and in working for the welfare of the whole community. That, he thought, was a noble object for statesmen to aim at, and he trusted that whatever Party might be in power in the near future some such policy as he had put forward would be initiated and carried through. But it was mere folly to talk about any such policy for agriculture; it was to build a house upon the quicksands unless there could be laid down a solid foundation of absolute security for the individual workers. Sir James Caird, one of the wisest advisers agriculture ever had, had said that it was time that land tenure should not be any longer a matter of mere sentiment, but should be placed on a business footing. This view could not be better put than in a passage of the Report of the Welsh Land Commission, drawn up by one of the wisest and most generous landlords, in the country, Lord Carrington—The partnership was unbusinesslike and unfair. In practice it secures to one partner the whole of such larger share of the profit as he may, under the disguise of re-valuation or re-fixing rents, choose to exact, while there is this curious feature, that either partner may determine the arrangement by a year"s notice. Looking at it from the tenant"s side, after carrying on the business for twenty years with perhaps only a very moderate profit, just when times have become better, and partly because of his long continued attention to his farm, he finds himself at last in a position to make a larger profit, he may then be met by a demand from his partner for such an increase in rent as will absorb the additional percentage he reasonably expected to enjoy, or else have to give up the business under circumstances which entail an inevitable shrinkage of his capital. We cannot conceive a more unjust arrangement from a true business standpoint.He (the hon. Member) was not one of those who wished a revolution in the 1223 existing land system; he had no sympathy with those who desired to tax landlords out of existence. He held that if there was to be a new system, a re -arrangement of land tenure in this country, it must grow up, like the present system, out of the instincts of the people, and from conciliation and kindly feeling between the different classes interested in the land. On many large, historic estates, and on many small estates, too, tenants were as safe as if they were freeholders; rents had been fixed not by reckless competition, but by fair estimate of the productive power of the holding at the current prices, and tenants had gone on continuously doing their best by land. But it was unfortunately the case that in many districts the tenants held their holdings on a very precarious tenure. Leading tenant farmers from all parts of the country gave evidence before the late Commission of the insecurity which allowed the tenants" capital in one form or another to be transferred to the pockets of the landlord, not always, or even generally, from ill will or injustice on the part of the landlord, but rather from the operation of a system which was unworkable and undesirable in itself. The record of the long depression had been of the keeping up of rents long after they had ceased to be earned by the land. Mr. Wilson Fox prepared a table from an analysis of a large number of farmer" accounts in Lincolnshire, which showed that the rent instead of being from twice to three times the tenants" profit, as was estimated for income-tax, ranged in a period of depression from seven to nearly fifty times that profit. That indicated a considerable transfer of the economic burden of loss from the landlord to the tenant, and of the value of the tenant"s improvements and capital to the landlord.
One of many illustrations was the laying down of permanent pasture by the tenant. In many cases the only remedy to secure compensation the tenant had was to tear up the land and take a couple of white crops before his term was out. That was reckless farming, and worked injuriously to both landlord and tenant. He submitted that when there was a change in the term of the 1224 tenancy a fair calculation should be made of the amount each partner had put into the concern as a going concern, and some method provided of paying over to the tenant the value he had created. The landlord then could fairly charge the full rack-rent value of the land. There ought also to be additional compensation where a tenant farmer had worked the land right up to the hilt, and by continuous good farming had considerably added to the value of the landlord"s property. An effective check ought to be put on unreasonable interference with the tenant"s enjoyment of a holding which, with his skill and capital, he had been cutivating to the best of his ability. There was no point on which an amendment of the law was more needed than in the direction of thus strengthening the position of the tenant so as to give him a fair chance in bargaining with his landlord. It had been calculated that the loss by removal might be from 10 per cent, to 40 per cent. on the valuation, while if the removal was at very short notice the loss might be even greater, because a pressed sale inevitably led to stock and implements being sold at much below their value.
Then, too, the over-preservation of game was a thing against which protection should be given to the tenants. And there could be unfortunate and serious interference with the civil and religious liberties of tenant farmers. In the past, in Wales, in the Lothians, and other parts of the country, there had been unjust and cruel exercise of power on the part of landlords, who, mistaking their functions as the owners of great estates, had arrogated to themselves the right to dictate to their tenants what they should do and think and say in their daily life, altogether apart from the plain agricultural obligations which landlord and tenant had entered into. In these days, when there was such a strong tendency amongst all Parties to unity and goodwill in promoting the development of agriculture, and when such wide and inspiring conceptions of a new future seemed to have been brought within our reach by the efforts of such men as Sir Horace Plunkett, and of many others who were working for the common interest, which all might take their part in building 1225 up, it seemed to him to be a very sad anachronism that they still had an antiquated survival of a feudal order of things cropping up. Within the last few weeks attention had been drawn to a very ill-judged letter written by a noble Lord claiming authority to show how his tenants should vote at a certain election. They had also recently had a case which affected a right hon. and gallant Member of this House. He thought that any one who had known him during the twenty years he had been a Member of this House would know that the last thing he would wish to do was to make a personal attack or to say a word which would give offence or pain to any of his colleagues. With regard to the case to which he referred there was this striking circumstance that the right hon. and gallant Member had admitted that his tenant, Mr. Horne, was an excellent farmer of whom he had no reason to complain. He had received a letter from Mr. Horne expressing approval of the right hon. and gallant Member"s provision of buildings and cottages upon his estate. This was a case in which both sides had discharged their duties in a proper spirit and in the way that such a duty ought to be discharged as regarded an agricultural contract. But these two gentlemen happened to be very keenly opposed to each other in politics. Mr. Horne not only felt very strongly upon political questions generally, but he also felt very strongly upon the question of land reform. He wished to lay this matter before the House in a temperate spirit and simply as a definite matter of principle. The question was solely this: whether Mr. Horne was to be free to argue the case of tenant right in his village meetings, and to urge reforms he thought essential for farmers like himself, or whether that course was to involve him in disability and loss. That would be, in his opinion, carrying the claims of landlordship too far. It seemed to him that it was wrong to import into a purely agricultural contract an obligation that the tenant farmer was to hold his tongue upon questions in regard to which he happened to feel most strongly. This was a practice against which he felt bound to enter a most emphatic protest. It was true that the right hon. and gallant Member did not give Mr. Horne notice 1226 to quit, but when the right hon. and gallant Member wrote to all the other farmers on his estate that for Mr. Horne to advocate such reforms as those he had ventured to lay before the House to-day, reforms which the best tenant farmers in the country, men whose names were household words, had expressed themselves in favour of before the Agricultural Commission, and at the same time to retain his farm, upon which he was admittedly doing his duty under his agricultural contract, would be contrary to self-respect, the action of the right hon. and gallant Member came as near to evicting his tenant as could very well be done. It made it impossible for a high-spirited man to retain his holding. He had a letter from Mr. Horne in which he stated that a paper was signed between himself and the agent in which Mr. Horne while offering the option of immediately giving up his farm, or of leaving it in twelve months time, he recorded his own willingness to stop, and his own appreciation of the farm, the ultimate result was that he was obliged to look out for a farm elsewhere and to part with his stock at a moment"s notice, and undoubtedly at great loss to himself. He had not made any personal attack on the right hon. and gallant Member opposite, nor had he imputed motives, but he wished to make in the House of Commons an emphatic protest against the importation of this sort of consideration into purely agricultural contracts. It was absolutely impossible for them to arrive at the satisfactory results which most agricultural reformers wished to see if a tenant farmer, as a condition of holding his farm, had to surrender convictions which he rightly or wrongly conceived it necessary to advocate on behalf of the men engaged in the same industry as himself. It was possible to attach too much importance to such action, which naturally tended to correct itself. It was against the spirit of the times. He only alluded to it as a jarring note in the general tendency to the harmonious working out of the agricultural future. In view of the present position of agriculture, and in view of what had been done by small communities like Denmark and in Ireland by combination, conciliation and self-help, he appealed to the 1227 Government and to the House to receive favourably this amendment, and to welcome and push forward the reforms which he had endeavoured to lay before the House.
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
said his excuse for speaking upon this question was that ever since he had taken an interest in politics the question of the land, and its relation to the economic welfare of the country, had been one of the chief spheres of his interest and study. If he were to say what he intended, he should throw himself counter to what was evidently going to be the mainstring of this debate. He agreed with his hon. friend the Member for Northamptonshire in every one of the minor agricultural reforms which he had raised, for they were every one needed in order to improve the agriculture of this country. He was one of those who thought that any or even all of these minor remedies would not do very much good in the direction of solving the land question of this country unless they went very much deeper and further than was now suggested. Why was it that Denmark, as they had been told, was able to produce and export in agricultural produce alone a larger amount per head of its population than this country was able to export with all its manufactures? There was only one answer which he had been able to discover, and it was that the land system of Denmark was infinitely better than our own. The land in Denmark and the climate were not so good as ours, and yet that country furnished an illustration of prosperity which had been built up in about twenty years by the industry of the people, because those who laboured enjoyed the results of their labour. He did not hesitate to say that in this country they had the worst land system of any civilised country in the world. This state of things had come about because when they were going through the period of transition from the feudal system to the present system, unfortunately, largely by an accident, the land was enabled to escape its proper responsibilities, whilst at the same time it was allowed to retain its privileges. That, in his opinion, was the reason why they could never hope to put 1228 the land of this country to the use it ought to be put to, and never obtain from the land the produce which they ought to get until they had brought about a fundamental alteration in the system. He was not going to labour that question, because it was quite clear that the debate would be devoted mainly to the question of minor agricultural improvements.
