§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
(resuming): We have had a speech from the hon. and gallant Member who moved this Amendment, and we have had a speech from the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert), in which he depicted in very moving terms the sad fate of the evicted tenant. It suggested to my mind bow very hard-hearted were the landowners on the opposite side of the House in the days gone by, when we have been trying to get some concessions from them for the evicted tenants. They seemed to take quite a different view of the case when it was a matter of squeezing money out of the Treasury for compensation. The hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott) urged that this in-creased compensation should be given so as to facilitate the efforts of the Government in acquiring land. He saw a time coming when the demobilised soldiers would have to be provided with large areas of land, and he wanted the whole matter settled before then. I take an absolutely different view of the case. I think that the more we hold back, to the very latest period, the question of the acquisition of land, the better. I think that we should let these demobilised soldiers have something to say in the matter, and, I think, if they have, they will get land on very much more reasonable terms, and under different methods of compensation, than those suggested by this Amendment. Eor instance, we heard to-day from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University that none of us would possess any property if it were not for our soldiers and our sailors. I think that when our soldiers and sailors are disbanded and the question of compensation for land arises it will be dealt with in a different way. I think it quite possible that these men will say, "We will compensate the tenant, but we will not compensate the landlord." I think it highly probable if the War goes on for another year that conditions will arise in which that will be the principle on which these men will get the land. They have fought for the country and saved the country, and when it comes to establishing themselves on the landthey will say, "We are not going to pay heavy compensation to the landowner," and therefore in the, 1098 future you might be able to make better arrangements with regard to compensation than at present. The whole point seems to be that this provision is completely unnecessary. This is not a case where we are dealing with the compulsory purchase of land. All the acquisition of land is to be on a voluntary basis, and if the landowner is not going to secure from the State a price for his land which would enable him to supplement the provision which he might get from the State, the landowner would not part with his land unless a satisfactory arrangement were made.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
No, the Crown is the buyer. When it has bought the land and the transaction is finished, then it is the owner of the land.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
Some of it may be Crown land, but I presume that most of it is land in private possession. It is a voluntary purchase and stands in quite a different relationship from compulsory purchase. The landowner need not sell unless he gets what is satisfactory.
I do not know that I have ever had reason to agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken until this moment. As a rule my views are diametrically opposed to his on land questions, but so far I do agree with him in agree with him in the contention which he has just placed before the House that this, being a matter of arrangement in every case, whenever offers are being made, even by the Office of Woods, of land at all likely to suit the requirements of this scheme, the stipulation should be made that generous compensation shall be given to all tenants who may be displaced. I have contended most strongly in this House and outside as to the gross inadequacy—I do not hesitate to use the phrase—of the compensation provided for dispossessed tenants under Section 11 of the Agricultural Holdings Act and under the the Small Holdings Act of 1910. I have in no way changed my views on that subject. I look forward to a time—I hope it may be soon—when we shall have general legislation which will deal fairly by all agricultural holders who are displaced in consequence of legislation of this House which has the result of dispossessing them from their holdings. There is absolutely 1099 no matter on which the Central Chamber of Agriculture has been for many years so unanimous as the adequacy of the compensation paid under the existing Agricultural Holdings and Small Holdings Acts.
I am not at all satisfied that the basis of compensation which is suggested in this Amendment is the right basis. I think that in many cases it will be found that one year's rent is wholly inadequate to compensate properly certain agricultural tenants, and in other cases—most cases I think—one year's rent would be far more than sufficient for the purpose; but in any case I do not want to see the question prejudiced in the least. If a man has suffered by the loss of goodwill as a consequence of his going to another holding where the effect of the whole of the accumulated knowledge, that is such an enormously valuable asset to a farmer, on the holding which he has had to quit is lost, and nothing whatever is given in respect of those two items, I want to see general legislation which will provide ample compensation on the merits of the case, and not by reference to any rule which may give either more or less than a man deserves, and that compensation shall be given for the loss actually sustained, according to his particular requirements. Whether it is fair or not to deal with this by piecemeal legislation of this sort, I will leave it to the Government to decide. If the Government do consent to accept this Amendment I shall ask, and I hope that all agricultural Members in this House will ask, that immediate legislation shall be introduced to provide the same benefit for all those who have been dispossessed in the past and are likely to be dispossessed in the future when their land is taken for small holdings.
I presume that it is the intention of the promoters of this Act that the Act should work. If the cost of these holdings is added to in one direction or another, it will be quite impossible that the Act should succeed. We are going to purchase the land by a most expensive process. It is to be a voluntary transaction between buyer and seller, which is to take place under the Lands Clauses Act. Over and above that, my hon. and gallant Friend now proposes that we should put a big sum on top for compensation, amounting to one year's rent. My hon. Friend who has just sat down suggests that sometimes that will not be sufficient. While I 1100 am very anxious to be fair to all those who are damaged by any action of this House, we should bear in mind the future of the men who will be settled on these holdings. Are they to be overburdened by such a cost that the rent which they have to pay would be so high as to make it impossible to work successfully? I can conceive no more certain method of making a failure of the whole experiment than by piling up the cost of the land acquired under this Act. I believe that the cost will be found to be prohibitive, but the expense, if it increases any more, is bound to lead to utter failure, and therefore I object to this suggestion.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I agree with my hon. Friend who sits behind that as the Amendment has been drafted it goes too far. It is not necessary for the purposes of this Bill. It seems to me that an Amendment of this kind, to a limited extent, will be useful to the Government in order to enable the Board of Agriculture to acquire land without hardship to the tenant who will be removed. What is really intended is that extra compensation shall be paid, not exceeding one year's rent, to anyone quitting a holding, where such is necessary in order to obtain immediate possession. I think that some words to that effect should be added, and would make this Amendment a useful Amendment. This Bill, when passed, will come into operation immediately. Land will be wanted at an early date. Of course, Crown land and a few other lands are subject to six months' notice to quit, but general agricultural land in this country is let to farmers on a yearly tenancy, and is managed on a yearly system, and unless a tenant has a year's notice he cannot at once abandon his land without unreasonable loss. If you want to take possession in less than a year the matter should be taken into consideration. In order to get immediate possession and facilitate agreement an Amendment of this kind, limited in the sense which I have suggested, would be useful and would facilitate the acquisition of the land at a very short notice.
§ Mr. ACLAND
May I point out, as a very practical point, that where you want to get hold of land without giving the tenant the statutory notice to which he is entitled you have to make an agreement with him, and if you are determined to get the land you are practically in his pocket, so to speak. You have to pay him what compensation he thinks he ought to have for going, and this does not apply at 1101 all. This only applies where the tenant gets the proper full legal notice to which he is statutorily entitled, but if you want to take a short cut to possession you shall have to give the compensation asked for.
Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT
I did not quite follow the hon. Member for Rutland (Colonel Gretton) on the point as to which he dissented from this Amendment. What I gathered was that he thought it went too far in allowing a year's rent. May I point out that the words are: "Not exceeding a year's rent." That does not necessarily mean a whole year's rent in every case. As he pointed out himself there are cases in which you will get possession of land at short notice, and you must have the necessary compensation paid.
Mr. D. WHITE
I think that one phrase which has been used in this discussion is apt to mislead. We have been hearing about the tenant who is dispossessed. The idea of being dispossessed generally suggests the idea of compulsory dispossession. As my right hon. Friend has just pointed out, there is no power of that kind under the Bill at all. The whole thing is voluntary, and the question which the Committee should consider is—should any tenant, who leaves under a notice to quit, receive more compensation than he is entitled to under the Agricultural Holdings Act and the other Act that has been mentioned? It has been suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Wilt-shire (Captain Bathurst), and if I may say so I agree with him, that the compensation under the Agricultural Holdings Act given to> an outgoing tenant who receives notice to quit in the ordinary way is not sufficient, but I may point out, as those of us who were here in 1906 remember, that various attempts were made to give more compensation, and those attempts—I do not want to raise party questions, but it is simply a matter of knowledge to anyone who was here at the time—were largely defeated by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. They said that it would wreck the system if that plan were adopted. Now we are told that the Central Chamber of Agriculture is in favour of this Amendment. Where was the Central Chamber of Agriculture in 1906 when these proposals were made? I am not aware that the Central Chamber of Agriculture ever suggested that when compensation was to come from the land- 1102 lord there should be greater compensation than that provided in the Bill which afterwards became an Act. Surely the same rule should apply, whether the person taking the land is the State or someone else.
This is an experimental matter. We are starting on an experimental basis. Even as the Bill stands there is more generous compensation than would be given in ordinary cases under the Agricultural Holdings Act. If you go further and throw in a year's rent as an additional bonus, then from the economic point of view, as compared with other farmers and other agricultural undertakings, this will be to the disadvantage of this scheme from the beginning, because it will work out at an extra rent and the tenant in such cases will be overburdened, or an extra burden will be imposed upon the taxpayer. I do not want to cover the burden by quartering it on the taxpayer. If there is a general proposal that the tenant leaving the land under notice to quit should receive more generous compensation, I am ready to lend a very favourable ear to it, but I am not prepared to make a distinction of the character now proposed. If I may say it to my right hon. Friend, I hope there may be very few cases in which men who are working land will be dispossessed, because a man working a farm is in fact working it on economic grounds, and if you dispossess him to put another in his place, it is possible that the other may not succeed, which would tell against the experiment, and therefore it is very important, whatever scheme of compensation is adopted, that the dispossession of men to make room for others should be kept within the narrowest limits possible.
§ Mr. ERNEST JARDINE
The hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Dundas White) and other Members on that side of the House, have put forward what is to me a most extraordinary argument, if it were not that I am used to politics. This Amendment is simply asking for reasonable compensation to a farmer who is dispossessed from a selected farm that is wanted quickly for national purposes, and it is suggested that he should not be paid proper compensation because somebody on this side some years ago objected to compensation. Those hon. Members would in that case to which I refer have been very much in favour of dispossessing the landlord, and of insisting on very great or very fair and generous compensation. To- 1103 day they are opposed to compensation in favour of the sitting tenant. I want to say that we are in favour of the compensation of the sitting tenant. We think that in the past he has not received sufficient—and I may say that the Central Chamber of Agriculture have always been in favour of more generous compensation to the tenant. To-day hon. Members opposite are opposing it. That is absolutely inconsistent with what practically everyone on that side has been saying in previous years, when they have been in favour of this compensation. Another red herring is attempted to be drawn across the path of this very fair and very reasonable Amendment. We do not want the poor soldier to be charged with the burden of compensating the man dispossessed. Who wants the soldier to be charged with that burden? Who will get up in this House and say other than that we want to treat the men, who have fought for us, in the most generous fashion, and that we mean to help them? The State should help the soldier; not the dispossessed farmer, who, with his sons, has been working the farm and has become thoroughly accustomed to working the land. I do hope the Under-Secretary will see that in some measure more generous compensation is given to the man whose farm is taken, and who had hoped to leave the land to his children. As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he would be only too glad to carry out that view if it were the case of a private landowner, instead of the State.
§ Sir GEORGE AGNEW
My hon. Friend. who has just spoken pointed out that this Bill is an entirely voluntary arrangement, but I would like to point out to him that there is nothing so far as the tenant is concerned.
