§ Order for. Second Reading read.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
We have in Scotland a code of Small Landholders Acts, the first of which was the Crofters Act of 1886, and the second important one the Small Landholders Act of 1911. The purpose of these Acts was to redress grievances, and they are of a remedial and ameliorative character. The Bill of which I have the honour to move the Second Reading to-day is of the same character as these previous Measures. During the 18 years since the Act of 1911 was passed, many defects in these Acts have been exposed in the course of their working and their interpretation by the Land Court and Court of Session, and it is the first purpose of this Bill to remedy the principal—I do not say all, but the principal—of these defects. The second object of the Bill is to extend the scope of the Acts to a wider group of smallholders in Scotland.
As a private Member, I had to realise and appreciate the realities of the situation, and, accordingly, the Bill is a modest measure. The extent to which it proposes to widen the scope of these Small Holdings Acts is very moderate, namely, up to 100 acres in extent and £100 in rental; and may I say that I am quite prepared, if the Bill gets the length of reaching the Committee stage, to consider any reasonable Amendments on questions of detail. I hope that, in what I believe to be the new atmosphere which exists nowadays in Scotland in discussing agricultural questions, we shall he able, in discussing this Bill, to leave behind us some of the acrimony which has characterised previous Debates on land questions in Scotland, and that we shall be able to get a concensus of opinion, with the aid of all the political parties, to make this a good, far-reaching Measure which will be of great benefit to Scottish smallholders.
I claim at the outset three points in favour of the Bill. The first is that 856 Members of all the political parties can assist in making it a good Measure without surrendering for a moment any of their own ideals in regard to the ultimate destiny of the land in Scotland. There are some Members of this House who believe that that ultimate destiny will be nationalisation; there are others who believe in private property and tenancy rights; but, whatever the individual views may be on that question, that should not prevent all of us from assisting in the discussion of the Bill. In the second place, this Bill does not take away from the landowners anything which, in justice and equity, they are entitled to retain; and, in the third place, as I have stated in the explanatory Memorandum attached to the Bill, it imposes no financial burdens on the Exchequer. I believe that to be true, and it is my intention that the Bill should not impose any additional burdens on the Treasury. The Bill, of course, would not have been allowed to pass the officials of the House if there had been any new financial proposals in it; but, even assuming for a moment—and this is all that I will say on this point—that any critic of the Bill could find in its provisions anything which to any extent would increase the burden upon the Exchequer, I still say that the promoters would be entitled to include such provisions in the Bill so long as the financial commitments were within the scope of the expenditure at present authorised.
There is only one general remark that I would like to make before taking up the Clauses of the Bill. We are dealing here with some 50,000 small agriculturists in Scotland, who represent something like two-thirds of the whole of the agriculturists of Scotland, who themselves with their families must represent a population of something approaching a quarter of a million, and who are, I should say, if not the whole backbone, at least part of the backbone of Scotland. They are an industrious, hard-working, independent community. There are hon. Members of this House, there are and have been Ministers of the Crown, and there are and have been Members of the Privy Council, who have taken their origin or their kinship from sonic of these humble smallholdings in Scotland; and we have not forgotten how from the straths and glens of Scotland so many brave men in 857 time of war have flocked to the standard of this country. We want to encourage the population there to remain contented on the land, as well as to increase that population if it be at all possible.
It is not to be said that we are dealing here with people with very small interests, with very little at stake. It may be that the amount of their capital is small, but it represents their entire livelihood. Often it is not in the form of money values at all, but is represented by the toil of many years, even of several generations of themselves and their predecessors in their holdings; and I think that throughout the discussion to-day we ought to bear in mind the human equation, and, when we are discussing legal questions affecting smallholders, to remember that we are dealing with a community such as I have described, and with their all. There is one curious reflection, and this really goes to the root of the Bill. The total number of smallholders in Scotland is declining, notwithstanding the fact that for some 17 years the Board of Agriculture in Scotland has been busily engaged in the creation and establishment of new holdings. It is an extraordinary phenomenon, and one looks for the explanation of it. I want to remind the House of the official explanation which was given by the late Secretary of State for Scotland on the 6th July, 1926, when he said this:The creation of new holdings is offset by the discontinuance of existing holdings largely owing to merger in other holdings.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1926; col. 1856, Vol. 197.]It is to prevent the further merging of holders that is one of the main objects of the Bill. It is sometimes asked why we do not hear so many complaints about agricultural depression from smallholders. The reason is that these men are personal cultivators of the soil by their own hands and with the aid of their families, and they do not feel the pinch of depression in the same way as the larger farmers. But undoubtedly we are dealing here with 'the nursery of the Scottish race.
Coming to the Bill, Clauses 1 and 2 relate to the abolition of the tenure of statutory small tenants and the conversion of their holdings and other holdings into landholders tenure. I would ask hon. Members taking part in the debate that we should use the terms "land- 858 holder," "statutory small tenant," and "crofter" in their strict statutory meanings, because otherwise some part of the discussion might become involved. Prior to the 1911 Act there was only one class of smallholders, namely, landholders. The Act of 1886 gave to the crofters in the seven Northern counties the three fundamental benefits of fair rent, compensation for improvements and fixity of tenure. At that time there was no question as to who had provided the improvements on the holdings. In 1911 these benefits were extended to the rest of Scotland, and I need not remind the House of the contest that took place during the passage of that Bill. The Liberal party was faced with a serious alternative. The Bill had been sent to another place where there had been added to it Clauses introducing for the first time into the small-holding code an entirely new set of tenants who were called "statutory small tenants."
The Government of the day had to decide whether they should accept those Amendments and have the Bill passed, or whether they should stick to the Bill in its previous form and endeavour to pass it under the Parliament Act two years later. They chose the former alternative. They may have been right or wrong. There is no doubt that the passing of the 1911 Act has been a charter of freedom for thousands of smallholders and it may have been right that the passing of that charter should not have been delayed for a day. On the other hand, there can also be no doubt that the introduction of this new class of statutory small tenants has been the source of a great deal of vexation and loss to the smallholders. I think it is possible even for the Liberal party to gain some wisdom by the passing of the years and perhaps, if we had represented the Government of the day, we should have foreseen all the troubles that have arisen during the past 16 years and would have refused the introduction of the statutory small tenancy into the law of Scotland.
There was no stipulation in 1886 as to whether a tenant had made any permanent improvements on his holding or not. The introduction of this new class of tenancy made this distinction. Assume that there have been improvements in a holding to the amount of some £500. If the tenant can prove that he, or his predecessors in the holding, have expended 859 on the improvements a sum of £250 0s. ld., he is entitled to be the landholder, with full rights of compensation and the rest. If, on the other hand, he is only able to prove that he or his predecessors put upon the holding permanent improvements to the extent of £250, he becomes a statutory small tenant without the rights of compensation which the landholder has under the Acts, and with only these meagre rights of compensation which the ordinary agricultural tenant has. The effect of the introduction of the statutory small tenancy was that it passed over into the pockets of the landowners it may be tens of thousands of pounds of value represented by the improvements which the statutory small tenants or their predecessors had made, and for which the landlords had given them no payment or fair consideration. That is where the injustice of the statutory small tenancy came in. It is the purpose of the Bill to rectify that and to relieve the consciences of the landowners who by Statute have been compelled, shall I say, to accept as a gift permanent improvements for which they have not paid.
The statutory small tenants, whose abolition is suggested in the Bill, are under these disabilities, that they can get no compensation except for improvements which have been put on the holding by them with the consent of the landowner, they get no compensation if they are removed from their holdings under the process of resumption, they cannot get enlargement of their holdings, they have not the same freedom of cropping and they are not permitted to assign their holdings. Can the House explain why so large a section of agricultural tenants should have been put in so disadvantageous a position as the statutory small tenants have been? The time has come to abolish the tenure and to do justice to future tenants who may be put in that category. The other point in connection with statutory small tenants to keep in view is that there was no provision for this tenancy remaining within the Acts. The result has been that many of them have fallen outside the scope of the Acts altogether and the object of the Bill is to see that they are retained within the Acts.
Clause 3 extends the scope of the Acts to holdings of £100 rent or 100 acres in 860 extent. The House will notice the progression in the matter, from the Crofters Act in 1886, where crofters in the northern counties with a rental of £30 were brought within the Acts, then the 1911 Act, which extended the benefits of the Acts throughout the whole of Scotland and fixed a limit of £50 rent or 50 acres in extent. Now I think we have come to the point where Parliament is entitled to extend the benefits of the Acts to holdings of 100 acres or £100 rental. Holdings of that size are really smallholdings. They are what is familiarly known as family holdings. Another term is a "pair-horse" holding. They are understood to be, what many of the smaller smallholdings are not, economical. They give full employment to a man and his family and a pair of horses, but still they are smallholdings. There are some agriculturists in Scotland who agree that the benefits of the Smallholdings Acts should be extended to all tenants—and that may come—but in this Bill I had to go only to a modest length. Also I think it is an advantage that the extension of the Acts should be gradual, and there was never a better opportunity than the present for extending them by the Amendment to which this Bill applies.
I would like to give some figures with regard to this particular Clause. The total number of agricultural holdings in Scotland is 75,812. I am taking the figures from the latest agricultural statistics. That is to say, that there is that number of large and small farms, and smallholdings and crofts. Of this number, those which do not exceed 50 acres total 50,345, which means that there are 25,467 of the larger or large farms. Of these 25,467, it is estimated that there are some 10,202 holdings which exceed 50 acres and which do not exceed 100 acres. The statistics do not show the figures with regard to rental, because that information is difficult to obtain. Bough by, it means that by the extension of the scope of the Acts proposed in this Bill you would bring in some 10,000 additional holders in Scotland. Their stake in their holdings may be greater than 50 acres or £50 rental, but, surely, all the more is it to be said they are entitled to receive the benefits of the Smallholdings Acts.
I pass to Clause 4 which deals with the Amendment of the provisions of the Acts as to the resumption of holdings. The 861 House will remember how on a recent occasion a Bill came up for Second Reading in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). That Bill had the misfortune of being talked out. The provisions of that Measure are embodied in Clause 4 of this Bill. The wording was borrowed by my hon. Friend from the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) and has also been borrowed by Line from a Bill which was introduced in 1924 by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland. I think that the wording is admirable. It will be submitted to the judgment of the House, but the purpose of the Clause is, shortly, to prevent the eviction of smallholders in Scotland which is going on by what I conceive to be a misuse of a Section which was introduced in the 1911 Act, enabling a proprietor to come to the Land Court and say that he desired resumption of the holding for the purpose of personally residing on it, the holding being his only landed estate. This new provision had nothing to do with the good of the holding or the good of the estate—I am quoting the words from the 1886 Act—which were the reasons given in the 1886 Act for allowing resumption at all. This new provision of the 1911 Act was not misused until about the year 1920, when, after the war, as the House knows, it became the practice to put on to the property market estates, not as units, but holding by holding. It also became the practice for some landowners to give notice to their tenants of the termination of the tenancy where it was possible to be done, giving them notice either to purchase or to quit. The result was that in numerous cases all over Scotland the ownership of holdings passed from the large estates into the individual ownerships of persons who were entitled to come to the Land Court and avail themselves of this provision. The practice became common.
We were assured, in an answer which was given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland the other day in the House, that the number of cases which have come before the Land Court for decision on this question of resumption was some 327. But the House must not understand for a moment that that represents the total number of evictions from smallholdings in Scotland. The 862 number is more likely to be thousands than hundreds for the reason that most of them never come near the Land Court at all. Most of the evictions take place by force majeure where the tenant has neither money nor the courage to fight for his rights. It is only those who have both of these who come to the Land Court to endeavour to retain their holdings. These evictions have taken place, as is well known, in practically every county of Scotland. Caithness and Sutherland, Argyllshire and Aberdeenshire, I believe, contain most of these cases. I remember well how on one occasion I was telegraphed for to go to Aberdeenshire to rescue a man who had been evicted from his holding. I understood that he was only in a state of apprehension as to his fate, but on arriving at his holding I found that by that time he and his family and belongings had been turned out of the place and his furniture was on the roadside and he and his family attempting to cling still to the buildings on the holding. That is not an exaggerated case at all. It has occurred, as I have said, in many counties in Scotland. It is to prevent the abuse of this Clause that I suggest in putting forward this Bill that the offending words which were introduced in the 1911 Act should be withdrawn.
The story that I have told is a hard one, but worse followed. The Board of Agriculture were entrusted with public funds for the establishment of smallholdings and they spent a great deal of money, quite properly, for that purpose, the ownership of the land remaining in the hands of the proprietors. These proprietors availed themselves of this Section in the Act of 1911, and it has become little less than a public scandal in Scotland that holdings which were established by the Board of Agriculture, on which public funds were spent, have been sold by the proprietors to new owners, thereby passing out of the Act, and passing from the original purpose for which they were established. This Clause would prevent that being done in the future. There has been in this matter a waste of public money and a thwarting of Land Settlement schemes, and new settlers have themselves been deceived. Some friendly critics may say that Clause 4 does not do what the statement, in the explanatory Memorandum says it does: that it does 863 not restore the position of matters to what they were under the Act of 1886. I maintain that the Clause does that, and that it takes out the offending words from the Act of 1886. If it may be said that it does not put the position back exactly to what it was in 1886, I say, with conviction, that the set of circumstances which I have described would warrant us wholly in passing a Clause in the terms of this one.
Clause 5 deals with a matter which is known as the "in-laws," a definition of "family," and whether the family ought to or does include the mother-in-law, the father-in-law, the brother-in-law and the son-in-law.A principle of the Small Landholders Acts is that a tenant shall not be rented upon, and shall on outgoing receive compensation for, improvements provided or paid for by himself or his predecessors in the same family, unless payment or fair consideration shall have been received from the landlord for them.This question arose first of all in connection with a well-known case in the Court of Session, the case of Kidd against Morrison, in which I represented the applicant, where the son-in-law of the holder was deprived of the benefits of the Acts. The Court of Session took a very strict reading and a strict interpretation of the term "family." I think the interpretation was unsound and that in the policy and construction of the Smallholders Acts a wider interpretation ought to be given. I maintain that the father-in-law and the brother-in-law are "predecessors in the same family," and that we should take the words in the. Acts in their ordinary signification. The result of the exclusion of a relation by marriage in this case and many other cases has been that the ownership of improvements passed absolutely to the landlord, consequently the tenants had to pay rent on them and could get no compensation for their improvements on outgoings. I would ask the House to pay attention in this matter less to the question of relationship than to the real question:—What is to be the test, and in what circumstances is the landowner entitled to retain improvements on a holding of which he is the proprietor. I say that the answer is, and can only be, that he is entitled to retain those improvements as his own only when he has paid for them or given the tenant fair 864 consideration for them. In the case of this class of relations by marriage, the landowner has not done so.