He would just take one illustration which he thought would enforce what he had been saying. It was a case which he came across a few weeks ago in Scotland, where they had been developing a new fruit-growing industry. The new industry of fruit-growing was entered upon in Perthshire. The land had been originally rented at £1 an acre, but for this new industry the rent was doubled. When the industry had proved a success the landowner was enabled to ask for and to obtain £10 an acre for the land required for the extension of the industry. It was obvious that so long as that could exist it was a direct barrier in the way of increasing the produce of the country. He was talking the other day to a farmer who, complaining bitterly about the state of agriculture, was inclined to go in for the quack remedies of he right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford in the way of protection. He asked him what was, on the average, the amount that would remain to him after his hard labour on the land, and he replied that for the expense of his household it was less than £200. The rent of that man"s farm was £400 a year. The hon. Member had never been able to see what principle of justice there was in a system by which the man who worked received only one - half from the result of his labour as compared with the person who happened to own the land on which he was permitted to work. During the period of the Corn Laws in this country, rents went up 150 to 200 per cent, above what they were at the end of the preceding century. Taking this country as a whole, rents had never yet returned to a proper economic level, and if we required to turn out in this country the amount of produce of which the land was capable we should have to alter our system in such a way that land would come into the market upon a free-trade basis, 1229 so that it would go at its real value to those who could use it best.
He was one of those who believed there was a close and intimate connection between the condition of agriculture and the unemployed in our large towns. He did not mean to say that he believed that the present industrial population could be removed from the towns and placed on the land with any great economic advantage, but he believed that the evils of our land system were very real. We had almost perpetually a large class of unemployed in our large towns, and a large number of them were in poverty. So long as it was in the power of a class to control land, and to deny the access of labourers to land which they ought to have, it was natural that many people should be kept practically in perpetuity below the level of proper existence. A remedy was tried in one of our Colonies a few years ago which, in his opinion, would be more effective in this country than any that had been recommended. It was to take off the shoulders of those who worked the land the burdens they at present unjustly bore and to place them on the ownership of the land, in order to give a motive to all owners that their land should be put to the best possible use. In New South Wales that took the form of a small tax on the capital value of the land, and the result of that reform had been very striking in relieving the burdens of those who occupied the land. He quite agreed that there were many burdens on the shoulders of agriculturists which they ought not to be called upon to bear. It was in 1896 that this reform was adopted in New South Wales, and he had seen a report giving the results which had arisen from it. In the four years prior to the adoption of this change the number of unemployed registered in New South Wales was respectively 18,606, 12,145, 13,500, and 14,000; but in the three years immediately following the numbers fell as follows—6,400, 4,100, and 3,400. He did not know of any influence in the colony during that period which could have brought about that result except the change of which he was speaking. In one year after the adoption of that Act a great speculative estate known as the 1230 Peel River Estate, which had previously been withheld from use, was broken up into farm lots and offered at auction. During the three years following the adoption of the Act the area of land under cultivation increased by 905,000 acres—50 per cent. over the entire area previously under cultivation. He believed we should have to adopt some such remedy in this country in order to relieve the farmers of the burdens which at present were placed on the practical machinery of their industry, and which ought to be borne by other parties. He did not suppose these views would find the support of a majority in the House at the present moment, but he was glad to have the opportunity of seconding the Amendment in order that he might say so much on the security of the tenants, and the bringing of the land into agricultural use at its real value. These two things were required to enable us to make the land as productive and useful as that of Denmark.
At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'But we humbly beg to represent to Your Majesty that, in view of the continued depopulation of rural districts and of the of the overcrowding and lack of employment in large towns, it is expedient to promote the more thorough cultivation of the land and to extend agricultural employment by legislative and administrative measures to give more security and freedom to agricultural tenants, and to encourage combination in the effective and economical working of the agricultural industry.' "—(Mr. Channing.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
said he noticed that the present Amendment had a feature in common with the others which had been moved on the Address. It contained a number of propositions which, no doubt, did great credit to the framer of the Amendment, because by those numerous propositions an effort was made to draw into the net all those who were in favour of the various propositions put forth. There was a suggestion in the Amendment that efforts should be made to bring more people back to the land. It was suggested that there should be greater security, that fixity of tenure 1231 should be granted, and that the system of combination should be encouraged among the farmers of this country. Though several of these propositions were good, he was afraid that, unfortunately, they were mutually destructive. It appeared to him that by establishing another lot of owners, or half owners, on the land, they would make the acquisition of small holdings and the bringing of the people back to the land far more difficult than it now was. The supporters of the Amendment appeared to desire the Government to set about land reform, and to entirely alter the land system of this country, giving existing tenants and occupiers practically fixity of tenure, freedom of cultivation, free sale, and all those other reforms which some gentlemen were very anxious to see carried. He was bound to say that if they carried any such scheme as that they would make the task of bringing the people back to the land and the establishment of small holdings far harder than it was at the present moment. Speaking from pretty large experience he could state that frequently one of the difficulties in providing allotments for labourers was the difficulty of getting out the tenant and meeting the heavy tenant-right he demanded for clearing out. So far as his personal experience was concerned, he could say that his tenants had behaved well in that respect. They had given up land on several occasions, but many of them had required a deal of pressing to do it.
He was not surprised that a certain confusion of ideas existed in the minds of some gentlemen on this subject. It was only the other day that the Leader of the Opposition made a speech on agricultural questions to a deputation which came to him to ask for the repeal of the law by which Canadian store cattle were admitted into this country. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman showed the same confusion of ideas. He said he was in favour of the repeal of the Act which admitted Canadian stores into this country. So far, so good; that was a matter on which there might be difference of opinion. The right hon. Gentleman said that that would bring back the people to the soil. Now, he believed that that was a fallacious argument. He should have thought that the introduction of 1232 cheap Canadian store cattle would have sent the agricultural labourers to the towns, because more land would be laid down in grass and less would be kept under the plough. From his own practical experience he could say that land laid down in grass employed fewer people than land under the plough; and if he could buy Canadian store cattle cheap he would put land now under the plough under grass. There was often a confusion of ideas on the part of those who advocated agricultural reforms, which were very pleasing in theory. No doubt he would be told that he was going on wrong lines. The mover of the Amendment, in his able and temperate speech, argued that if greater security were given to the sitting tenant or occupier he would be more inclined to use his capital, and by that means to employ more labour. Did the hon. Member really know of any concrete case of a tenant who did not now receive ample compensation for his improvements? The hon. Gentleman had quoted a case from Wales where the landlord was an authority on this subject, and a noble relation of his own.
§ MR. CHANNING
said that the whole of the evidence he had laid before the House was given before the English Agricultural Commission, on which he had the honour of a seat.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE ERESBY
said he had not heard all the hon. Gentleman's speech, and he certainly did not hear him quote an English case, only a case of Lord Carrington's, who was a statesman that had stuck well to his Party. But passing to the question of security for improvements and the capital expended on a farm, he would ask any hon. Gentleman opposite who had taken a farm and had paid the outgoing tenant compensation for seeds, manure, etc., whether he considered he had disgracefully robbed the outgoing tenant. Was it the case that when he came to reap the first year's harvest he thought it was a shame that the outgoing tenant had got too little money? Could a single tenant farmer be got who would give evidence that the money he had paid to the outgoing tenant was not sufficient? After all, that was the best test of whether the existing system was 1233 a just and proper security for the improvements, work, and manure the outgoing tenant had put into the farm. He was sorry to say that his experience was just the reverse. It had been his fate to take a good many farms, and on every occasion he had had to pay the outgoing tenant very heavily; and so far from feeling that he had done him injustice in what he had paid for cake, seeds, permanent pasture, and winter crops, he found that on almost every occasion his first year's return resulted in a loss or a blank failure, and in addition he had to pay the outgoing tenant compensation for much that he did not want. Practice wae better than theory. At the present moment what happened in Scotland in the case of an outgoing tenant of a sheep farm? Both the outgoing and the incoming tenant appointed a valuer, and they appointed what was called an oversman to give a sort of final decision. The three gentlemen laid their heads together and said that the value of the sheep stock was so much. In almost every case the incoming tenant had to pay a third more for the sheep stock than it was worth. He himself had taken over the sheep stock of a farm for £3,000, and after having kept the sheep for four or five months he had sold them at Perth auction mart for £2,000. These were facts. This system of valuation affected the whole state of agriculture in this way. The incoming tenant had to take over the sheep stock worth £2,000 at the price of £3,000, and, therefore, he had to farm his holding under similar conditions as a company whose undertaking was over-capitalised.
There was another aspect of this question. The system advocated by the Amendment would amount practically to the establishment of dual ownership. The seconder of the Amendment went into the whole principle of the land tenure of the country and asked whether the landlord was right or wrong in trying to get as much out of his estate as possible. He would not go into the ethics of the question, but why should not a man invest his money in land and try to get as much out of his investment as a grocer tried to get the best out of his investment in his shop? If it was right for the grocer, why was it wrong for the landlord? Why not apply the same 1234 principle to a newspaper proprietor, or to a large and successful grocer like Sir Thomas Lipton? An hon. Gentleman opposite said that the land system of England was the worst in the civilised world; but would any gentleman say that dual ownership was better than the existing system? The precedent of Ireland did not encourage the adoption of such a system. It had been given a fair trial in Ireland, and when it was first started they were told that it would cure the Irish land difficulty. They knew that it had had exactly the reverse effect. It had, indeed, been found such an utter failure that recourse had again been had to single ownership under the recent Irish Land Act. There could not possibly be a better case for not altering the present system to dual ownership.
