§ Section twenty-six of the Act of 1911 shall be amended to the following extent and effect:—
§ Throughout paragraph (a) of sub-section (3) the words "one hundred" shall be substituted for the word "fifty," and sections two, twenty-six, and thirty-two shall be construed accordingly:
§ Provided that, as regards holdings brought under the Landholders Acts, in virtue of this section—
- (1) the words "the commencement of this Act" where occurring in section two of the Act of 1911, sub-section (1), paragraphs (ii) and (iii), and in section thirteen of the said Act, paragraph (b), shall mean the commencement of of this amending Act; and
- (2) the references in the said paragraphs (ii) and (iii) to section twenty-six of the Act of 1911 shall refer to that section as amended by this section.—[Mr. Scott.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This new Clause is really an extension of a process which has been going on since 1886. In 1911 the next step was taken when the Landholders Act was extended to the non-crofting counties of Scotland, and we are now proposing that the Act should be further extended to 100 acre farms or farms of a rental of£100. The provision in the 1911 Act to 50 acre farms and£50 rent was a purely arbitrary one. A farm may be rented at£50 but the acreage may go up to 1,000 acres and, conversely, a holding may be only 30 or 40 acres hut the rent may be£100 or£150. It depends on the proximity of the holding to a town. The position of the Liberal party has always been that all farmers should receive the benefits of the Smallholders Act irrespective of the size of their holdings. We want to go by easy stages. We think we are making definite progress if we begin by including farms of 100 acres in extent or£100 rental, and may I assure the Government that if they accept this new Clause they will confer a boon upon some 10,000 small farmers 2312 in Scotland who will welcome the benefits of the Act as applied to them.
The only substantial objection raised in Committee to the proposal was that it might involve a burden on the Government in giving loans to a large number of smallholders. I suggest that the Government need have no apprehensions of that character. When the 1911 Act was passed the applications for loans were few in number and small in amount. Then in support of the Clause I would also say that the Nairne Committee, which is so constantly appealed to by the Conservatives, favoured the extension that we are here suggesting. If the Government wish to get an analogy from across the Border they will find in the English Act, the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, a limit fixed at 100 acres and£100 rent. But, confining ourselves to Scotland, we find that the proposal of this Clause was commended strongly by the Scottish Land Court in their Annual Report of 1916, and cogent reasons were there given for the proposal. Further, in 1919, the Conservatives brought forward a proposal, in the discussions on the Bill of that year, to extend the limit up to£80. If they got that length in 1919 it is conceivable that they might reach£100 now. I, therefore, suggest that they support this Clause. The Government might be supported in accepting the Clause by the recollection that in the Debates in 1919 members of the then Government who are members of the present Government brought forward a Clause in practically identical terms with that I am moving.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I beg to second the Motion.
I hope that the Government will accept this new Clause. We discussed this matter at great length not only this year but last year in the Standing Committee. Last year the Committee by a majority accepted the principle of the Clause. This year for some reason or other they did not see their way to do so. The majority of Scottish Members supported it last year on the ground that it was an attempt to extend security of tenure to a very deserving class of holder in Scotland. Every one agrees that nothing has been so beneficial to the smallholder in Scotland as security of tenure. The National Farmers' Union and, as far as I know, every other body that has know- 2313 ledge of agriculture in Scotland, has been trying year after year to extend this principle from the 50 acres limit to 100 acres. As my hon. Friend has said, the Nairne Committee has approved this principle, and so has the Land Court. There is no one in Scotland with such a genuine knowledge of land conditions in Scotland as the Land Court. Its members go about all over the country; they watch agricultural conditions, and they have on more than one occasion advocated this very proposal. I beg the Government to reconsider their decision and accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I have no quarrel whatever with the presentation of the case for this Clause. It raises a matter of very considerable importance, and, indeed, this is one of the few new Clauses which the House would be well advised to consider carefully. It is true that the National Farmers' Union of Scotland have hitherto pressed very strongly indeed for the inclusion in legislation of something like this Clause, but it is also fair to say that in virtue of other provisions of this Bill, particularly in view of the changes in the Schedules to the Bill, and the fact that farmers in Scotland are henceforth to be allowed an increase in the number of operations on their farm without getting the prior consent of the landlord, a difference has been made in the situation. I happen to know that the National Farmers' Union in Scotland is exceedingly anxious that the Schedules to the Bill shall be passed. It is the Schedules that they regard as the vital matter.
