§ In the Landholders Acts the word "holding" shall, in addition to the holdings mentioned in section two of the Act of 1911, include as from the date hereinafter mentioned every holding which at the commencement of this Act is held by a statutory small tenant and the word "landholder" shall be construed accordingly.
§ Provided that this section shall not apply in the case of any statutory small tenancy unless, not later than one month prior to the expiry of the period of tenancy current at the commencement of this Act or of any subsequent period of tenancy, the tenant serves on the landlord of the holding written notice that he desires that this section shall apply, and the date herein-before referred to shall be the expiry of the period of tenancy current when such notice was served.—[Mr. W. Adamson.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. W. ADAMSON
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause seeks to carry out an undertaking given during the course of the Committee stage. While we agreed to the principle, we thought that the Clause in Committee was too faulty, and so we undertook to bring up a new Clause which would meet the point. This Clause seeks to give every statutory small tenant in existence when the Bill conies into operation, the option of becoming a landholder. As we have already agreed to the principle, I have very much pleasure in moving the Second Reading of this Clause.
§ Sir F. THOMSON
This matter has certainly been discussed before, but it is one of very considerable importance, and I think that we cannot assent to the Second Reading of the Clause. It is. perfectly true that the right hon. Gentleman said he would endeavour to meet the point raised by members of the Liberal party, although he did not quite approve of the exact words in which their 1631 Clause was framed. This new Clause proposes that all statutory tenants shall become small landholders at their option. I do not think that the question could be put more clearly than it was put by the Under-Secretary in Committee. He pointed out that there was no demand whatever for this change. He told us on one occasion that he had received a protest from a number of statutory small tenants when the Clause in its original form came before the Committee, even including statutory small tenants on the Department's own estate.
It is true that this Clause provides for an option, but we think that it is extending a system which has not proved successful in the Lowlands of Scotland, and that there is not the slightest evidence of any demand for it. We are increasing the improvements for which tenants can get compensation on giving the landlord notice, under Part II of the First Schedule to the bill. The Under-Secretary has pointed out that there was very little in it in the matter of compensation, and he has also pointed out another very strong point, namely, that it may mean a demand from the State for loans. He said that "almost automatically"—I am quoting his own words—the Department would be faced with numerous demands from statutory small tenants who became landholders for loans to improve their buildings, or to put up new buildings, and it would be very difficult indeed for the Government to resist such a demand, because other holders were having these loans, and why, therefore, should not this particular class also get loans? He has pointed out very clearly that the money available, which might be used for providing buildings for new holders, would be used for buildings which were now being kept up by landowners in Scotland. It is taking the burden from private landowners under a system which is working very well, for no reason at all, save to satisfy the theories of the Liberal party, who are advancing the same views in this matter as they did in 1911. They refuse to examine the facts that have emerged since. They refuse to look at the Nairne report. These are the circumstances with which, the Government well know, we find ourselves faced in this new Clause.
1632 We know that under the law as it now is a statutory small tenant has very definite rights. He cannot be removed; he is entitled to have an equitable rent fixed, and if the landlord fails to keep up the buildings, he can go to the Land Court and have himself declared a landholder. How many of these statutory small tenants in recent years have availed themselves of this privilege of going to the Land Court and having an equitable rent fixed? Looking at the Land Court report for 1929, I find that only seven asked for a first equitable rent to be fixed, and only nine for a second equitable rent. For 1928 the figures were very small also, only 13 having asked for a first equitable rent, and eight for a second equitable rent. Therefore, there have been, even with this right of going to a Land Court, exceedingly few applications in recent years. If this Clause goes through and certain of these people become landholders, the buildings which belong to the landlord will be handed over to the tenant, who will have the obligation in future of keeping up buildings in which he has no pecuniary interest, and the landlord will be deprived of all control or of any duty to keep them up.
That is an anomalous position, and I cannot see why the Government should have brought in this Clause to accommodate the Liberal party, for I know that on the merits of the question they agree with the view I am endeavouring to present. Could anything be clearer than the Nairne Committee's report, which points out that this small land-holding system, while suitable for crofting areas, has not been a success in the lowlands. Therefore the House should not be asked to give any extension to a system which has been proved to he unsuitable, and we ought to resist this new Clause. We do not want the system of dual ownership extended. It has not been a success anywhere. The House is familiar with the large sums which the British taxpayer has had to provide to bring to an end the system of dual ownership in Ireland. When the Secretary of State was introducing this Bill, he gave a glowing picture of conditions in Denmark, but 90 per cent. of the farmers there own their own land. Believing that the proposed Clause is not in the interests of Scotland, we shall oppose it.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I cannot understand why the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen (Sir F. Thomson) became so vigorous in his denunciation of this Clause. He must remember that the original Clause made it compulsory for the statutory small tenant to become a landholder. We have got rid of all that, and now we have reached a stage of compromise, where we make it optional for any statutory small tenant, who is at best a creature of compromise under the 1911 Act, to become a landholder if he so wishes. I cannot understand the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He talks about the great expense that this would involve. He also said that nobody wanted this. If nobody wants it, nobody will apply; if nobody applies, it will be no expense.