With regard to Clauses 6, 7, 8 and 9 it is not convenient or possible in this Debate to discuss the terms of the decisions of the Court of Session which it is the purpose of these Clauses to modify. These judgments were based on a literal reading of the definition of "holding." I would like to give the House the present definition of "holding." It is:Any piece of land held by a tenant which is either wholly agricultural or wholly pastoral or in part agricultural and as to the residue pastoral.I think that definition is too rigid. It is quite common amongst small holdings in Scotland that you have on a holding something which provides auxiliary occupation for the holder. It may be a post office, or a small shop, a spinning wheel, a weaving mill, or it may be that the man is a mason—
§ Mr. SCOTT
Or a pier-master, a fisherman and so on. There may be on the holding some building which enables him to carry on his auxiliary occupation. The Court of Session took the view in the well-known case of Shepherd against Yool, in which I acted for the applicant, that a holder having on his holding a mill was not entitled to the benefits of the Act, although he had a holding in every other respect capable of being included. The result of this decision has been to exclude from the benefits of the Acts a great many small holdings in Scotland, simply because the tenants have been enterprising enough to carry on some auxiliary occupation. I maintain most strenuously that they ought not to be penalised for that enterprise and industry, but should be included within the Acts. I have suggested in the Bill a more elastic and common-sense interpretation of the term "holding," but I do not claim any originality for it, because I took it from a suggestion which I found in a report of the Scottish Land Court of 1914. I would like to read to the House a sentence in that report, which deals with the matter:We venture to submit for consideration whether an Amendment of the definition of holding' in the Agricultural Holdings Act 865 and in the Small Landholders Act of 1911 by substituting for the word 'wholly' the word 'substantial' or 'predominantly' would not be desirable in order to give effect to the general object of these Acts; or by substituting for that definition a provision similar to that which occurs in the Irish Land Act of 1870, Section 71, namely: This Act shall not apply to any holding which is not agricultural or pastoral in its character, or partly agricultural and partly pastoral'.The point lies in the words "in its character." It is the general character of the holding which should be looked at, and it should not be excluded from the Acts merely because there may be upon it some building which is required for the auxiliary occupation of the owner. The Court of Session judgments require some detailed consideration, but there are several of them which fill one with some amazement. I will give one illustration only, where the court was asked to interpret a Section of the 1911 Act by reference to the Act of 1886. It was quite a small point, and the learned judges in their wisdom said that they could not look beyond the terms of the Act of 1911 which they were construing and decided the case accordingly, ignoring altogether a Section in the 1911 Act itself, which says that for the interpretation of the terms of that Act it has to be read and construed with the Crofters Act of 1886.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I will give my hon. and learned Friend the particulars later. In the other case, the Arran case, the Court of Session invented, if I may use the word, a new method of excising the offending part of a holding, when it was a house or building, and including the remainder as a holding within the Act. There is a Clause in the Bill which remedies these matters.
I am sorry to detain the House at this length, but it is very difficult to explain these matters and I want to make them quite clear. Clause 10 relates to the amendment of the law as to compensation for improvements. As the law stands, the statutory right of a landholder or cottar to compensation on outgoing for permanent improvements is subject to this qualification, that the improvements have not been executed under a specific agreement in writing. The common case of small holders is that they obtain a lease of their holdings under an obligation that they will put up build- 866 ings or reclaim land, or carry out some other kind of permanent improvement on the holding, and they get the holdings at a certain rent. It also happens that after the improvements have been carried out by the tenants the rent has been increased against them. But this term "under a specific agreement in writing" has been employed with regard to small holders, as distinct from other tenants in Scotland, to exclude them from payment for compensation for improvements which were carried out by their own family.
With regard to ordinary agricultural tenants in Scotland they were amazed to find that by a Court of Session judgment any improvements which they had executed under a specific agreement in writing were to prevent them having a claim for compensation against their landlord, and the matter was promptly put right by Parliament in regard to these large farms by the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1920, which contained a Section that the mere fact that improvements had been carried out by tenants under a specific agreement was not to exclude larger farmers from a claim to compensation; and will the House believe that these 50,000 smallholders in Scotland have been for many years, and still are, subject to a disability of which the larger farmers in Scotland so quickly relieved themselves by an Act of Parliament? We ought to see that the smallholders are speedily put in the same position as the larger farmers. When a smallholder claims compensation under the Agricultural Holdings Act, he has to prove the written consent of the landlord to any improvements for which he claims. Under the Smallholdings Act the claim is much wider.
Clause 11 contains an amendment of the law as regards vacant holdings. It refers to the rather cumbrous and expensive machinery devised by Section 17 of the Act of 1911 as amended by Section 12 of the Act of 1919 for the keeping of smallholdings within the Acts when by reason of death or renunciation the holdings became vacant. Section 17 provides, as probably the House knows, for notice to be given to the Department of Agriculture by the proprietor, and steps are to be taken to obtain a new tenant; but the Department of Agriculture have found themselves with a weapon inefficient for the purpose intended. The purpose of the Clause in the Bill is to 867 render the machinery efficient. It remedies a substantial grievance, because as the law stands the landlord can let these vacant holdings for long periods, and at the highest rents.
One word as to Clause 12. It is a Clause against contracting out, and it confers on landholders the same protection against contracts purporting to contract out of the Landholders Acts as is conferred upon tenants under the Agricultural Holdings Act. Larger farmers in Scotland are protected against themselves in this matter by the Agricultural Holdings Act and it is imperative that the same clause should be inserted in the Smallholdings Act. Clause 13 deals with a minor point in connection with land within a borough boundary.
I must say a word on Clause 14, because it deals with the protection of the smallholder against damage by game. T was a member of the Game and Heather Burning Committee presided over by the Duke of Buccleuch which reported in 1921, and the one thing above all others which was made clear to the members of that Committee was that the agriculturists of Scotland, particularly the smallholders who have their holdings on the fringes of the deer forests and grouse moors, are severe sufferers by the ravages of game. I found myself on that Committee with some other half-dozen colleagues, who had more sympathy with the point of view of the landowner and the sporting tenant than I had, and, accordingly, at the end of the day 1 found myself in a minority of one and had by force of conviction to present an independent report in which I gave what I considered to be a much more progressive point of view in this matter. At any rate I hope to carry the House with me on one point in regard to this Clause. It is 40 years since agricultural tenants in Scotland obtained from Parliament the right to shoot ground game, and surely, after the lapse of that period, public opinion has advanced far enough now to confer on the smallholders in Scotland the right to kill on their holdings winged game. If any hon. Member cares to go up to many of these holdings in the Northwest of Scotland he will find still out in the fields many of the late stooks, where the tenants have not been able to reap 868 their crops; and they will find them black with game.
We had evidence that many of these holders had even to do night watching in order to keep the deer off their turnips. There is no question about it that the ravages of game impose upon the smallholders severe penalties and rob them to a considerable extent of their crops, and the intention of the first part of the Clause is to give the smallholders the right to protect themselves.
§ Mr. SCOTT
No; but I say that what was judged to be good for agriculture and good for the smallholders in time of war is also good for them in time of peace. During the war they had the power to protect themselves against winged game and dear. The majority of the Commission and I were agreed that there ought to be given to the smallholders the right to kill deer. The majority of the members of the Commission took the view that first of all the owners of the deer forests should be compelled to fence their deer forests, and that if they did not do that, the tenants ought to be entitled to protect themselves against deer ravages. With regard to Sub-section (3) of Clause 14, I have only to say that I am quite prepared to listen to all reasonable Amendments to the Bill which would entitle the smallholder to go outside his fence to some rabbit warren, which may be within a few yards of his holding, to kill there the rabbits which come in to eat his crops. I am aware that there may be various points of view with regard to that matter, and various stipulations and safeguards that may have to be provided, but I still think that we ought to press that matter.
With regard to Clause 15 the Department of Agriculture has power now to lend money to new holders or landholders for the equipment of holdings. The practice of the Department until a few years ago was when a holding became vacant, either by death or renunciation, to continue the existing loan to the incoming tenant. For some reason or other best known to the Department—I do not pretend to guess what their motive may be—the view they have taken is that they are either not entitled to or not warranted in continuing such loans to the incoming 869 tenant. This Clause of the Bill would make it imperative on the Board to continue the loans.
Clause 16 deals with an important matter well known as equipped rents. While the Department of Agriculture, for lands owned by the Department, has continued the loans to heirs and assignees of landholders (the Department can do nothing else), the Department does not continue loans to other incoming tenants, but lets the holdings as equipped holdings, and the result has been very considerable hardship. The Department has gone even further and has applied to the Land Court recently for registration of four persons as new holders of new holdings at the equipped rent; and you have the extraordinary situation that under Acts passed for the purpose of establishing new holdings, the Department of Agriculture has used public money, and then proceeded to let the holdings outwith the Acts altogether. The situation presents a travesty of the principles and purposes of the Acts, and the intention of these two Clauses is to -rectify that state of matters.
I have indicated in general terms, very imperfectly, the main purposes of the Bill, but I hope I have said sufficient to show our beneficent intentions towards a class of smallholders in Scotland who well deserve the attention of Parliament. In conclusion I may be permitted to say that I have a certain pride and gratification in submitting this Bill, because for many years I have taken a particular interest in and done some little work on behalf of this class of people.
§ Major DUDGEON
I beg to second the Motion.
I feel that after the well-reasoned and exhaustive speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) I need not detain the House very long. My hon. Friend has spoken of the straths and glens of the Northern area of Scotland. I would like to put the point of view of the vales and dales of the South. We have to recognise that, to some extent at any rate, the problems of land settlement in the South are rather different from those in the North, especially those in the crofting counties and some other Northern counties. The two Clauses of the Bill that I wish to particularly to refer to are Clauses 3 and 870 14, not only because I consider that these are extremely important Clauses, but because I imagine that a great deal of opposition will be concentrated on these two particular parts of the Bill. Clause 3 extends the size of holdings to 100 acres in extent or £100 of rental.
In the South of Scotland we have had a number of smallholdings established during the last 20 years, but these holdings have attracted only certain types of holders. It is true, I think, that we might classify the holders in the Southern counties under three heads. There is, first of all, the smallholder who is a specialist. He goes in for horticulture or poultry keeping or some specialised line of agricultural production. Secondly, there is the smallholder who is adjacent to a very favourable market and can dispose of his produce at a remunerative rate. Thirdly, there is the smallholder who is not solely dependent upon his holding; he has some other part-time occupation or has a war pension or something of that sort. These three types of holders are to a very large extent not drawn from the agricultural workers, and the agricultural workers are a class that many of us are keenly interested in and desire to see placed on small holdings, especially in the counties where there is a very large proportion of large farms.
On large farms you get head men, such as head horsemen, or ploughmen as we call them in Scotland, head dairymen and head cowmen. These men have got as far as they can in their employment. They have been earning fairly remunerative wages and most of them have saved a certain amount of money. They make admirable smallholders, but they feel that their position would not be greatly improved, if improved at all, by taking a holding limited to 50 or 55 acres. They believe that they are capable of managing and making a decent living out of a holding which extends to 100 acres or £100 in rent and which, as my hon. Friend the Mover has said, is known in Scotland as a pair horse holding. Holdings of this kind are very difficult to obtain under the ordinary statutes and the ordinary customs now prevailing and something must be done to ensure that more openings are made available for type of agricultural worker who is a proficient agriculturist. That 871 can only be done by extending the Acts so as to bring holdings of 100 acres in extent or £100 in rent within their jurisdiction. No great hardship is involved in this procedure because in many counties in Scotland there is a great deal of plural farming. I am not one of those who wholeheartedly condemn plural farming. I think that in some circumstances it is necessary and it has worked in a fairly satisfactory manner, but undoubtedly a number of farmers have as many as 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 farms and it would be no great hardship to take one or two of those farms in order to create holdings of the kind to which I have referred.
There is also the point of view of the landowner and it is always better to deal frankly with the position of the landowner. The agricultural landowner, not only in Scotland but in Great Britain as a whole, has suffered to some extent for the sins of the urban landowner. Agricultural landowners in Scotland may be roughly classified under three heads. We have the wealthy agricultural landowner who spends a considerable amount of his wealth on the maintenance of his estate. He is an asset to the industry and to the nation. There is another small class of agricultural landowners who have considerable wealth but do not expend it on their estates and they are of advantage neither to the industry nor to the nation. Then there is the great majority of agricultural landowners and we have to admit that to-day they have not the money to maintain their estates and holdings in that condition of efficiency which ought to exist. I think that the landowners ought to be reassured on this question of the extension of the size and rental of the holdings to be brought within this legislation.
In my opinion the most expensive type of agricultural holding to maintain in a state of efficiency, from the landowner's point of view, is the comparatively smallholding. Sub-divisions mean that fences are more numerous, and the buildings, in proportion to the size of the holdings, are more expensive to maintain. Therefore it will be clearly to the advantage of the agricultural landowner if he is relieved of the upkeep of the buildings and fences and is certain that his land rent will be paid 872 regularly. I think he will be in a better position and I cannot imagine that the progressive agricultural landowner will seriously oppose this greatly needed extension in the scope of smallholdings in Scotland. As the Mover has said, this is a reasonable and modest Bill. It has been framed with a view to catching the spirit of this House and that, if I understand it aright, is the spirit of seeking a way to arrive at a common accommodation in regard to agricultural matters, and the greatest common measure of agreement in restoring Scottish agriculture and British agriculture to prosperity.
In reference to Clause 14 and the question of game, this is a more serious question, I readily admit, in certain of the northern counties, than in the southern counties. Still we know in the south that smallholders have suffered considerably from the ravages of winged game and from the destruction caused by ground game. Not only landowners have been sinners in this respect, because I happen to have seen most extensive damage caused to a smallholding by ground game coming from an adjacent covert and both the holding and covert were the property of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland. It is necessary that the smallholder himself should have power to destroy both winged game and ground game. I trust that this Bill will get a unanimous Second Reading. I notice above the Gangway several hon. Members representing well-known agricultural constituencies in Scotland. I presume they do not agree with every Clause in the Bill, but I think there must be a considerable number of the Clauses with which they do agree, and, on which, indeed, there is common agreement. I suggest that the Bill should be allowed to go up to the Scottish Standing Committee where we can thresh it out in a broad spirit so as to get a Measure which will be of advantage to the smallholders in Scotland and will ensure that more of the agricultural workers of Scotland, the very cream of the industry and of the Scottish population, have a chance of getting a little bit of land of their own and a chance of making good in the industry in which they have been trained all their lives. I trust, if the House accepts the Bill in that spirit, that when we get into Committee, we 873 will be able to frame a measure which will be of lasting benefit to the smallholders of Scotland.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "upon this day six months."
In the first place, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) on the very clear exposition of this branch of the law which he has given to the House. No one in Scotland knows the law on this subject better than the hon. Member does. I should also say at the outset that those who sit on these Benches would approve entirely of as many people as possible being on the land and getting a livelihood from the land. We think that there is no finer type than the smallholder of Scotland, and that he ought to be encouraged in every way. Accordingly, if a Bill had been brought forward to remedy any grievance under which the smallholders of Scotland suffer, we certainly would have considered such a Bill very carefully.
This Bill is quite hopeless, and it will leave the land laws of Scotland absolutely confused if the Bill in its present terms should go forward. The hon. Member for Kincardine said that if the Bill went to the Scottish Standing Committee, as I hope it will not, matters of detail could be put right, but I think I can show the House that the Bill is fundamentally impossible, and that it would require to be almost re-written if it went to Committee. I challenge the Government representative to say that that is not so. I say that for this reason, that we have certain Acts in regard to land laws in Scotland, mostly introduced by the Liberal party, and the position at present is that we have, for example, a certain Act in 1886 and a certain alteration of that Act in 1911, and they are now proposing to go back, I do not know whether to 1886, but there are proposals in this Bill to change the law of 1911 and either to go back to 1886 or to leave the matter quite open and quite apart from the Act of 1886.
The Landholders Acts refer to the Agricultural Holdings Acts in Scotland, and therefore no one can understand the Landholders Acts unless they have also 874 before them the Agricultural Holdings, Acts. One reason for saying that is this, that you will find references in the Landholders Acts to the Agricultural Holdings Acts. In Scotland we have had many Agricultural Holdings Acts, and in 1908 they were consolidated. Then we had amending Acts, and in 1923 the Acts were again consolidated. I think that is an excellent way to proceed. Indeed, it is the only way with these complicated Acts, to have from time to time a consolidating Act. Therefore, if the party below the Gangway on this side of the House are serious in this matter, they should bring in a consolidating Bill and not a Bill which, if it passed into an Act, would, as I hope to show, leave the whole of the land law of Scotland quite unintelligible. I am not entitled to make these statements unless I am prepared to prove them, and I do not make these statements lightly. I hope to show that this Bill as drafted is an impossibility.