§ Sir G. AGNEW
He is entitled to his usual notice, I admit, but I do think that this House is required to act justly so far as these people are concerned to whom notice is given. I think it is only natural that a man who has been used to a certain piece of land, whether it be a large farm or a small farm, to which he has become accustomed, knowing the kind of land with which he has to deal, is entitled to proper consideration when it is proposed that he should give up his land and seek other land which may be of a totally different character and perhaps has been badly cultivated for several years, and on which he may have to incur further expenditure. Moreover, in some parts of the country a man may have difficulty in obtaining land, and may have to wait one, two, or three years. I think the Board of Agriculture ought to take that possible circumstance into consideration. So far as I am concerned, I only want to see justice done in this matter, and I think that the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member ought to be accepted by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Committee divided: Ayes, 33; Noes, 113.1105
|Division No. 38.]||AYES.||[7.38 p.m.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Roche, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||John, Edward Thomas||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Carew, C.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. J. (Birmingham)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Cosgrave, James||Kilbride, Denis||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Macleod, John Mackintosh||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Doris, William||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Younger, Sir George|
|Gretton, John||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Haslam, Lewis||Perkins, Walter F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hinds, John||Peto, Basil Edward||Major-General Sir Ivor Herbert and Captain Stanier.|
|Hunt, Major Rowland||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Bird, Alfred||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham|
|Adamson, William||Bliss, Joseph||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Crooks, Rt. Hon. William|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Brace, William||Crumley, Patrick|
|Anderson, W. C.||Bridgeman, William Clive||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Brunner, John F. L.||Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Byles, Sir William Pollard||Denniss, E. R. B.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick Burghs)||Chancellor, Henry George||Duffy, William J.|
|Bentham, G. J.||Clynes, John R.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Fell, Arthur||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)|
|Ffrench, Peter||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Finney, Samuel||Molteno, Percy Alport||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Morison, Hector||Snowden, Philip|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Stewart, Gershom|
|Goldstone, Frank||Needham, Christopher T.||Sutton, John E.|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Malley, William||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Higham, John Sharp||Outhwaite, R. L.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Hodge, John||Pollock, Ernest Murray||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Hogge, James Myles||Pratt, J. W.||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pringle, William M. R.||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Hudson, Walter||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Johnson, W.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Reddy, Michael||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|King, Joseph||Rendall, Athelstan||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Wortley, Rt. Hen. C. B. Stuart-|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Robinson, Sidney|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)||Roe, Sir Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Rowntree, Arnold||Gulland and Lord E. Talbot.|
§ Mr. JESSE COLLINGS
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "six" ["six thousand acres"], and to insert instead thereof the word sixty."
Although my right hon. Friend has expressed unwillingness to extend the scope of the Bill, I hope that decision is not final. As the Bill stands, the Government leave themselves open to suspicion that they are merely bringing in the Bill as a kind of window-dressing in order that they may persuade the general public that they are doing something for the exservice men. It is nothing of the kind. The Bill will only put about 400 men on the land, which is a number scarcely worth considering. That operation, if I understood the answer given to the hon, Member for Devonport, will cost, including everything, about £300,000. Was there ever such a waste of money. Let hon. Members fancy the area which might be obtained for that sum, and which would afford employment, not to 400 men, but to thousands. As an instance, I would refer to the right hon. Gentleman's own county of Cornwall, where a state of things exists of which he is probably aware. The Small Holdings Committee of that place has made inquiries, and report that there are 86,000 acres of waste land quite capable of cultivation, as they have proved by cultivating some of the waste land themselves, and which is now bearing splendid crops. It will not interfere with the character of the Bill if the Government will follow the experiment of that committee in Cornwall. That land is reckoned to be worth, at the present time, a 1s. per acre per annum. 1106 If the Government experiments would go in that direction they might get thousands of acres at the same price and increase the food supply. That Small Holdings Committee passed the following resolution:After careful inquiry we are of opinion that a scheme for the reclamation and improvement of unfit land for Cornwall is desirable, and we hope that the Government will pass the requisite legislation.What makes it easier is this, that much of that land belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall, or, in other words, to the Government, so that the experiments could be made easily, and would cost no more money and would have a fifty-fold effect, both in the production of food and the employment of labour. I hope that the Government and my right hon. Friend will give favourable consideration to the Amendment. I cannot see what arguments there are against it. If he does not do so I hope to carry it to a Division, in order that we may see the nature of the support which the proposition gets. Whether it gets much support in this House or not I am quite certain that it would receive the support of 90 per cent. of the constituencies, especially of the rural constituencies. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will agree to the Amendment.
§ Mr. ACLAND
It is really, if I may say so, a delight to listen to the right hon. Gentleman, even if one, in carrying out his duties as a member of the Government, has to disagree with him. I do not say what my personal view would be, but I must make this plain that I think that there is a real substance in the desire, and 1107 that it is really essential that these men should be started on good land. Though I know that Cornish land and know that some Cornishmen have got some extraordinary pluck in tackling the land problem by embarking on some of the land which the right hon. Gentleman and I have In mind, yet it would really be no compliment to the ordinary Englishman, as distinguished from the Cornishman, and they differ a good deal, to offer him any part of land of the character of most of that land. That is not the proposition of the Small Holdings Committee, which is a proposition of reclamation. It is an engineering proposition really more than an agricultural proposition in many cases, and though I very much hope that this sort of land, and that similarly situated in many other parts of England, will come under attention when we deal with the question of reclamation, that subject has been declared out of order on this Bill, and I will not now go into it further. In this Bill we are dealing, as I said on the Second Beading, with estimates and plans which were laid down by the Verney Committee. To accept the Amendment would be to multiply the area by ten and multiply the cost by ten. It would make us abandon the basis of that Report, including the recommendation that the land really must be good, friendly, easilyworked land. There would, of course, be this very considerable increase in the possible financial obligations. The reason I am bringing this in now and not as one of what we may hope may be a series of land proposals is that progress may be made now. It may be necessary, and I hope it will, to begin to make payments under this Act long before the conclusion of the War. And surely we must have regard when we are considering expenditure of that kind during the War, for instance, to the warhings that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has uttered as to expenditure. It does differentiate this Bill from any big postwar land scheme which the Government may bring forward, and for which a large amount of money may be wanted when the War is over. It is more to the point, because this brings out what I am referring to as an essential factor, to tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House that since the Second Reading Debate so impressed was I, and, of course, the whole House, with the feeling that he and others had ex- 1108 pressed during the Debate, that since that time I have had the matter again brought to the consideration of the Cabinet, and they have felt it necessary to reassert the essential factor to which this Bill owes its birth, which really is that it is a compromise between Members having two views on the matter in the Cabinet. Just as Members have two views of the matter in the House. Some Members there very likely would have preferred to do nothing, and others there, as here, very likely would have proferred to go a very great deal further than we are going. There was naturally pressed the not unhappy compromise—I hope it will be found so in the long run—that we should start under fair auspices with three experimental colonies, which would limit the immediate financial liability for purchase, if purchase is necessary, and equipment, to a third of a million, and that it was not right in the general financial interests of the country and otherwise to go further than that. I must make it clear again, whatever our personal opinions may be, that if this Amendment were carried and the scope of the Bill extended in this way I should not be authorised on behalf of the Government again to put it on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. ACLAND
It would be an insult to the House to accept it and then do nothing. I should be lacking in the respect which the whole House wishes to pay to the right hon. Gentleman if I were to accept his Amendment which in character is not compulsory, and then instead of taking 60,000 acres to take only 6,000. In that sense the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment is a very considerable extension of our operations under the Act, and it is m that sense that it would not be really fair to him and to the House to say, "Oh, yes, it does not matter whatever words you put in, we are only going to have 6,000." Therefore, I have to take what the right hon. Gentleman really means by his Amendment, and not what it technically says.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CECIL HARMSWORTH
My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has spoken of a compromise. It seems to me that the school of land reformers represented by my right hon. Friend have had much the worst of such discussions as have 1109 taken place in high quarters. We come back to this, that we are offered in this Bill—and it is the sole object of proposing the Bill—a solution of what may tend to become an enormous problem—that is to say, the problem of finding suitable occupation for the heroes of our race who are now defending this country in the trenches of Flanders and elsewhere. That is the problem confronting the Government. That is the problem so ably discussed by the Verney Committee. I really think that if this Bill is to be confined to its present limits we had better in all decency abandon the suggestion that it pretends in any way to carry out any of the serious intentions of the Verney Committee. I Tiave on the Order Paper an even more ambitious Amendment than the one we are discussing. I shall not persist in it, because, since it has been decided that this Bill is to be purely experimental, I can well imagine that any Government would shrink from devoting 600,000 acres for the purposes of experiment. But I must say that I sympathise most warmly with the view put forward so eloquently by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division, and I wish that even at this late hour we could persuade the Government to adopt a broader and more generous policy. At any rate, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will convey to the Government what I believe to be the almost unanimous opinion of this Committee, that the Bill is wholly inadequate to meet the problem that we have so much in mind. As I said on the Second Reading, I shall be astonished if this measure does not cause not only disappointment but bitter resentment among our demobilised soldiers and sailors.
§ Mr. JOHN
(indistinctly heard): I am sorry I shall not be able to move the Amendment standing in my name suggesting the substitution of 8,000 for 6,000 acres. Of course, I should be much better pleased if the present Amendment were adopted. I submit that the suggestion made by my colleagues and myself is much more in harmony with the intentions of the Government and the scope of the Bill. We do not for a moment suppose that the substitution of 8,000 acres would turn this very inadequate proposal into a satisfactory proposition. Wales is very warmly interested in the Bill and generally in the question of settling soldiers upon the land. Incidentally I may say that the people of 1110 Wales are extremely anxious that the Welsh soldiers should be settled on Welsh soil. Quite a large contingent of Welsh agricultural labourers are with the Colours to-day. They frequently find themselves with English regiments in somewhat uncongenial surroundings. While they are with the Army that cannot be helped, but if they are settled on the soil away from their own country and among people speaking a different language there is a much larger measure of permanence, and the feeling is that it is highly desirable that one of these colonies should be established in the Principality. It is in that way that our proposal arises. The aim of our Amendment is that the area should be increased to 8,000 acres, and that the additional 2,000 acres should be allocated to Wales as provided in a subsequent Amendment. We believe that the whole measure is entirely inadequate and that something much larger and more comprehensive is required. In Wales we stand in a very favourable position for dealing with that larger problem, as we have a very large acreage of land eminently suitable for this purpose. The small-holdings movement has already attained considerable success in Wales, but we believe that it can be largely extended. We have, however, accepted the position, as expounded to us by Lord Selborne, that this is an experimental effort, and therefore we are urging only a very small extension of the proposal of the Government.