I think the Government have implemented the pledge that they gave to us. They said they would consider this matter before Report stage and they have produced a Clause which, in my judgment, covers all the points. The one salient thing is that we are not compelling a statutory small tenant to become a small landholder though I should like him to become a landholder, and the second point is that we are not depriving the statutory small tenant who is not under this Clause of any right that now exists. Taking all the facts into consideration, I think it is the duty of Scottish Members to support this Clause.
Mr. R. W. SMITH
I hope the House will not give a Second Reading to this Clause. Those who were members of the Committee will agree that if there had not been Liberal members on it, the Government would never have talked of introducing such a Clause. They have done so under pressure from the Liberal party. If that be any satisfaction to the Liberal party, I am willing that they should enjoy it. The Government profess to be out to do the best they can for agriculture in Scotland. Here we have the Government doing what the Liberals want, if only in a small dose—not quite so large a dose as they would desire. This system of land tenure is to be applied to the Lowlands in certain cases where it is admittedly not wanted and where the Nairne report—
The Nairne report. If the Liberals would like me to refer to it by some other name, I will do so, but when a Committee has been set up to report on land holding in Scotland, I do not know why the Liberal party should laugh when it is mentioned. Surely it is right to refer to the arguments put forward by that Committee. They put forward strong arguments against this system of tenure being applied to the Lowlands, and to apply it even to this limited extent is not a good thing. It may be optional, but perhaps not so optional where Liberal Members are representing Lowland constituencies in which there are statutory small landholders. We have always understood that these smallholding Acts were passed because the small landholder was a man without much business capacity. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"] That was a view largely held by the Liberal party in the old days—that the small landholder had to be looked after and safeguarded because he could not look after himself in the way that the large farmer does, and he must be secured against exploitation. Where there are Liberal Members in Lowland constituencies one may very well find them urging statutory small tenants to become small landholders.
The right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) said just now that he would like to see them all small landholders. The Nairne Committee said it would not be a good thing to apply that system to the Lowlands, but Members of Parliament who are in favour of the landholding system will go to statutory small tenants and say, "Your lease is coming to an end, you had better apply to be made small landholders." It is against the best interests of the smallholders. They have said that they do not care for the dual system and that where these smallholdings are set up on private estates they have to pay a rent to the landlord and interest to the Department for the equipment of the holding. I ask the House to reject this Clause.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I was surprised to hear the Secretary of State for Scotland say that we on this side were ready to give an option in this matter. If the right hon. Gentleman will refresh his memory he will find that we have had very little discussion of this question in Committee. There are still a great many 1635 points in regard to it which require very careful consideration. The right hon. Gentleman has criticised the Member for South Aberdeen (Sir F. Thomson) for what he said in regard to statutory small tenants and the granting of an option. We very often find a number of people who think that they would be much better off under a new system than under the present system, and I think that is quite possibly the case as far as statutory small tenants are concerned. I think the result of adding a Clause such as the right hon. Gentleman has proposed might well be that a statutory small tenant who is now tolerably well off might be lured into a position in which he would find himself distinctly at a disadvantage compared with his present position.
Another point which has hardly been considered at all to-day is as to how the option which might be exercised by the statutory tenant would affect the position of the person who is in the position of being his landlord. In the first place, when the statutory small tenant becomes a landholder, the landlord's rights are restricted, and if he finds himself, as so many do, wanting to sell his land, he is not free to do so. The land is not saleable as it otherwise might be. In Committee references were made to the fact that very often loans have been advanced on landed estates on the express condition that the landlord would be responsible for permanent improvements, and, therefore, the creation of landholdings irrespective of the consent of the landlord may very seriously prejudice his position in relation to persons who may hold bonds on his estate.
Then we come back to the fact that the landholder may find it very difficult to keep up these permanent improvements. Who, in these days, I would ask, really knows much about the cost of building unless he has actually had to undertake it himself? We may talk, but it is only when we have to provide the cost of labour for handling bricks and mortar, and all the other operations of building, that we realise what an immensely costly business any important extension or repair of buildings is. I feel certain that many statutory small holders might well ask to become landholders with very little conception of the responsibility in which improvements to buildings might land 1636 them. On the other hand, if deterioration of the buildings has occurred, and if they quit the holding feeling that it imposes upon them a financial responsibility which they cannot meet, the landlord is not able to claim more than four months for deterioration of buildings, though the deterioration may have been going on for a much longer period; and in any case, if a man is in difficulties, the landlord is not likely to feel that he can make any claim against him for deterioration of what, after all, was the landlord's property, which he was keeping up as long as the tenancy was of the ordinary kind.