I should have thought, when a Bill was brought in to alter the land laws of Scotland fundamentally in regard to the smallholders—because you are proposing to alter the law with regard to statutory small tenants, and I do not know how many of them there are, but there must be between 20,000 and 30,000 coming under the Bill.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
I asked a question of the Government, and they were not in a position to tell me, but there must be very many statutory small tenants. Under this Bill these tenants are to be entirely wiped out, and that is a very large thing. That is not a matter of detail. We have had statutory small tenants for 19 years, and we ought not to change their tenure unless we are satisfied that there is some public feeling among them against the tenure. We have had within the last year a Report from a neutral Committee. No reference was made by the previous speakers to that Committee. Why not? The Committee reported last year—[Interruption]. I am told that the hon. Member riddled it, but I see that there was a Liberal representative on it, who dissented only with regard to certain details, and there was a Socialist Member on the Committee, who entirely approved of the Report. That Report contains 17 recommenda- 875 tions, and there is not one of them, I believe—there may be one, but not more than one—which has been referred to in this Bill.
That is not the way to go to business in regard to the law of Scotland on land matters. The whole thing ought to be sifted by a Commission or a Committee going into the whole matter. We cannot go into all the details on the Floor of the House here, and that ought to he done before any Bill is introduced. Further than that, if you are going to alter the land laws of Scotland, and in particular if you are going to alter the game laws of Scotland in a Landholders Act, that is a matter that ought to be thoroughly considered, and I submit that it is a matter to be brought in by the Government of the day, not by one of the parties in opposition.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
We, on this side, are waiting to see whether this Bill, as drafted, is going to receive the approval of the Government, and I see that we are to have the position of the matter expounded to us by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for Scotland. My first submission is this, that this is a Bill which is in a great many separate parts, and it is going to be added on to certain other Acts, with the result, as I submit, that we shall get confusion. We in Scotland want, if we are going to have an alteration, to have the whole matter thoroughly searched, and then have a Consolidation Act, which will make it quite clear to the small landholders of Scotland what the law is. I am strengthened in that remark by a remark made by the hon. Member for Kincardine, who stated that in a certain case in the Court of Session they had insisted upon following a Section of the 1911 Act and had absolutely refused to look at a Section of the 1886 Act. I beg leave to differ from the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
If the Court of Session, the Supreme Court in Scotland, knowing that these Acts have all to be read together, said, "We shall 876 not look at the 1886 Act, but only at the 1911 Act," I think the party below the Gangway should bring in a Bill for the abolition of the Court of Session rather than a Bill for the abolition of the statutory small tenants. I do not believe for a moment that the Court of Session ever decided a case upon a footing that they declined to look at the Act of 1886 along with the Act of 1911. As a matter of fact, I did not get an opportunity of looking at the case, because the hon. Member had not a reference to the case.
I wish now to go into the details of the Bill, and to follow the hon. Member for. Kincardine in that respect. The first point that he dealt with was the question of statutory small tenants. He has explained to the House the difference between a landholder and a statutory small tenant, and therefore, I am assuming now that the House understands the distinction between the two. The statutory small tenant holds on a certain tenure, and the landholder holds on another tenure. Which is the better tenure, I am not prepared to say. I think they may be both good in the conditions in which they exist. In some places it may be better to have landholders, and in other places it may be better to have statutory small tenants: but the conditions of the two are different, as the hon. Member explained. He seeks to abolish the tenure of statutory small tenants, and first of all I say that there is no demand in Scotland for any such thing. The statutory small tenants have the right to appeal to the. Land Court in connection with the fixing of an equitable rent. There have been very, very few applications in Scotland for that purpose to the Land Court from these statutory small tenants. That means that the statutory small tenants are on the whole absolutely satisfied with their existing conditions, and with the existing rents, because if they were not, then certainly, it seems to me, they would have applied to the Land Court in order that they might have the rents revised. I submit that there is, obviously, no demand among the statutory small tenants themselves, because they have not taken advantage of the Land Court.
§ Mr. ROSBOTHAM
If he applied to the Land Court, would he not be in danger of getting notice to quit?
§ Mr. MacROBERT
Not at all. The Land Court has the right in two respects. It can deal with the continuance of the tenure and with the question of rent. As regards all other terms, the position of a statutory tenant is that he holds upon the conditions of his lease. The landholder, on the other hand, is in a different position. He holds under statutory conditions, and that is a fundamental difference between the two. But which is the better? I am not prepared to say. It depends upon the circumstances, and the point I would make is that the statutory small tenants who, for the most part, are in the Lowlands, on the whole appear to have been perfectly satisfied with their position as regards their tenure, because they have not been applying to the Land Court at all with regard to a modification of the rent. The proposal is that the statutory small tenant should be abolished. What does that involve? It involves, in the first place, shifting the liability presently upon the landlord as regards buildings and permanent improvements on to the shoulders of the tenant. Do the statutory tenants wish that burden to be imposed upon them? I am perfectly certain that they do not.
I ask the House to note that the effect of this is going to be that from the time of the passing of this Bill, if it ever passes, the statutory small tenant will have the burden and obligation of maintaining all the permanent improvements and the buildings upon the holding. There is no chance of that, I hope, but that is clearly the position if the Bill becomes law. It is a very serious burden. Can the statutory small tenant at the present time afford to do that I understand that at the present time the statutory small tenants, the small and the large holders in Scotland are under very depressed conditions, particularly in regard to their potato crop. This is a time in which I should have thought one might have brought in a Bill to do something for them in that regard, but this particular Bill is not going to help towards the prosperity of the agricultural holders at all. How can it be suggested that the prosperity of the statutory holders is going to be improved by throwing upon them a burden, it may be a very serious burden, of maintaining the whole of the buildings and the permanent improve- 878 ments on the holding? That is a very serious matter, and I do not think that this House will lightly give a Second Beading to a Bill which is imposing that obligation, unless they know perfectly well that all the statutory small tenants in Scotland are in favour of it.
It is said that, of course, at the end of his tenure, the landowner will be allowed to get compensation for any depreciation of his property. It may be that he will not be able to recover. Further than that, as far as I can read the Measure, he is not entitled to get compensation right back, but only for the previous four years. It seems to me that there is really no demand for this alteration of statutory smaller tenants into landholders. You would get this very curious result. The whole burden and obligation of the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and permanent improvements would be placed upon the tenant. He would have the whole control and responsibility for these repairs, whereas he is not the owner. The other person, who is the owner, is to have no control. He cannot interfere in the slightest with the upkeep and maintenance of his own property. Does not that seem ridiculous? It seems to me that it is, and, therefore, the change of statutory small tenants into small landholders is not one that should he adopted, T heard a remark from below the Gangway that that is the condition with regard to existing landholders. Of course it is, but the vital distinction is this: The reason for bringing in the land-holding tenure in 1886 was that the tenants or their predecessors in those cases did, in fact, build the buildings, and did, in fact, make the permanent improvement on their holdings. That was the problem of the whole crofting system.
That was the complaint—and the just complaint it may be—of the crofters, because they said: "We, or our predecessors, have put these permanent improvements on these holdings," and then they asked for security of tenure. That tenure was extended, and the legislature in 1911 made a distinction between the two classes of holdings. They said whenever you find that the buildings and permanent improvements have, in fact, been made by the tenant, in that ease he shall become a landholder, because he in fact is really the proprietor of the 879 buildings; the landlord had not put them there. But it went on to provide that in the case where the landlord was the owner and creator of the buildings there should be a statutory small tenancy, and the tenant should have no obligation to maintain and upkeep the property, but that burden should remain upon the landlord. I, therefore, ask the House to pause before giving approval to a Bill which is going to have the result of throwing a burden upon the statutory small tenants of the whole maintenance and upkeep of all the permanent improvements upon the holdings.
The hon. Member for Kincardine justified the alteration because he said the 1886 Act applied to all crafting holdings, but not so the 1911 Act. The reason is that the crofters, in fact, had created the permanent improvements on their holdings. Another remark made by the hon. Member is not quite correct. He said that the statutory small tenant could not assign his lease. Stated baldly like that, it is not accurate. The position is that a landholder is limited with regard to assignment, and he can assign it only to certain individuals, and only in very special circumstances. If he is in ill-health and not able to carry on, he may assign it, but he may assign it only to particular individuals. That alteration will take place if you sanction this Bill, and all these statutory small tenants will not be able to assign their holdings unless they are ill and unable to carry on. But a statutory small tenant is now in the position that he holds under the terms of a lease—or holds under the Estate rules and regulations, which may provide for an assignation of the lease. It may provide for the assignation of the lease to anybody, or it may be limited to a suitable person approved of by the landlord; but to say that he has no right of assignation is not correct, for he may in some respects have a far higher right of assignation than the landholder. There is no evidence before the House that the statutory small tenants want any such change. I have never heard it suggested in my constituency that there was any grievance with regard to the holdings of statutory small tenants, and I have no mandate from my constituency to support the abolition of the statutory small tenants 880 in Renfrewshire. I hope that the House will consider the matter very carefully before they sanction the Second Reading of this Bill.
The next point dealt with by the hon. Gentleman has to do with the increase to £100 and 100 acres. I am bound to say that I absolutely fail to understand this provision. Does the hon. Member mean by Clause 3 that with regard to new holdings only there shall be power given to create new holdings up to 100 acres or £100? If the intention of this Bill is to bring within the purview of the Landholders Act all holdings between 50 and 100 acres, it does not seem to give effect to that intention. If the hon. Member will look at the Act of 1911, he will find that a landholder only can be one who conforms to certain conditions as at the date of the Landholders Act of 1911; and, with regard to holders subsequent to that who were not qualified in 1911 the only possible way in which they can become landholders is by making them new holders. I am satisfied that if the hon. Member for Kincardine, with the legal knowledge which I know he has, looks at Clause 2 of this Bill, and then refers to the provisions of the 1911 Act, which provides for the creation or landholders, he will see clearly that the mere insertion in one of the Sections of the Act of 1911 of the words "one hundred" in place of the word "fifty," does not take away from or abrogate the provisions of the Sections which deal with the creation of the landholdings.
The intention of this Clause appears to be that it should bring within the scope of the Act all holdings of 100 acres or £100, but that it has not that effect. Therefore, the promoters should be asked to reconsider this part of the Bill. With regard to the merits of the question as to whether they should be in-chided, I submit that there is no evidence of any such demand by those having holdings of the amounts stated in the proposed amendment to the law, that they shall be included within the provisions of the Landholders Act.
The next question is in regard to resumption. Again, I say that Clause 4 does not give effect to the avowed intention. This is a very important matter, and it is so important that a Bill has already been introduced to give effect to the provisions 881 of Clause 4. A somewhat unfair remark was made by the hon. Member for Kincardine when he said that the Bill was talked out. I would remind the House that the Bill was introduced at a quarter to four, and that the hon. Member who moved the Bill took 12 minutes, a right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway took about three minutes of the rest of the time, and then from the Front Opposition benches—
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
May I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that this Bill was really first introduced in 1924?
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
The right hon. anal learned Gentleman has not accounted for the time taken by the hon. Member opposite. I took, not 12 minutes, but seven minutes.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
I stand corrected if my figures are wrong, but I repeat that my law as regards the point was not wrong. It is the fact, however, that one minute only was left to the speaker from this section of the House. The, speaker was myself, and I had hardly opened my mouth—
§ Mr. MacROBERT
—when the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir. A. Sinclair) got up and moved the Closure, a thing which has never been done to me before in this House. Not only that, but when the Closure was not granted he threatened me. He said he would bring in a worse Bill, and here it is! But to go back; the position as to resumption is a very important one both from the point of view of the landlord and the tenant, and I hope that hon. Members opposite, despite the remarks I heard during the course of the Debate, will give fair consideration to the rights of the landlord as well as of the tenant.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
I have heard remarks, which I do not think were intended 882 that you should not only give the right to kill game but to kill landlords. That is not the way in which to approach this business, because there are very many landlords on the opposite side of the House, and if we started killing them the Government might no longer have a majority.
§ Mr. VAUGHAN
I rise to assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that I only asked my hon. Friend whether he intended to shoot the landlords because we Socialist members could not support him in that.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
I am glad to hear that that is the attitude of the, Socialist party, because so many of them are landlords. I go back to the question of resumption. If you are going to prevent the sale of estates in Scotland that is going to be very detrimental to the owners and to the property. There are a great number of trustees who hold estates. There are bond holders who, in some cases, hold estates for beneficiaries and if you are going to place restrictions upon the sale of these properties you may inflict very serious hardship upon beneficiaries and trusts. I ask the House to keep that in view when considering this question.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
If you look at the Memorandum which precedes the Bill you will see that the Clause is intended to restore the law to what it was before 1911, but it does nothing of the kind because the Clause provides thatthe occupation by a landlord, for the purpose of personally residing thereon, of a holding, being his only landed estate, shall not be deemed to be a reasonable purpose.That means there is to be no appeal to any Land Court. I am sure it is an admitted fact that the Land Courts have done their work very efficiently and fairly. It is not the proposal under this Clause that the question of the occupation by a landlord for the purpose of personally residing thereon shall be decided by the Land Court. The Clause lays down that that shall not be deemed to be a reasonable purpose. I think there may be some force in the argument that the Act of 1911 perhaps went too far with regard to this, because it said that it shall be deemed a reasonable 883 purpose, and therefore the court had no option. In every case which came before it, when it was proved that the owner wished to occupy the holding himself, and he proved that he had no other estate, then, as a matter of course—ipso jure as we say—he was entitled to resume. No discretion was given to the land court.
This Bill goes to the opposite extreme. It says that it shall not be a reasonable purpose. There are many cases in which it will be shown that the owner has purchased a croft and that it is his only estate, and that it would he only reasonable in some cases that he should be allowed to resume, hut the Bill says that he shall not he heard on that subject, he shall not be allowed to put the facts before the Court. In all such cases it is to be deemed not to be a reasonable purpose, and he will not be entitled to resume. In other words, the Bill provides for something which the promoters say is not their intention. In that case, why should the Bill go upstairs to Committee? They ought to take the Bill back and re-write it on this as on other points. Let us look further at the Clause. It saysthe occupation by a landlord, for the purpose of personally residing thereon, of a holding, being his only landed estate, shall not he deemed to be a reasonable purpose.Note that it is limited to cases where a landlord has no other estate. Therefore, the position is this, under this Bill promoted by the Liberal party: they say that if a man has one little estate only he shall not get back his estate, but if a man has many estates he can go to the land court and, if he shows cause, can get it back. That is grotesque. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, heart!"] Does anyone say that my interpretation of that Clause is not correct? No one can say that I have not correctly expressed the intention of the Clause as written. It may not have been the original intention of the pro-motors, but that is the Clause which they are now asking this House to approve. Again it says that occupation by a landlord for the purpose of residence of a holding, being his only landed estate, shall not he deemed to be a reasonable purpose and therefore it might be reasonable to presume that he could secure resumption if he had more than one landed estate. [Interruption.] That is a fair construction. We know the old maxim 884 which says that the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other. Applying that doctrine to this Clause, it might be argued that in the case of a landlord who had many estates it was a reasonable purpose. It seems to me that the Clause does not fulfil the intentions of the promoters and that as framed it is a harsh and absurd Clause. That is not a matter of detail; it is a Clause to which a Second reading ought not to be given.