Then we come to this specific case. I am not going to raise objections to it on the purely technical ground that the new Clause as drafted would have the very curious result that it would enable the Department of Agriculture to make new holdings on the land of private proprietors within the limits of£100 and 100 acres, but would not enable them to make new holdings of that size or with that rental upon their own estates. The reason is this: the Clause as drafted refers only to Section 26 of the Act of 1911, whereas the powers of the department in the purchase of land are operated under the Colonies Act, and it has not been sought to amend the Colonies Act of 1916 by the new Clause which has been 2314 moved. We are, therefore, left with the curious anomaly that if the Clause as it stands were passed, the Department would still be limited to 50-acre farms and£50 rents upon their own elates, but they would be permitted to create 100-acre farms and£100 rents on the estates of private proprietors. I know that that is not the intention of the Clause.
Next I come to what is a more substantial point. It has been said that if this Clause were carried it would not be a great drain upon the Exchequer. That is not the evidence at our disposal. Under existing arrangements, the Department can give loans for buildings, and has to give them at 3⅛ per cent. interest, and it gives them at 4 per cent. interest, including sinking fund. That is very cheap money.
Our information is that outside proprietors cannot borrow at less than 6 per cent. Therefore, to put it no higher, there is a 2 per cent. inducement upon proprietors of bankrupt and semi-bankrupt estates and derelict or semi-derelict estates to come forward and say: "We can now get loans from the Department in regard to the farms on our estates between 50 and 100 acres and between£50 and£100 rent, in view of the fact that farms of that size have now been brought under the Landholders Act." It is only human nature that proprietors in those circumstances would make a demand on the Department for loans, and thus funds which have hitherto been devoted to the creation of new holdings would henceforth, to some extent be diverted to relieving landlords and bondholders of burdens which they had previously carried.
It may be the right and proper thing that ultimately the State should become the supreme bondholder, but let us face that issue as a separate issue. It ought not to be raised here by a side wind. If we are going to change the acreage and the rent under which smallholders tenure exists in Scotland, let us face the fact that there would be a temptation, at any rate to certain proprietors, to make a raid upon funds which have hitherto been devoted solely to the creation of new holdings.
Let me put this point to the hon. Member for Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. Scott). The latest figures which I 2315 have got for the purposes of this discussion show that the new holdings projected on the Department's estates are 366 in number, whereas those under Part II, that is to say holdings on private estates, number 80. The tendency, therefore, is for new holdings to be created on Departmental estates, while fewer and fewer are being created on the estates of private landowners. The tendency is, and has been under previous Governments, towards the acquisition of land by the State and the creation of holdings upon that land and for the buildings to be owned by the Department as well. The hon. member has said that this proposal would not involve very much in money. It might not, but nobody can say how much it would involve. At any rate, about£250,000 is out now in these loans, and the best advice which we can get is that there would be a considerable demand,—particularly with agriculture in its present state—upon these funds under this proposal. The proprietors of farms, and landlords, some of whom are in a depressed financial condition, would be likely to make demands to have loans upon buildings transferred from private bondholders to the State at a cheaper rate of interest.
That is one reason why we have not been able to accept the Amendment. We prefer to spend what moneys we have in the creation of new smallholdings, rather than to take over liabilities and burdens which have hitherto been borne by private proprietors. In the discussion of this matter up to the present, we have been to some extent in the region of speculation, but I would now direct the attention of hon. Members to some facts of the existing situation. In the First Schedule which we shall shortly be discussing, Part II contains a list of improvements in respect of which only notice to the landlord is required. These, with the exception of numbers 16 and 17, have been transferred from Part I—improvements to which consent of landlord is required—and are now, for the first time, in the second category. In other words, these are improvements which the farmer, whether his acreage is over or under 100, whether his rent is over or under£100, can henceforth undertake without the consent of the landlord. 2316 That is a most remarkable fact and is the crux of the whole matter. The farmer can now, for instance, create silos, erect permanent fences, carry out reclamation, make embankments and sluices, provide sheep-dipping facilities and electrical equipment, all without the consent of the landlord. These are remarkable advantages which the farming community of Scotland appreciate very much, and they alter the whole position. Without the changes which are made by this Schedule, there would be a very much stronger case for giving farmers what may be called the privileges of the Landholders Acts, permitting them to carry out these improvements and get compensation without the landlord's consent. But under this Schedule we are giving them the right to make those improvements without the landlord's consent, and that, I submit, substantially alters the position.