But could not anything be done to assist agriculture as a whole? His own opinion was, and he had often heard it expressed on the other side of the House, that they would never be able to got agriculture into a proper position until they had some real security under the existing system with some finality about it. He had heard hon. Gentlemen opposite saying on Army and tariff reform questions that the very greatest disasters were being caused by the uncertainty; that trade was being unsettled, and that there should be an instant appeal to the electorate. It was acknowledged that agriculture was not in a satisfactory condition at present, and the uncertainty as to the future of the agricultural system caused by the suggestions contained in the Amendment was unprecedented. He did not know whether it was the recognised policy of the Opposition to alter the present system of land tenure if they were returned to power; but as long as uncertainty existed there would be hesitation in investing money inland. He was absolutely convinced that it would be an enormous benefit to this country if the number of small freeholders were increased. The question that was to be solved was how that could be brought about. That excellent result would never be achieved by taking away from the landlords a certain number of rights and handing them over to the tenants. Then there would be two 1235 joint owners. The question of increasing the number of small freeholders was one of enormous difficulty. He knew in his own experience that when tenants were asked to purchase they replied, "Oh, no; we would much sooner remain tenants and make the best bargain we can with the landlord." That was perfectly easily explained. If a man wished to buy a small holding he required a certain amount of capital. But what would be his position? One bad year would very nearly break him, and two bad years would certainly accomplish it. If the roof of his farmhouse were blown off in a storm he would have to borrow more money to replace it. If he were a tenant the landlord would have to bear the expense, but as a peasant proprietor the man would have to stand the racket himself. Again, a man with a small capital could farm many more acres than he could buy. Therefore, although he desired to see a greater number of small freeholders, he was afraid it was only a dream except on certain land specially adapted for small proprietors.
A great deal had been said by the mover of the Motion with reference to co-operation and combination. The other day he attended a meeting convened by his hon. friend the Member for Chester, to whom all honour was due for his efforts to promote this excellent object. He himself was only too anxious to assist this movement, and should be delighted to hear from the Government that they were prepared to help it forward. But he did not believe that any immediate good would be obtained from this movement. Old customs were hard to get over, and no people were so conservative as farmers. The system of paying by instalments and payments in kind was engrained in them, and it would require a great deal to get rid of it. What was wanted was a better understanding with the railway companies. It was admitted that preferential rates were given for bulk; and it was stated that if the farmers combined they might be able to beat down the railway companies. He did not charge the railway companies with dishonesty; but undoubtedly they carried foreign produce at a far cheaper rate than home produce. What was the 1236 reason? It was because the railway companies had spent millions in erecting docks and warehouses at ports in order to encourage foreign trade. Had the railway companies spent even a thousand pounds in erecting warehouses in country towns where produce could be stored until there was a full train load? In conclusion, he would say that there was no advantage in tinkering with our land laws He was not a protectionist; all he wanted was free trade and equality with foreign producers. Until they were placed on an equality with foreigners they could never hope to compete successfully. He hoped that the Government would look with more sympathy on the question than previous Governments had done.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
could not help thinking that when the noble Lord referred to the confusion of ideas existing upon the question of the importation of Canadian stores into this country, that the confusion of ideas rested with the noble Lord himself. He understood the noble Lord to argue that the importation of Canadian stores into this country encouraged the laying down of grass on English farms, whereas it had the exactly contrary effect. As a matter of fact, Canadian stores were imported into the arable districts, where the ground was ploughed up for the very purpose of providing them with food stuffs. It was the stoppage of the importation of the Canadian stores which had resulted in the laying down of land to grass, because farmers had now to depend upon home-bred stock, which required a certain amount of grass upon which to feed. He had in his mind several farms, where, after the importation of Canadian stores was prohibited, the land was laid down to grass, and cows were kept. It had been realised in Canada itself that the prohibition of the importation of this class of animal had been of great advantage to the agriculture of that country, because instead of sending this stock straight from the prairie, as before, it was now fed in Canada and imported into this country in the shape of beef. He very much doubted whether, even if the prohibition were taken off, there would ever be that free importation of stores which there had hitherto been, because 1237 to-day it had been found to be more profitable to feed them at home and export them as beef. There was no ground for the fear which the noble Lord had expressed. The feeling of uncertainty in the minds of the farmers with regard to the future of agriculture in this country must be looked for in other directions. He rather thought those fears had their foundation in the Tariff Reform Association and its programme, rather than any other source.
The Amendment before the House raised a point, however, which must appeal to all, whether they agreed on the question of Canadian stores or not, and that was the depopulation of the country districts. That question had been used as an argument for a change in the fiscal policy of the country, but the depopulation of the rural districts was not a sign of the failure of agriculture in the country. Probably at the present time there was no country where agriculture was so prosperous or where the system of small holdings, which was the real cure for rural depopulation, had been extended with greater effect than in Denmark. Denmark was a free-trade country, and in no other country was agriculture more prosperous, or did people make money more regularly out of it. Small holdings brought them to the question of the way in which tenure effected the population of the country districts. He did not think that the alteration of tenure of land in this country would affect the question of population, though much might be done by the extension of small holdings. If they wanted to encourage small holdings the simplest method was to try and preserve those which existed, and, if possible, to have a valuation rent of every holding under £50 a year—every holding where the work was done mostly by the occupier and his family. He believed that the bulk of the farm valuations in Scotland or in this country were conducted with perfect regularity and honesty. He himself had had valuation rents fixed on farms large and small, and he believed that those valuations had been fixed with the utmost fairness, and therefore he did not assume that, because the sheep valuations of Scotland had been conducted on an improper basis in the past, it was impossible to fix 1238 these valuations rents as he suggested on a fair basis. There was nothing in the Motion that suggested that the sheep farm valuations should be adopted as a basis of the valuation here.
He thought the encouragement of small holdings with the view of checking the depopulation of the country districts was the first step to take into consideration before touching the general question. It was not always the case that the large tenant farmers desired to remain on one farm; some of the most enterprising farmers in Scotland were those who liked to change their farms frequently, who would go to a farm and build up a good stock and then have a sale, because they knew they could get a good price for the stock which they had, and then go to another farm and have another sale. So far from these being farmers who ran away from their farms, they were among the most enterprising agriculturists in Scotland. Apart entirely from the question of small holdings and the creation of small holdings, he thought the scale of unused improvements ought to be revised as a knowledge of their value became greater. We knew a good deal more now about unextracted manure and unexpired improvements than when the scale was evolved, and the Board of Agriculture ought to avail itself of the increase of such knowledge so that it might alter the scale.
There was another point which required attention, and that was the damage done by game, not only furred but feathered. Now that pheasant breeding had become almost universal, game inflicted a considerable amount of damage on farmers. He had always looked upon the death of the late Mr. Hanbury as a great national loss. He had just made a start at the Board of Agriculture and its methods when he died, and it would be a most deplorable thing if the impetus which he gave to this matter should be lost. The literature which the Board of Agriculture sent out with regard to improvements of agricultural methods and the introduction of scientific and business-like methods in the prosecution of this industry was admirable, but he thought the Board might do a great deal more for 1239 the industry in the way of object-lessons, for which we now had to go abroad. He regarded the rural depopulation of the country as a grave danger. They had heard that day much of the self-reliance of agriculturists, and he trusted that that self-reliance would always be a leading characteristic. But, at the same time, let them have along with that intelligence and industry, which had been so remarkably demonstrated both in the old world and the new, that efficiency in methods of collection of marketing and agricultural produce which was the real root of success in the agricultural system of any country. There had been a great revival of agriculture in many foreign countries, and a far greater revival amongst ourselves. It was far more difficult for a Government Department here to give agriculture that assistance which it received in other States because it had no control over the railways, but it might foster combination and it might take a direct interest in experiments which were made. It might show a little of that activity which was shown by corresponding departments in America and on the Continent, and in so doing it would eventually check that process of depopulation which was a matter of great concern to them all.
§ MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)
said he shared the regret of the mover of the Amendment at the continued depopulation of the rural districts, and the consequent overcrowding and lack of employment in some of our large towns. One of the evils involved lay in the fact that the scarcity of men left in the rural districts led to a limitation of the output of our food supply, with the result that our position was made more precarious in that we were rendered more dependent on foreign supply in time of war. Another consequence of the movement of the population from the country must be the physical degeneration of the race. One of the chief causes of the exodus seemed to him to be the greatly reduced prices of agricultural produce, and another was the present system of education in the rural districts, which had not hitherto been of a character likely to make boys and girls take an interest in rural pursuits. He expressed 1240 a hope that the recent Education Bill, by placing education under the control of people acquainted with the needs of the districts, would do something to remedy this, and to secure for rural lads and girls in agricultural neighbourhoods an education better calculated to induce them to follow the normal pursuits of the districts in which they lived. With respect to the reduction in the price of agricultural produce, he pointed out that while the annual value of such produce sold in the country in the six years 1872 to 1877 was £255,000,000, the value of such produce sold in the period 1892–97 was £175,000,000. Such a falling-off must seriously affect employment in the rural districts and tend to force the people into the towns. The agricultural classes had, of course, shared with other sections of the community the advantages of cheap food, but it was evident that upon an industry so reduced there could not legitimately be placed burdens which were no doubt just and equitable in times of greater prosperity. The average British agriculturist had, he ventured to say, received during the last twenty-five years no interest whatever on the capital invested in his holding, but had simply gained a bare living as the result of his labour and often that of his family.