We come now to the question of the family. There is not so much criticism of this particular Clause. It is open to the argument that the words of the Landholders Acts introduced by the Liberal party were not wide enough, but it seems to me a ridiculous proposition to put forward the Clause as it stands. It says that a family is toinclude all persons related to each other either by consanguinity or affinity.What does that mean—consanguinity or affinity?
You have got to make inquiry into these cases. We know for example that landholders get compensation for the permanent improvements made by themselves or their predecessors in the family but in this measure, the family is to be defined and enquiries require to be made as to relationship. From a lawyer's point of view I should have no personal objection to such enquiries, but it means great expense and it is really ridiculous to put forward a proposal of that kind. This is a limitation practically without any limit. There are so many objections of this kind that in my opinion the proper thing to do is to send the Bill back to the promoters in order to have the Bill redrafted.
The hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) said that in his opinion the definition given in the Agricultural Holdings Act would not do, and he desires to have another definition. May I point out to the hon. Member that you have to go to the Agricultural Holdings Act to find any right to get compensation for all improvements other than permanent. Those landholders who come under the Landholders Act, but do not conform to the present definition will have no right to compensation at all because they do not come under the Agricultural Holdings Act. The hon. Member for Kincardine is 885 going to say that all these matters can be put right in Committee.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
The compensation is paid under the Agricultural Holdings Act. The hon. Member for Kincardine says that there are other Acts under which they can get the right to be compensated, and that this Bill expressly provides for compensation under the Agricultural Holdings Act. [Interruption.] I know there is compensation allowed to landholders by reason of damage done by game, and it is specially provided in the Landholders Act that compensation is to be paid under the Agricultural Holdings Act, and if I am right in this contention, it is clear that a section of those who are landholders under this Bill will not be entitled to compensation at all in regard to the damage done by game. Here is a practical illustration that we require some kind of consolidation of these Acts, because here we have an instance of two lawyers who are not at one as to whether compensation applies under one of these Acts. We are not quite sure how many Acts are applicable to this point. I think the Landholders Act and the Agricultural Holdings Act are applicable. As regards the Smallholdings Acts mentioned by the hon. Member, I am not very familiar with those Acts.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
While the ex-Lord Advocate is looking up this reference, may I inform him that his speech is open to attack on so many points, that we are quite willing to make him a present of the point for which he is searching and for which he seems to be making a very laborious search.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
The hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland says that I have given him enough 886 points of attack, but I hope I shall be able to give him many more points.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
You are now creating certain holders under the Landholders Act and there are certain under the Agricultural Holdings Act, and I submit to the Rouse that it is not right to sanction a Bill which is going to make the distinctions to which I have referred. For the reasons I have stated, I think it is perfectly clear that this Bill ought not to receive a Second Reading. With regard to Clause 7, which is about the choicest Clause in the Bill, I would ask the attention of the House to the first four or five lines, which read as follows:No holding shall he, as at the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twelve, or any precedent or subsequent time"—that means that you could go back to the time of Adam and Eve, and apply it to the Garden of Eden—
§ Mr. MacROBERT
—always assuming that the Garden of Eden is in Scotland. Joking apart, that is a most ridiculous provision to put into a Bill. It means that we might have an inquiry right back to the beginning of time. Then I would ask the hon. Member for Kincardine why he limits the right of these landholders to summer visitors? Why should they not be able to take Easter visitors, or winter visitors? Under the present law, the landholder can let or sublet the premises to holiday visitors, and the promotors of this Bill want to limit that.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
That is the effect; the promoters of the Bill have apparently deliberately changed "holiday visitors" to "summer visitors." Perhaps some speaker later on will explain that point. The hon. Member for Kincardine has told us that Clauses 7 and 8 are designed to reverse certain judgments of the Court of Session. I am afraid I have not time to explain all these cases to the House, but I think it is a had thing, unless there is a real 887 grievance, to come to this House with a Bill containing Clauses which reverse wholesale the decisions of any law court. There are many cases in which the Judges say, "We are constrained to give this interpretation, but we think it was never intended," and such cases, naturally, the House would put right; hut here the promoters of the Bill say frankly that there is a number of eases in Scotland of which they do not approve, and therefore they put in these Clauses in order that those judgments may be reversed.
Among other things, they are proposing to allow these landholders to carry on other trades and businesses. It may be quite a right thing to allow a person to carry on another trade or business along with his tenancy, but should that be allowed under the particular and peculiar tenure of these landholders? Take this case. What is going to happen if the landholder likes to carry on the business of a blacksmith? This, as I read the Clause, he would be entitled to do. I am not complaining about the reasonableness of the Clause, but he cannot carry on that business without erecting some kind of building. What is to happen to that building at the end of the tenure As far as I can read the Clause, there will be no compensation at all, and the result will be that the blacksmith erects these buildings and at the end of the tenancy, according to this Bill, the landlord will get them. The hon. Member for Kincardine shakes his head, but I am quite satisfied that I am correct in saying that there is no provision in the Landholders Act at present which will entitle the landholder to any compensation whatsoever with regard, say, to a blacksmith's shop erected on the holding. If my hon. Friend will look at the definition Clause, he will find that the only kind of permanent improvements on which compensation will be paid are buildings connected with farming, and no one can say that blacksmithing is, at any rate directly, connected with farming within the meaning of the definition Clause.
The House may think that there is a great deal of good in this Bill, but I am showing that the whole Bill is ill-conceived and, if I may respectfully say so, badly drafted. If it received a Second Reading, it would simply mean that per- 888 haps months would be spent in Committee Amending every Clause. All the Clauses would require re-writing, and therefore it would be ridiculous to give a Second Reading. Whenever the House is satisfied that a Bill is so inadequately and hopelessly drawn that it requires to be re-written in Committee, the Bill should not receive a Second Reading.
I do not think I need say anything about Clauses 8 and 9, because I understand from the Memorandum that, like Clause 7, they deal with the repeal of Court of Session cases. With regard to Clause 10, I do not quite follow what the intention is if it be not to strike at certain previous bargains made. I think I understood the hon. Member for Kincardine to say that this would make the law the same as in the case of larger tenancies under the Agricultural Holdings Act. I have taken the opportunity of checking that statement, and I do not think it is quite accurate. If the hon. Member will look at the Agricultural Holdings Act, he will find that it only applies to tenancies created after the year 1921. That is a very different thing from saying that it applies to all cases. The Amendment proposed in this Clause is to have retrospective effect; it is to apply to previous tenancies. The Agricultural Holdings Act, which applies to larger tenancies, does not affect any leases that existed beforehand, and therefore there is no hardship under it, -because people who made contracts after 1921 knew what they were contracting about and could arrange accordingly.
This Clause proposes to interfere with existing rights, and I submit that that is a bad thing, because, if arrangements that have been made in the past are to be altered, inevitably there must be injustice to certain parties. To provide for the future is a different thing, because then people know what the law is, and can contract accordingly. Therefore, this Clause does not provide for landholdings in the same way at all in which they are provided for in the Agricultural Holdings Act, but attempts to alter already existing arrangements. With regard to Clause 11, I do not want to take up much of the time of the House—
§ Mr. MacROBERT
I should not have taken so long if I had not been interrupted so much. It must be remembered that the hon. Member, in introducing the Bill, himself took an hour, and I have to answer his points and also to anticipate points that may be raised by other hon. Members.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
With regard to Clause 11, the hon. Member, in introducing the Bill, frankly said that the Department of Agriculture really have not been able to carry out the intention of the Acts, and that there is great difficulty in regard to that matter. He proposes to remedy that difficulty in this way. Take the case of the unfortunate landlord who has, say, two holdings which may have been in the occupation of landholders and have been vacated. It was not mentioned by the hon. Member in opening, but a landholder at any time can give up his holding. The landlord is tied for all time if the landholder conforms to certain conditions, but the landholder can at any moment say "I am done with this holding," and can leave it on a year's notice. The Clause deals with that case. What is to happen then? The unfortunate landlord has had the holding thrown back on his hands, and this Clause provides, most unjustly, that a Department of the Government is to have the right to say that the landlord shall not let the holding to others than smallholders without their consent, and they can withhold their consent for all time. It is iniquitous that any Department should have such power, and that the unfortunate landlord may have four or five good tenants offering to take his holding and he cannot accept the offer, because, forsooth, he cannot get the sanction of the Department of Agriculture. He has to wait, and they are to be the sole judges as to whether they are going to approve of his giving the holding to other tenants. That seems to me to be a most harsh and inequitable provision.
I submit that it is a very dangerous thing that is suggested in Clause 12. There are exceptional cases, such as the Workmen's Compensation Acts, where the workman cannot contract out, where the position of the two parties to a con- 890 tract is not the same and where one is at a disadvantage. In some cases, it may be right to say you cannot contract out of certain rights, but, as a general proposition, men are quite able to look after themselves, and it is an illegitimate interference with freedom. I throught the party below the gangway were all for freedom, but here they are going to restrict freedom and the right to contract. It is quite out of the question.
I come now to the question of sporting rights. This, of course, is a subject on which people have different opinions. Some people look at it from the point of view of the landlord, some from the opposite point of view, and some from the point of view of the general good of the community. That is how I should like to look at it. I say with complete confidence that the destruction of the sporting estates would be a very serious thing for the North of Scotland. We have the cry, "Come to the Highlands." What do people go to the Highlands for? You cannot ignore the fact that very often they go for sport. These shooting and fishing rights are valuable. Some are valued very highly. The rates payable on them go to help the general community. Sporting estates give an opportunity to those carrying on crofts in the Highlands of additional work during the summer time, and I am sure many crofters in the North would object very much indeed to the destruction of shooting properties. Many crofters in the summer-time are engaged in ghillying and other forms of sport of which some people may not approve; nevertheless, it is giving daily bread to many, and, if you seriously interfere with these rights, not only will the valuations fall and a heavier burden be thrown on the other ratepayers, but you will prevent people going to the Highlands. Some have plenty of money—some of them come from America—and they are prepared to spend it there. It is not a thing to be laughed at. If you ask the people who live there, they will say that it is a very vital point. I ask the House to look at it from that point of view.
The Clause will very materially damage these rights of property. The House should realise that at present landholders have these rights. They can say, 891 "We want our rent modified because of the damage done by game," and it is legitimate for the Land Court to say, "This holding is injured by game and we will lower the rent." The landholder gets benefit in that way. You are going to give him a further right to shoot the game on the premises. Is it also proposed that the landholder who has the right to shoot the game is to have the right of compensation? I am sure the landholders would very much like to know what are the views of the promoters. If their intention is that the right of compensation is to be reserved to them, the Clause will require to be re-written. The Bill, as framed, takes away the right of compensation. The Act of 1911, Section 10 (3), reserves to the tenant the right to get compensation for damage done by game under the Agricultural Holdings Act. The Act. referred to in the Section is the 1908 Act, but the law was consolidated by the 1923 Act, in which there is no right to compensation if the tenant has been given, in writing, by the landlord the right to shoot. Further than that, if the tenant is vested in the right to shoot, which means that he is entitled to shoot apart from sanction given to him by the landlord, he cannot recover compensation. The curious thing is that at the very end it says that, if the landlord has to pay, he can recover from the person who has the right to shoot.
I am quite certain that the promoters of the Bill have not really faced the situation, that this Clause will give a statutory right to shoot to the landholder. It seems to me, as I read the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act, that if you give a man the right to shoot you take away from him the right to get compensation—[An HON. MEMBER: "Do you think that there would be anything to shoot if he were a good tenant?"] It depends how he uses his gun—I will come to that—unless you are going to allow the landholder to destroy game with poison and other things as he is entitled to do under this Clause. The question which I want to ask hon. Members to face is: "Are the landholders of Scotland prepared to give up the right to compensation?" There are many landholders in Scotland who desire to be associated with those who are engaged in sport in the North and those who act as ghillies and so on. These people would 892 not destroy game to the same extent as others, but the point the House has to face is whether it is going to support a Bill which will, in fact, take away the right of compensation from landholders in Scotland.
As regards damage from game, I challenge the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway to show that I am not correct in the law which I have stated just now; and no doubt I shall get some assistance from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland in regard to this matter. This is a fundamental objection that I have to this Clause. I ask the hon. Member to look at the Clause. It says thatany law or custom or agreement to the contrary notwithstanding.A landholder is to he entitled to shoot, kill and take game. We have brought in Acts for the preservation of wild birds. They are to go. They have no effect with regard to the landholder. We have brought in Acts to prevent the destruction of game and birds in certain ways, e.g., to poison them and so on, but under this Clause which has been put forward by the promoters of the Bill, the landholder is entitled to kill game as he pleases. He can snare them, poison them, net them—[An HON. MEMBER: "He can eat them!"]—and he can eat them, which is a very important point affecting the question of compensation very much, if I may digress, that is probably a reason why the compensation right is taken away. The landholder can not only kill them but he can take them away. If he can take them away, he gets the value of the animals he kills and will not require compensation. The point I was about to make when I began this digression was that under this Clause these landholders—and we are told that there are 50,000 of them—are to he given the right to go and kill game, and, I suppose, vermin and wild birds too, in any way they please, and, not only that, hut they are to he entitled to kill them at any time. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) says, "Absurd!"
§ Mr. MacROBERT
It is monstrous that the landholder should be entitled to shoot and kill game in the ways I have indicated. He is under no restriction at all because the Clause provides,any law or custom or agreement to the contrary notwithstanding,The landholder can shoot out of season; he can shoot during the close season. He can shoot and he can snare at night, and in all manner of ways catch them. I say, with great respect to the promoters of this Bill, that this Clause has not been properly considered, and, therefore, a Second reading should not be given to the Bill. There is no evidence before the House that there is any demand for this particular Bill. There may be grievances arising out of certain cases. Those grievances could easily be considered by themselves and dealt with in a separate Bill. If you are going to deal fundamentally with the landholders of Scotland and the Statutes affecting tenants and with the Game Laws, I say that that sort of thing should not be done in a Bill such as this. I submit that there is no body of opinion in Scotland which has called for this Bill and that in the reports which have been furnished to us in recent years, and particularly I refer to the Nairn Report, there is no indication that the law should be altered in these respects at all. It is suggested that the law should be altered in many other respects, but these matters have been ignored by the promoters of the Bill. The promoters may say that we can put some of these matters right in Committee. Surely, if the provisions of the Bill mean what I have submitted to the House, they mean the Bill should not go to Committee at all. The Amendments proposed are far too drastic to allow the Bill to go to Committee. Therefore, what this House should do is to refuse the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. HARDIE
It is a very strange thing that in this, the most essential relation between the human being and life and the application of his physical and mental qualities, there should this morning be such an exhibition of this continuity of confusion and, if I may say so, contusion, of thought. We have had in this House, as long as it has been a 894 House, this continuous fight between the man who says he owns the land and the rights of the people, who want to use that land in order to get the things by which to live. Since the land is the backbone of the human race, I have always been at a loss to know why we should always be quibbling as we have been this morning. It is nothing but sheer, unadulterated quibbling. Why do we not get down, not to a Bill containing a number of Clauses as does this Bill, but to a one-Clause Bill giving a definite human right of direct access to that which is the only source from which we draw our means of life. Instead, we have had an exhibition on the part of the right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRobert) lasting an hour and a half, in which he said nothing in regard to dealing with the essential relationship of land to the human race. He tried to show whether it was not better in these questions to look closely to see whether the Bill did or did not face the issue in regard to something which did not exist in the minds of those who drafted the previous Act. He has left the matter so that the lawyers will be able to take the money while we go to the poor-house. This Bill is a farce. I am not saying that in any way insulting to the hon. Member who moved it. I admire the work that he has put into it, and I have read what he has said on this subject, but it makes me all the more sure of what I have just said, when I see a man of his great knowledge in the Liberal party hesitating to bring in a practical Bill that we could have supported as a whole, instead of a Bill which is a Bill of reference, such as this one. If be had come forward with a straight and clear issue there would have been no difficulty in getting the Bill through the House.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
On a point of Order. My first point is that the Lord Advocate is not here, and my second point is that there is a very sparse attendance on the Liberal benches.