I believe that the proposal of the Bill will be very fruitful. You cannot do much with these colonies before the soldiers come back, and it will be a couple of years before you can know what has happened in any one colony. The proposals have an educative as well as an experimental effect. There is no necessity for experimenting in small holdings; their success has been demonstrated in Wales and elsewhere. What these colonies will demonstrate is the value of agricultural cooperation—a very essential feature of the whole scheme of the Committee—and the advantage of giving small holders the maximum facilities for acquiring agricultural knowledge and aptitude. In that respect I see great utility in the proposals. They will be living object lessons of the best method of conducting small holdings. Therefore I feel that the Government are moving on right lines, and that there is no occasion to criticise them except in that they might very justly, even from that point of view, 1111 increase the acreage in the way we suggest. A garden colony might usefully be established in Glamorganshire, where you have an immense mining population. Another might be established in Anglesey or Carnarvonshire by reason of the climatic suitability of that part of Wales. The secret of the successful conduct of small holdings is in cooperative training, and the multiplication of these holdings by the Government, with intelligent, cooperation, will be most beneficial. In the same way we feel that the establishment of these colonies will do something appreciable to stimulate the general small-holdings movement. I believe that the land acquired for small holdings in England is only some 7 acres per thousand and in Wales 9, so that an enormous expansion is possible. I would urge the Government to consider sympathetically the suggestion that one of these colonies should be located in Wales. We do not want to rob England of one, and so we suggest the additional 2,000 acres. I really think that that might be done. It is not an excessive demand, or one in conflict with the general scheme of the Government. The matter has undoubtedly aroused a considerable amount of interest in the Principality, and, as the Board of Agriculture know, very vigorous representations have been made from various bodies on the subject. Therefore I hope that the non possumus that we have received up to the present may be reconsidered.
§ Mr. L. SCOTT
The position in which the Committee is placed by the decision of the Government on this question is a very difficult one. As a member of the Departmental Committee that dealt with the matter, I feel very bitterly the small extent to which the Government have gone in the programme which we suggested. At the same time we very much appreciate the fact that the Government have adopted the principle of our proposals. What is the wise course to take in the circumstances? The Government, in perfectly unequivocal language, have stated that they will not go one acre further than the provisions of this Bill; that they will not go one acre more than 6,000 in England and Wales, or 2,000 in Scotland; and that if the House divides against the Government on the matter, and introduces an Amendment which takes the scope of the Bill beyond that very limited boundary, the Bill is 1112 dead. There is an old proverb that "Half a loaf is better than no bread." My own view of the principle of that proverb is that where the portion of the loaf offered is a one-hundredth part instead of half that it is wise to take it. This Bill is a very small fragment if it is to be regarded as an instalment of the measures to be taken to satisfy the soldiers. It is unsatisfactorily judged in that way. On the other hand, if we take the Bill according to the label given to it by the Government as an experimental Bill, and regard it merely as an opportunity on the part of the Government to acquire certain information as the starting of this type of colony, then I would respectfully suggest to this Committee that they should rather accept the Bill as a means of teaching the Government how to do the thing, than reject it altogether. In paragraph 39 of Part II. of the Report of the Departmental Committee—the Minority Report—we summed up the position under the First Part about settlement as follows:In Part I. it was contemplated that some 5,000 men might, after the War, be settled in State colonies, and another 5,000 men by county councils. But if this is be be done land must be acquired, and colonies equipped ready when they are wanted—That is to say, before demobilisation is over.We, therefore, think that the Government should forthwith extend their operations on the lines of their present Bill and also introduce a Bill to amend the Small Holdings Act of 1908 to effect the other changes advised in paragraphs 103 and 114 of Part I. of this Report, to enable county councils to establish colonies of small holdings similar to the State colonies.With that general view I am in very strong agreement. I believe it to be the true view. I am perfectly prepared, however, to recognise, in regard to small holdings, that the position is different to what it is in regard to the employment of labourers. The offer of the Government to men to go back in respect of employment as labourers at the end of the War must be absolutely ready by the time the War ends. You have got to make the offer within the conditions of life which are available here in the Old Country, so that men may exercise their option, with the full knowledge as to whether they stay in the Old Country or go to the Dominions. In regard to the small holdings, I also recognise that it is possible to proceed more slowly than was indicated in the paragraph which I have read, because if the men are assured—and you want the men to be assured and really convinced—that the Government are on the way to carrying out a general scheme 1113 of small holdings, then they may be willing to undertake agricultural employment as labourers, although those particular individuals would much rather have—and intend naturally, in the end, to have—small holdings of their own.
This question of acreage to be allocated as small holdings naturally raises the broad question as to what proportion of men can be given holdings, and what proportion of men will want holdings. Estimates have been made—and I believe they will turn out right—that something like 300,000 to 400,000 will be wanting a life on the land. It may be 500,000. Of that total, of course, a large number—those who are adventurous particularly—will "want to emigrate to the Dominions. If I may, for the sake of brevity, respectfully refer to an article I wrote for today's "Daily Express," let me say that I stated reasons at length there. I believe there will be a larger number who wish a life on the land than indicated by any returns that can be obtained from the front. There are two factors that will affect the situation in men's minds after they get back, and which cannot operate when they are at the front. The one thought that many men will have while they are at the front is that there is only one thing they want, and that is a. roof over their heads, and a quiet, warm corner where they can get away from the conditions which they have had at the front. Many will consequently go back to their indoor or underground employment only to find subsequently that, after all, they want a life in the open air. Another factor is the dilution of labour and the economising of adult labour, which, for the moment, cannot have their effect at the front. This will inevitably be a factor operating when the men come back, and it cannot be altered entirely. The result must be that many a man who wants to return to his old trade in some urban occupation will find it impossible to do so. There will be many men whose services will be no longer required. These two factors will go to affect the estimate obtained from the front of the number of men who now say they want a life on the land.
The figures of Sir Douglas Haig give an average of 17 to 20 per cent. Some of these men were in agricultural employment before the War; but, broadly, even if 97,000 be the average selected from the Army at the front, it cannot have been a very high percentage—for this reason, I do not think 1114 that more than 350,000 altogether out of 4,000,000 joined the Army from the ranks of agriculture. That is less than one-tenth. Consequently, the allowance for agricultural men in the return ought, I think, to be put fairly low. We cannot state exactly—for the matter is vague—but if this be somewhat like the number who are wanting a life on the land afterwards it is perfectly ridiculous to suppose that a proposal which deals with three colonies and allows for 300 men altogether can be treated as a real instalment of the small-holdings system, which is to be applied to the extent of 10,000 men altogether in the first two or three years after the War. Consequently, I venture to submit also very strongly to the Government that the scheme in this Bill should be treated by the Government in the sense that they have themselves, through the right hon. Gentleman, regarded it. He told us it was to be regarded as an experimental Bill to enable the Government to learn. The Government have invited the House to accept the assurance that it is experimental. All right. If we accept that offer which they are making from the Government to take the Bill now as merely experimental, and we let it go through, as I think we ought on that footing, then I say it is the duty of the Government to go on from experiment to reality, from sample to bulk, in time to meet the demands of the men as they come back. Subject to that understanding, I strongly urge that we should not press the Amendment.
§ Sir R. WINFREY
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will persist in going to a Division. We must try to show the Government what a strong feeling there is on both sides of the House in favour of extending the scope of this Bill. We have seen that the Government have had to climb down once to-day. It is just possible we may be able to make them climb down again.
§ Sir R. WINFREY
I do not know about that, but in my judgment this is really not providing sufficient land even for an adequate experiment. Let us look at the information we have received up till now. We have been told, during the course of the Debate, that 2,500 acres of land have been secured in South Yorkshire on Crown land. I do not exactly know the place, but I believe the soil is alluvial. That only leaves 3,500 acres. My hon. Friend behind 1115 me says that they have got a promise from the Government that one of the colonies shall be in Wales, if suitable land can be found.
§ Sir R. WINFREY
At any rate, there is to be a colony in Wales if suitable land can be provided. I should imagine in the Principality of Wales there should be no diffiealty about that, so that that disposes of another 2,000 acres—that is 4,500 acres out of the 6,000, and that leaves us with 1,500 acres. Where will that be? I should think probably in Worcestershire, or somewhere in that locality, where they will want to carry out an experiment in fruit farming. So that we shall have one experiment in South Yorkshire, a potato-growing area largely, I imagine. We shall have the Welsh experiment, and one smaller experiment of only 1,500 acres in the centre of England. The whole of the county of Lincolnshire, the premier agricultural county, I think, in England, with its three county council areas, is not to have a single experiment, and yet I believe I am right in saying there is Crown land there which has been offered for this experiment. There is most excellent land on the borders of the Wash, in Lincolnshire, that can be had, which the Crown are prepared to place at the disposal of the Department which has been set up to deal with this matter. But, so far as I can see, they will not be able to accept it because of the limitations of this Bill. I think that is a thousand pities, and I do press, therefore, on the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Bill that if he cannot accept 60,000, that he will, at any rate, extend the proposal in order that we may have one experiment at least in the Eastern Counties, one in the far Western counties of Devon or Cornwall, and one, say, in the Midlands; and then you have your colonies in Yorkshire and Wales. If we cannot get the whole loaf, we shall be glad to have a half loaf. Under the present proposal we shall not be able to demonstrate all classes of holdings. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Prothero), who is not in his place to-day, declared that we have never had a successful experiment in small holdings producing meat and bread. If I might be allowed, I could produce figures showing we have already had successful experiments of that sort. In three farms in which we have been running small 1116 holdings for twenty years we have got 577 acres of arable land and 140 acres of pasture land. That is how the three farms are divided. What are the crops. upon this land at the present moment? I am very sorry the hon Member for Oxford University is not present to hear them, as he would see we are producing: both beef and bread. I find the crops on this acreage are: 200 acres of wheat, 123—acres of oats, 50 acres of barley, 136 acres of potatoes, 26 acres of roots (mangolds and turnips), 19 acres of seeds, 1 acre of peas, and IS acres of beans. Those are the crops growing on those farms.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Member seems to be replying to a speech of another hon. Member on the Second Reading of the Bill. I do not think this is quite the occasion for that. I must ask the hon. Member to come back to the particular Amendment.
§ Sir R. WINFREY
I very much regret the hon. Member for Oxford University is not here, but I was going to tell him the number of horses on these farms was 73, of cattle 161, of pigs 381, and of poultry 1,630. Therefore, it will be seen that we have tried the experiment for ourselves. I should like the Board of Agriculture to try that experiment on the very Crown land I have in my mind in South Lincolnshire, and I venture to say you could get small holders to produce bread and beef on that land. There is one criticism I should like to make. I think that some of these schemes are inclined to be too elaborate if you follow the Report entirely of the Verney Committee. I do not think there is the necessity for the elaboration and expense in all these things.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but really the question is whether "6,000" should be "60,000." It is simply a question of the size of the land which the Government propose to take.
§ Sir R. WINFREY
My point was that, as the Verney Committee have provided for a very elaborate scheme, the Government should try this elaborate scheme upon three of these colonies, and that they should have at least three or four other colonies where the scheme was not so elaborate, where our Small Holding Commissioners themselves could manage, without having to go to the expense of a 1117 paid manager with £500 a year in charge of these colonies. We have six Small Holding Commissioners of our own who at the present time are doing nothing for small holdings, but are busy upon war work, and who might be put in charge of these less elaborate schemes. I suggest that the kind of men we should put on these less elaborate schemes are the men who have had previous experience in agriculture. You have probably got out of my Constituency at least from 700 to 1,000 men, sons of small holders, all having experience of land. When they come back they will not want to be spoonfed like this by instructors at £500 a year and all the elaborate machinery. That is all very well for men coming from the towns to these colonies without any previous experience in agriculture, but for those who have had previous experience, I suggest you might cut down your expenses very considerably, and put those colonies in charge of Small Holding Commissioners, buying up land at once, making small holdings of them, and starting credit banks and trading societies. That brings me back to the point that all that is possible under the Clauses in the Bill, but you cannot carry it out because you are not providing sufficient land for the purpose. Therefore, I do press on the right hon. Gentleman that, if he cannot go as far as 60,000 acres, he will at least double or treble the scope of this Bill.