One remedy for the evil seemed to him to be in making it better worth while for the rural classes to stay in the country districts. Many would say that a return to protection would be the most effective means of bringing this about, and he was inclined to agree that it would do much to increase the well-being of the rural population, but he doubted the expediency of increasing the income of the agricultural community by a tax upon the necessities of life required by the whole of the population. And, apart from that, he thought much could be done by giving greater security for capital invested in a holding by a tenant. A farmer could hardly be expected to make a free expenditure of capital on his holding unless it was made clear to him that he would have security for that capital. An important step in this direction had been taken by the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1900, but there were still directions in which he thought 1241 it would be wise for the Government to expand the principle which underlay that measure. He thought it was also reasonable to ask that the burdens at present borne by the agricultural community should be reduced on the lines of a readjustment of the basis of local taxation. When the present basis was adopted there existed little but real property in certain districts, on which contributions could be levied for police, education, and road maintenance. Now personal property was valued, perhaps, at more than real property, and yet the owner of personal property—one, for instance, whose money was invested in the Funds and who, very likely, was better off than many men who had the same amount of capital invested in land—contributed nothing directly to such local expenditure as had been mentioned, though he derived as much benefit from it as the real property owner. It was high time a re-arrangement of the basis of local taxation was made, for it was in such a re-arrangement that the chief hope of a return of agricultural prosperity lay.
He congratulated the Government on the success of their efforts to stamp out pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease, and trusted that they would continue to prohibit the importation of cattle from foreign countries where such disease existed. Farmers were entitled to greater consideration at the hands of the railway companies, and it seemed to him that better arrangements should be made to enable the former to send their goods to market more conveniently, and at somewhat less expense and consequent disadvantage as compared with the foreigner. He approved the action of the Government in extending to the agricultural labourers the principle of the Workmen's Compensation Act. The Friendly Societies Act of last year had also been of service, but more needed to be done in regard to the securing of better housing accommodation for agricultural labourers. The better housing of the working classes was a most important question, and the extension of the period for the repayment of loans, as proposed by the Government, would greatly assist landlords to provide cottages at rents which labourers could afford to pay. He was glad the Government had promised the re-introduction of 1242 the Butter Bill, and he hoped it would be pressed to a successful issue, for, although he did not ask for protection for the agriculturists, he thought they ought not to have to compete with adulterated articles from abroad, while they themselves were liable to prosecution if they placed anything impure upon the market. Other directions in which assistance could be given to the interests of agriculture and at the same time of the general community would occur to all practical men, but one of the main hopes of prosperity must rest in the cordial co-operation, of landlords, tenants, and labourers. Rural depopulation was a menace to the social well-being of the State, and he hoped the Government would continue their efforts for the amelioration of the lot of the agricultural community. The greatest help the Government had given was by the passing of the Agricultural Ratings Act, and he was grateful for the announcement of their determination to renew the measure during the present session. Personally, he wished the measure of relief had been larger, and he would suggest that a re-arrangement of the basis of local taxation offered the best hope of a remedy for the agricultural depression and rural depopulation deplored by the Amendment, and that the Agricultural Ratings Act was a recognition of the reduced paying powers of the agriculturists.
He wished in conclusion to make it clear that he must vote against the Amendment, because its result, if it were carried, would only be to turn out the Government and replace by another Party which had, on every possible occasion in the past, done its best to deprive the British agriculturist of the measure of justice accorded by the Agricultural Ratings Act. Indeed, he believed no better means could be taken of aggravating the evils under which the agricultural community laboured, and of still further embarrassing its position, than for the House to pass the Amendment before them.
§ MR. BRIGHT (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said that although it was true that rents had fallen during the last thirty years, and that possibly a holding then worth 1243 £130 would now fetch only £100 rent, it should be remembered that the purchasing power of £100 now was about equal to that of £130 in the earlier period. If, however, landlords had over-mortgaged or over-charged their property on the basis of the valuation of 1870–1873 they had only themselves to thank for it, and it was no argument for the State stepping in to assist them. As to the suggestion that personalty should be rated, that was an old proposal which Cobden tore to pieces long ago when he pointed out that the first person to suffer would be the tenant farmer himself, for he would be rated on his dead and live stock. Consequently that would not relieve agricultural depression. A challenge had been thrown out on the question of dual ownership. Dual ownership, in the case of Ireland at any rate, had been the stepping-stone to the substitution of a peasant proprietary for a system of great landlords. A system under which the community owned the holdings and let them to the people would afford to the tenants fixity of tenure, and thereby greatly assist the agricultural community, because one of the main reasons for the rural depopulation deplored by the Amendment was the feeling of insecurity felt by all classes. Hon. Members opposite seemed to forget that land was a natural monopoly, and should be dealt with on a different basis from other property. To compare land-owning with a grocery business was to contrast two unlike things. Private ownership of land was in the nature of trusteeship for the whole of the community, and if a private owner of land exercised the power of turning a whole community out of occupation no one could deny that a great wrong would be perpetrated. It was the sense of prevailing insecurity in respect of land tenure running throughout the whole community which created damage and helped to drive the agricultural population into the towns.
In connection with this insecurity of tenure he desired to refer to a personal matter—the controversy between the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Newport Division of Shropshire and Mr. Fred Horne. For seventeen years Mr. Horne was a tenant farmer on the right hon. Gentleman's 1244 property; he farmed well, and was a leading light amongst Shropshire agriculturists. For many years Mr. Horne and his landlord got on very well together; in fact, on one occasion when Mr. Horne was ill the right hon. Gentleman did him a special kindness. Unfortunately, politics had been running high in the county, and Mr. Horne came into collision with his landlord over the Ludlow Election. Shrewd blows had been given on either side, but it was with feelings of pained surprise that the people of the district heard that the right hon. Gentleman had written to his tenantry at the annual audit dinner a letter in which the following sentence occurred—It will be recognised that while one of my tenants finds his chief occupation in denouncing landlords and opposing the system under which land is occupied, while at the same time he has not sufficient self-respect to give up the holding he occupies, it makes it difficult and unpleasant for me to come to such gatherings and to exchange ideas with my tenants as I have been so fond of doing.That was a taunt Mr. Horne could not sit under, and he went to the agent and offered either to leave at once or to accept twelve months notice. It was agreed that he should leave at once, but before doing so he got a memorandum from the agent.
§ MR. LLEWELLYN (Somersetshire, N.)
asked, on a point of order, whether the hon. Member was not introducing a personal matter altogether outside the Amendment before the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I do not think I can exclude it. It may be a personal and separate question, but the Amendment among other things speaks of want of security of tenure, and it is competent for hon. Members to speak of the want of security arising from sudden disputes with landlords and to give illustrations.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said that he called attention to the incident of a man leaving his farm after a long and satisfactory tenancy owing to a political dispute with his landlord. When Mr. Horne met the agent to discuss the question of his leaving the farm the agent was told that he must sign a memorandum stating that he (Mr. Horne) had no wish to leave, that he was perfectly satisfied with the farm, 1245 and that he left because Colonel Kenyon-Slaney wanted him to go off the farm. The agent signed this. When they held a meeting in a village they were afraid of taking a vote because the people felt insecure, and the agent of the landlord would be sure to be somewhere about. Now-a-days the people were educated beyond that state of things. They had eaten of the fruit of the tree of know ledge, and they would not stand this kind of treatment. Not long ago one noble Lord spoke of his tenants as "his belongings." Surely that was a strange thing to say in this century. It was with pain that he alluded to the personal incident, but he did so because he fell that the welfare of the whole agriculture community was at stake. This was an illustration of that feeling of want of security in land tenure which permeated the whole community and inflicted an injury on agriculture. He earnestly entreated hon. Members on both sides of the House to vote for this Amendment, and so do something to express their opinion that something ought to be done to give greater security to the agricultural community.
§ MR. AILWYN FELLOWES (Huntingdonshire, Ramsey)
said he thought this would be an opportune moment for him to reply to certain things which had been said in the course of the debate. If any other matter should arise which it might be necessary for the Government to deal with, his right hon. friend the President of the Local Government Board would reply to it at the close of the debate. In the first place he wished to say that he had absolutely nothing to complain of in the speech of the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, which had been very moderate in tone and fair all round. He only wished that one or two of the speeches which had followed had been in the same tone. The mover of the Amendment had, however, said one thing which rather surprised him. He stated that this Amendment was not brought forward as a vote of censure against the Government, but rather as a friendly Amendment. He must remind his hon. friend that an Amendment to the Address was always regarded in the light of a vote of censure on the Government if carried to 1246 a division, and so this proposal was really a vote of censure upon the Government of the day.
The hon. Member had alluded to the case of Denmark, and had contrasted the state of things there with that which was to be found in this country. He made special mention of the system of combination and co-operation. As a matter of fact, Denmark was rather different to this country. In Denmark there was mass of small holders who enjoyed a great deal of State aid, and they consequently stood in a different position to the agriculturists of this country. With reference to what had been said about combination and co-operation, he should like to associate himself most strongly with every word that had been said in regard to the action of the hon. Member for Chester and Sir Horace Plunkett. Great credit was due to both those Gentlemen for the manner in which they had brought this question to the front, and he should like to say a few words later on about that question.