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young)
The hon. and gallant Member 895 must know that neither of those points are points of Order.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
On a point of Order. Is it not the custom of the House under the Standing Orders that the Motion for counting the House cannot be put between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.?
The Standing Order to which the right hon. Member refers does not apply to Fridays.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present. House counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am sure that the demonstration of intellectuality on the part of the hon. and gallant Gentleman for Louth (Lieut-Colonel Heneage) in causing a disturbance of the Debate, will be noted in this House. I was dealing with the question of the direct method of access to the land. Why should there be permitted any interruption so far as access to the land is concerned? Why should there be at any time any kind of interference by law to prevent people getting direct access to the only source of all wealth? We have had the right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew talking about the poor tenant being saddled with what was rightly the responsibility of the landlord. He was weeping tears without any salt in them. If I cared to quote from previous utterances of the same right hon. and learned Gentleman, I could show him that his statement this morning was an absolute contradiction of what he said in a similar case on a previous occasion. He wept crocodile tears about the poor tenant being saddled with the responsibility of the landlord without telling us that the wherewithal was produced by the tenant for the landlord in the first instance. The right hon. Gentleman assumed a sort of lachrymose feeling in regard to the poor tenant, but it was a very poor exhibition.
On this question of land in Scotland there has always been a fight about improvements. The Bill ought to have been quite definite on this subject, but it is not definite. What right has any man to that which is the work of another? We 896 had the right hon. and learned Gentleman talking about the smallholder who builds a smithy, and saying that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the landlord taking the smithy. Imagine the type of mind in 1929 that will still consider the necessity of having an Act of Parliament to prevent a landlord from stealing a blacksmith's shop from the man who built it! That is the moral message of the Tory party. It is when we come to the question of landlords that we get this type of argument. Why should we for a single moment presume that there is any right on the part of the landlord to take a smithy that he did not build? The whole legislation connected with land in Scotland is based upon legalised robbery by the landlord of the tenant's improvements.
There may be arguments about the productive capacity of land in these islands, especially in Scotland, but one of the greatest things which acts as a preventive in showing what can be produced in Scotland from the land belongs to that power which has so long resided in the landlord of taking from the tenant the improvements that he makes. The tenant is afraid to make improvements because he knows that he is going to have the value of those improvements taken from him in increased rent. That was why they shot landlords in Ireland; they would not stand it. The tenant in Scotland is much more patient. Just think about our having to promote a law in order to protect a man who has built a smithy, and who has not the right to it! And a right hon. Gentleman, skilled in the law, occupies 25 minutes to explain how necessary it is to protect such a man from a landlord who is always assumed to be a gentleman! Their actions do not conform to the qualities covered by the word "gentleman," so far as I know.
In regard to the right to kill game, we had another exhibition from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He gave us to understand that it was necessary for the Highlands of Scotland that we must have visitors from America to bring a few dollars in order that the men on the land may eke out an existence. That is not true. I am not permitted to use the language that I would like to use on this subject. It is humbug for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to talk 897 as he did. To say that the land of Scotland is such that we must have an influx of summer visitors to bring in so many pounds to enable our people to carry on through the remainder of the year is not true. Let us not forget that there was a big population there at one time. We have heard once more the cry: "What are we going to do with the land if we do not have sport; there will be nothing to attract the people." Has not Scotland natural beauties apart altogether from the idea of shooting something that is running about? It only shows that type of mind which is always trying to evade the real question.
The real question is not the attraction of visitors either with dollars from America or bank notes from England, but the rights of the people to the land. There is no need to talk about attracting visitors to the land, because if put to its best cultivation it can give continuous employment to the people. A great deal has been said on the question of large and small holdings. Why should that question be discussed? It does not matter what may be the size of the holding, the whole area should be taken into account and the latest machinery provided in order to plough and harrow the land. In the same way that a horse is loaned, in the case of one-horse areas, so also should machinery be loaned, and in that way, instead of the father and mother, the brother and sister, being continually at it with spade and shovel, you would provide the assistance of modern machinery and would have no reason to talk about the necessity of an influx of American visitors in order to enable those who live upon the land to eke out an existence.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the question of urban land, but he only dealt with it very lightly. This is an important matter as affecting the question of compensation. This House will be wise if it prevents any landlord taking what does not belong to him and securing that the value created by the community shall remain the property of the community. The family danger that has been referred to is based on the poverty of the people imposed from outside. There is no guarantee that the people in the distant parts of Scotland will get the value of the improvements they make to their holdings. I 898 should like to have seen this Bill take a grip of the whole subject from top to bottom and secure to those who are working on the land the rights which belong to them. It is not the easiest kind of work. Why should difficulties be put in the way of those who want to work on the land.
I can think of nothing more likely to destroy the capacity of this most essential section of our people than a small measure of relief here and a small measure of relief there. They are waiting for a great measure of relief to come along. There is no way out except direct honest dealing to secure to these people the results of their own labours, mental and physical. I know cases in which the tenants of farms pay the insurance premiums. I know a case where part of a farm was burn down. The landlord took the insurance, but did not rebuild the place. That kind of thing destroys the initiative of the individual and his natural desire to improve. It destroys altogether their desire to make things better than they found them. If this Bill does get a Second Reading I hope it will be drastically altered in Committee. I would rather see a one Clause Bill dealing thoroughly with the whole subject, giving the men on the land their proper rights, but if this Bill does go to a Committee it will have to receive drastic alteration if it is going to be of much value to those it seeks to help.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I do not propose to occupy much time in view of the fact that many colleagues of mine are desirous of saying a few words on the Bill. I congratulate the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) first upon his good fortune in securing a place in the ballot and, secondly, upon the very admirable speech he delivered which was not only comprehensive but lucid. And I can say the same about the speech of the Seconder of the Motion. We have listened to a speech delivered at great length from the Lord Advocate in the late Government. During one part of it I thought he was going to pursue his policy of talking out Bills. But what was it all about? My right hon. and learned Friend has a reputation in Scotland of getting up his work very thoroughly, but to-day he does not seem to have mastered the essential facts of the Bill and relied not only on 899 his own party, but on every other Member of the House who happened to be in the Chamber at the time to help him over his difficulties. Not only that, I have never listened in this House to a more reactionary speech and one would believe that the party to which the right hon. and learned Member belongs would have nothing to do with land reform in Scotland in any shape or form. A few moments ago, when the House was about to be counted out, I noticed that there was not a single Member from Scotland or England representing his party in their place in the House, and I gather from that, that whatever may happen in other quarters of the House, the party above the Gangway are determined not to give any measure of land reform to the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
Not to give this particular measure, which we think does not adequately deal with the situation.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
My right hon. and learned Friend tried to show that this was a Bill which could not be amended in Committee, but it was a significant fact that at the end of his speech—he may have forgotten it—he said that there were undoubtedly grievances so far as land settlement in Scotland is concerned and that they were dealt with in the Bill, but he did not agree with the way in which the Bill was drafted. He then went on to say that these were drafting points which could be remedied in Committee upstairs. He also took the point, which I thought was a very small one for so distinguished a Member of his House to take, that if a measure of land reform is to be produced why should it be left to a private Member to introduce it. Almost all the great measures of reform were primarily introduced into this House by a private Member, and it is a strange assertion of the rights of a democratic Government for my right hon. and learned Friend to say that when an hon. Member by leave of the House introduces a Bill it should go no further, however valuable it may be and however excellent it principles, simply and solely because it happens to be a private Member's Bill. Let my right hon. and learned Friend take the case of the Scottish Land Act of 1911. He mentioned it several times 900 during his speech. Does he know the history of that Act He will admit that it is the governing Act in land settlement reform in Scotland. Yet it was introduced by a private Member who at present represents one of the Divisions of Cornwall. What happened then is what, I hope, will happen now. That private Member's Bill was adopted by the Government and put through its various stages as a Government Measure.
I am exceedingly sorry that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has not spoken earlier in this Debate. I see my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate here, and I congratulate him, an old school and college friend of my own, on being in the place that he now occupies. I am exceedingly sorry that no Government spokesman has spoken earlier to-day, because we are entitled to know what the attitude of the Government is. Is the attitude of the Government the same as the attitude of the Liberal Government in 1911, when a private Member introduced a Bill dealing with this same subject and that Bill was taken over as a Government Measure? May I ask the Lord Advocate, if he is going to reply, or the Secretary for Scotland, whether the Government intend to give facilities to this Measure, or what attitude they propose to take with regard to it? That surely is a point which ought to be made abundantly clear.
My right hon. and learned Friend the late Lord Advocate knows that the grievances sought to be corrected by this Bill do exist in Scotland. I was astonished to hear him say, with regard to the statutory small tenant, that there was no outcry on his part regarding his position in the land system of Scotland. I do not say that there was an outcry in the ordinary sense of the term. What my hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill is trying to do is to give the statutory small tenant, who after ail was a creature of compromise in the 1911 Act, the same benefits as the ordinary landholder had before the 1911 Act. I was astonished that the late Lord Advocate took another point. He is opposing, no doubt on behalf of his party, an extension from 50 to 100 acres or from £50 to £100 rental.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
The meaning is abundantly clear. Knowing my right hon. Friend's lucidity of mind and ability to construe, t was astonished that he raised any such difficulty, because in my judgment he was the only man in the House of Commons at that time who did not understand what that Clause meant. It is a Clause which has been frequently discussed on platforms in Scotland at every conference, not only of Liberals or of Labour, but even of Unionists.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Not necessarily. It must obviously apply to all holders, not necessarily new holders. Naturally they would come in also. I would like a specific answer from my right hon. Friend. Does he, on behalf of his party, deny the right of these men to have security of tenure if their holdings are of 100 acres or if they pay £100 rental? Is that his position now?
§ Mr. MacROBERT
This party is quite prepared to consider that question if there is any demand or desire for the extension from 50 to 100 acres, but this particular Bill does not effect it, except as regards new holdings.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am surprised at the reply, because the National Farmers' Union of Scotland has consistently advocated this—not only security of tenure for farms of this size, but for all farms.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Yes. I am very much astonished to find the late Lord Advocate coming forward at this time of day and announcing that as the policy of the party to which he belongs. I am certain that there is not a single one of his party in Scotland, engaged in the agricultural industry, who will accept his view of the situation.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
This Bill does not give effect to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. It applies only to new holders. This party is prepared to consider a proper Bill dealing with the whole question of the land laws in Scotland.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
There is not a single word in the Bill about new holders as a class. The Bill deals with all holders whether new or old, and my right hon. 902 Friend knows that perfectly well. His next point related to the resumption of holdings. The proposal regarding the resumption of holdings is one that has been advocated by all my colleagues for the last ten years in this House. When the 1911 Act was passed, it was understood that all smallholders got security of tenure under that Act, and when litigation took place, upon a certain point which was discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine in his very able speech, the Court of Session decided in fact that there was not really the security of tenure which in Scotland we all thought was sacrosanct so far as the smallholder was concerned. Accordingly we have put into the Bill a Clause making it impossible in future, upon any pretext whatever, for any man to be turned out of his holding.
My right hon. and learned Friend the late Lord Advocate also discussed the question of game at great length. I am certain that if he went to Scotland at this very moment, he would find, in the fields there, game eating the crops, and very likely to-night he would find a great many deer raiding the land and destroying the crops in many of the crofting townships of the North of Scotland. I remember, that in the 1911 discussion much time was given to debating whether the landlord should be compelled to fence his forests. I forget exactly what was the result of the discussion, but since then times have changed, and both landlords and holders have come to the conclusion that something radical has to be done, so far as this particular form of destruction is concerned. From the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRobert) one would think that his party were not prepared to do anything in this matter, but some party in the House will have to do something soon to deal with this question. I am glad that the hon. Member for Kincardine has included this important Clause in his Bill. It is a struggle on these uplands in the Highlands, and even in the Lowlands, to bring the crops to maturity, and there can be nothing more heartbreaking than to feel that deer can come down in the middle of the night, without let or hindrance, into these holdings and destroy the work, not only of nature, but of man, which has been so arduously performed during the preceding months.
903 There are two other points in this Bill which I have raised on more than one occasion in this House. I refer to the question of land within Burgh Charter boundaries. It seems an iniquitous thing that burghs should have control over lands which are really outside their administrative areas. The other point is that relating to equipped rents. I have on more than one occasion put questions on this subject to the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not now in his place, but probably the Lord Advocate will tell him that I have raised this point once again. It is dealt with in Clause 16 of the present Bill. I have 'had the opportunity of discussing this question with more than one land reformer, bath in the Government and out of the Government, and they have all arrived at the same conclusion—that the present system cannot stand and that it is unjust, inequitable and even iniquitous.
I therefore ask the Lord Advocate to let us know what is the intention of the Government concerning this point. There is no justification for the present attitude of the Department of Agriculture. They have in this case been dealing with public money, and they are abusing the power which the State has given them. I have come across more than one case of particular hardship in this connection. As I say, we would like to hear as soon as possible what is the attitude of the Government towards this Measure. We as a party are determined to do what in us lies to reform the admitted grievances which exist at the present time—grievances admitted even by the late Lord Advocate at the end of his speech. It is all very well to talk about the codification of the system, but our only opportunity is to go by degrees and the codification can be done later. Where grievances are admitted we cannot wait for codification. We have to go step by step. This may be a modest step, but it is a comprehensive step, and I for one will give my hearty support to the Measure as it stands.
§ Sir HARRY HOPE
As I listened to the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) explaining the provisions of this Bill, I was impressed with the complete unreality of the proceedings this afternoon. This Bill proposes to make a 904 fundamental and far-reaching change in the system of land tenure in Scotland and at the time when the hon. Member proposes this change it is not the question of the merits or demerits of the land system about which the people of Scotland are thinking but rather the question of how they are going to carry on and to survive the ruinous period through which agriculture is passing. Were it not for the credit given by banks and merchants hundreds of occupiers in Scotland would be turned out of their homes. It is in such a situation that the hon. Member brings forward this Bill. I think it would be much more helpful to the people whom we are all anxious to serve, if instead of going into a controversial subject of this kind, we united to set up a conference, representative of the three political parties, to hammer out some practical and progressive scheme for the benefit of agriculture as a whole.
The hon. Member in introducing this Bill is raising a question of the first magnitude. I was in the House when the 1911 Measure was introduced and as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) has just said, it was originally introduced by a private Member, but it was taken up by my right hon. Friend's party who were then in power, and it became a Government Measure. On the present occasion we have not that situation. This Bill has been introduced by a Member of one of the Opposition parties, and it has not been taken up, and I presume has little chance of being taken up, by the Government now in power. The hon. Member for Kincardine achieved a unique performance this afternoon. He introduced this very interesting Measure in a very comprehensive speech and vet he absolutely ignored the findings of the Committee which has recently reported on this subject. Generally speaking, when any subject is brought forward in this House, we hear of the findings of any committees or commissions which have dealt with that subject. We had a committee appointed in 1927 on this subject. It was presided over by Sir John Nairn and hon. Members opposite will be interested to know that one of the other Members was Mr. Joseph Duncan, the trade union secretary for the farm servants in Scotland. Other Members of the Committee were Mr. Norman Reid, Mr. John Spiers, and Mr. Campbell.