We come now to the question of security of tenure which is still in dispute. What is the position between us in reference to this matter? There can only be eviction now as I understand it, for non-payment of rent, for substantial deterioration or for sub-letting. I think roughly that is the case. But under the agricultural holdings tenure on which the vast majority of farms in Scotland are held to-day, the farmer can lose his farm at the end of his lease or for a breach of tenancy conditions such as deterioration, or on a certificate from the Department of bad farming. If the farmer is evicted at the end of his lease, he gets compensation which may be up to two years rental.
The investigation which I have been able to make goes to show that most of the cases of compensation for disturbance in Scotland in recent years are due to the Department itself; and they are due to this fact, that the Department of Agriculture are purchasing farms for the creation of smallholdings and literally buying out the existing tenant farmers. That is about all that happens in the way of disturbance or lack of security of our farming population in Scotland. I have taken up so much time on this question because it is a matter of substantial importance, and I recognise the strength of opinion that is behind hon. Members who have moved this Clause in their demands. I have only sought to put up to them as clearly and succinctly as I 2317 could the reasons which have actuated us in refusing to accede to their demands and in asking the House to reject them.
§ Sir F. THOMSON
We all wish to benefit agriculture in Scotland, and it is only because we take a different view of what would result from the proposed new Clause from that taken by the Liberal Members that we are so strenuously opposed to it. After all, the hon. Member for Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. Scott) and the right hon. and learned Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) constantly quote the Land Court Report of 1916, but we have gained a good deal of experience since then into the working of the landholding system, and a great many difficulties have manifested themselves, and are familiar to most of us. In the first place, let me say that the Under-Secretary of State pointed out an anomaly in the new Clause: the settlements under the 1916 and 1919 Acts would not be affected. He then went on to show the very large compensation rights which a tenant has under the First Schedule to the present Bill, and, with regard to security of tenure, he pointed out that cases of compensation for disturbance at the present time are chiefly arising on the Department's own estates, so that there is very little in it in the way of security of tenure, and there is a great deal of argument against extending this very unsuitable form of tenure to the Lowlands.
As regards the extension to 100 acres or£100 rental, there are, of course, the cases of a farm near a town with a rental of£3 or£4 an acre, and of a sheep farm up to 4,000 acres, carrying possibly 600 sheep, both of which would be included if the new Clause were carried. But really there is a strong case to be made against extending this landholding tenure further. We all know that it came into being because of the conditions in the crafting counties. There you had a crofter putting up a dwelling-house on land which did not belong to him, and it surely was right and proper that when he came to leave he should get some compensation, because the house belonged in law to the landlord. Therefore, the Crofters Act was passed, entitling him to money compensation for the value of the buildings which he had put up, when he came to leave. In 1911 it was resolved to extend 2318 that tenure all over Scotland to an entirely different set of conditions with a system under which the landlord kept up the buildings and the permanent equipment of the farm. That has not been a success. The Nairne Committee went most fully into the matter, and I personally have found their report of the greatest value. That was a hard-working body who since the war have gone into this question most thoroughly. In my view we are not entitled to pass judgment on this question without studying that report carefully.
What has happened under this tenure in the Lowlands? When the Department are setting up a new holding they have to advance money to the tenant to pay for the value of his buildings, because the landholding tenure, properly understood, means that the landholder acquires a pecuniary interest in the buildings. It is found that many landholders do not like this tenure, because it seems to them that they have to pay two rents, the ordinary rent to the landlord and the instalment on the loan which they have to pay to the Department. Then again there is another difficulty that arises under this tenure, and it is a real one. My hon. Friend attempts to deal with it in a later Clause when he asks for revision of loans to new holders. Under this tenure it has happened in many cases that a man has come in and been given a loan by the Department. The buildings, valued at, say,£500 when he started farming on the holding, are valued when he leaves at their value to an incoming holder, which may be only£400, so that the man drops a solid£100. Naturally enough, these holders feel that there are drawbacks attaching to this tenure, and they do not like it.