The first thing which his hon. friend's Amendment alluded to was the question of the depopulation of our rural districts, and he did not suppose that there was a single man in the rural districts who would disagree with what the hon. Member had said upon that point. He did not, however, think it was possible to point to any one thing as the real cause of this depopulation. If they considered the state of things in the United States of America, in Australia, France, Germany, and, in fact, in practically all other civilised countries, they would find that the one thing which agriculturists complained of more than any other was the great depopulation of the rural districts. Therefore this was not a phenomenon peculiar to our country alone. As regards this country a great many reasons had been given to account for this state of things. His hon. friend who moved the Resolution rather thought that it was due to the insecurity of tenure in land, but one or two other hon. Members had accounted for it by difficulties in regard to housing and such other matters. He regretted that he was debarred by the Rules of the House from alluding to a question which no doubt would have some effect in stopping 1247 depopulation, and that was the question of small holdings. He thought there were one or two other reasons besides those given by his hon. friend which were worthy of consideration. In some measure the exodus to the towns was due to the enormous amount of poor land which had recently been laid down to grass in this country; and in a large measure it was due to the increased use of agricultural machinery. But most important of all was the fact that the rural population had got into their minds the idea that life in the towns was much more attractive than life in the country. It was just the same in foreign countries. And as a consequence almost every hon. Member of this House was constantly receiving applications from the young men in rural districts for posts either in the police or on the railway, in order that they should be able to leave the villages and go into the towns for better recreation and more amusement.
§ MR. AILWYN FELLOWES
said it was difficult to say exactly how this depopulation could be stopped. The hon. Member for Leith said that the Board of Agriculture might be able to do something. They tried to do a good deal, but he was afraid that upon this particular question they were not prepared to say at the moment exactly how they could stop this exodus from the rural districts. He felt sure that if any Government could bring forward a scheme which would successfully counteract this tendency, such a measure would be favourably received in the House of Commons and by the country.
With reference to the case of Mr. Horne, that was rather a personal question which should be left to the hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire, who was quite able to take care of himself.
With regard to the question of preferential rates, the work of the Committee on that subject had been disappointing up to now, but owing to no fault of the Committee. Every chamber of agriculture, every farmers' club, and every agricultural society had 1248 been asked to send up witnesses to give evidence before the Committee on the question of preferential rates; but at present the response had been very small. The Board of Agriculture was always prepared to send down experts to any place where there was a dispute between the railway company and agriculturists. The work that had been done by the Board in stamping out the diseases of animals should not be forgotten. Pleuropneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease, rabies, and cattle plague had been extinguished; and the Board only asked for a little more time and consideration to enable them to stamp out swine fever and sheep scab. In many directions the Board had by administrative measures endeavoured to help the agricultural interest; but the question remained, would greater security and freedom for the agricultural tenant have the effect of bringing people back to the land? The farmers were not the class that was leaving the rural districts. In 1891 there were 223,000 farmers and in 1901 there were 224,000. The loss was mainly in agricultural labourers.
§ MR. AILWYN FELLOWES
said that the extension of the allotment system had done something to check rural depopulation. The question of security for compensation was dealt with in the Act of 1900, and the tenant farmer owed much to it. But security of tenure was quite a different thing. That could only be obtained by dual ownership. There was no agriculturist in the country, there was nobody in that House, except possibly the hon. Gentleman who preceded him, who wished to see established here the same system as that which was set up in Ireland some years ago. The last Royal Commission on Agriculture, of which his two hon. friends were members, said in their Report—As a general rule the landlords are most anxious to keep their tenants, and in many cases have made great sacrifices in order to retain them, and we believe that cases of unfair and capricious eviction are exceedingly rare.He thought that Report bore out what had been continually said on the subject, 1249 that farmers did not complain of insecurity.
§ MR. AILWYN FELLOWES
said the Report expressed the views of the majority of the Commission.
In regard to combination, he knew what the feelings of his noble friend at the head of the Department were upon this question, and would remind them that at every meeting of agriculturists which he had addressed in the country he had drawn attention to the advantages of co-operation. It ought not to be forgotten, when combination in Ireland was put forward as an object-lesson, that this country was different from Ireland, just as it was different from Denmark. In Ireland there were a large number of smallholdings, and combination was naturally far easier to organise amongst small holders than amongst large farmers. The British farmer was very conservative in his ways, and it would take him a long time to see the advantages of combination; but he thought that among small owners there was a great opening for co-operation. Take the question of railway rates alone. He believed that if small owners would combine and get their produce together, they would be able to send it by the railway much more cheaply than at present, and would thus save a great deal of expense in the future.
There was also the question of rating. He believed the agricultural tenant was rated far above his due, and he believed that the question was much more present to the minds of tenants than was the question of an alteration in land tenure. Whatever might be said of our land laws, he thought that it could not be disputed that we had the finest agriculturists in any part of the world, and also that we had the finest market in the world for pedigree stock and stock of all kinds. To his mind what agriculturists wanted was to be left to make their own bargains as to the terms upon which they occupied their holdings; and although he was sure that his hon. friend had brought forward this Amendment in no way in opposition to agriculturists, yet he was perfectly convinced that they did not hold the views 1250 which his hon. friend had, even so moderately, put forward, and would prefer to go on under the system which for so many years had been, as he believed it would continue to be, a success in this country.
§ MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W.R., Keighley)
said he was acquainted with the methods followed in some of the principal counties in migrating people, from the rural districts into manufacturing districts, and it appeared to him that it might interest the House to hear something on that matter. When workers were wanted in the manufacturing districts advertisements were circulated throughout the rural districts in the neighbourhood inviting labourers of a certain class, and telling them where to apply. On the applications being received, the employers set before them new, well-built, clean cottages, and offered generally a much higher rate of wages than they had been accustomed to get. Children who were half-timers got 4s. 6d. a week, ordinary children 9s. to 10s., women l2s. to 15s., and ordinary labourers, who had not been trained to any particular branch of work, 15s. to 18s. a week. Under these circumstances it was not wonderful that many were induced to leave their occupations in the country to take up positions in the manufacturing towns. In addition to the inducements he had mentioned, there were good schools, where parents could hope to have their children properly educated, there were night schools, where the children might continue their education after leaving the day schools, and there were libraries which could be used by the working class. There had been, and there still was, a strong disposition on the part of parents to sacrifice themselves and their own position on behalf of their children. He did not say that disposition was carried to the same extent in England as in Scotland, but he thought all who took an interest in the welfare of the country would be glad that such a feeling prevailed. Another reason which made people in the rural districts desire to come into the towns was that in the towns they became connected with churches and chapels and other places, where they could form friendships, so 1251 that young women had better chances of marriage. Under these circumstances it was difficult to see how the population could be retained in the rural districts. But there were some things that could be done in the rural districts to retain the population on the land. There should be a considerable improvement in the day and night schools, clubs should be provided where young people could gather together for social intercourse, and the better classes living in the villages must make some sacrifice of their own comfort and convenience after the ordinary working hours in order to attend meetings and take part in the social life of the people. By these means they might hope to effect something in the way of keeping young people in the villages. There was one great difficulty in connection with the question of keeping people on the land, and that was the difficulty of erecting cheap buildings. He felt sure that much might be done in the way of inducing people to remain on the land by the provision of small holdings and cheap buildings.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said he must take exception to what his hon. friend the Member for the Ramsey Division asserted when he stated that the migration of the rural population in the United Kingdom was adequately explained by the fact that a similar movement towards the towns was also to be observed in other countries. If the people here were given a chance of going back to the land under satisfactory conditions, there was no doubt what the result would be. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment spoke of the great benefit which free trade had been to the agricultural labourer. Free trade had conferred on him this benefit, that it had squeezed him off the face of the earth. There were hardly any of them left. He was somewhat disappointed at not hearing very much more in this debate than palliatives—railway rates, co-operation, and so forth. It had been urged that any new system that was set up should not be created by State money or legislation, but should be allowed to grow up naturally, as the present system had grown up. The present system had not grown up naturally. It had grown up under about 4,000 or 5,000 Acts of 1252 Parliament, and if we were to restore this country to the old condition of land tenure it could only be done by State legislation and State money. Security of tenure had been recommended, but he held that all the legislation which had been tried for the purpose of giving security of tenure had failed. It passed the wit of man to provide security of tenure, compensation for improvements, and the like, in such a way as to guarantee both landlord and tenant from harm. There was only one principle that settled questions of security, compensation, and all other difficulties, and that was for the cultivator to be the owner of the soil.