§ Sir H. HOPE
I propose to refer to one or two of the recommendations of the Nairn Committee, and the House will then see whether any of those findings are relevant to the subject now under discussion or not. The Committee passed 15 recommendations which appear in paragraph 112 of their Report, and they passed some other recommendations which appear in Appendix 7. Out of the 15 recommendations in paragraph 112 of the Report only one is being given effect to in the Bill while of the recommendations in Appendix 7, not a single one has been adopted. So much for the foundations of the Bill. All the recommendations of the Nairn Committee with one exception have been passed over unheeded. In paragraph 62 of their report we find this opinion expressed by the Nairn Committee.We are of opinion that the experiment initiated. by the Act of 1911 of extending crofting tenure to the Lowlands has not been a success.Yet here we have a Bill which proposes to increase the scope of that crofter system of tenure The right hon. and learned Member for Ross and Cromarty paid absolutely no heed to the findings of the Nairn Committee. I say that a Measure drafted in such a careless manner as that, ignoring facts which have been brought forward to public attention, is a Bill which certainly does not deserve to receive a Second Reading in this House to-day. I hope, as the late Lord Advocate said, that we might be able to introduce a far better Measure than this, founded upon some of the facts which have been revealed to us by that knowledgeable Committee, of which, as I have said, the official representative of the farm servants of Scotland was a member. When we have that official Report in front of us, I think we should he doing bad work here in the House of Commons to pass a controversial Measure, so hastily framed, and founded on so little evidence, as this Bill. As the late Lord Advocate Said, this-Bill, if passed into law, would create grave disturbance in the Highlands Of Scotland. I hold no brief for 906 the landowners in Scotland, but I know perfectly well that if this Measure were passed into law, there are many estates in the Highlands which would be absolutely unsaleable, and we should bring about a state of affairs in those counties which I believe would be lamentable. Let us here this afternoon refuse to give a Second Reading to a Bill not founded upon the facts revealed by a responsible Committee, but rather let us combine together in a non-controversial and non-party manner and bring forward a Measure which would do far more for the benefit of Scotland.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. William Adamson)
It may be convenient that at this stage I should indicate the attitude of the Government towards the Bill moved by the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott). It is needless for me to say that any Measure that will facilitate land settlement in Scotland or that will improve the condition of the landholder will have our support, and while this Bill does not do all that we desire in either of these directions, it certainly does something to improve the conditions of the smallholder. I therefore suggest that the House should give a Second Reading to the Bill. The hon. Member for Kincardine, who introduced the Bill in a very able speech, made an appeal to all political parties to join with him and his friends in making this Bill a useful Measure for that section of our people who are interested in land culture. He also paid, a well deserved tribute to our Scottish smallholders. So far as we on this side are concerned, while I cannot promise to give him any facilities for the Bill, we readily respond to the invitation to join him in attempting, if the time available permits, to make this a workable Measure, and anything that we can do to improve the conditions of that thrifty, hard-working section of our people will be readily done.
It is not surprising that time and experience should have disclosed defects in the procedure and tenure of the 1911 Act, and I understand, both from the Bill and from the speeches of the Mover and Seconder, that the Bill proposes to remedy some of these defects. It must not be taken, however, that I am approving all that is in the Bill. While the Bill remedies some of the defects of the 1911 907 Act, there are others which it does not touch, but if the Mover is fortunate enough to get his Bill committed to a Standing Committee, there we shall have the opportunity of putting in the Amendments that he has failed to do. There are also extensive drafting alterations that will be required if the Bill is to be really watertight and workable. The right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRobert), who moved the rejection of the Bill, appealed across the Floor to me to confirm a similar statement to that effect which he had made. Whether he had made that appeal or not, it would have been my duty to point out that there are very extensive drafting Amendments required in the Bill in order to make it watertight and workable.
Then there is the proposal of the Mover of the Bill to increase the maximum rent of the registered smallholder from £50 to £100 and to increase the acreage which he, may hold from 50 acres to 100 acres. That increase is moved as compared with the figure set forth in the Small Landholders Act of 1911, under which a person may not be registered as a smallholder in respect of a holding which is worth more than a rent of £50 per year unless the acreage does not exceed 50 acres. This means that there is no limit to the acreage of the smallholding so long as the annual value does not exceed £50. On the other hand, the rental value may exceed £50 if the acreage does not exceed 50 acres. The increase proposed by the Mover of the Bill, from the point of view of those of us who are keenly interested in speeding up land settlement to the maximum available, is a serious one and is a proposal that will require to be given very careful consideration before it could be assented to. While the Nairn Committee recommended increase of the rental and acreage, I am advised that there is ample scope for land settlement within existing limits and personally, I cannot give an undertaking that we as a Government will agree to that particular part of the Bill.
There are other points in the Bill that require certain consideration. When we have accomplished all that we can do by way of amendment, there remain difficulties inherent in the nature and the foundation of the Act of 1911. There 908 are more of these inherent difficulties than the time that I am going to take to-day will permit me to deal with. It will be necessary for me to deal with only one of them. As it is, it is well that we have the alternative method of land purchase which was provided by the Land Settlement Act, 1919. That power, as the House knows, was a temporary one, but it has been found so useful by successive Governments that it has been continued from year to year under the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Act, and it is very necessary that the Department of Agriculture should have that power. Land settlement by purchase has the advantage over the Act of 1911 of simplicity of administration, and on land owned by the State the smallholder has undoubtedly far greater security than he has on land that is owned by the private individual.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I do not think there is any question about it. I have some little experience of it, and I have no hesitation in saying that the tenant has greater security on land owned by the State than he has on privately owned land. While that is so, I am not prepared at the present time to abandon the 1911 Act entirely, and I would advise the House to take this opportunity, if time can be found, of doing our best to improve this Bill, and to make it a useful Measure as far as our smallholders in Scotland are concerned.
There is one other point only with which I should like to deal in a very short way. The right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrewshire, in the course of his speech—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where is he?"]—I do not know. He has disappeared. The right hon. and learned Member, in the course of his speech, said no doubt they would have the Secretary of State for Scotland giving a legal explanation of the position and of the terms of the Bill. I do not profess to have legal knowledge. I have never made any claim to be possessed of legal knowledge, but if some of our experiences in the Committee yesterday and the House to-day are an example of how the legal mind can guide us in difficult legal matters, it is about time, I think, that the layman was taking a hand, and seeing if it was not possible to draft a Measure that will be less objectionable 909 and more useful to our people than some previously drafted, mainly by legal Members in this House.
I should like to say a word about another point which was raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who seriously warned the House that the destruction of the sporting estates in the Highlands of Scotland would be a very serious thing for Scotland itself. I do not know that any side of the House has proposed to destroy the sporting rights in Scotland. I do not know what ground there was for uttering so solemn a warning. This Bill certainly does not propose to destroy the sporting estates in Scotland, and neither from one side of the House nor the other have I heard anyone suggest it; but I would like to have had the opportunity of saying to the hon. Member, hail he been present, that it was a far more serious thing to destroy in Scotland the indefeasible right of our people to their holdings than the destruction of sporting estates would be. The destruction of the indefeasible rights of the people, not on the particular estates with which the right hon. and learned Member dealt, led to our people having to leave the country in very large numbers. That was a far more serious thing than the destruction of sporting estates. But the Bill does not propose to destroy them, and; as I have said, I have heard no one in the course of the discussion make any suggestion about destroying the sporting rights, and I cannot understand what was in the mind of my right hon. and learned Friend when he issued that solemn warning to the House. I do not wish to occupy the time of the House further than to say that this is an important Measure concerning a large and very important section of our people, and I hope the House will consent to this Bill being read a Second time.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
We on these benches have to thank the Secretary of State for Scotland for the way in which he has met us over this Bill. The manner in which he has met us stands out in marked contrast to the speeches that have been made on this side of the House. He realised the difficulty which this Bill tries to face, while on this side of the House the speeches pointed to the difficulties as though they were lions in the way. There are two ways of tackling a lion: one is 910 to run away from the lion, and the other is to make the lion, if you can, run away from you. The hon. Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope) said that this Bill had been brought forward in an atmosphere of unreality, and he asked for a general conference. There is an opportunity for a general conference in the Committee stage on this Bill. The Bill deals with admitted grievances. Experience has shown us where the shoe pinches, and here is an attempt to make the shoe fit a bit easier. When the hon. Member for Forfar suggests that this Bill has been brought forward in an atmosphere of unreality, he bases himself entirely on the findings of the Land Commission, which was appointed to report on a different matter from the matters contained in this Bill. May I refer him to a recent manifesto of the National Farmers' Union in Scotland, which was written in 1927 and has been re-issued in the last week or two? The first paragraph runs as follows:Security of tenure should be conferred on all occupiers or agricultural holdings, subject to proper safeguards in regard to good farming, regular payment of a proper rent, and all questions affecting termination of tenancy, compensation for improvements and for disturbance in the event of land being taken for public purposes, being tackled, in the absence of agreement, by a competent statutory authority.That is what we propose in this Bill. One of the proposals is to extend the advantages of the statutory authority of the Land Court from the small holdings of £50 and 50 acres to the larger holdings of £100 and 100 acres. I would, incidentally, remind the House that values have changed very much since 1911, and that what was represented by £50 then and by £50 now are different matters. That manifesto, referring to the sections at the head of the manifesto, namely, security of tenure to the occupier, the occupier's right to improve, and the occupier's right to compensation for improvements, goes on to say:Until these principles are established law, agriculture cannot progress as it ought to and could, and food production cannot be increased, nor unemployment lessened as they might be.That is the view that the farmers of Scotland take, and I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Forfar if he sets himself up in opposition to this view, and if he still says that this Bill is brought forward in an atmosphere of unreality. It so happens that this Bill, 911 which my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) has been good enough to bring in, is based on his own experience of years, experience which coincides with that of other people who have given any attention to the working of land tenure in Scotland. He is rein forced by the manifesto of the farmers in Scotland. It is idle for the right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRobert) to say that there is no demand for these things. The farmers of Scotland say, "There will be no progress in agriculture until we get these things"—some of the most important things which this Bill contains. I admit that the Bill, from the very nature of things, has to cover a fairly wide area, and the Secretary of State rightly pointed out that there are considerable difficulties in putting into shape some of the objects that we have in view in some of the Clauses. Although it might be necessary in Committee entirely to rewrite or to jettison some of the Clauses, there are portions of the Bill which are so valuable that we ought to do all that we can to secure them.
I should like to call the attention of the House to what I consider the particularly valuable portions of the Bill. The first, of course, is the extension of the principle of the Landholders Act so as to include larger holdings. I am one of those who would like to see the principle which has been so satisfactory in regard to smallholdings extended to all holdings, not only in Scotland, but in England. We should try to get security of tenure, with a court fixing fair rent and compensation, the tenant being bound to farm well, so that the only reason a tenant could lose his holding would be that he did not pay his rent and did not farm well. On those lines you will get a bigger advance in agriculture than on any other lines. It is for that reason that I attach such great importance to that Clause. Another Clause to which I am particularly attached is Clause 4, because I had the honour some- time ago of introducing a small Bill to effect the object which this Clause seeks to attain. Only the other day my hon. and gallant Friend the member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) reintroduced that Bill, but it had no fortune, and I hope that at long last it will become law as Clause 4. As long as that loophole 912 exists, every smallholder in Scotland feels a sense of insecurity. It may be argued, and it has been put forward, that the number of cases in which the Land Court had considered themselves bound to give the resumption because of the law which we see in the Act, is small, but we cannot judge of the effect by the number of cases which have been decided. A number of cases do not come into court at all, but far more important is the sense of insecurity that runs through the whole of the smallholders in Scotland, because, if one man is made insecure by that law, everyone feels insecure. I hope that that will be remedied by this Clause.
The right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew suggested that this Clause went further than was intended. I am not quite so sure. It may be argued that in the 1886 Act it is left to the discretion of the Court, and that his Clause would leave no discretion to the Court, who would say that the mere fact that a purchaser had no other landed property should not be deemed a reasonable cause under the Act. That is a matter that we can discuss in Committee. I do not think that I ever heard on the Second Reading such an elaborate Committee speech as was made by the right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew. It is obvious that the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill was trying to give some explanation of the various Clauses, but, when we come to consider a Bill on its merits on Second Reading, I would like to suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we would have preferred to hear him talk on principles rather than on details and drafting. So much of his speech was devoted to the question of drafting and wording. As I said earlier, the reason why so much of his speech was devoted to those matters was that he dislikes the Bill from top to bottom and wanted to find every reason against it that he could.
I myself do not want to be led off into dealing with Committee points. I would commend the Bill to the House as being an effort made by a private Member—more honour to the private Member that he should have made it—on a rather large scale to remedy well-known grievances. If we get the good fortune to have an early committal of the Bill to the Scottish Standing Committee, I appeal to 913 Scottish Members on all sides of the House to lay their heads together to see if we cannot produce a useful Act which will confer benefit, not only on the existing smallholders, but on the more numerous class of smallholders we hope to make in Scotland.
Mr. R. W. SMITH
I beg to move,That the Debate be now adjourned.The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) has referred a great deal to what has been said by the National Farmers' Union. I would like to know how many members of the National Farmers' Union really agree with the proposals of the executive of that Union. I know a very large number of farmers who are entirely opposed to the proposals which the National Farmers' Union have put forward, and it is not right to come here and quote the National Farmers' Union as representing the opinion of the agricultural interests in Scotland, because it does not really do that. I think it is right that the National Farmers' Union say the first thing required is security of tenure for all agricultural tenants. This Bill does not give anything of the kind to all agricultural tenants. If we are to have a Bill to give security of tenure in all agricultural holdings, let it be produced, and we will argue the question on the floor of the House. One of the strongest objections I have to this Bill is that it is an attempt to give security of tenure through the Agricultural Holdings Act to these smallholders. First of all holdings of under 50 acres were dealt with. This Bill proposes to raise the figure to £100 and 100 acres. I suppose that next year the Radical party will be coming forward with a Bill to raise it from 100 acres to 200 acres; and so on until we have dealt with all holdings.
That is not the way in which to come to this House and ask it to deal with landlords in Scotland. Why not be honest about it and say "Our proposal is to bring about absolute security of tenure for the farmers with no rights at all to the landlords"? Reference has been made to the resumption of holdings. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said in looking at this question we must not take into account the number of applications there have been. Of course we should; we are perfectly entitled to do that. It is the natural thing to do in 914 order to see whether there is a growing movement or not. If there is not a demand for resumption, why on earth do we want any change? I would like to give the House the figures of resumptions. The cases of resumption for personal residence which have come before the Land Court since 1912 number only 149. Before 1920 the highest number of applications was only four in a year From 1920 to 1926 there were double figures each year—14, 16, 18, 13, 30 and so on. In 1927 there were only six cases, and in 1928 eight. This year, up to October, there has been only one application.
The figures I have quoted as to the number of applications were given by the Secretary of State for Scotland in reply to a question by the right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRobert). I think I am entitled to take those figures as correct, and according to them the total number is 149. Now I want to come to what has been said by the Secretary of State for Scotland, because it is important to see what is the point of view of the Government. We were told by the Secretary of State for Scotland that he had no legal knowledge, none at all; and then we found the hon. Member for Orkney objecting to the legal argument which was put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Renfrew. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said: "It is perfectly natural that the promoter of the Bill should give a long explanation of it, in order to show how it works." Surely, it is equally reasonable for those who are opposed to the Bill also to take time to show that its proposals are absolutely wrong, and how can that be done if a Member who speaks with legal knowledge does not deal with every single item in the Bill?