There is another drawback. You require a man with a considerable amount of capital before he can go into one of these holdings. You may have a man who has saved a bit of money and who wants to move into a small farm, but this form of tenure does not suit him. He has to provide the money to acquire the buildings, and, therefore, if you extend this tenure widely throughout Scotland, you will make it more difficult for the small farmer to get a farm, and you will limit your choice for these holdings to people with sufficient capital to pay for the value of the buildings. The 2319 hon. Member for Kincardine shakes his head, but that is what has been found by those who have gone about taking evidence and inquiring from the holders what their views are. Therefore, I say that we are not doing a service to Scotland in extending this landholding tenure any further. It has been referred to before, but it is an important matter and worth referring to again. This system of dual ownership has certain inherent difficulties. In Ireland the State had to spend immense sums of money in buying out people. In other countries they have developed a system of occupying ownership. Therefore I urge the House most strongly, in the interests of Scottish agriculture, not to extend this system further, with all its complexities and difficulties.
It was thought honestly enough, when the Act of 1911 was extended to the Lowlands, that you would be giving to holders further security of tenure and a further incentive to work and develop their holdings. That was the view held by many Members of the Liberal party. Those on the Unionist side at that time, with more knowledge of Lowland conditions, was very strongly opposed to the extension of the system, but after all these years of experience the country has found that this tenure, while suitable enough in the crofting parts of Scotland, is not suitable for extension to the Lowlands. It has grave drawbacks in its operation; and that the House should now be asked widely to extend that tenure to holdings up to 100 acres and£100 rental is to ask the House to take a mistaken step. Surely, from what the Under-Secretary of State has told us to-day with regard to the position of a tenant under the Agricultural Holdings Act, with regard to his rights, if he loses his holding, to compensation for disturbance and so on, there is no case whatever, on the ground of security of tenure, for supporting this extension; and on various other grounds which I have given, I ask the House to support the Government in taking a course which I think is most emphatically in the interests of Scottish agriculture.
§ Major McKENZIE WOOD
I am not surprised at the speech of the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen (Sir 2320 F. Thomson), who has just sat down. After all, his party has been against giving security of tenure to agricultural tenants all along. They opposed the Act of 1886, and they opposed the Act of 1911, and every extension along these lines that has been made has been in the teeth of their opposition. But I am surprised to find the hon. and learned Gentleman combining with the spokesman of the Labour party to oppose a provision which appears in their own Labour manifesto "Labour and the Nation", and by putting down this Clause we are only giving them an opportunity of putting into operation their own policy. It is quite true that they have, over and over again, and in their last manifesto, stated that they are out to give the agricultural tenant security of tenure, and it is amazing to me to hear the hon. Gentleman trying to argue now that, as a matter of fact, they have got it. I wonder whether he would go to the Highlands of Scotland and into the agricultural districts of Scotland, and proclaim that proposition. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down has always quoted the Nairne Committee, and he quoted that committee, I understand, as being against this proposal. Surely he has forgotten that one of their recommendations was distinctly to the effect that the Board of Agriculture for Scotland should be empowered "to provide holdings of a greater annual value than£50, if exceeding 50 acres in extent."
Mr. R. W. SMITH
I think if the hon. and gallant Gentleman looks at the preceding lines he will find the answer to his statement:If effect were given to our recommendation, it would be necessary to revise the statutory limits.
§ Major WOOD
Obviously, the Nairne Committee are speaking about the landholdings which should be set up with landholders' tenure, above 50 acres, and in this Clause we are only seeking to put in force, therefore, a recommendation of the Nairne Committee. We are also seeking to put in force the recommendation of the Farmers' Union of Scotland, and it is, as every one will admit who is conversant with the subject, in line with agricultural opinion throughout the whole of Scotland. It is therefore, disappointing to find that the hon. Gentleman, who, all along, has supported this policy as giving greater security of 2321 tenure to these landholders, should now oppose this proposal. What are the reasons he gave? They seem to me to be excuses rather than reasons. First of all, he tells us that by this Bill he is proposing in the Schedules to extend the rights to compensation. I agree that there is some extension of the rights to compensation given by these Schedules, and I am very glad that that should be so. But the fact that you are going to take a step forward in one direction, is no reason why you should not take a step forward in another direction, if there is good ground for taking that step, and we say that it is absolutely necessary to give more than merely the additional rights to compensation given in these Schedules.