It was said that this Amendment was not a hostile Amendment; but it would, if carried, turn out the Government, and that was one reason why he could not vote for it. During the past twenty years the Government had done a good deal, though not enough, for agriculture. But supposing the other side were to come into office, how was agriculture to fare? The Cattle Diseases Act had been alluded to, and according to the leaders opposite that would be repealed. There would then be no security for the farmers' flocks and herds from disease. He believed his hon. friend who moved the Amendment was opposed to the Agricultural Ratings Act, and if the Liberals came in they would not renew it. He should like to hear a denial of their intentions with respect to that Act. They had an illustration of what might be expected from a Liberal Government on the question of agriculture in what happened in 1886. "Once bitten, twice shy." Once in office, on that occasion, instead of dealing with the question which placed them there they never even mentioned it. If hon. Gentlemen opposite were to come into power they would be in the same position to-morrow as in 1886, when the Liberal Party rode into office on the backs of the agricultural labourers, and then kicked them aside as soon as they got in. He would make a recommendation to his hon. friend the Member for East Northamptonshire. This Government had passed a Small Holdings Act, which had not been generally brought into operation because the county councils had shirked their duty in relation to it. He would recommend 1253 his hon. friend to go down into the country and persuade them to put in operation that practical measure which was ready to their hands. There was demonstration in the places where it had been acted upon of the splendid results which could be obtained under it. The hon. Member for Halifax had suggested that there should be free trade in land. What was desired was a multiplication of ownerships, but he was opposed to free trade in land unless it was accompanied by State aid to help cultivators to buy it. Free trade in land must be accompanied by State aid to enable men to buy holdings, or else the landed aristocracy would be supplanted by a landlord plutocracy, and of the two he preferred the farmer. They would simply have a change of owners, and the new ones would not be of the best type.
The noble Lord the Member for Horn-castle had made a landlord speech pure and simple. He spoke as to the ethics of the question, and asked why a landlord should not be able to do with his land what a grocer did with his goods. On that point he joined issue with the noble Lord. Land was different from any other commodity. Everything we ate, drank, or handled, came from the land. It was as much a necessity of existence as air, water, or any other element. There was no such thing as unconditional property in land in the sense that there was possession in personal property. He was not saying this from any ill-feeling towards landlords, but he advised his noble friend not to challenge the people of this country on that point. They knew what the landlord and tenant system had brought the country to. It had brought agriculture to ruin. Go through the country by rail and nothing would be seen but grass everywhere. If that went on, the time would come when the sight of a field of corn in this country would be the rarest thing possible. It must not be imagined that an ownership system would not succeed. That system obtained in every country in the civilised world but our own, and our own system had been a failure. He maintained that the only remedy to bring back prosperity to agriculture was the adoption of ownership of farms, large and small. He did not mean that anything should be confiscated, but 1254 that farms, large and small, should be purchased at a fair price. He had no sympathy with land nationalisation, both on account of the ethics of the case, and because they would have to wait a long time for it, even if it were in the least desirable. When he spoke of ownership, he did not mean that the land should be cut up into small squares, but that there should be all kinds and sizes of holdings, as was the case in every other country in Europe except in the extreme East, where, as in England, there were vast estates. He believed in the ownership system also because of its political effect. Fancy a Butter Bill lingering in the Danish Parliament three or four sessions before it could be passed! That was because in that country there was a myriad of owners. The land-owning which he wished to see in this country was that under which the owner would live on his own estate, knowing all about it and every man on it. He said with all confidence that as surely as the latifundia ruined Rome, the creation of vast landed estates would ruin England.
In Germany they noticed with what care agriculture was kept in the forefront. That was because German statesmen regarded agriculture as the strong anchor of the ship of State. He urged the Government to pay attention to that side of the question, which was the social side, and to set about getting as many people planted on the soil as owners as they possibly could. That could only be done by the help of the State, and it was for the benefit of the whole nation that it should be done. They spent days on the discussion of the Army and Navy, but this was a far more important question as regarded national defence than either the Army or the Navy. It was our first line of defence, and it was the only way which would solve the social problems which occupied the minds of every thoughtful man. The slums in our cities, the depopulation of the rural districts, the increasing number of vagrants, all arose out of the present land tenure system, and he hoped his friends in the Government would pay attention in that direction. They would find that they would soon get the people back to the land if they gave them an open career on it. He did not urge it for the sake of 1255 the farmer or for the good of the peasantry, though that was important, but for the sake of the country. If they looked back at the legislation in Germany at the beginning of the last century it would be found that it had not been passed for the sake of the farmer or the peasant but for the sake of the country as a whole to make it strong. German legislators saw then that the country could not survive without the great mass of the people being rooted to the soil. If a great war came upon us it would be found that our commercial riches would not help us, because we stood alone in the peculiar position of having the great mass of the people divorced from the soil. He would press home on all Governments and on hon. Members on both sides of the House to carry their minds through history when they would see that England was strong above all other nations as long as her rural population was strong. In the stress of war it would be found that though their wealth of two thousand millions per annum might carry them on a little while, for the permanent success of the country they might as well have two thousand million paving stones without a rural population. He asked all sides to remember that we had in this country alone a proletariat that did not exist anywhere else, and that worst, most fatal of all phenomona, a landless people.
§ MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)
said that there was one satisfaction about this debate, and that was that although they could not all see eye to eye—there was some disagreement as to causes and remedies—nevertheless, the disclaimer of his hon. friend who moved the Amendment, and of the seconder, of any partisan feeling had been generally accepted by both sides of the House. There was substantial unanimity as to the depopulation of the rural districts and congestion in the towns, and that these were highly injurious to the national welfare in its moral, material, and social aspect. He might be allowed to tell the House some of his own experiences. He lived in a county which was looked upon as one of the most prosperous in England from an agricultural point of view. Whenever he mentioned that he was told that he was fortunate to live 1256 in a county which possessed every exceptional advantage—an excellent climate, a good soil, markets close at hand, good landlords, farms well equipped, and almost every possible advantage for the successful carrying on of the agricultural interest. He fully admitted the whole of that statement, but there was something a great deal beyond it, and that was the system of land tenure. In the first place they had a vast number and a great variety of holdings. It was a county more or less of small holdings. A farm of 200 or 300 acres was reckoned a large one, and the holdings ranged from that size down to an acre. The small holdings were looked upon as stepping stones for the industrial labourer to rise to greater and better things. The result was that they had an agricultural population thrifty, industrious, and with an intense love of the soil. Consequently, so far from the rural population fleeing from the country to the towns, there was an immense land-hunger, and indeed the rents for small pieces of land were astonishingly high, almost rack rents. He knew numbers of instances of small pieces of land, seven or eight miles from a market town, the rent of which was £4, £5, £6 an acre, without a brick upon them. He would guard himself from having it thought that the country squires ever exacted such rent; but they knew that when a small piece of land was held by a man who did not work it himself he could let it at a fabulous rent. The reason was that there was not enough of these small farms. What a pity it was that this state of things could not exist in other counties! Why was it that elsewhere there was this rural depopulation? They were told that it was because of the superior attractions of the towns over the country that the people would not stay there. He denied that in toto. The chief reason was that the people were not allowed to remain in the country. There were not places for them to live in. He knew of instances of villages, the property of a single owner who would neither build new cottages, repair old ones, or let a small piece of land on which other people might build cottages. The consequence was that the cottages fell into ruin, the local sanitary authority stepped in 1257 and condemned the property, and in order to conform to sanitary requirements two cottages were knocked into one. Therefore, there was a progressive reduction in the number of cottages.
One of the greatest causes of the rural depopulation was the most unfortunate departure, after the Crimean War, from the system of moderate sized holdings and the consolidation of those into excessively large farms. That was now admitted to have been a terrible mistake, because it drove the people from the soil, and the loss following the decrease in the number of farm labourers and small tradesmen had recoiled on the heads of those who had brought it about. There was at present difficulty in letting very large farms, while there were any number of offers for farms of 100 to 200 acres. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Horncastle that one of the great difficulties in providing small holdings was that farmers were disinclined to give up land for that purpose. That was his own experience, and it was a strange commentary on the cry that agriculture was so depressed that it would not pay, and that it was hardly worth carrying on. If a tenant farmer were asked to give up a piece of land to divide into small holdings to provide the labourers with three acres and a cow, it was quite certain to be the best piece of his farm he was asked to give up! He wished that some people would take a run down to Cheshire and see Lord Carrington's estate, where he had spent many happy days. Lord Carrington was a model landlord, and had put thousands of people on the land in small holdings.
§ MR. TOMKINSON
Yes; he was speaking of occupants. Now, Lord Carrington on his properties never dispossessed a tenant, but when a farm fell vacant naturally, the first offer was given to the Small Holdings Association, who cut up the farm into small tenancies, and these were speedily taken up by industrious 1258 and prosperous small farmers. The same thing had happened in the Channel Islands, the whole area of which was purely agricultural. He himself was Chairman of the Cudworth Small Holdings Association, which bought a farm, nearly derelict and hardly worth cultivating, thirty miles from London, at £12 per acre, and practically no tithe. They advertised that they were prepared to sell it in lots up to twenty acres in extent, and what was the result? In the first six months they had 1,150 applications for purchase. Of course a vast number of these applicants were people not likely to succeed, but by the end of the third year of the existence of the Association all the land would be sold, and something like forty hardy, prosperous, industrious small farmers would be located there.
