§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Captain FITZBOY in the Chair.]
§ CLAUSE I.—(provisions to be substituted for s. 27 of 9 & 10 Geo. 5, c. 59.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
This is the only question put in Committee on which it will be possible to say anything at all with regard to this Bill. Let me say now, that I am distinctly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the trouble he has taken to clear up one of the points I raised on the Second Reading. I am entirely satisfied with the information he gave me regarding county boroughs, and I trust that, if one or two feel aggrieved, he will follow the course he then outlined. On page 4, in Sub-Section (5) it says:The Minister shall, on such date as may be agreed between him and the council, pay to every council in respect of each half-year a sum equal to the amount, if any, by which the aggregate amount of the small holdings charges payable by the council during that half-year exceeds one-half of the net annual income of the council's small holdings estate for the year ascertained as aforesaid:Provided that, as regards the payment to be made in respect of the financial year ending on the thirty-first day of March, nine-teen hundred and twenty-seven, and in respect of each of the two next following years, the date to be agreed as aforesaid shall be a date not earlier than the first day of the financial year following the year in respect of which the payment is to be made.It is clear from the White Paper that that special arrangement is regarded as having reference to the very heavy increase which will be required from the Exchequer in connection with the sugar beet subsidy. I am also indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the explanation he gave on this point the other night. But from my point of view the Bill is not affected in the way to which I referred. It is clear that the 1378 Government's provision for agriculture in general is to some extent embarrassed by the very heavy increase that has taken place in the amount to be provided by the Exchequer, for the amount to be contributed. I am not at all clear yet on another point, which I raised before. The Bill provides that there shall be one valuation, in April, 1926. It makes no provision for any subsequent valuation on which adjustments shall be made as between the Exchequer and the local authorities. If the sugar-beet subsidy increases as rapidly as the Bill suggests, it means that the area of sugar-beet cultivation is increasing as rapidly, and I am persuaded that rental valuations in those particular areas will go up accordingly. If that be so, I should like to know if it is not possible for the Minister to promise that he will make provision for a subsequent valuation when the period comes for a. reduction in the subsidy. If that is not done, some local authorities may suffer.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Guinness)
The hon. Member has been most helpful as regards this Bill, and I am most grateful for the way in which he has facilitated its progress. He seems to suspect that the sugar-beet subsidy is going to have a prejudicial effect on local authorities by putting up the value of small holdings in the future, but far from that being prejudicial, surely it will be a benefit to local authorities?
I have not made my point quite clear. It is that if you are going to value in 1926, and during the intervening yeans between that and the next valuation, the. area of land is increased, the next subsidy will be reduced and the value of the land will be reduced.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
The valuation is not being arrived at with any allowance for sugar-beet. The hon. Member who is in touch with the small holdings movement knows that in recent years rentals have been reduced and that is why a burden has been thrown on the Exchequer. In future we hope county councils will do better. But the point is that the valuation will be based on the rental they are now receiving and will be likely to receive in the near future. If rents are increased, owing to the amounts received by the smallholder 1379 for his sugar-beet, then the improvement in the finances will go entirely to the county council, and from that point of view it would be most undesirable to depart from the decision we originally came to, that the valuation arrived at on 1st April next will be adopted once and for all, and that from that valuation you are to arrive at a schedule of payments year to year from the State to the county councils to bridge the gap between the rents received and the annuities which they will have to pay during the period until all loans from the State has been repaid.
§ CLAUSE 2 [Short Title] Ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the Third time to-morrow.