After all, what is the main condition of this security of tenure? It is the right to appeal to a Land Court to get fair rent. None of the Schedules touch that question at all, and that is the main advantage, to my mind, that is given to these landholders, and that would be given to the other tenants whom we would take within the compass of landholding tenure. Also, they would have complete security such as they have not got at the present time. I am not going into the question as to whether the compensation for disturbance which has been recently given is sufficient and really amounts to giving them security of tenure. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that tenants in Scotland would not admit that that is so, and I am going to leave it for him to settle the question with agricultural opinion in Scotland.
What is the other, and the main, objection or excuse which he has put forward? It is on the ground of loan. He says that if we took these additional tenants within the purview of this particular type of tenure, we should increase the demands on the public Treasury for loans. On what ground does he say so? After the Act of 1911 was passed, not more than£15,000 in five years was granted in the form of loan to existing holders. On what ground, therefore, should he anticipate that there would be such an enormous demand for loans? In any case, even supposing there were a large demand for loans, they have no right to a loan. They can ask for a loan if they like, but there is no obligation on the Department of Agriculture at all 2322 to give the money. Therefore, the fact that these requests should be made does not alter the situation in the slightest degree, and it would be quite possible for the hon. Gentleman, in accepting this proposed Clause, to make it clear that he does not consider that its acceptance means any obligation or undertaking by the Department that they are to give loans beyond the money at their disposal, or that they consider themselves to be in any way under an obligation in that direction. If that were not enough, if the mere statement by the Secretary for Scotland at that Box were not enough, there is nothing to prevent a reservation being put into this Clause that the extension of this tenure shall not carry with it a right to money in respect of loans for new buildings. That, I suggest, would meet entirely the objections which the hon. Gentleman has raised.
Another point is that if you extended the size of these holdings, they would become cheaper, because one dwelling house is required whether the holding is 25 acres or 75 acres, and it must not be assumed, that because you have doubled the size of holdings you have doubled the cost of creating them. Then it is assumed that if you increase the maximum size of holdings, every holding that is made in future must be of the maximum size. Everyone knows that in the past all holdings set up have not been of the size of 50 acres. I regret very much, indeed, that the hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to look more kindly on this Clause. It is going right in the teeth of the policy which they have preached, and I am sorry that they should desert their policy to-day. We, at any rate, on these benches are not going to desert this policy. It has been the cornerstone, or rather one of the main planks in our agricultural platform for many years, and we are determined to divide the House if the hon. Gentleman cannot hold out some hope that he will give some extension, say, to 75 acres, which would be better than nothing. Unless we can get some promise of that kind, we are going to divide the House.
§ Major COLVILLE
My hon. Friends must have been studying the story of Bruce and the Spider, because they have brought forward this question on many occasions, both last year on the earlier Bill and on various stages of this Bill. 2323 There is considerable inconsistency in their action. They say that the benefits of the Act are so considerable that there is a great demand all over Scotland for an extension. They say, on the other hand, that they do not think that the drain on the Exchequer because of loans for buildings will be considerable, because there will not be a considerable demand. Which way is it to be? Is there to be a great demand or not? If the demand does exist to the extent they imagine, I fancy that there will be, as the Under-Secretary of State visualises, a considerable drain on the resources of the Exchequer for loans.
§ Major WOOD
It is quite possible to have an extension of holdings of this kind without a penny of cost to the Exchequer.