We are here to show that this Bill, through and through, is a badly drafted Bill. The Secretary of State says, "I have no legal knowledge." In that ease ought not the Lord Advocate for Scotland to be in his place in order to give the necessary legal information? During practically the whole of the time the ex-Lord Advocate was speaking the present 915 Lord Advocate was not present. We have had the view of the promoter that the Bill means a certain thing, we have had the view of the ex-Lord Advocate that it means something quite different, and surely the reasonable thing would have been for the Government's legal adviser to give us a statement as to what he holds to be the right interpretation of the Bill. If we do not have such an interpretation, I feel very much inclined to move the adjournment of the House.
I wish to say a word or two more about the Bill, because this is a serious matter, and I may remark that in view of what we hear about the interest of the Labour party in the land in Scotland it is worth while to point out how few of the Scottish Members of the Labour party are present. It is an extraordinary thing that we should be asked on a Friday afternoon to pass a Measure which deals with land tenure in Scotland in a House which is so sparsely filled; and I also take strong exception to the fact that the Lord Advocate is not present. On behalf of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman said that they approve of the Bill, and he has asked the House to give it a Second Reading. After giving us that advice, the hon. Gentleman turns round and says that the Bill will require drastic alteration. The Secretary of State for Scotland has given the House that advice, and yet we do not know what his views are in regard to this Measure. This means that the House is being asked to give the Government a blank cheque to do what they like. I thought that we were going to have from the right hon. Gentleman a declaration as to the agricultural policy of the Government in Scotland. We have tried by questions in the House to find out what is the agricultural policy of the Government and the only reply we can get is that the Government have an agricultural policy, but that they cannot explain it to the House just now.
On this question of an agricultural policy for Scotland, the Secretary of State for Scotland says, "We have a policy, but I am not going to let you know what it is until we get to the Committee stage of the Small Landholders 916 Bill." That is not a statesmanlike way of dealing with an important industry like agriculture. It is a perfect disgrace to deal with it in that way, because it is a question which means so much to the people of Scotland. There are a number of other questions connected with this Bill upon which a large number of hon. Members are anxious to hear the views of the Secretary of State, but the right hon. Gentleman, instead of giving his views, said that he would not take up the time of the House any further.
I want to say a word or two about the Bill itself. I have listened to this Debate very attentively from the beginning. Unlike some hon. Members who have spoken, I am a Scotsman and I have lived all my life in Scotland. Consequently I have a good claim to speak for Scotland. Most of those who have addressed the House on this Bill have been speaking from the point of view of the crofting counties.
§ 3.0 p.m.
Mr. R. W. SMITH
Up to now the question has been dealt with mainly from the point of view of the smallholders. Hon. Members have described how these smallholders obtained a bit of ground, cultivated it, built upon it and equipped it. May I point out that the object of the Act of 1886 was to give those smallholders the right which they now enjoy? I think we ought to look at this matter from the point of view of all those who are interested. It is not merely a question of the tenant or the landlord, but it is a question which affects the whole of Scotland and the whole of the British Isles. So many people, in approaching this problem, always look at it from the point of view of the small landholder, and they do not think of the interests of anybody else. I ask the House to look at this question from the point of view of agriculture. How are we going to help agriculture by this Bill Personally I do not think that this Measure will have a beneficial effect on agriculture, but on the contrary I think it will 917 make things worse for a very large part of the population of Scotland who are so dependent on agriculture.
I would like to say a word or two about the question of the Game Laws. Whenever anybody on this side of the House rises to speak about the Game Laws, they are frequently faced with wild interruptions from hon. Members on the other side of the House. One hon. Member opposite has already gone so far as to suggest that it is the right thing to do to shoot landlords. In connection with the Game Laws, the shooting of landlords was not an unknown thing in Ireland and why should hon. Members talk about introducing in Scotland a policy which created numerous disturbances in Ireland, which caused many deaths, and which in the end cost this country many millions of money in the shape of land purchase?
I would like to remind hon. Members that if they vote for this Bill they will destroy, to a very large extent, the shooting rights on many estates in Scotland. In the Tartan Book issued by the Liberal party the question of the game laws is dealt with. In many of the counties of Scotland the rates and taxes are paid largely by the man who owns the shooting rights, and if we destroy those rights we shall be placing a very heavy burden on all those who live in the adjacent parishes. In this country we have a very elaborate system of shooting rights and now, by means of this Bill, it is proposed to destroy those rights in Scotland. I know that the promoters of this Bill say that that is not their intention. If that be so, then I would suggest that the promoters should withdraw this Bill and bring in another Measure, because it is quite clear, as has been pointed out by the right hon. Member for East Renfrew, that under this Bill the tenants are to have the right to shoot both winged and ground game. If you give the tenants the right to shoot game in that way, there is not the slightest doubt that in many cases they will destroy what is now in Scotland a very valuable asset. Does it not seem extraordinarily unfair that, because a man happens to be a small landholder under this Bill, he is to have the right to destroy ground game, and also to kill and take deer and winged game that may stray on to his holding, whereas the tenant next door, whose rent 918 is over £100 or whose farm is over 100 acres, is to have no right to protect his crops? Why should a man, because his rent happens to be no more than £100, or his farm no more than 100 acres, have the power to destroy all these rights which were carefully protected many years ago by special Acts. It is a ridiculous anomaly.
It may be said that this only applies to the smallholder, and that he is only allowed to deal with the question of the destruction of crops on his ground. But have hon. Members looked at Sub-section (3) of Clause 14, and realised what it means? It allows the landholder, not only to destroy ground game on his own holding, but also to enter the coverts, rabbit warrens and woods on the land of adjoining proprietors, and to destroy game in them. Surely, that is a very extraordinary position. I was rather struck by the remark of the Mover of the Bill that it does not take away from the landlords anything to which they are entitled in justice or equity. Is it justice to allow a man to go on to another person's property and destroy what happens to be there? If that is what the hon. Member calls justice and equity, I am afraid that justice and equity in this country have sunk to a very low level.
I sincerely ask the House, therefore, to consider very carefully this question of game. It means loss to the country because of the shooting rights; it has been pointed out that it will mean loss in many cases to the small landholders themselves; and there is no doubt that it will also put heavier burdens on those who happen to hold their land on different conditions. The Bill proposes to make drastic changes in the system of land tenure in Scotland. It is said that it only applies to small holdings, but I hope the House will remember that there are in Scotland 75,812 holdings of over one acre and under 50 acres, while of these no fewer than 50,346 are under 50 acres. If we bring the acreage up to 100, we shall have to add over 10,000 more. That means that in the case of a very large proportion of all the holdings in Scotland the conditions of tenure are going to be altered by this Bill.
Then we come to the extraordinary point with regard to the question of rentals. According to the law at the 919 present time, a holding of 50 acres, or one let at a rent of £50, constitutes a smallholding, and it is proposed to raise those figures to 100 acres and £100. Will anyone tell me that you cannot have an agricultural holding, valued at under £100, which comprises hundreds of acres? Can anyone in this House say that that is really a small holding? It would be ridiculous to say so. You may have a huge sheep farm, with hundreds of head of sheep on it, valued at £100 per annum. Is that a small holding? On the other hand, take the case of a holding of 100 acres quite close to a large town. That is probably let at from £3 to £4 per acre, so that 100 acres of land is worth from £300 to £400 per annum. That cannot be called a small holding either.
The idea of the Small Holdings Acts, as I understand them, was to see that the small man, who perhaps had little education and was unable to look after his own interests, should be protected by the State. The small man was up against the landlord, who tried to get all he could out of his tenants, and the State stepped in to protect this small man who did not understand how to make a bargain. But is a man who is paying £300 a year for a 100-acre farm not perfectly capable of looking after his own interests? With the improvements in education that have taken place during the past few years, surely we are entitled to say that the people of Scotland can look after themselves and make their own bargains.
It has been said that we have no right to refer to the Report of the Committee on Land Settlement, but I think we have every right to refer to it. It had to do with the settlement of smallholders in Scotland, and if, as the Committee found, that settlement has not been a success, why should we go on continuing to create agricultural holdings in Scotland? There seems to be no point in doing so if it is not going to be successful. They examined a very large number of witnesses. They had the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, various churches, the smallholders themselves and the Scottish Farmers' Union. They said:Many complaints of smallholders were made that they would be compelled to pay two rents.920 You are going to perpetuate that by the Bill. If the Department of Agriculture plants out smallholdings, it puts up the buildings itself. The man has to raise a loan for the cost of putting up the buildings, so he has to pay interest on the loan and to pay his rent as well. These people object to that and say it is very hard that they should have to pay two rents, and I think they are quite right. You are going to continue that. The most important finding is this:—We are of opinion that the experiment initiated by the Act of 1911 of extending crofting tenure to the Lowlands has not been a success.That is the centre of the whole thing. You want to sweep away the statutory small tenant. I think the promoters of the Act of 1911 were very wise in defining the difference between landholders and small tenants. The landholders were the original crofters and the others were really tenants, and they looked upon them as tenants and wanted to continue them as tenants. You are going to sweep away a form of tenure which people very well understand in the Lowlands. They understand the ordinary case of landlord and tenant, and a lease, and they like it. Further, one has to remember that there has been no demand whatever on the part of the statutory small tenants to be created small landholders. They have not asked for it. If they had really wanted the protection afforded by the Bill they would have applied to be created small landholders, but they have not done so.
There is another point with regard to the unfairness to landlords. You are going to hand the upkeep of the farm buildings to the tenant. It is a most extraordinary thing. You compel a man to hand over his property to be maintained by someone else and to have no say in how it is to be maintained. That is most unfair. Why does the Department of Agriculture not act in the same way? It does not put up buildings and hand them over to the small landholder. It says the small landholder has to pay rent, and so much towards the cost of the building. They give him a loan. The buildings are supposed to be a loan, and he has to pay interest. They do not put themselves in the position of a landlord. It conies to this, that the Department of Agriculture says, "for what we own we 921 must have cash," but when it comes to the unfortunate landowner he is to have nothing at all. He is simply to hand it over to be maintained by someone else. That is really a most unfair way to deal with it.
I feel very strongly on this question of the alteration of the law relating to smallholding in Scotland, for I believe this is not only to be an alteration in the law of Scotland in regard to small holdings but also in regard to land tenure in Scotland. Then, I suggest, it would not only apply to holdings of 100 acres, but would be made to apply to holdings of 200 acres, and so on. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I have received a cheer from the Liberal party. That is what I want. It shows that we are going to have this sort of legislation in the country, and that we are going to have it done by back-door methods. I do not know whether it is realised that the Liberal party are going on these lines in order to introduce an alteration in our land tenure in Scotland. I feel that in regard to this point, which is of such vital importance to the welfare of our nation and also to the landlords of Scotland, we ought to have the Lord Advocate in his place. I, therefore, wish to move the Adjournment of the Debate until we have heard from the Lord Advocate what is the exact meaning of this Bill.
§ Major ELLIOT
I beg to second the Motion. It seem to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. R. W. Smith) gave the greatest possible notice to the Lord Advocate that his presence was desired. He did not speak in any hurried way, but allowed the Lord Advocate plenty of time to return to the House. We all know that it is not possible to get Ministers at short notice, but the Lord Advocate cannot be ignorant of the fact that his presence has been requested by private Members. As one who has taken great interest in private Members' days and a considerable part in debate as a private Member, I think it is treating private Members with less than courtesy. I do not think that, on a Bill brought forward and backed by hon. and right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, the chief Officers of State should treat them in this discourteous fashion. Officers of State are paid by this House, and they are paid 922 for the purpose of giving the House guidance. All that we have had from the Secretary of State for Scotland is a statement that he is no lawyer.
§ Mr. W. ADAMSON
That was not all the House had from the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland said that he did not profess to be a lawyer, but he added that if the guidance that the Committee and the House received from the lawyers yesterday and to-day was an example of what the lawyers could do, it was time for the laymen in the House to take a hand in the game.
§ Major ELLIOT
That raises a new and an extraordinary issue. It is usual to have an attack made by the back benches upon the Government Front Bench but not to have an attack upon the Government Front Bench made by the Government Front Bench. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman said that if the guidance given yesterday by the lawyers was to be taken as an example—[Interruption.] I am within the recollection of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland has just said that if the guidance which the Committee received yesterday from the lawyers is to be taken as an example—
§ Mr. ADAMSON
To-day. I was referring to the right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRoberts), who took up an hour and a half with his speech.
§ Major ELLIOT
This is the first time that I have intervened in the Debate. It is a demonstration of the difficult position in which this House is placed, that the Secretary of State has to intervene again, which he can do only by leave of the House, and even then only for a short time, instead of the necessary reply being delivered by his great colleague, the Lord Advocate. There are other points to be dealt with, and the other great officer of State for Scotland is the proper Minister to bring them out. I took it that the Secretary of State for Scotland was referring to the intervention in debate of the Attorney-General in his own Government.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The hon. and gallant Member could not understand anything of the sort, because he was not present in the House when I spoke.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I put it to the hon. and gallant Member across the Table when he had attempted to quote my words. He could not quote my words correctly, because he was not present when they were uttered.
§ Major ELLIOT
The right hon. Gentleman said to me—and this was said not in any other portion of the Debate—that if the guidance which we received yesterday in Committee—[HON. MEMBERS: "And to-day."] Yesterday was one of the days which the Secretary of State specifically mentioned.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member has entirely misunderstood the position. He has intervened in a Debate which he does not understand and on a subject of which he is entirely ignorant. The Secretary of State said, not five minutes ago, that if the guidance given to the Committee yesterday and to the House to-day was an example of what lawyers can do, then it was time that laymen took a hand in the game. [Interruption.] The hon. Member is not merely wrong, but he is persistently and obstinately wrong. Nobody minds the hon. Member for Claycross (Mr. Duncan) being wrong. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman's conclusions may be in regard to the Attorney-General, I will not enter further into the matter, but my point is that the Lord Advocate for Scotland is not in his place now.
§ Major ELLIOT
The right hon. Gentleman who was Lord Advocate in our Government was in his place during the discussion of a Bill bristling with technicalities, and I prefer to be guided by the great law officers of the Crown who, speaking with that authority which they gain from their knowledge of an intricate and difficult science, alone can give us guidance. I refer to the previous Lord Advocate and the present Lord Advocate. They are the officers from whom the House rightly demands guidance. We have had guidance from the Lord Advocate in the Conservative ad- 924 ministration. We have had guidance, as hon. Members admit, full measure, pressed down and running over. He never stinted himself in his efforts to make clear this complicated Measure, although he is not paid for it. What about the man who is paid £5,000 a year. Where is he? [An HON. MEMBER: "Spending it."] Hon. Members below the Gangway have a right to complain also—
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. and gallant Member may not be complaining. He may be willing and anxious to have this hotchpotch of irregularities which is brought forward smuggled through and not criticised by the keen and active intelligence of the Lord Advocate for Scotland. He may not complain, but we say that we too are concerned in this question, and we think the Lord Advocate ought to be here to give us his opinion for or against a Measure of this importance.