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
I wish to press very strongly upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity for increasing the acreage from 6,000 to, at any rate, 8,000, 10,000, or 12,000, or even up to 60,000, if he can, because I am convinced that 6,000 acres for experimental purposes is absolutely inadequate. Take, for instance, the case of Wales. After having promised, as we thought, that one of these colonies should be located in Wales, the right hon. Gentleman has just said that if land is offered which is more suitable in England
§ Mr. ACLAND
I think I ought to put that right at once. No words have ever been said which promised Wales a colony by anyone in any responsible position in any shape or form. All we have said, and all we do say, is that if the best site can be found in Wales for one or for all the colonies, they shall be in Wales, but no pledge can be given that one shall be in Wales without any regard to its being the most suitable land.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That subject is not out of order, but if it is dealt with now in a general discussion I cannot allow another discussion on the same subject when we come to those Amendments. Hon. Members must select which coursethey will pursue, on the understanding that the discussion is not to be repeated although the Amendments can be moved.
§ Mr. JONES
I think it is necessary to increase the number of acres under the Bill in order that we may have all classes of farming represented. If you confine this measure to 6,000 acres you will not be able to deal with Wales in the way it should be dealt with, because their agriculture is conducted in a perfectly different manner. The right hon. Gentleman may say that the land in Wales may not be equal to the land in England, but it is equal to the Welsh farmers, and they wish to return after the War to their former life in Wales. I urge the Government to take the powers, whether they use them or not, to acquire more than 6,000 acres, and that is a matter for them afterwards. Even if they put in 60,000 acres, it does not follow that they will have to take them. If they require any further acreage they will have to come tothe House with another Bill. I press that point. For experimental purposes you cannot deal with a small area like 6,000 acres. I press very strongly upon the right hon. Gentleman that he should reconsider the whole position.
§ Mr. T. DAVIES
I am sure all wholistened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings) will agree that it was a convincing speech, proving right down to the ground that the acreage mentioned in this Bill is not sufficient to carryout what is suggested by the Government. It seems to me little more than a mockery to go down to agricultural districts saying that these men who have joined the forces and have been fighting 1119 for their country for months, when they come back will be provided for under a Bill like this. What provision does a man who has been used to agriculture require? He does not want any provision except land. [An HON. MEMBER: "Money!"] No, not money. Many of these men who have gone to the front have bitherto been the better class of farm labourers and sons of small farmers, who will be of greater service to the country if they get land on which to settle down than they can be in any other way. I have an Amendment lower down on the Paper, and I suppose if this is carried I shall be in order in moving it.
I was referring to the Amendments on the other page dealing with the specific case of Wales, where it is proposed to get at least 2,000 of the 6,000 acres for Wales. If the decision of the Committee is that the word "six" stands part of the Clause is agreed to, of course that is the end of it.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I wish to take this opportunity of supporting the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley. Even if you only take one county, part of which I represent, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the whole of this 6,000 acres can be taken up over and over again by men who have joined the forces, and who will, I hope, come back again. The county I refer to is one of the biggest agricultural counties in the country, but I understand that it is not proposed to give even an experimental colony to that great agricultural county. What objection can there be to the Government accepting this Amendment? If the right hon. Gentleman cannot get 60,000 acres he may be able to get 10,000, or 20,000, or 30,000. Supposing after six months' time the right hon. Gentleman finds that the demand is so great that even his 60,000 acres are absorbed in three months' time, then he has no more land to give them, and the result will be disappointment to thousands of other men who would like to be placed in the same position as their fellows. If my right hon. Friend will press this Amendment to a Division I shall feel bound to support him in order to show that some hon. Members who represent agricultural districts know that the land is required when these men come back, and they ought, to be dealt with in a special way by the Government. I tope the Parliamentary Secretary has not 1120 said the last word with regard to this Amendment. I know that the right hon. Gentleman would like to see as many soldiers as possible put on the land, and if he had his own way, I believe he would accept this Amendment. I appeal to him to allow this small thing for which we ask, for it will simply be a mockery to the men when they return from the front to tell them that there are only 300 or 400 provided for out of so many thousands who will want land when they return.
§ Mr. HINDS
I feel very strongly that 6,000 acres are far too little for England and Wales, and I am really disappointed with the whole scheme of the Government. It is totally unworthy of the Board of Agriculture to bring in a tinkering measure of this kind, and it is time they reconsidered it. It is not worthy of a county council of any size. Six thousand acres for England and Wales when there are thousands of soldiers who are anxious to come back to the land! There will have to be some system of selection, and you will disgust the soldier who is anxious to have his bit of land when he comes back. The claims of Wales have not been considered by the Government in the way that they ought to have been considered. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to hold up his hand, but we have not been persistent enough, and it is time we Welsh Members pressed our claims more than we have done in the past.
§ Mr. HINDS
I am very glad to hear it. Thousands of Welshmen, most of them farmers and agricultural labourers, have gone to the War. Recruiting has been most successful in Wales. The case of the Welsh farmer is very different from that of the English farmer. He wants to stop amongst his own people when he comes back, and he does not want to be shifted into England. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said something about sentiment. There is a good deal of sentiment in this matter. The Welshman wants to stop amongst his own people in the land where he has been reared. Religion and the associations of youth come into this matter. The Board of Agriculture, instead, come forward and say that if the Welshman wants a colony at all he must go to some part of England. We have in Wales land suitable for these people, and I maintain that the Government will only 1121 be doing right to give 2,000 acres to Wales. We demand it, and we ought to have it. The Welsh Commission, with regard to land, said:The typical Welsh farmer feels the utmost reluctance to migrating to England, even when there may be a pretty sure prospect of his being able to better his circumstances by so doing. Very rarely does he make the removal of his own free will, while in many cases nothing short of eviction and sheer inability to obtain another holding would induce a Welsh farmer to go beyond the limits of the Principality.There is the most obvious case of the regiments who have only got one language. There is one regiment which had to be drilled in the Welsh language. These people when the War is over want to come back amongst their own people. They would feel very awkward in a colony in England. I say that we have made out a case for having one of these colonies in Wales. The right hon. Gentleman the other day said that one reason why they could not give one of these colonies to Wales was that Wales was a country of small holdings; that was one of the disadvantages of having one of the colonies there.
§ Mr. HINDS
Yes. But when we can find the land I do not think that holds good. The men have been used to small holdings in Wales. They know what they can get out of 50 or 25 acres of land, and they have had the experience. The Welshman has been used to these small holdings, and knows what to do. That is a great argument in favour of putting these men back in smallholding colonies. We are not so populated in Wales as in some parts of the country, but we have excellent markets for our produce at Cardiff and Swansea, and I think it would be a good thing on economic grounds. The right hon. Gentleman just now said that the Welsh Members have organised themselves. The Government have not dared to leave Scotland out. Why should Wales be treated differently from Scotland? Scotland has got 2,000 acres. It is not half enough. I should give ten times as much to Scotland. The Government are losing a great opportunity in not extending the scope of the Bill. By extending its scope you can get the men from the cities back to the land once more, and you will bring a good deal of sunshine into the life of the soldier when he comes back from the War.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
There is an Amendment later which proposes that 2,000 1122 of the 6,000 acres shall be in Wales. I take it that Amendment will be in order?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Yes, it can be moved, but in view of the discussion taken on this Amendment, I shall expect very few remarks in moving that Amendment. This Debate does not shut out hon. Members from moving their Amendments, but it does prevent them from talking at large on them.
§ Captain STANIER
I rise to support the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division (Mr. Collings). We have had it very forcibly put to us from Wales, and I should not like it thought that we who represent English constituencies, although we are close to Wales, do not urge the same point that the Welsh Members have made. An hon. Member opposite said that this 6,000 acres was a mockery. I would go a little further. We cannot use words strong enough to put it to the members of the Coalition Government that this 6,000 acres is a mere drop in the ocean. They thought fit to send out to the Commander-in-Chief inquiring what soldiers really wanted land. Of the 5,000,000 who have been enlisted 97,000 have been asked, and 17,000 of that number said that they wanted to come back to something similar to that we are proposing. On that basis, I estimate that there will be some 850,000 small holdings wanted, and, if that is so, this is a mere drop in the ocean. We are asking the great Colonies in this Empire to come to our help and give holdings to those who will go out from this country at the end of the War. Supposing half of them gothat is, 400,000—will not the Colonies absolutely laugh at the Mother of Parliaments for only preparing to give land to 300 out of the 400,000 who will have asked for small holdings? That is all you are doing. You are not going to make all these small holdings in a day, or even a year. You do not get possession until next Lady Day, and it will be a year before you will get started. You have appointed a Committee to go into this great question, and they have laid the whole of the facts before you. You will find everything practically mentioned in the Majority and the Minority Reports, and, looking at it in that light, you must admit that the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division is only something that should be justly given to those who are risking 1123 their lives for the sake of this country, and you must come to the conclusion that this is an inadequate scheme. It is a mockery of the whole question, and if you do not improve it and create it so that you can enlarge the borders and boundaries of your scheme, you will not only have this country and all the soldiers in it laughing at you, but the Colonies, which create this Empire, looking at you with scorn and derision.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I wish to support this Amendment, and I must express, first of all, my surprise at this sudden and incomprehensible modesty on the part of the Government. The Government in these day's in many directions takes a practically unlimited power into its hands, but with regard to an experiment of this kind, where it is asked to have somewhat arger powers with regard to the direction of this experiment, it absolutely refuses to accept any of these wider powers. This Amendment does not say they must use 60,000 acres. It says that the Government's experiment shall not exceed 60,000 acres of land; that is to say, it may be anything between the 6,000 the Government are now proposing and the 60,000 that the right hon. Gentleman opposite suggests as a more suitable maximum. I do say that in between those two figures of .6,000 and 60,000 there would be a far wider scope for various experiments, and different experiments, on the lines suggested by the various Members in this House. I am quite sure that the Parliamentary Secretary when he spoke did not put very much heart into his opposition. He said he had to speak for the Government who put forward a compromise, because, once more inside the Government, apparently, according to the Parliamentary Secretary, there are people pulling in this direction and others pulling in that, and the result is what the right hon. Gentleman calls compromise legislation, which is usually very bad because it is an attempt to please everybody and it pleases nobody.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