§ Major COLVILLE
I realise that there might be some who take holdings and not apply for loans, and that the Government are not bound to give loans if they are applied for, but if you open the door and make these loans available—
§ Major COLVILLE
You give authority to people to apply for loans, and, if you open the door, you cannot refuse them unreasonably, and you will have to treat those who apply with equality and fairness. I oppose this proposed Clause because it would put an unjustifiable drain on the resources of the country. This is a complicated Bill which has been thrashed out carefully, and we have made adjustments in the Schedule which make great changes in the landholding law in Scotland. It is wrong at the end of the day to try and tack on a Clause which completely alters it. I also oppose the proposed Clause for the general reason held by my Friends on these benches, that an extension of this form of tenure is not called for. When evidence is produced that there is a demand in the Lowlands of Scotland for an extension of this tenure, I shall be more convinced, but I am certain that many agricultural bodies and tenants do not hold the view that there is need for an extension. When any burning question 2324 is before the House, we are usually inundated by postcards and messages in support, but I have not had that experience with reference to this proposed Clause. In all the circumstances, it should be resisted.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Major DUDGEON
I strongly urge the Government to accept this proposed Clause. The hon. and gallant Member for North Midlothian (Major Colville) has stated that there is no demand for this type of holding in the south of Scotland. It is difficult, I agree, to produce evidence, but even under the present depressed conditions of agriculture, you can get 20 or 30 offers for the larger farms in the Lowlands, which would indicate that there is a demand for this type of holding. There is, too, a demand from the higher grades of agricultural workers who are really likely to make good. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to consider the question of justice to the Lowlands. There has been a great deal of legislation in the last 50 years dealing with smallholdings in Scotland, but the major benefit that has been derived from it has undoubtedly gone to the Highlands. The bulk of the population of Scotland and the largest contribution to the Treasury come from the Lowlands, and to increase the size of the holding from£50 or 50 acres to£100 or 100 acres would rectify what has always been an injustice in this respect to the Lowlands. It is unfortunate that this proposed Clause does not apply to land that is purchased by the Department, because there is a great deal of land, in the south of Scotland especially, that could be purchased to-day at a very low rate and turned into larger smallholdings on very economic conditions.
I am afraid that my hon. Friends on these benches have under-estimated the cost of loans to the Treasury, but in the present condition of agriculture, it is essential that we should get a larger volume of interest in the agricultural industry; and we can only get that as a permanent condition by having a larger number of holdings. If this proposed Clause were inserted in the Bill, there would be a very large number of applicants of the best possible class for holdings of the larger type. At a time when we need to get the highest economic returns from our land, we should en- 2325 courage by all means those agricultural workers who have made good in their own particular line, who are not prepared to go into the smallholdings because they do not believe that they are a sound proposition, but who are anxious to get farms. I hope that, for the sake of Scottish agriculture and for the benefit of Scottish agricultural workers, the Secretary of State will accept this new Clause, which is called for by all kinds of agricultural workers, by organisations like the National Farmers Union, and by a large body of Scottish agricultural opinion.
Mr. R. W. SMITH
I would like again to draw the attention of the House to the Nairne Report. We are dealing here with a form of land tenure in Scotland which has been reported upon by the Committee, and they have quite definitely stated that they do not recommend the extension of it. Hon, Members below the Gangway have told us that the Farmers' Union are very much in favour of this system. The Farmers' Union have sent us a Memorandum on this Bill, and with regard to Part I of the Bill, with which we are now dealing, they state in their Memorandum that it was unanimously agreed to support the principle embodied in it. They made certain suggestions and proposed certain Amendments to Part II. If they had been so keen that the Bill should have proposed the raising of the 50 acres and£50 to 100 acres and£100 surely they would have said so in their Memorandum; and therefore I fail to see any ground for the statement that there is an enormous demand for it on the part of the Farmers' Union. It is admitted by many authorities on agriculture in Scotland that the raising of the 50 acres to 100 acres and the£50 to£100 will be bad for agriculture. We have in Scotland 75,812 agricultural holdings, and there are 50,346 holdings under 50 acres or under£50. If we raise this limit we shall add 10,166 to that number of holdings, and that means that out of the 75,000 holdings more than 60,400 will be holdings a under a system which is ad-admitted by the Nairne Committee to be a bad system, and which is not asked for by the Farmers' Union.
The hon. and gallant Member for Banff (Major M. Wood) said this had been one of the planks in his party's platform for years, and I agree that that is so, but 2326 they seem to have forgotten that things advance and improve. He evidently did not listen to one word of what the Under Secretary said about the altered position. His party ought to come up to date and remember that there have been alterations in the form of land tenure. As to the question of security of tenure, I am astonished that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. Scott) should make such extraordinary statements about voicing the opinion of his constituents. I am a neighbour of his, and I read the newspaper which is published in his constituency and my own. He has made various suggestions about agriculture in that part of the world, and after the letters against his proposals which appear in the paper it is extraordinary that he should get up and say that he is voicing the feelings of the agriculturalists in his constituency. The average farmer at the present time does not regard the question of security of tenure as one of his difficulties, as being a difficulty which is holding agriculture down. To increase the number of these small holdings in Scotland in face of the opinion of a large body of those who are really well up in agriculture, and at a time when the agricultural industry is in so bad a condition, seems perfect madness.