§ Major ELLIOT
I should never have intervened in this Debate at all—[Interruption.]—save for the fact that as a Member of the House of Commons I claim the right to have the attendance of the great officers of State when we are discussing a Bill of this importance, and unless hon. Members below the Gangway absolutely abnegate the position of guarding the rights of this House they will join with me in this protest. I await with eager anticipation their joining in this protest. If the Lord Advocate is going to criticise this Measure obviously it would be better that that criticism should be made on the Floor of this House, where it can be discussed and canvassed, rather than that we should wait to hear the Lord Advocate in the somewhat informal atmosphere of the Committee room upstairs. Time is running on—[Interruption.]—and still the Lord Advocate does not appear. His presence has been requested by a legal colleague of his.
§ Major ELLIOT
We are alive at any rate in this matter. We ask for guid- 925 ance; that is what we are demanding. We ask for guidance on these complicated and difficult legal matters; the guidance which should be given by the officer of the Crown paid specially to give that guidance. The Secretary of State for Scotland whose admirable power of clarity and simplicity of expression, his modesty and facility in debate, is still not fully equipped with that legal knowledge and training which is necessary if the speech of the ex-Lord Advocate is to be canvassed in the way in which it should be canvassed. I cannot conceive any reason for the absence of the Lord Advocate.
§ Major ELLIOT
It may well be said 40 times, and said indeed until the Lord Advocate cuts short the Debate by appearing. Immediately he appears I shall be more than ready to resume my seat. I am not speaking for the pleasure of it. [Interruption.] Does anybody think it is a grateful task to criticise one of the chief officers of Scottish administration?
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser), who often criticises other hon. Members who sit for Scottish constituencies for not being as Scotch as himself, desires to intervene in our debate. Does he think he can take the place of the Lord Advocate? If so, I am willing to give way to him. I understand that that is not his intention. Does he think it is desirable that we should have the Lord Advocate with us, or does he think it is desirable that he should not be here The hon. Member does not answer. He thinks it better that the Lord Advocate should not be here. That point of view may be all very well for him, but it will not be understood or appreciated North of the Tweed. Not a single Scotsman is on the Front Bench opposite, except the indefatigable Casabianca, the Secretary of State for Scotland:The boy stood on the burning deck,Whence all but he had fled.Are we to take it that the others have fled? Have they disappeared? Are they frightened of the Debate? [Interruption.] An hon. Member opposite has in- 926 terjected in a somewhat discourteous manner, and asked how long this is going on. Surely I have explained it once or twice, but I am not in any way desirous of not explaining it again.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
On a point of Order. I am sure that the whole House has enjoyed this agreeable and diverting episode, but this is a very important Bill, introduced by a private Member into this House, and I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to protect the privileges of the private Member, and not to allow this Debate to be side-tracked by a Motion for the Adjournment merely because of the fact that one Member of the Government is not present, whereas another, and the principal Minister responsible for Scottish affairs, has been present, has given a full answer to the late Lord Advocate and has given full satisfaction to those Members of the House who desire information from the Government Front Bench on this Bill. I ask your ruling whether it is a case that the Adjournment can properly be moved on such grounds.
Further on that point of Order. May I ask whether the hon. and gallant Member who has just intervened is entitled to hold up the proceedings of the House by quite irrelevant points of Order?
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
May I say a word on behalf of English Members of the House? The wording of this Bill is extremely difficult to understand from the English Members point of view. It is called the Small Landholders Bill, and there is no similar name in English law. Many different Acts and schedules are quoted in the Bill, and we English Members have a right to demand the presence of the Lord Advocate in order that the Bill may be explained.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) has appealed to me, but I do not quite understand on what his appeal was based. I have allowed the Motion for the Adjournment to be moved, and the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Major Elliot) is speaking to that Motion. I cannot intervene.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am perfectly willing to give place to the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) on any occasion. His interventions in 927 our Debates are always fruitful. His remarks are always so sincere and well reasoned that I am most willing to listen to him on any occasion. I should like to listen to him on the important point that I have raised. He says that he is satisfied and does not want the Lord Advocate to be present. He is happy, and does not think that there is any reason why one of the chief law officers should be here to debate the technicalities of the Bill.
§ Major ELLIOT
I see that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. T. Kennedy) is now present. We are glad to see him back. It is a 100 per cent. increase in the Scottish tenancy of the Front Bench. [Interruption.] I have the approval of the Government Chief Whip in continuing my speech. I certainly do not wish to take up the time of private Members, and, if the Lord Advocate had come in, I should have been delighted to give place to him. I desire to resume my seat. [An HON. MEMBER: "Get on with it."] Apparently, there are some hon. Members who desire me to continue. If the Lord Advocate had been here or proposed to come here, none of this would have been necessary. If the Lord Advocate had spoken or was about to speak none of this would have been necessary. A Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate on these grounds is a common practice, and the proof that it is in order, is that it has been accepted by Mr. Speaker. If the Lord Advocate is obstinately determined not to be here, I have no desire to continue the Debate, but I protest against the contempt of the House shown by the Government of the day and in particular by the Scottish administration and I hope that this lesson will be sufficient to prevent this discourtesy being repeated.
I really think that it is time that an English Member took part in this Debate. After all, we 928 are a Council of State and we should consider Scottish affairs from a national point of view. Scotland has not yet got Home Rule and English Members desire instruction upon Scottish affairs. Hon. Members below the Gangway who protest against our attitude, obviously have not listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) who taunted the Lord Advocate with not speaking.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I think I am within the recollection of the House when I say that the Lord Advocate was on the Front Bench during my speech, and all I said was that I would like to hear either the Lord Advocate or the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
I am sorry if I went beyond the right hon. Gentleman's statement, but he certainly expressed a desire to hear the views of the Lord Advocate on the Bill. We would all like to hear the Lord Advocate's views. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was taunted by his own Secretary of State, who said, "I have no legal knowledge and I think it is time a layman intervened in this Debate." That was an attack, not only upon the Lord Advocate, but upon the legal profession. The Lord Advocate should have had the courage, as a Scottish advocate, to defend, not only his position, but his profession. Hon. Members say that this is not an important matter, but it is important. This is a complicated Bill upon which English Members wish to be enlightened. There are technical points in nearly every Clause. For instance, there is one Clause from which it appears to me as a humble English lawyer, that poaching is going to be legalised in Scotland in the future. One would like to hear the Lord Advocate's view on that matter and whet-her he proposes to commend such a proposal. These proceedings, with the Lord Advocate sitting there and saying nothing, remind -one of a certain scene from Shakespeare in which Glendower says:I can call spirits from the vasty deep,and Percy replies:Why, so can T; or so can any man:But will they come, when you do call for them?We have called to the Lord Advocate again and again. He is somewhere within the vicinity of London, either in this 929 House or out of it, and if he is in the House, a Motion for the Adjournment ought to have brought him to the Front Bench, but if he is not in the House, I suggest that the efficiency of the Labour Whips should bring him here to answer on this most important question. It seems to me to be the duty of the Lord Advocate to be present, and when I resume my seat I hope other English Members will demand the presence of the Lord Advocate. I suggest that this Bill could not possibly be given a Second Reading unless some authoritative lawyer from the Government Benches explained it and defended it and gave the House an understanding as to how the matter was going to be dealt with from the Government point of view. I have pleasure in speaking on this exceedingly important Motion, and I hope hon. Members will not allow the Bill to be given a Second Reading without the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate. It seems to me that sometimes fortune plays into the hands of hon. Members here. Here we have the Lord Advocate, who is returned by a magnificent majority for a constituency in his native county; here is a subject which he, of all men, ought to understand and be able to explain:, and lo, the opportunity comes, and what does he do? He runs away, when taunted by hon. Members on this side; he leaves the House and does not attempt to explain a subject which he is specially qualified to explain.
§ Mr. W. S. MORRISON
The House must be aware of the danger of forgetting the grave issues at stake in this Bill to a large number of persons who are not here to speak for themselves, but who must be intimately affected by our decision to-day on this Bill, whether it be right or wrong. Let us consider the nature of this Bill, how from start to finish it is riddled with what has been called legislation by reference, how we are referred from one Act back to another, so that the whole thing is one of the utmost complexity and beyond the power 930 of any ordinary educated layman to understand. Then let the House consider for a moment the nature of the speeches which we have had on this Bill. Opening it, there was a speech from the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) and from the right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRobert), who moved its rejection, and they were both long speeches. I do not say they were too long. I do not think that on a Bill of this description any reasonable time could be considered as excessive, but both of those Members spoke for over an hour, and the speeches of others of us who are anxious to intervene to give our points of view were thereby considerably curtailed. They are both members of the profession that is best qualified to deal with the technicalities of this Bill, and neither of them can express his views under the limit of one hour.
I submit that when you have this battle joined between two hon. and learned Members on a Bill of this description, which they both go into with the utmost fullness, and when they both disagree entirely with each other as to the effect of the words in the Bill, then I say we have the right to be authoritatively informed which of the two legal interpretations is correct. From the point of view of ordinary Members of this House, the legal question is not a subject for argument. If we could be told by the responsible Law Officer of the Crown what are in fact the results which will flow from the words used, then we would be in a position to make up our minds as to the proposals contained in the Bill. I do submit, with all respect, that when we are faced with a Bill of this extremely complicated character, when we have two learned and hon. Members entirely disagreeing with one another, each of them for the space of an hour, as to the meaning of words of legal jargon used in the Bill, then I do say, unless we have some authoritative pronouncement as to the words used, it is quite impossible for ordinary Members, whose friends and relations may he ultimately and vitally affected by the provisions of this Bill, to continue the discussion of the Second Reading in any authoritative manner, or in any measure which is likely to have any good effect. If I may take an example, let me read Clause 5 of the Bill which says: 931Notwithstanding anything contained in section sixteen of the Act of 1886, section twenty-one of the Act of 1911, or section thirteen of the Act of 1919, the expression "family" where occurring in the Landholders Acts shall include all persons related to each other, either by consanguinity or affinity.I do submit that that is the sort of Clause which is Greek to ordinary Members of this House who, though they may not be equipped with the technical knowledge displayed by the hon. Member for Kincardine or with the great force of legal experience and argument used by my right hon. and learned Friend in moving the rejection of this Bill, are quite as vitally concerned in this Bill as either of the two right hon. and learned Members who have spoken, and to continue the discussion in this House of a Bill of such enormous complexity and of such importance, is a thing we cannot do unless we have some sort of arbiter from the Government side speaking from the position of Lord Advocate, knowing the high traditions of that office and knowing that the House will expect him to give an impartial and learned explanation of these terms of art. I do submit in those circumstances that it is quite impossible to continue the discussion of this Bill in any manner likely to lead to the benefit of the people affected by the Bill.
After all, Members in this House, no matter where they sit, are vitally anxious, if they can, to produce in this Bill something that will benefit the people. How can we benefit the people if we do not know what we are doing, and how can we know what we are doing if we do not have the lawyers on our side? I listened with the utmost patience and, if I may say so, enjoyment and instruction to the speech of the hon. Member for Kincardineshire in moving the Second Reading. He pointed out that this Bill was an attempt to correct mistakes in previous Acts, mistakes which had crept in one after another when the Measure was being discussed in a previous Parliament, due to the fact 'that the House was not then properly seized of the legal consequences of the words used, and had the effect of the provision for the resumption of small holdings by a landlord been explained by a Law Officer of 932 the Crown, had the legal technicalities been swept aside, there would have been no need for the hon. Member to move this Bill to-day.
In a matter of this importance it is mere waste of time—a form of waste we are all anxious to avoid—to introduce a Bill of this complexity, to rush it through this House, and to embark on a long technical discussion in Committee as to the meaning of its words. If we had an accurate authoritative interpretation, all that might be avoided, and we might go ahead and pass or reject this Bill as expediency dictated. I do protest most emphatically against this attempt to force through this House legislation of a very complicated and technical kind which affects a large number of poor persons. It is not as if it were a case where we might have a Bill with this and that little legal flaw, which affected rich people who could go and have it thrashed out in the courts of law; but this Bill affects a large number of poor persons, who are not in a position to go forward on a long course of litigation in order to put straight legal technicalities which we ought to put straight in this House. We should not go forward blindfolded into a morass of legal technicalities, through which no one can see a pathway, into a tangle of legal jargon which no one can understand. We should have the Adjournment of the Debate so that we can have the obstacles presented by these words removed, and the House put in a position to understand the effects of the words in this Measure.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House proceeded to a Division.
§ Major-General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON and Dr. HUNTER were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but there being no Members willing to act as Tellers for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 49; Noes, 133.933
|Division No.97.]||AYES.||[3.57 p.m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Gower, Sir Robert||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Hartington, Marquess of||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)|
|Bracken, B.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Mac Robert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Southby, Commander A. R. J|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Withers, Sir John James|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Marjoribanks, E. C.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Marquess of Titchfield and Sir|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Victor Warrender.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Morrison Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Perry, S. F.|
|Adamson, w. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Groves, Thomas E.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Arnott, John||Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Pybus, Percy John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hardie, George D.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Ayles, Walter||Harris, Percy A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|8aker, John (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Romerll, H. G.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Haycock, A. W.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hayes, John Henry||Rowson, Guy|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Bowen, J. W.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hoffman, P. C.||Sandham, E.|
|Brooke, W.||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie.||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Scott, James|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Kennedy, Thomas||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Calne, Derwent Hall-||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cameron, A. G.||Lathan, G.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Lawrence, Susan||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawrle, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Chater, Daniel||Lawson, John James||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Church, Major A. G.||Leach, W.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Smith, Tom (Pontetract)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Stephen. Campbell|
|Compton, Joseph||Longden, F.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Daggar, George||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Dallas, George||Lowth, Thomas||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Viant, S. P.|
|Duncan, Charles||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Ede. James Chuter||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Eimley, Viscount||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||West, F. R.|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||March, S.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Marley, J.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Messer, Fred||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Millar, J. D.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Muggeridge, H. T.||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Gillett, George M.||Murnin, Hugh||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Glassey, A. E.||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Gosling, Harry||Oldfield, J. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gossling, A. G.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Major-General Sir Robert Hutchison|
|Gould, F.||Paling, Wilfrid||and Dr. Hunter.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 135; Noes, 49.935
|Division No. 98.]||AYES.||[4.5 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Ayles, Walter||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Brooke, W.|
|Arnott, John||Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Burgin, Dr. E. L.|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Bowen, J. W.||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)|
|Caine, Derwent Hall||Hoffman, P. C.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Cameron, A. G.||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Chater, Daniel||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Kennedy, Thomas||Rowson, Guy|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Lathan, G.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Daggar, George||Lawrence, Susan||Sandham, E.|
|Dallas, George||Lawrle, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lawson, John James||Scott, James|
|Duncan, Charles||Leach, W.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Eimley, Viscount||Longden, F.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Forgan, Dr. Robert||Lovat-Fraser. J. A.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Lowth, Thomas||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey. Rotherhithe)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall. N.)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Gillett, George M.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Glassey, A. E.||March, S.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Gosling, Harry||Marley, J.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Gossling, A. G.||Messer, Fred||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Gould, F.||Millar, J. D.||Viant, S. P.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Muggeridge, H. T.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Murnin. Hugh||West, F. R.|
|Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)||Noel Baker, P, J.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Oldfield, J. R.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercilffe)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Hardle, George D.||Paling, Wilfrid||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Perry, S. F.||Wright, W. (Ruthergien)|
|Haycock, A. W.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Ponsonby, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Pybus, Percy John||Major-General Sir Robert Hutchison|
|and Dr. Hunter.|
|Albery, Irving James||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Hartington, Marquess of||Penny, Sir George|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bellairs. Commander Carlyon||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)|
|Bracken, B.||Liewellin, Major J. J.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Marjoribanks, E. C.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Earl of Dalkeith and Commander|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Southby.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.936
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Thirteen Minutes The remaining Orders were read, and after Four o'Clock, until Monday postponed, next, 16th December.