No, I know. It is a great pity that you do not agree in a matter of this kind, because if the Government would agree, and if the Government had been a little bolder they would have had no opposition from any part of this House. The discussion on the Second 1124 Reading made it quite plain. From every part of the House, with, I think, the solitary exception of the hon. Baronet who represents the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), everybody suggested that this experiment, even for an experiment, was far too limited, and that something bigger and better ought to have been done. What was it that the Parliamentary Secretary said as an argument against accepting this proposal? He said, first of all, that we had to limit this very much because, of course, the colonies had to be founded on good land. Does he suggest that the possibility of good land is limited by 6,000 acres? Surely he does not suggest for a minute that the question of getting good land is going to determine whether the maximum is going to be 6,000 acres or 60,000 acres.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I used that argument in connection with finance to point out that if you are only taking good land, as you multiplied the area you would multiply the cost.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I was coming to the other argument, which was a warning about expenditure and the necessity for limiting expenditure on this matter to something like one-third of a million. I would be very much more impressed about this question of expenditure if I did not see a great deal of bad expenditure being allowed to go on in this country at the present time. If we are going to limit expenditure, we ought to limit it first of all with regard to useless and luxurious things we are still permitting. Here is expenditure for something good. I am sure it is good, because otherwise so up-right a Government as the present Government would never propose it. If it is good, there is far less danger in this which is good and necessary than in many useless things we are allowing to continue at the present time. I do say, in conclusion, that surely in various parts of the country there is room for different kinds of experiments, for modifications of the colony arrangements, and so on, and if this is going to be done there must be something wider than this miserable proposal of 6,000 acres on which you are going to put some 400 men. The figures just given by the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Captain Stanier) showed how widespread the desire will be among many of the soldiers, and the experiment must really be conducted on much bolder lines. Already the limited character of the proposal has had the 1125 effect of driving Wales into revolt, and I am quite sure that many of the Welsh Members will be bitterly disappointed if they are not going to get their own share of this experiment. If this is going to be done, it is obvious that something bigger than the present proposal must be undertaken. I suggest once more that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman 'opposite does not compel the Government to take over 60,000 acres; it says they shall not exceed that, and it puts far wider powers into their hands. If the initial experiments work out well, the Government will have more power to extend the experiments, and if the initial experiments are failures there is nothing in this Amendment that compels them to go on in those circumstances.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I wish to ask you, Mr. Maclean, for a ruling as to whether the provision for Scotland, which is made in Section 10 of this Act, must be discussed now, or whether we can have a separate discussion with regard to the provision for Scotland on Clause 10?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the provision with regard to Scotland says, that so far as Scotland is concerned it will read "two" instead of "six," and on the specific Scottish case the discussion must arise there. On the general question, I propose to allow the hon. Member to make what remarks he thinks fit.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I am much obliged for your ruling, Sir, which will naturally limit what I have to say. I wish strongly to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Collings), but I will confine myself to the speeches of other hon. Members. This seems to me to be an utterly inadequate provision for meeting with a great national demand, and that is that the people of this country who are defending it should have some right to a share of it when they come back again. This really does not make any provision for that. It is a mere travesty of a Bill to deal with a very great problem. We are to have 300 holdings in England, and in Scotland forty. In Lewis alone we have 5,000 men who, when they come back, will want the land, and there are 25,000 in other parts of Scotland who will want the land. I strongly urge upon the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government that the universal sentiment of this House is that this Bill in no sense meets 1126 the case. We have had a valuable Report from the Verney Committee, which has done very good work. It has brought out most valuable facts, much information, and many valuable suggestions. But so far as the carrying out of that in this Bill is concerned, the measure does not carry it out at all, and, as has already been pointed out, what we want is land for men who already understand small holdings. You want places where they can go at once; you do not want a long process of training for men who cannot do that, though that is a good thing. There are tens of thousands of men fit and competent if you would let them have the land on fair conditions, and who could take charge of it at once and become successful small holders. I cannot understand the doubt about small holdings being successful in this country and all this paraphernalia, when you think that out of the 511,000 farms 340,000 of those holdings are the size of from one to fifty acres. The successful farmers of this country are in a very great proportion small holders. I see, Mr. Maclean, that you are rising to call me to order. I will not pursue that point. I only mentioned it in passing. There ought not to be this extreme hesitation on the part of the Government to come forward with a really bold and adequate scheme to meet what is the universal feeling of the country. It is said that the landlorls do not favour these jsmall holdings. I am quite sure that the attitude of the landowners has been very much changed by the War, and that they are ready to welcome men on their land now in a way they never did before. We ought to seize upon that feeling so that we should all be working towards one common end with an interest in one common question to get the men back to the land.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I am afraid I am unable to agree with my hon. Friend who has just spoken. I am very glad indeed that the Government is only dealing with this matter in an experimental way, and are limiting the area of land. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I can quite understand hon. Members not being able to comprehend why I should take that attitude. It is simply because I have a different vision from theirs of the future. There seems to be a great air of unreality about this Debate. Here we are spending time talking about land reform, very much on the old lines. The only matter of difference between hon. Members is whether the area 1127 should be 6,000 or 60,000 acres. To my mind within 100 miles of us the old constituted order of things is being blown away. It would be grotesque and undesirable at this moment, when we know so little as to what the future will bring, except that it will be something far different from the present, that we should establish something on the old traditional lines which, as a matter of fact, have failed. The statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer only two or three days ago that the cost of the War has now gone up to over £6,000,000 a day is going to have a tremendous effect on the question of the acquisition of land for small holdings. If we have this expenditure and gigantic increase of taxation it is impossible that that will not affect the value of land, because that increase of taxation must fall more or less upon land, and the inevitable consequence will be that you will send down the purchase price of land. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is going up!"] Of course it is, because we have a Coalition Government which is taking very good care that taxation should fall upon all interests except the landed interests. When the millions of men return from the front the reverse process will operate. You will then find taxation being removed from the necessities of life and thrown on land monopolies.
That is my View of the future. That being the probability, it would be absurd at this time to set out to purchase land in large areas. What is the position to-day? Owing to the War the price of everything grown upon the soil has been artificially raised. The consequence is that there is to-day an artificial price being demanded for land. Hon. Members opposite in the past have demanded Protection for the purpose of raising the price of farm products and the price of land. To-day they have virtual prohibition. They have higher prices for their commodities than they have had for generations and which we all hope will never occur again. It would be doing wrong to those men we are going to establish on the land, under quite other conditions, at this moment of artificial prices to purchase large areas of land on which they will be settled. They will be settled on these terms and will become, on these terms, practically the slaves of the soil. The hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott) has spoken several 1128 times on this Bill and has frequently referred to a Minority Report to which his was one of the signatures. I am quite confident' that if he approaches this question with the belief that the country will adopt in the future legislation of the nature adumbrated in that Report he is very much mistaken. I have looked through that Report, which suggests that we should have artificial prices for wheat and all the old bad system of working the land. If you capitalise all the things suggested, which in the nature of the case must go into the pockets of the landlords, it would mean a present to them of some hundreds of million pounds. I do not believe that those conditions will be brought about after this War. There will not be legislation to enhance the profits of the landowners. The very opposite will take place, There will be taxation to diminish them.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
If he has not, I would suggest to him that he is going far wide of the Amendment.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I quite agree, but so many references have been made as to what is going to happen after the War in advocacy of the proposals in this Bill, that I thought I might perhaps be in order in putting another point of view of what is likely to occur. My point is that at this moment, with these artificial prices, it would be disastrous to purchase land at such prices, land upon which men will be settled when quite different conditions will arise. I hope the Government will restrict the purchase of the land to the limits that are in the Bill.
§ Mr. PETO
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) into what I am sure the Committee felt were very irrelevant remarks with regard to this Amendment, but I would point out this, which is pertinent to what he said, that he appeared to regard any further purchases by the Government of land as a very doubtful speculation. I have not so poor an opinion of the future of this country as the hon. Member has. When we are talking about this one-third of £1,000,000, which is the limit of Government expenditure, we must remember that £215,000 of this one-third of £1,000,000 represents the cost of the land. It is very unfair to regard this as a question of expenditure, on the part of the Government. 1129 It is capital expenditure. There I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Anderson), whom I was delighted to hear support my right hon. Friend the Member for Bordesley in this matter. It is not fair to look upon this as if it were a question of capital expenditure or any other kind of expenditure which is unremunerative. I can imagine no more remunerative expenditure for the State than expenditure upon putting upon the land, under suitable conditions, the men who have fought for that land. It is very desirable to remember that out of this one-third of the million, of which so much has been made, only £119,000 represents the cost of equipment, tenant right, farm material, and everything else, and that £215,000 is the cost of the land. I have only one other remark to make, and that is to call attention to the opening and closing remarks of Mr. Henry Hobhouse, the Chairman of the Committee, on whose Report this Bill is founded. He says:I have signed Part II. of the Report as Chairman in deference to the opinion of the majority of my colleagues and because I am in substantial agreement with them as far as it goes.He ends with these remarks:From the inquiries we have made it is clear to me that a very considerable acreage, say, at least 1,000,000 acres, or one-third of the land which has been allowed to go down to grass during the last thirty years, might be brought again under the plough to the advantage of the nation as a whole.He points out that there are at least 1,000,000 acres, and my right hon. Friend (Mr. Jesse Collings) asked for 60,000 and the Government say they will only give 6,000 for this experiment to place the soldiers who are fighting for us now upon the land. Are we to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Board of Agriculture and his Department are such bad business men that they dare not go beyond this paltry experiment of the investment of public money in land to the extent of £215,000 for this gigantic purpose, when the Chairman of their Committee says there are 1,000,000 acres of poor grass land waiting for profitable employment in arable cultivation? I leave it at that, and I hope the Committee, on purely business lines, will show its disapproval of the attitude of the Board of Agriculture.
§ Mr. MORTON
I do not think we ought to wait for this reform until we can get Che land in the way foreshadowed by my hon. Friend (Mr. Outhwaite)—until we 1130 can get it for nothing, I suppose. All we know is that we are not likely to get it for nothing, and, above all, we know that small holdings are successful wherever they have been tried in this country—at any rate, that is my experience.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
We are not debating the question of small holdings, but whether it should be limited to 6,000 or 60,000 acres.
§ Mr. MORTON
I am glad to know that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Collings) came down to propose this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill stated practically that he was in favour of the larger figure really, but that the Cabinet had fixed it at 6,000. If the Government have done that and ordered that it shall be adhered to, they ought to be here to defend their policy, and we ought not to be told by the Minister in charge that he can listen to nothing at all, but has his orders to stick to 6,000. There ought to be some member of the Cabinet present to defend the policy of the Government, if it is worth defending. This is a shabby Bill, and the Government ought to be ashamed of it. Something will have to be done for the soldiers when they come back after defending and protecting this country, and we ought to do it in a liberal way. I do not believe a penny will be lost over the transaction, and it will do nothing but good. With regard to Scotland, we are to have 2,000 acres. That is no use to Scotland at all.
§ Mr. MORTON
Then I understand we are to have an opportunity of rediscussing the matter on Clause 10. I think you have already intimated that if the word "six" is kept in the Bill we cannot discuss the Amendment afterwards.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The difficulty is that the hon. Member has not taken the trouble to read the Bill. If he will read Clause 10 he will see that it deals specifically with the case of Scotland.
§ Mr. MORTON
Then the word "six" will not affect Scotland. I trust that the 1131 Committee will stick to the Amendment and pass it as the very smallest amount we can do. We have been told distinctly that the meaning of it is not that they shall necessarily at once deal with the 60,000, but simply that they shall have power to do it. The Government Department which will have the carrying out of this, in my opinion, ought to have power to deal with more than 6,000, and the very least that we can authorise them to deal with, if necessary, will be 60,000.