Finally, I would put this point to the right hon. Gentleman. This power of option, which I understand may be continued indefinitely in future leases until within one month of the expiry of any future lease, seems to me to create a position of great uncertainty. A tenancy may expire without any option being exercised, but the landlord will never know from one day to another when this option may not be exercised by any of these statutory small tenants, and it seems to me that uncertainty of that kind may well mean that a landlord will hesitate to make improvements in the buildings and in regard to the holding generally which he would be much more ready to make if he knew that the tenancy would remain in the future the same as it is at present. I think we are all agreed that uncertainty is about the worst thing possible in any form of productive work. Above all it is undesirable in the case of land, because in the case of land you have to plan ahead, not merely for a few months or a year, but for several years, and any uncertainty is bound to be very prejudicial to the interests of agriculture and the upkeep and improvement of holdings. Therefore, we feel that we must go into the Division Lobby in order to record our disapproval of the Clause which the right hon. Gentleman has moved.
Mr. W. ADAMSON
I hope we shall come to a decision very shortly, because, in contradistinction to what the Noble Lady has said, we discussed the point involved in this Clause very fully during the Committee stage. No fewer than 36 columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee were taken up with the discussion there. Surely everything in con- 1637 nection with the point has been clearly brought out. It is a very short point. The Clause provides a compromise between those who want to make every statutory small tenant a landholder and those who, like the Noble Lady, want them to remain as they are. We are dealing with a very small class, and one that is gradually disappearing. The way we suggest is the proper and sensible way to deal with it, and I hope the House is not going to enter upon a long Debate on the point that has been very fully discussed already.
§ Mr. SKELTON
It is all very well to say that we have had long discussions, but the matter is of some importance, and merely discussing a thing does not alter the fact that, if you bring in this option to the statutory small tenant, you may be doing him incalculable harm. It will not do to say that the matter has been discussed, and we must come to a decision. The Government agrees that compulsion is not desirable. Surely it is not right to introduce a Clause which enables people who are ignorant of the danger to
§ do something that is unwise. I am on all suitable occasions greatly in favour of compromise. It is admirable that opposing interests should be reconciled if possible. But this is not a proper compromise. This is simply telling the statutory small tenant that he may do a thing which you do not recommend him to do, and I cannot see why you should, even in this half-hearted way, point a signpost down the wrong road. You tell him you will not force him down the road, but by passing the Clause you suggest to him that he should go down it. No one is more willing than I am to listen to the sweet piping of the Secretary of State, but I cannot agree that this is a compromise so delectable that nothing should be said against it. It is a totally wrong form of legislation to induce anyone to do a thing which you know is so bad that you will not compel him.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 155; Noes, 58.1639
|Division No. 193.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Gossling, A. G.||Mansfield, W.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Groves, Thomas E.||March, S.|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Grundy, Thomas W.||Marley, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Marshall, Fred|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mathers, George|
|Arnott, John||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Matters, L. W.|
|Asks, Sir Robert||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Messer, Fred|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Hayes, John Henry||Middleton, G.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Millar, J. D.|
|Barr, James||Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Mills, J. E.|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Montague, Frederick|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Herriotts, J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Centrat)||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Morley, Ralph|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hopkin, Daniel||Muggeridge, H. T.|
|Benson, G.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Noel Baker, P. J.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Johnston, Thomas||Oldfield, J. R.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Kelly, W. T.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Perry, S. F.|
|Caine, Derwent Hall-||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Cape, Thomas||Kinley, J.||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Kirkwood, D.||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Potts, John S.|
|Chater, Daniel||Lathan, G.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Daggar, George||Lawrence, Susan||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Dallas, George||Leach, W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Day, Harry||Lees, J.||Ritson, J.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D,||Lindley, Fred W.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Longbottom, A. W.||Rowson, Guy|
|Duncan, Charles||Longden, F.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Sandham, E.|
|Edge, Sir William||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||McElwee, A.||Scott, James|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||McEntee, V. L.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||McKinlay, A.||Shield, George William|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Gillett, George M.||McShane, John James||Shinwell, E.|
|Simmons, C. J.||Tinker, John Joseph||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Tout, W. J.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Viant, S. P.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||Walker, J.||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Wallace, H. W.||Wise, E. F.|
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Watkins, F. C.||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Snell, Harry||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Sorensen, R||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Strauss, G. R.||West, F. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)||Westwood, Joseph||Mr. T. Henderson and Mr. Paling.|
|Thurtle, Ernest||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Albery, Irving James||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.)||Penny, Sir George|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Ford, Sir P. J.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Berry, Sir George||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Savery, S. S.|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Boyce, Leslie||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Geo. Sir Aylmer||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Campbell, E. T.||Inskip, Sir Thomas||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Macquisten, F. A.||Stuart. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Maltland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Margesson, Captain H. D.|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Marjoribanks, Edward||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Sir Frederick Thomson and Major|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||the Marquess of Titchfield.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Peake, Capt. Osbert|
§ It being after Four of the Clock, further consideration of the Clause stood adjourned.
§ Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee) to be further considered upon Monday next.1640
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Seven Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 16th March