Something had been said about Denmark and the advance of Danish agriculture. Between 1885 and 1901 the value of the harvest, without including straw, had advanced by rapid strides from 272 million kronen to 338 millions. The number of cattle, which in 1888 was 1,460,000, had increased in 1898 to 1,743,000, swine had increased during the same decade from 771,000 to 1,179,000, and poultry from 4,592,000 to 8,748,000. It was no wonder that 30,000 Jutland small cultivators signed a memorial to the King of Denmark, the Crown Prince, and the Reichstag, in which the following passage occurred—We, Danish peasant proprietors, demand no protection at the cost of our fellow citizens. We do not wish that the necessaries of life of our people should be increased by artificial means.The noble Lord the Member for Horn-castle spoke of the confusion of ideas on the part of the supporters of the Amendment, and asked why a landlord should not get as good a profit out of his land as a grocer out of his shop. The confusion of ideas was on the part of the noble Lord. He should have compared the grocer not with the landlord, but with the tenant farmer. As long as the grocer paid his rent and taxes nobody would disturb him, and the object of the Amendment was that the agricultural tenant should be as safe as long as he paid his rent and taxes. The hon. Member for Pordesley had said that the 1259 Agricultural Holdings Act of 1890 was final, and that all that could be done under it had been done. The hon. Member further said that it was impossible to conceive of any other Act which, by endeavouring to do justice to one of the parties, did not do injustice to the other.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said he did not mean to say that the Act was final, but that however that Act or any other Act was improved, it passed the wit of man so to do it that no injustice would be done to either landlord or tenant.
said that there should be provision for securing all improvements which he had made on his farm to the sitting tenant, and also for securing him from a rise of rent in prosperous times and compensation for disturbance in case of capricious eviction. He was not an advocate of dual ownership, although in Ireland the tenants had always been co-owners. What he wanted was not so much freeholders, but free tenants—free access to the soil and fair security of tenure. He would not go into the question of agricultural rates, but gave it as his opinion that there would never be an increase in the number of occupiers of the soil without compulsory powers being given to the local authorities to acquire land compulsorily for division into small holdings.
§ MR. YERBURGH (Chester)
said he agreed that it was desirable, in the interests of the country, that the number of small holders of land should be increased. His right hon. friend the Member for the Bordesley Division stated that legislation was necessary; but he wished 1260 to know what limit his right hon. friend would put on the proposal.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said that in a few days a Bill would be introduced which would explain his position.
§ MR. YERBURGH
said he gathered that his right hon. friend was not an advocate of universal peasant proprietorship; but that his intention was to multiply the number of small holders in this country. The argument was that the land should be put in the occupation of more people, whether as tenants or freeholders, because that would add largely to the fertility of the soil, and increase its value. That was a very strong argument indeed. In Denmark, for example, it was found that, while the value of the larger farms had decreased, the value of the smaller farms had increased. Besides, with small tenancies, they obtained the best kind of men and women trained to agricultural work and farm management. The system, however, had been in force in Lincolnshire, and it had been found in experience that when a period of depression came the small tenants had not capital to fall back upon, and they were swept away. If small holdings, therefore, were to be created some elaborate system must be devised to enable these small owners to compete on equal terms with the larger farmers, say in the provision of capital, seeds, artificial manures, and other things, so as to enable the small owners to conduct a profitable business. It was erroneous to state that Danish agriculture owed its wonderful prosperity to State aid instead of to the farmers themselves. The two pillars of Denmark's agricultural success were co-operation 1261 among farmers and a wonderfully complete system of agricultural education, which was brought within the reach of the farmer's wife and children. They were now obtaining in this country a similar class of education through the medium of the county councils. It was recognised that education was necessary. What was needed was that farmers should apply to agriculture the same methods of business as were in force in the other industries of the country—in short, they must "industrialise" agriculture. By co-operation, material and machinery could be obtained at a lower rate. A small farmer could have all the machinery he required, and also the advantage of pedigree stock and credit. It was stated that co-operation would not suit the interest it had interests of the larger farmers; but the larger farmers were now beginning to find out that their interests were the same as the smaller farmers. If the railway companies were to blame—and he was not going to offer any opinion as to the general rates—the farmers also were not blameless. Certain advantages were offered to the farmers by the railway companies if they bulked their produce—a reduction in one case of as much as 60 per cent. was offered—yet but few took advantage of it. In the Newport district only 20 per cent. of the farmers had availed themselves of the facility offered by the London and North-Western Railway by the provision of a depôt to which they could send their produce. In Yorkshire, he might mention, the North Eastern Railway had established a motor service for the benefit of those farmers who were at a distance from the railway. These facts showed that the railway companies were not altogether to blame.
1262 He wished to call attention to the good work done by the Agricultural Organisation Society, of which he had the honour to be president, and which in three years had formed 107 co-operative farming societies. The Organisation Society was doing in England a work similar to that done by Sir Horace Plunkett in Ireland, the average reduction effected by their co-operative farming societies being from 20 to 25 per cent.—a reduction which went into the pockets of the farmers. He suggested that these societies should be utilised as the vehicles for conveying to the farmers, big and small, the very admirable information collected by the Board of Agriculture. The Organisation Society owed a great deal to the Board of Agriculture for the great interest it had taken in the movement. Mr. Hanbury, whose loss was severely felt by the agricultural industry, had addressed a meeting on its behalf; and now that he had passed away they had another gentleman in his position who also displayed great interest in the work of the organization. The movement was based entirely on self-help for farmers, rather than that they should rely on the State as a crutch. On behalf of the Organisation Society he thanked the hon. Gentleman for his speech.
§ MR. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
said he hoped he would be allowed to congratulate the representative of the Board of Agriculture on this House on his admirable speech, and to express the confident opinion that in him the Department had a very admirable representative. The hon. Gentleman stated that the Motion was a vote of censure on the Government; but this would probably be the only opportunity which would be afforded the House of 1263 discussing the subject. Last session the Vote for the Board of Agriculture did not come before the House at all. He entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman that there was rural depopulation in the United States, in Australia, and on the Continent, as well as in England and Scotland; but there was a moral to be drawn from that. It was that the panacea of protection was no remedy for agricultural depression. He thought that was an admirable commentary on the present protectionist campaign in the country. He welcomed the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division. The right hon. Member had said that great estates were the ruin of England; what would the right hon. Gentleman's great master, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, have said to that pronouncement if it had been made just before the aristocratic Welbeck meeting? Special trains would hardly have been run to Welbeck to bring agricultural labourers and others to hear that sentiment. As a member of the Railway Rates Committee he should only be too glad if they could obtain evidence as regarded preferential rates; but the difficulty was that farmers would not avail of the invitation to give evidence which was scattered broadcast. Something had been said about rates on land. He was not in favour of overburdening land with rates; but, undoubtedly, the Education Act of 1902 did cast a very heavy burden on the agricultural interest. The right hon. Gentlemen the Member for the Bordesley Division said that what was required was to get the people back on the land, but when people once lived in towns it was difficult to get them back to the land. A most intelligent farmer told him the question 1264 was not to get the people back to the land, but to prevent them leaving it. There was no greater delusion than that no skill was required to be an agricultural labourer or a farmer. It was most desirable that the number of small holders should be increased.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division said that there had been a good result from the Small Holdings Act. Unfortunately that was not the case. The whole operation of the Act up to August, 1903, amounted to 570 acres, divided between 196 owners. In Worcestershire, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, the result was 140 acres divided between thirty-two owners. That was not a very great result. He would like to compare the condition of England under the Small Holdings Act with the condition of Ireland. His Irish friends sometimes got the best of the bargain. The English tenant who wanted to buy a small holding of twenty acres, value £500, would have to pay £100 down and instalments amounting to £19 10s. a year, which was practically his old rent; but in Ireland the tenant paid nothing down and got an immediate reduction in his rent. For a holding for which he used to pay £20 he would only pay £16. He thought there was some leeway to make up in this matter so far as England was concerned, and that the English law should be made similar to the Irish law in this respect. He thought British credit ought to be used more for British purposes, and for his part he would use £10,000,000 a year of the money which appeared in the Army Estimates for putting people on the land. The Annual increase for the Army would enable 16,000 cultivators to be put into small 1265 holdings of 25 acres of land at £25 an acre. There must, of course, always be upon the land owners and occupiers. They might increase the number of owners, but so far as tenant farmers were concerned what was wanted was to make them good farmers, and that could only be done by giving them absolute security for the capital invested. No one would wish to rob a good landlord, but what all tenant farmers wished to do was to compel bad landlords to do by law what good landlords did without law. The Act of 1900 was not the last word in this matter. He felt that there should be absolute freedom of cultivation, provided the men were not allowed to come in and rack out a farm and then leave it for somebody else. With regard to compensation for disturbance, if a man was capriciously turned out of his farm he should have enough compensation to enable him to take another farm without loss to himself. Let them regard the case of the late candidate for the Ludlow Division of Shropshire. Was he to go all over the country looking for a farm? Was it to be expected that he would get a farm in Shropshire where most of the landlords were of the same political persuasion as the hon. Member for Newport? There would have to be a system to enable such men to buy their own farms in order that they might get their living out of the land. A tenant had as much right to his own opinion as a landlord.
With regard to agricultural education he would recommend the Board of Agriculture to lead the way instead of following, as they were doing at the present time. He would have them go into each country and find out the best system of agriculture in that 1266 county and disseminate that information throughout the length and breadth of the land and they should guide county councils in this matter. The money spent on agricultural education in England was a miserable pittance compared to that which was spent in the countries of Europe. He did not believe in agriculture being coddled, but he did think the Government should do something to enable farmers to help themselves.