Mr. D. WHITE
On the question whether the amount should be 6,000 acres, which is proposed by the Government, or the larger amount, it must be borne in mind that the Government have calculated the finance required on the basis of 6,000 acres, and this is essentially an experimental Bill. If it had gone very much further some of us who have been supporting it would have been against it, because we do not think the experiment is likely to be a success. At the same time, we do not want to prevent it being tried, and therefore we do not oppose it, but I think it is hardly fair for hon. Members to try to develop the experiment into something much more than an experiment, when it is on an experimental basis. An hon. and learned Gentleman says that this is an experiment, but as soon as we have got the experiment settled we shall go on. The object of an experiment is to see how the scheme works. We want to see how it works, and we want to see that on a limited basis, so that if it does not work well the loss may not be too great. Some hon. Members have spoken as if this were the one and only way of settling returned soldiers on the land. There are many other ways. The hon. Member (Mr. Peto) spoke of thousands of acres of grass land which were awaiting development.
And I presume the Chairman said that he meant that they could be developed by small holders on a commercial basis. If they cannot be so developed I do not see the relevance of his observation. If they can be so developed why should they not be developed on an ordinary basis? Surely some gentlemen who are interested in agriculture would take up these acres at a reasonable price and develop them on a commercial basis, without any question of money coming from the Treasury to start an experiment.
There is one other point, and it has been rather overlooked in the Debate. It was made by the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite). Under present circumstances the price of agricultural produce has gone up very greatly, and the price of agricultural land has gone up similarly, and if the Government step in and buy agricultural land now, even at ordinary market prices between man and man, they will be paying much more than they would have had to pay if they had bought it some years ago, and probably considerably more than they would have to pay if they buy it some years in the future. In other words, they would be buying land at top price. That is not a sound basis, if it can be avoided. Therefore I make an appeal to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Acland) that wherever possible, instead of buying land, unless he can get it at an almost exceptional rate, he should rather prefer to lease it for a term of years, with the option of purchase afterwards.
§ Question put, "That the word 'six' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 67; Noes, 37.1133
|Division No. 39.]||AYES.||[9.27 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Nolan, Joseph|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Galbraith, Samuel||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Goldstone, Frank||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Gulland, John William||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Hackett, John||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Reddy, Michael|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Johnson, W.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Brace, William||Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||King, Joseph||Robinson, Sidney|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Rowlands, James|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Macleod, John Mackintosh||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Macmaster, Donald||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Ailesbrook|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Middlebrook, Sir William||Sutton, John E.|
|Fell, Arthur||Morison, Hector||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Walters, Sir John Tudor||Williams, John (Glamorgan)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Watt, Henry A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Wedgwood, Josiah C.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)||Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr. G Howard.|
|White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Whitty, Patrick Joseph||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Adamson, William||Hinds, John||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||John, Edward Thomas||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. J. (Birmingham)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Jowett, Frederick William||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Stanier, Captain Beville|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Perkins, Walter F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Haslam, Lewis||Peto, Basil Edward||Sir R. Winfrey and Mr. Anderson.|
|Herbert, Major-Gen. Sir Ivor (Mon. S.)|
Sir H. ROBERTS
I desire to support this Amendment. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture stated some time ago that if suitable land could be provided in Wales that we should have a chance of having a certain portion of this 6,000 acres. I do not wish to I be unbusinesslike or unfair in any appeal that I make in regard to this matter, but I do think that the special conditions applicable to Welsh agriculture, and the conditions of Wales generally, do give to us in Wales the right to ask that, if we can provide as good land for this purpose in Wales, then, upon the ground of sentiment and nationality, we in Wales should have, at all events, a portion of the land allocated for the purpose of the soldiers who return from the front. I do not like to make comparisons between the doings of Welsh soldiers and the heroism of any other soldiers, but I do think there are circumstances in connection with Wales which entitle us to ask that some special recognition should be accorded, and I desire very strongly to support this Amendment because I believe that it would give great satisfaction in Wales, and be helpful in bringing about the object which we all have in view.
Major-General Sir I. HERBERT
On a point of Order. I would like to know if Monmouthshire would be included in Wales under this Amendment? An Amendment lower down says specifically "Wales and Monmouthshire." It will make a great 1134 deal of difference as to whether I shall vote for this Amendment or not if it includes Monmouthshire.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
This is not a point of Order, but a point of information. As far as I know, Wales does not include Monmouthshire, for the purpose of legislation, unless it is so stated.
Major-General Sir I. HERBERT
Would it be in order for my hon. Friend—I am sure that it was an oversight on his part—to withdraw this Amendment, and allow the later Amendment to be moved?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is quite open to the hon. Baronet to move an Amendment to the Amendment to add after the word "Wales" the words "and Monmouthshire."
Major-General Sir I. HERBERT
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "Wales" to add "including Monmouthshire."
Surely "including" cannot be correct, because Monmouthshire is in England and not in Wales.
§ Mr. E. DAVIES
I desire to support the Amendment. It seems to me that if any advantage is to be gained by the establishment of these colonies by way of experiment, or by the giving of instruction, that we in Wales, who are supposed to be rather backward in agriculture, should have the advantage of that experiment. 1135 The case of Wales stands by itself. Wales is entitled to special treatment in this matter, in which she has a peculiar interest. A very large number of our men voluntarily, and others by compulsion, have left their homes to fight for their country, and may come back maimed and unable to take their place in the industrial army. These men have absolutely no knowledge of the English language. They have less knowledge of the English language than most of the members of this House have of the French language. Nobody here would suggest for one moment that English agricultural labourers should be compelled to settle down in a part of the country where they are unacquainted with the language and customs of the people, and the same principle should be applied in the case of Welshmen. I practise as a solicitor in the county town of the county which I represent, and I tell the Committee as a simple statement of fact that I do not carry on my business as a lawyer and I do not speak the English language with one man in twelve of those who come in my office. Does any hon. Member really think that I take the trouble to translate technical and legal terms to my clients in order to waste time? I do it because I am compelled to do it by the conditions in which my practice is carried on. Reference has been made to regiments taken from my Constituency where they have been trained to whom orders are given in Welsh. Are those men to be denied the advantages of this scheme? Am I to go to my Constituents and say, "We asked you to go and risk your lives for your country, but the Government, notwithstanding our appeal on your behalf, have told us that if you want instruction, if you want to be taught farming to enable you to make a living on the land, you must go to an English colony. You must go among a lot of people who differ from you in language, tradition, habits, and everything which really tells ultimately upon life." I ask the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider the matter. In view of the fact that provision has already been made in the Bill for the case of Scotland, there is an equally strong case why the Welsh soldier should be provided for in his own country and not sent to a colony in England.
Mr. CARADOC REES
May I say one word as a Welshman born out of Wales. I agree with everything that has been said by those who represent Welsh 1136 opinion. I take it that the main object is to send men as nearly as possible to the environment from which they came, and not send Welshmen to Scotland to come back speaking Welsh with a Scotch accent. No one would think of sending Englishmen to Wales and trying to compel those Englishmen to learn Welsh and our Welsh soldiers and those who are disabled should be as far as possible put back in the country whence they came. They should as far as possible be put near the friends whom they left in Wales, and on these grounds I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I think that we have already discussed this in dealing with a previous Amendment. The case of Wales has been put very eloquently. As one who spent many years of my life in the constituency, the representative of which has just spoken, I sympathise very much with the point of view which has been put forward. The Welsh are a distinct race. Their farming habits to some extent are different from the English, and they are in very many ways born small holders, and if any people are likely to make a success of this kind of holding, it is returned Welsh soldiers. The fact that they are so good is shown by the circumstance that Wales, much more almost than any part of England, is a country of freeholders, and at present there is a considerable number of perfectly prosperous Welsh farmers now on the land. I do not, however, think it would be fair to say more than that if one, or more than one, of the best offers of land situated in Wales is made, the Government will be extremely anxious and will most certainly endeavour to close with them. But in trying to make this experiment we are bound to take the best offers that are made, whether they come from Wales or from England.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Scotland has a separate Board of Agriculture, and that, I believe, is one of the ambitions of Wales, so that they will either get their colonies or have their grievance, which, after all, is something. I think it is not at all unreasonable that the area dealt with by one Board of Agriculture should be dealt with as a whole, and that the area dealt with by another Board of Agriculture—namely, that of Scotland—should also be dealt speak English, whose customs and ideas differ from those of the Englishman. If he wants a farm 1137 with as a whole. We are constantly working on Welsh offers, but I cannot give a definite pledge on the subject of the Amendment.
§ Mr. E. DAVIES
This is not a question of the land; it is a question of the soldier, and the making of provision for maimed and wounded soldiers who have sacrificed everything for their country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not maimed and wounded soldiers, but all soldiers!"] It is to make provision for wounded men. But at any rate, supposing it is to make provision for all soldiers who have made sacrifices for their country, I would again point out to the right hon. Gentleman that you cannot send a Welsh soldier to England who does not you tell him he must go to England, and I put it to the Committee that it is a piece of cruelty to tell a Welsh soldier that he must go to England, whose language and customs he does not comprehend and is not in sympathy with. You would never dream of sending an English soldier to the middle of my Constituency, where he would be unable to carry on conversation with any other people. Why should the Welsh soldier be put to this indignity? Why should he be sacrificed, and be denied privileges given to the English soldier by the Government? If the right hon. Gentleman cannot meet us on this point we shall be compelled to divide the Committee on the question.
I am entirely in sympathy with Welshmen in their demand that suitable land for the colonies shall be found in Wales, but I take it that there is this difficulty, that whereas a very large number of offers of land in various parts of England—and the amount required for this purpose is 2,000 acres and upwards—we have not so far had a single offer of 2,000 acres en bloc of suitable land in Wales. But so anxious are we to try and find suitable land in Wales for the purpose of the colony, that I have myself asked to be allowed to give up visiting, for a period now of six weeks, any land offered from any part of England on the chance of finding something suitable in Wales. The hon. Gentleman opposite has referred to Anglesey. So far we have not had an offer of anything like 6,000 acres in Anglesey. The most offered has been 1,340 acres, and that has been offered, not by the owner, although I have every reason to believe he is sym- 1138 pathetic, but by the Anglesey County Council, in their endeavour to secure a colony in that county. I am not at all sure that Anglesey is by any means the best part of Wales for a colony. Personally, I would infinitely rather see the right type of land sought for, and, if possible, in the Vale of Glamorgan, or in some other part of that county, where a colony would enjoy exceptionally good markets as outlets for produce raised upon that land. There is just the possibility that such land may be available in the county of Glamorgan, but no definite offer has yet been made of suitable land in Glamorgan. All I can say is there is the possibility of suitable land being found in that county.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will allow me to say this, because I have myself seen, I think, all the Welsh Members in the House who are interested in this matter, and I have assured them, and I should like to assure the Committee, that I for my part have done everything that I can, subject to the terms of my instructions, to find suitable land in any part of Wales, and of sufficient area and well adapted for the purposes of one of these colonies. Personally I have not given up my efforts in that direction, but my instructions are that England and Wales for this purpose are to be treated as one unit. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Those are my instructions, and unless and until you carry such an Amendment as this, or alter the Bill, my instructions are that the best possible land for the purpose of these colonies is to be sought for in England and Wales, treated as one unit. I have asked that a certain time should be allowed to elapse to enable me to find a large enough area of suitable quality to enable Welshmen to have an experimental colony in the Principality. One strong reason that has not been adduced before the Committee for putting one of these experimental colonies in Wales is this, is that there is no part of Great Britain in which there is a greater development of the cooperative spirit than there is in Wales. That, after all, is going to be the marked feature of this experiment which will distinguish it very largely from other attempts at small holdings in this country. All I can say in conclusion is that I, for my part, will maintain every sympathy and an open mind, and if Gentlemen opposite persuade owners—instead of county councils, or trade unions, or other bodies to 1139 pass resolutions—to offer suitable land in larger quantities, I shall, for my part, urge the Board to accept such an offer.