Earl of DALKEITH
As another Member from the South of Scotland I feel surprised at the contentions advanced by the hon. and gallant Member for Galloway (Major Dudgeon) that this change would be to the advantage of the Lowlands. I am all in favour of farms of between 50 acres and 100 acres or of£50 and£100 rentals, and there are a large number of these farms in the south of Scotland under the ordinary tenure of landlord and tenant, which is a system much more popular and suitable to the south of Scotland, and I am all in favour of encouraging it in preference to converting those holdings into a tenure which is not suitable to the south of Scotland. The speeches of hon. Members on the Liberal benches only confirm my view that their main reason for putting forward this Clause is a political one rather than an agricultural one. There is much in this Bill that is desirable for the smallholder and tenant farmer and I regret that the Liberal party continue to bring forward amendments which are 2327 extremely contentious and which, although they may suit one class of tenants, are most unfair to other people and a great handicap to them in the management of their land.
I would assure the House that on agricultural grounds there are great disadvantages in this proposal, and I would appeal to Liberal Members to exclude it from their policy and cease to bring it forward in the future. It would create further cases of dual ownership such as have been shown to be not only most unfair to owners but extremely unsatisfactory to tenants; and in the case of the larger holdings which would come under this proposal the result would be far worse. If there were any benefit it might go to the less progressive tenants and to the less efficient landowners. Where the farms are not well equipped it might entail considerable expenditure upon the Department of Agriculture. The Government oppose this Clause because of the relief it would give to landlords at the expense of the State, and then financial and economic reasons are very sound. There are other reasons of great importance in addition. In the first place, I cannot understand the extraordinary statement from the Liberal party that there is a widespread demand for this system of tenure in Scotland. There has been no demand for it from tenant farmers. Any extension of the landholding system has been strongly opposed by the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, and with most convincing arguments. That is a representative organisation which can be relied upon for sound and moderate views, and if the Liberal party are not satisfied with their opinion, I would refer them to the National Farmers' Union, which has branches in different parts of Scotland. I have received no representations from the National Farmers' Union in Scotland in favour of this proposal, although the branches of the Union in my constituency are very strong.
I can say emphatically, as one in constant touch with the views of tenant farmers and those engaged in the management of land, that not only is there no demand for this, but that it would bring about considerably increased difficulties. There are many 2328 ways in which it would be unfair to landlords and entail considerable loss upon them, and add considerably to their work in the management of their land. I will not refer in detail to the disadvantages, as they have been mentioned in Committee upstairs, but no answer has yet been given to the various points which have been brought forward and which I do not think can be disputed. We can take it that there will be a revision and a reduction of rent for reasons that I will give. This is one of the objects which has been claimed for the Clause. I would like to ask the Liberal party what they have to say about the valuation roll entries if this new Clause is carried. When the annual value of the buildings and equipment is separated from the total we can take it that there will be a revision and a reduction of rents.
Let us take the case of a holding with a rental of£90. In that case, would the rent require to be examined and fixed by the Land Court? Suppose that the rent is£45 for the buildings and£45 for the land. In that case, the landlord would not only have the buildings confiscated and presented to the tenant, but the rent would also be halved and the valuation roll entry would also be halved. Is that the proposal, and, if not, will the members of the Liberal party say in exact figures what they are expecting. Beyond that, there will be no obligation on the tenant to spend the reduction of rent on the upkeep of the building, and the general likelihood would be a serious deterioration of buildings and equipment.
I also suggest, apart from the loss to the owner, that the difficulties of management will be greatly increased by this new Clause. The complications are already difficult enough, and the tenant farmers in Scotland do not wish to increase their difficulties and responsibilities in regard to the upkeep of buildings. Liberals say that they are opposed to nationalisation, but many of these proposals would make the landlord and tenant system so impossible that they are really keeping on nationalisation. The owners of agricultural land at the present time are paying very considerable attention to the management of their farms. I think it is generally agreed that the larger estates 2329 are being worked for the benefit of farming and the country. Capital has been provided at a very low rate of interest, and, with the existing high taxation, there is literally no return at all. In other words, both capital and equipment are now provided for the farms, and they are worked far more economically than could be done by the State. On large estates the organisation is generally much easier and more efficient than on small estates, and this is shown by the desire to obtain farms on large estates. This new Clause seems to take away from the owners and the tenants the control and responsibility for future upkeep of buildings and equipment. The proposal would be very inconvenient and most discouraging to those people who have conscientiously, through difficult times, looked after them for the occupiers. There can be no confidence or inducement in the future for those people to spend more capital upon buildings and equipment if such a system of confiscation is allowed to be carried out. It is for these reasons that I ask the Liberal party to remove this proposal from their policy.