§ SIR CARNE RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)
said it was nothing less than a national scandal that land within thirty miles of Whitechapel Church should go derelict, as it was, and out of cultivation; and when land went out of cultivation the agricultural labourer, unfortunately, went out of cultivation too. The reason why agriculturists were ruined was because of high rates and low prices. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had not helped them very much in times past. They were full of promises and expressions of sympathy when they were out of office, but when they were in office they did nothing for anybody. He was in the House of Commons from 1892 to 1895—in opposition—and he took considerable interest in what hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were then in power, said they would do for agriculture. The gentleman who was appointed the Minister for Agriculture did not—so he was told—know the difference between barley and oats. The only thing the Liberal Party ever did for the agricultural interest was to introduce the foot-and-mouth disease into this country. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire spoke about legislative measures. What was the good of legislative measures? If they could legislate to put up the price of wheat 40s. a quarter, there might be something in it. This was not a question 1267 of rents, at all events in Essex. It was a question of supply and demand, and when there might be two men after a farm anywhere else, there were two farms after one tenant in Essex. He did not believe in small holdings. If the right hon. Member for the Bordesley Division differed from him, he should like to put him down on twenty acres of Essex clay. There were means by which the agricultural situation might be improved. The reason why agricultural labourers crowded into the towns and pulled down wages was that there were no cottages for them to live in in the country. Under the existing rural by-laws cottages cost £600 the pair to build. [Cries of "No."] He had paid that price for them the other day. In those circumstances a man could not get more than 1 per cent, on his outlay. Agriculture might be helped in the matter of rates, and a bounty on wheat might help the situation. The late Lord Salisbury and Mr. Disraeli had a certain amount of common sense, as most people would admit, and what they said was that if protection was abolished, rates and taxes on the land should be abolished too. He failed to see why they should not have a bounty on wheat of 10s. a quarter. Such a bounty would not be expensive. It would be the price we should pay for keeping the agricultural population that
§ we were losing. Agriculture would also get a good deal if all the rates and taxes were swept off the land. If we did not preserve our agricultural industry, he should like to know how we were going to feed our Army and our population in time of war.
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
said he only intervened in the debate in order to ask whether His Majesty's Government intended to carry out the recommendation of the Committee which sat three or four years ago on the question of British afforestation. The question was one of great and growing importance, the timber supply of the world showing as it did a considerable shrinkage. We were now in this country importing timber, which we ourselves could grow, to the amount of £20,000,000 a year, and we had 20,000,000 acres of waste land, a large portion of which was suitable for afforestation. It was under these circumstances that he put the question.
§ MR. AILWYN FELLOWES
The matter referred to by the hon. Member is now being considered by my noble friend.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 165; Noes, 241. (Division List No. 9.)1271
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Cullinan, J.|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Burke, E. Haviland||Dalziel, James Henry|
|Allen, Charles P.||Buxton, Sydney Charles||Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Caldwell, James||Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardi an|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Delany, William|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Causton, Richard Knight||Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway|
|Austin, Sir John||Channing, Francis Allston||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Cheetham, John Frederick||Dillon, John|
|Benn, John Williams||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Black, Alexander William||Cogan, Denis J.||Doogan, P. C.|
|Blake, Edward||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Duffy, William J.|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Dunn, Sir William|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Crean, Eugene||Edwards, Frank|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Crombie, John William||Ellice, Capt E. C (S Andrw's Bghs|
|Ellis, John Edward (Notts.)||Lundon, W.||Roche, John|
|Emmott, Alfred||Lycll, Charles Henry||Rose, Charles Day|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Runciman, Walter|
|Evans, Sir Francis H (Maidstone||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Eve, Harry Trelawney||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||M'Fadden, Edward||Seely, Maj J. E. B. (Isle of Wight|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Shackleton, David James|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||M'Kean, John||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Ffrench, Peter||M'Kenna, Reginald||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Sheehy, David|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Mooney, John J.||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Fowler, Rt. Hn. Sir Henry||Murnaghan, George||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Gilhooly, James||Murphy, John||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Grant, Corrie,||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Spencer, Rt. Hn C. R. (Northants|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Hammond, John||Norman, Henry||Sullivan, Donal|
|Hardie, J Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radeliffe)|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.|
|Harwood, George,||O'Brien, Kendal(Tipperary, Mid||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Thomas,David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Hayter, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur D.||O'Brien. P. J.(Tipperary, N.)||Thomson. F. W. (York, W. R.|
|Helme, Norval Watson||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Tomkinson, James|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Ure, Alexander|
|Higham, John Sharpe||O'Dowd, John||Waldron, Laurence Ambrose|
|Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Wallace, Robert|
|Jacoby, James Alfred||O'Malley, William||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Joicey, Sir James||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Jones, David Brynmor(Swansea||O'Shee, James John||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Joyce, Michael||Palmer, Sir Charles M (Durham||Weir, James Galloway|
|Kennedy, P.J. (Westmeath, N.||Parrott, William||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Kennedy,Vincent P.(Cavan.W.||Partingten, Oswald||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Kilbride, Denis||Paulton, James Mellor||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Labouchere, Henry||Perks, Robert William||Wilson, Chas. Henry (Hull, W.|
|Lambert, George||Pirie, Duncan V.||Woodhouse, Sir JT (Huddersf'd|
|Law, Hugh Alex (Donegal, W.)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Young, Samuel|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Reckett, Harold James|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||Reddy, M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries||Herbert Gladstone and|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Rickett, J. Compton||Mr. William M'Arthur.|
|Lloyd-George, David||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Lough, Thomas||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Bond, Edward||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Crossley, Rt. Hn. Sir Savile|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Boulnois, Edmund||Cubitt, Hon. Henry|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Bowles, T. Gibson (King'sLynn||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O||Brodrick, Rt. Hn. St. John||Davenport, William Bromley|
|Arrol, Sir William||Brown, Sir Alex. H. (Shropsh.||Davies, Sir Horatio D (Chatham|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bull, William James||Denny, Colonel|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Dickson, Charles Scott|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasgow||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ.||Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Cautley, Henry Strother||Doughty, Sir George|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers|
|Balcarres, Lord||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Duke, Henry Edward|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r||Chamberlain, Rt Hn J. A (Worc.||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton|
|Balfour, RtHnGerald W (Leeds||Chapman, Edward||Fardell, Sir T. George|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Fergusson, Rt. HnSir J (Manc'r.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Coates, Edward Feetham||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Barry, Sir Francis T.(Windsor||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Finch, Rt. Hn. George H.|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Finlay, Sir R. B (Inv'rn'ssB'ghs)|
|Beach, Rt Hn. Sir Michael Hicks||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Firbank, Sir Joseph Thomas|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Colomb, Rt. Hn. Sir John C. R.||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Compton, Lord Alwyne||Fison, Frederick William|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Corbett, A. Cameron(Glasgow)||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose|
|Bigwood, James||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Fitzroy, Hn. Edward Algernon|
|Bill, Charles||Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Flower, Sir Ernest||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Forster, Henry William||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Gardner, Ernest||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S||Rothschild, Hn. Lionel Walter|
|Garfit, William||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H.||Lowe, Francis William||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.||Lucas,Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Gordon, MajEvans-(T'rH'mlets||Lyttelton, Rt. Hn. Alfred||Samuel,SirHarry S. (Limehouse|
|Gorst, Rt.Hn. Sir John Eldon||Maclver, David (Liverpool)||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos. Myles|
|Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Maconochie, A. W.||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Graham, Henry Robert||M'Calmont, Colonel James||Shaw-Stewart, Sir H.(Renfrew)|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Majendie, James A. H.||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury||Malcolm, Ian||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.)||Manners, Lord Cecil||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Marks, Harry Hananel||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Guthrie, Walter Murray||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Hain, Edward||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W.F.||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)|
|Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||Maxwell,RtHn Sir H.E.(Wigtn||Stanley, Rt. Hn. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Hambro, Charles Eric||Maxwell,W.J.H.(Dumfriesshire||Stewart, Sir Mark J.M'Taggart|
|Hamilton,RtHnLord G(Midd'x||Milner, Rt. Hn. Sir Fredk. G.||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Hamilton,Marq.of (L'nd'nderry||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Stroyan, John|
|Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants.)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||Moore, William||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Morgan, DavidJ (Walthamstow||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Heath, Sir James (Staffords. N. W||Morrell, George Herbert||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Helder, Augustus||Morrison, James Archibald||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Hope, J. F. (Sheffield Brightside||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Hornby, Sir William Henry||Mount, William Arthur||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Horner, Frederick William||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Tuff, Charles|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Hozier,Hn. James Henry Cecil||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Hunt, Rowland||Parker, Sir Gilbert||Vincent, Col. Sir C.EH (Sheffield|
|Hutton, John (Yorks. N.R.)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Jessel, Captain HerbertMerton||Peel, Hn. W. Robert Wellesley||Walrond, Rt Hn. Sir William H.|
|Konyon, Hn. Geo. T. (Denbigh)||Pemberton, John S. G.||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W||Percy, Earl||Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E (Taunton|
|Kerr, John||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Welby, Sir Charles G. E (Notts.)|
|Kimber, Sir Henry||Plummer, Sir Walter R.||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Knowles, Sir Lees||Pretyman, Ernest George||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R,|
|Lambton, Hn Frederick Wm.||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Laurie, Lieut.-General||Purvis, Robert||Wilson-Todd, Sir W.H (Yorks.)|
|Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Pym, C. Guy||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R.(Bath|
|Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th||Randles, John S.||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Rankin, Sir James||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Lawson, Hn. H.L.W.(Mile End||Rasch, Sir Frederic Carnc||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart|
|Lawson, John Grant (Yorks N. R.||Ratcliff, R. F.||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Lee, Arthur H. (Hants Fareham||Reed, Sir Edw. James (Cardiff)|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Remnant, James Farquharson||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Ridley, S. Forde||Alexander Acland-Hood|
|Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||and Mr. Ailwyn Fellowes.|
|Lockwood, Lieut. Col. A. R.||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
§ And, it being after half-past Five of the clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.