§ Mr. TOWYN JONES
I do not think that Wales and England should be treated as one unit. The Government asked us to go down to the country, and I myself took part in a hundred recruiting meetings in which we asked the young manhood to go out to the Continent and fight for small nationalities. This is a question of the Welsh soldier, and I think the Welsh soldier ought to be treated as well as the English soldier. I am afraid there is a tendency in England to belittle the Welsh soldier and the Irish soldier. [HON. MEMBEES: "No, no!"] There is in the Press, and I speak from knowledge. We feel a great deal of interest in agriculture, and are doing our best to better the land and get more out of it. I do not think it is right for Englishmen in this House to do all they can against Welsh interests. You shout that you are fighting for small nationalities and you trample on the rights of small nationalities at your own door. You love the English language, and we love the Welsh language, and we are doing our best to preserve it against the encroachment of Englishmen in Wales shouting down our language. After war was declared the Press said that if the Germans came here, German, and not English, would be taught in the school. We are quite willing and we want the English language to be taught in our schools, but we want, at the same time, to retain our Welsh language. We are fond of it, and we know that if we lose our language we lose the best sentiment of people and religion, and morals in the country go down. Do not shout to the world that you are fighting for small nationalities and trample on us. My Constituency is half agricultural and half labour, and I have to speak to the people, especially in the agricultural districts, in the Welsh language. They do not understand the English language. Why should you deal unjustly towards the Welsh soldier who is fighting for you on the Continent of Europe.
§ Mr. JOHN
I think it is right that I should make some reply to the speeches we have heard, both from the Parliamentary Secretary and from the hon. Member for Wilsthire (Captain C. Bathurst). We recognise very warmly the services that the hon. Member has given to the whole 1140 scheme and his sympathetic attitude towards our demand from Wales. We quite recognise the trouble he has taken, and we hope he will continue in his good efforts. It has been represented that this proposal might imply the displacement of the tenants of small holdings in the Principality. That is a very natural thing to contend because we have a very large proportion of small holders in Wales. In my own county, while there is a great number of small holdings there is at the same time a number of large farms in the immediate vicinity let as accommodation land. Keference has been made to Anglesey. If there were compulsory powers in this Bill, as there should be, you would have most suitable land there. There has been, I understand, the offer of a large farm in Glamorganshire of about 750 acres where the labour employed at present is very small. Whilst the proposition remains that Wales is a country of small holders, it is equally true that there are abundant farms to be had on which there is not a due proportion of labour employed. There is the fundamental issue involved in the proposition that Wales and England are to be treated as a unit in this matter. Agricultural interests in Wales are quite comparable to those of Scotland and Ireland. We propose to persist in this demand for separate treatment for Wales, agriculturally, in season and out of season, and as a commencement we propose to stand by our Amendment and go to a Division upon it. This is only part of a much wider movement. We are convinced that the problems which will come before the House are of such magnitude and complexity that the sooner we get on with a general system of definition the better for all concerned.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
10.0.P.M. I am sorry that the Board of Agriculture has taken up the line which has been disclosed on this Amendment. I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Captain C. Bathurst) for what he has endeavoured to do, but I can assure him that in this matter he is up against the same old problem we have always had to face since the Board of Agriculture takes up the attitude that it exists to look after agriculture in England. That has always been its attitude, and whenever Wales has wanted anything for agriculture it has had to fight for it. That has been the case for the past twenty years and we have never got any consideration or attention without a tremendous lot of 1141 trouble and agitation of a specialist character such as we are engaged in to-night. It is perfectly clear, despite all the excellent efforts of the hon. Member for Wiltshire, that as things stand at present there will be no farm colony in Wales, and that things are drifting to that pass, and that means no Welsh soldier under this scheme at all. You cannot get away from that and the Board of Agriculture, which exists for England, does not care a straw about it, and thinks not of the Welsh soldier but of the soldier in the abstract. The Welsh farmer adopts different methods from those in England, but the Board does not worry about that. They are the Board of Agriculture for England, and we have got to fight and to appeal to the sympathy of a few Members to join us in the Division Lobby, so that we can get something in Wales for our soldiers. It is perfectly clear they will not go to the colonies in England. The lack of a colony in Wales means that we will have none of the benefits of the organisation to which hon. Members opposite have set their minds with such excellent effect. There will be no colony there to teach Welsh soldiers, who may have to go elsewhere, the particular kind of farming suitable to Welsh conditions. You will have colonies in parts of England that will deal with the kind of land there to be found. For instance, the hon. Member opposite (Mr. L. Scott) when advocating this Bill in principle the other day referred to the excellent effects that might be obtained financially and otherwise by fruit farming. You are not likely to get much of that in Wales. The kind of thing that you can develop in Wales is totally different. On that ground, as well as on others, we claim that we have to get a colony of our own, and we will trouble this House and bother the Board of Agriculture, and get it before this Session comes to an end, or nobody will have any peace. We will make a start to-night, although we are sorry to detain the Committee, by going to a Division.
§ Mr. L. SCOTT
The arguments of the Welsh Members have convinced me that there ought to be one of these experimental colonies in Wales. The difficulty is the decision of the Cabinet that there is not to be more than 6,000 acres for England and Wales. I want, if I may, whilst expressing agreement with the Welsh Members that chiefly because of the Welsh nationality and the Welsh language there ought to be such a colony in Wales, at the same time respectfully to make a criticism of their 1142 method of approach to this particular Bill. This Bill in my view is experimental in one sense only. It is not experimental from, the point of view of whether or not small holdings are successful in this cauntry. We know that they are a success, and that, with the conditions indicated in the Departmental Committee's Report, that success can be greatly increased. The experimental aspect of this Bill to my mind is that there has been no instance yet of a colony, in the full sense of the word, of small holders with the organisation for a central farm, central expert advice, and a system of collective buying, collective marketing, collective selling, and collective credit. These elements have not yet been applied. That experiment in my view is wanted much more in order to teach the Board of Agriculture and its. officials, than to teach the small holders. From that point of view it does not much matter whether the colony is in England or in Wales. But from the other point of view I think it ought to be in Wales, in order that the spirit of cooperation which has been more developed in certain parts of Wales than anywhere in England may be utilised to the full in one of these new colonies. I do not know whether, with their great arts of persuasion, the Welsh Members can induce the Government to stretch its limit of 6,000 acres a little bit. It would be a very good thing if they could. The view of the Departmental Committee was that in order to get the maximum of success there ought not to be less than about one hundred families in one of these colonies. For fruit and vegetable gardening much smaller individual holdings are possible than in the case of dairy farms, arable or grass, or ordinary mixed farms. In the one case we thought that with suitable land five or ten acres would do, while in the other case—dairying and mixed farming—20 or 25 acres would be necessary, or 50 would be better. For that reason we advocated in the case of dairying and mixed farming colonies a minimum total acreage of 2,500 acres, and in the case of fruit and vegetable growing a minimum of 1,000 acres. Taking two colonies at 2,500 acres, one dairying and one mixed farming, you have only 1,000 acres left.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I hope that my right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill will reconsider his position. I quite understand the Welsh point of view, and I hope my right hon. Friend will comprehend it also. The Welsh soldier returns. He desires to settle on the land. Can anybody who understands the Welsh character be surprised that the land on which he wants to settle is the land in his own country? In some cases his own language is more familiar to them than the language of England. I am unable to understand the position of my right hon. Friend. The Welsh soldier has certainly deserved well of the country. I am sure my right hon. Friend is entirely in agreement with the Welsh Members in thinking that the Welsh soldier should be looked after. If the Welsh soldier is to be looked after, and to get his share of the land, surely the place where he ought to get the land is in his own country. If that is so, I do not see why out of the 6,000 acres my right hon. Friend cannot reserve 2,000 for the
§ Welsh soldiers. He is really going against national sentiment and national feeling, and I trust he will reconsider his position.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I do not think that anybody who has listened to the Debate can doubt that the Welsh claim has been thoroughly made out. There is only one argument against it, and I think I see a way of meeting it. That argument is that there are only 6,000 acres altogether. I suggest that between now and the Report stage my right hon. Friend should secure from the Cabinet an increase of this 6,000 acres to 8,000, with a view to one colony being in Wales. With that in mind I shall certainly vote with my Welsh colleagues on this Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words 'of which 2,000 acres shall be located in Wales, including Monmouthshire' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 51; Noes, 46.1143
|Division No. 40.]||AYES.||[10.14 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Herbert, Major-Gen. Sir Ivor (Mon. S.)||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Higham, John Sharp||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Anderson, W. C.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Byrne, Alfred||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Rowlands, James|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Jewett, Frederick William||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||King, Joseph||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Dillon, John||Lundon, Thomas||Stanier, Captain Beville|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Sutton, John E.|
|Ffrench, Peter||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Molteno, Percy Alport||Watt, Henry A.|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Needham, Christopher T.||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Goldstone, Frank||Nolan, Joseph||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Pratt, J. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hazleton, Richard||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Mr. John and Mr. Hinds.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Galbraith, Samuel||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Gretton, John||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Gulland, John William||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Scott, A, MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Bliss, Joseph||Holt, Richard Durning||Valentia, Viscount|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Brace, William||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Levy, Sir Maurice||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Macleod, John Mackintosh||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Middlebrook, Sir William||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J B.||Perkins, Walter F.||Mr. James Hope and Mr. Walter Rea.|
|Fell, Arthur||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Finney, Samuel||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
Question, "That the words 'including Monmouthshire' be added to the proposed Amendment," put, and agreed to.
Mr. D. WHITE
had an Amendment on the Paper, in Subsection (2), after the word "Acts" ["Lands Clauses Acts"], to insert the words "subject to the modifications of these Acts set out in the Schedule to the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1916."
§ Mr. ACLAND
I beg to move, at the end of Subsection (2), to insert the words " and the provisions with respect to any lands being common or waste lands."
I said on the Second Reading the Board had no intention whatever of taking any common land, and this will add at the end of the Clause another category of land of which we do not intend to make use. I think it will be clearer to put (a), (b), and (c) against the last part of the Clause. This Amendment will deprive us of being able to use the powers of the Lands Clauses Acts, which, under certain circumstances, might be used to acquire this land by compulsion. We do not want to take any common land.
Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir W. BEALE
I beg to move, at the end of Subsection (2), to insert the words " and so much of Section sixty-nine as relates to the application of deposited moneys to ' the purchase of other lands to be conveyed, limited, and settled upon the like uses, trusts, and purposes, and in the same manner as the lands in respect of which such money shall have been paid stood settled.' "
This Amendment is intended to extend the exceptions from the Lands Clauses Acts to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred. They have already excepted, very properly, the Clauses relating to compulsory purchase. They have excepted the Clauses relating to the taking of commons, which would enable them to dispense with the whole of the commoners, and they have excepted, for reasons I do not know, provisions relating to the sale of superfluous land. I do not see how they could possibly have applied in this case. But' what I want to except is this, and it is really a rather serious point, because, although it may not often happen, it is a serious grievance if it does happen. They have retained the Clauses of the Lands Clauses Acts which enable you to buy, by agreement, from 1146 persons under disability—that is to say, a tenant for life or a guardian of art infant—glebe land and other lands. They are allowed to buy by agreement from people, who could not otherwise make a title, on the promise that the money is paid into Court. Section 69 of the Lands Clauses Act, to which my Amendment applies, provides that when that money is in Court it remains there until it is applied either in payment for encumbrances or land similarly settled or improvement of buildings and that kind of thing, or in the purchase of other land, or until somebody becomes absolutely entitled. I do not bother about the Clause dealing with encumbrances, but a person becoming absolutely entitled can come and have the money reinvested in other land at the expense of the promoters of the undertaking, who under this Bill would be the Board, and they would be put to the expense of paying all the cost of reinvesting the money in land under those circumstances, instead of leaving it until somebody becomes absolutely entitled. The money should be invested and remain in Court. These Clauses entitle anybody to come and say, "No, we will have it reinvested in land, and the Board must pay all the costs of investigating the title."
I have known occasions where people entitled to quite comparatively small sums of money have come three times over for reinvestment, and this has piled up the costs far out of proportion to the value of the land taken. I propose simply to strike out so much of Section 69 as says that it may be applied to the purchase of land. I do not mind that if it is done at the cost of the people concerned. Section 85 provides that the promotor shall pay all the costs of the application for reinvestment in land. I am quite willing to make that apply to Section 85, but I thought the neater way was to take away the right to claim the purchasing of the land at the expense of the promoters, leaving it there so that the person entitled may have the money out and reinvest it at their own expense. If the Amendment of the ban. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Dundas White) had been in order, and if the Acquisition of Land Bill had become an Act, this could have been done in a simple way. This Amendment has practically the same effect, because there is nothing to prevent people, when they are absolutely entitled, taking up the land and investing in other land 1147 at their own expense. It is only to prevent the unnecessary cost of the Lands Clauses Act which forces the promoters to pay.
It is not clear from the Amendment what Act is here referred to. Section 69 is spoken of, but there is no indication of what Act this Section forms a part.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that is partly due to the acceptance of an intervening Amendment. It must be the Lands Clauses Act.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If I put it in that form it would involve the presumption that, earlier in the Subsection, some other Lands Clauses Act is referred to.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must not rise whilst I am standing. If this Amendment is accepted, it will have to be put right at another stage.
§ Mr. ACLAND
My hon. and learned Friend has moved this Amendment in a very learned manner, perhaps too learned for me. We find in practice that these limited owners, such as the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and so on, have actually power to sell otherwise than under the Lands Clauses Act, and, as a matter of fact, very little money is paid into Court. We cannot imagine that a case will actually occur where it will not be possible to make such a voluntary arrangement as shall preclude money having to be paid into Court, and therefore preclude the expenses of the investment falling on the person who takes the land. If no money is paid into Court, no cost of the investment could fall upon the scheme. It therefore seems to us that the Amendment is not necessary. 'It is a complication that is not likely to occur, and to the extent that the Amendment introduces a modification of the Lands Clauses Acts which has not hitherto been recognised, I would very much prefer, on the general principle of not introducing a new principle into Bills unless they are needed, 1148 not to accept the Amendment. I can assure the hon. Member that we shall not need this power, because we anticipate that anything we have to do will not mean money being paid into Court at all. The point, therefore, will not arise, and if my hon. and learned Friend could see his way not to press his Amendment on this occasion I should be very grateful to him.
The difficulty will not arise if you purchase from an absolute owner, but you may purchase from a limited owner who has not power to give title, and in these circumstances you can only proceed by paying the money into Court for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the trust, whoever they may be. That is the case which my hon. Friend desires to meet. If these circumstances arise, then he is quite prepared, as we all should be, that the cost of the original investment of the money in some other land should be borne by the public. He thinks, and I think with him, that if reinvestment is wanted subsequently that reinvestment should not be at the expense of the public, but at the expense of those in whose hands the reinvestment of land is made.
§ Sir W. BEALE
After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman I do not wish to press this to a Division. I know that the whole circumstances have greatly changed by enactments that have taken place since 1845. The only object was to guard against a possibility, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having said that he would do his best.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Major-General Sir I. HERBERT
I beg to move, in Subsection (3), to leave out the word "may" ["Board may pay"], and to insert instead thereof the word "shall."
I feel sure this will at once command the general support of the Committee. It is an Amendment, like the former one I moved, put forward at the instance of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and is designed to secure to the agricultural labourer the compensation for disturbance which is given in the Bill, but which is only made permissive on the Government side. The Parliamentary Secretary, at an earlier 1149 period of the evening, explained to us how, in drafting language, "may" and "shall" are synonymous. In this case, I think, his definition would not apply, because this is not a case of giving powers to a Government Department, but it is a case of making sure of the statutory right which is given to a certain class of His Majesty's subjects to receive compensation. It must have been an oversight on the part of those who drafted this Bill to have omitted to make it a certainty that this class, those connected with the land, should not be fully secured. We have now in the Bill compensation for the landowner, who will get the price of his land; for the occupier, who will get a certain amount of compensation, though not the full compensation I should wish him to have; and now there is a permissive power to grant compensation to the agricultural labourer, and that power I should wish to see made absolute and mandatory.
§ Mr. ACLAND
This Subsection is, of course, taken verbatim from Section 43 of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1908, with the simple change of "the Board " in place of the " County Council." All that I said earlier in the evening on not altering initial legislation when you incorporate it in this Bill applies to this. It was, of course, debated at the time the Small Holdings Bill was under discussion, and as a matter of fact the hon. Member for St. Albans then, in 1907, did propose that the word "shall" should take the place of the word that we now find, "may." I believe the hon. Member for the Newport Division (Captain Stanier) was present in the Committee on that day when that proposal was made. It is rather difficult to remember things so long ago, but I have refreshed my memory on the point, and I think the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Tyson Wilson), whose name is down in support of this Amendment, was also there. That was upstairs that the Committee stage of that Bill was being taken, and although, if my memory serves me, they were taking Divisions every half-hour or so, they did not have any Division at all on this. It was a matter which was negatived without a Division. That is the history of it so far, and I would prefer that a matter upon which the hon. Members for South-East Lancashire and Newport did net think it necessary at that time to divide should not be pressed now, particularly as, with all respect to my hon. and gallant Friend (Major-General Sir I. Herbert), I cannot 1150 see that the change of the word " may " to "shall" would really make any difference, because if the Committee wilt look at the words of the Subsection they will see that those words run "the Board may pay to him such compensation as they think just."
My hon. and gallant Friend does not propose to alter those words at all, so that it would only read "shall pay to him such compensation as they think just."
§ Mr. ACLAND
But, surely, under "may" the Board would give what they think just. Let us consider how the matter will arise. I am hoping that no question of the dispossession of labourers will arise at all, because we shall want, in developing these holdings and in the first part of the cultivation of the central farm, to keep on the existing labourers who want to stop. If a labourer wants to move and improve his position, no time like the present has ever existed when it would have been easier for him to do so and get better wages. I believe these cases will not arise, because we shall absorb such labourers as wish to remain. Assuming a case does arise, the question will be what compensation is to be given. Under the Clause we have to settle what compensation we think just. Presumably a proposal is made by somebody in the office and we shall say whether we think such compensation, say, £50, is just. We should be acting under the existing law in going into the matter in that way. The only alternative proposal is that, instead of saying that we may give the compensation which the President of the Board has decided to be right and just, the Clause should say we shall give it. If it has been decided by the heads of the office that certain compensation ought to be given, all that is gained by using the word "shall" is that the cashier has to pay what he is directed to pay by the President. That is not the sort of power you want at all, because, obviously, when the head of the office has decided what is the just compensation to be paid, that compensation will be paid, whether the word be "may" or "shall."
§ Mr. ACLAND
The reason I hope the Committee will not put it in—although I do not think it has any effect in law—is that if we adopt Sections from existing legislation I would rather adopt them as they stand, without making alterations. I do not want to make any alterations in the existing law, because they would have to be applied to all compensation, and to county councils in regard to labourers dispossessed for the purposes of small holdings. I do not want to adopt in this little Bill alterations which reflect on the existing law and which will be used as arguments for changing the existing law. The Committee Iras agreed on a previous Amendment that in time of war it is not desirable to raise a matter of contention, and that it is fairer to let the law remain as it stands. In this particular case it would make no difference at all to the labourer, because the Board will give the compensation they think just, whether the word is " may " or " shall." But as it will make no difference at all to any single labourer, I hope the Committee will consent to keep the law as it is, and not change it when they adapt it to the new Act.
§ Captain STANIER
The arguments against the Amendment are exactly the same as they have been put before us as on the last Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman. When I listened to the speech it struck me that the very arguments which were being used to oppose this Amendment were absolutely the arguments we wanted to back the Amendment up. A great deal of water has run past the Houses of Parliament since 1808 when we debated this very point upstairs, and I recall to myself the fact that I had only been in the House about ten days when that Committee took place, and perhaps I thought it over and changed my mind in that time. I certainly have, and I cannot conceive, if the arguments brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Board of Agriculture are correct, why he copsiders that we cannot now, after eight years and a bit, change this word "may" into "shall." He says it is not going to do him any harm. It may do the agricultural labourer a great deal of good, because it is the actual word "shall"—"it shall be paid to him"—and without reading up Johnson's Dictionary on the word "shall," I think we should all agree that it is a very much better word to have in an Act of Parliament than the word "may." I do not 1152 know how many times I have heard it argued in this House, and it is the exception that proves the rule. I am going to ask that to-day, having had eight years of the word "may," that we shall have that now changed into "shall." Who on the other side is going to say that because the tenant of land who is dispossessed shall have compensation, the working labourer may have compensation? I consider that the one man who stays ought to have his compensation. I sincerely hope the Amendment may be taken to a Division.
Mr. T. WILSON
I think the word "shall" makes the meaning of the Bill a great deal clearer than "may," and that is a good argument for accepting it. In the Acts of Parliament passed in the last few years the word " shall" appears oftener than "may," and if "shall" is good in war legislation, when it is compelling men to do things which perhaps they do not want to do I do not see why we should not have "shall" inserted in this Clause. It is far and away a better word than "may," because if "may" remains in the Bill the Board of Agriculture may pay compensation to someone else who is not a labourer. It does not say it shall not be paid, but it may be paid to the labourer. If "may" is taken out and " shall" put in it makes it quite clear that the compensation shall be paid to the labourer who is thrown out of employment. I agree that there will not be very many labourers who will become unemployed owing to the passing of the Act, and that being so I do not think we need be afraid of inserting "shall." I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment without forcing the Committee to a Division. I feel quite certain that if we have a Division the majority of the Members present will vote in favour of inserting the word "shall" in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will not lose anything by it.
§ Mr. ACLAND
My object was to prevent the Committee from doing what, with great respect, I thought was a stupid thing. If they really want to do it I do not see any objection. I only want to make it perfectly clear that it can make no difference whatever to any single labourer under the Bill. You leave entirely open to the Board the compensation which they think just. It makes no difference at all. In so far as this is a modification and a meaningless modification, as it seems to 1153 me, I think it is an unwise thing to do; but if the Committee wish it I have no objection to it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.