There are numerous other complications, but I will mention only one other, and that is in regard to insurance. Previously, the owner has been responsible for insuring the buildings. I want to know what is going to happen and whether the landowner is going to pay the insurance premium, or will the tenant be responsible? If the tenant is responsible, or even if he is not responsible, and the buildings are not insured and are destroyed by fire, there is nobody to rebuild them and make good, and it would be impossible for the tenant to replace the buildings. There are many cases of
§ injustice of this kind, and I do not think that the members of the Liberal party have considered this point at all. If the buildings were destroyed by fire and left derelict, the owner would be in the position, having handed over the buildings to the tenant, of the land being left without buildings to carry on the farm.
§ I will give another reason, and this seems to be the most important of all, showing the futility of this Clause. It would be most injurious and unwelcome to the majority of farm stewards, shepherds, and ploughmen, who are extremely anxious to obtain these small farms. The Chamber of Agriculture has already stated that this new Clause would give fixity of tenure in its worst form, and might fix on a holding any indifferent tenant just so long as he was able to pay his rent. My view is that if there is any doubt in the minds of those owners in the North of Scotland in regard to security and fixity of tenure, it is due more to Liberal propaganda than to any other reason. The form of greater fixity of tenure which is now proposed would have the effect of preventing energetic farm workers from getting possession of small farms. At the present time, they need no more security than they have already. Perhaps in their desire to do another injury to landowners the Liberals thought it might be overlooked that they were doing the greatest injury of all to the most industrious and competent workers on the farms. For these reasons, I ask the House to reject this new Clause.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 18; Noes, 200.2331
|Division No. 200.]||AYES.||[1.24 p.m.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Gray, Milner||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)||Pybus, Percy John|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Glassey, A. E.||Rathbone, Eleanor||Dr. Hunter and Mr. Scott.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Barnes, Alfred John||Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Broad, Francis Alfred|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Brothers, M.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Benson, G.||Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Bird, Ernest Roy||Buchan, John|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.|
|Atholl Duchess of||Bowen, J. W.||Burgess, F. G|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Ell[...])|
|Campbell, E. T.||Kinley, J.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Rowson, Guy|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lathan, G.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Chater, Danlel||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Church, Major A. G.||Lawrence, Susan||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, John James||Sanders, W. S.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Sandham, E.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Leach, W.||Savery, S. S.|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Cove, William G.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Scurr, John|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Longden, F.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Daggar, George||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lowth, Thomas||Shield, George William|
|Dallas, George||Lunn, William||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Dairymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Dalton, Hugh||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||McElwee, A.||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D||McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Dukes, C.||Macquisten, F. A.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Duncan, Charles||McShane, John James||Smithers, Waldron|
|Ede, James Chuter||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Sorensen, R.|
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Manning, E. L.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Mansfield, W.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Marley, J.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Marshall, Fred||Sutton, J. E.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Mathers, George||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Freeman, Peter||Matters, L. W.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Messer, Fred||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Middleton, G.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.||Thomson, Mitchell-, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Montague, Frederick||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gillett, George M.||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Gossling, A. G.||Morley, Ralph||Walkden, A. G.|
|Gould, F.||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Walker, J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Clrencester)||Wallace. H. w.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Mort, D. L.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Muggeridge, H. T.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Muirhead, A. J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Naylor, T. E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Hall, J. H (Whitechapel)||Noel Baker, p. J.||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Hamilton. Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Palin, John Henry||West, F. R.|
|Handle, George D.||Palmer, E. T.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Haycock, A. W.||Perry, S. F.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|H[...]nderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Pole, Major D. G.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Potts, John S.||Williams Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Herrlotts, J.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben||Wilson R. J. Jarrow)|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Price, M. P.||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester,Loughb'gh)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Richards, R.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Isaacs, George||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Johnston, Thomas||Ritson, J||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Mr. Paling and Mr. Thurtle.|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Romeril, H. G.|