§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
My Lords, the Bill to which I have the honour to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading is, happily, a very small Bill; in fact it is hardly a Bill at all. It is a corollary of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act of 1908, and is really consequential on that Act. Your Lordships will remember what the Act of 1908 did. It put upon the county council, the duty of providing land for agricultural labourers. If land could not be provided voluntarily, then the county councils had the right to take it compulsorily; and if—and only if—the price asked for the sale of the land or for the leasing of the land was exorbitant, the Minister of Agriculture could send down an agent of his own, who allowed no private agent or lawyer to be in the room, to fix the rent according to what he thought right; and against that there was no appeal. That Act, which your Lordships passed, went much further than any Act passed in any one of our Dominions or in any part of the British Empire.
The Bill of which I move the Second Reading this afternoon proposes simply that all agricultural land vested—and I ask your Lordships to pay attention to that word "vested"—in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and all the glebe land shall become vested in the Minister 480 of Agriculture, and any portion of those lands which are suitable for small holdings or allotments may be sold or leased for that purpose to agricultural labourers, and the rest of these lands shall be managed by the Minister as he may think fit. That means that there will be no disturbance of any farmers whose land may not be required. The proceeds of these lands, after the deduction of expenses of management, will be paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Clause 2 is only a matter of arrangement, and Clause 3 is a definition clause, with which I need not trouble your Lordships.
The advantages of this Bill are very great. They are so clear and simple that need not take much time in pointing them out. In the first place half a million acres, of which half is glebe land, will be available for selection for small holdings and allotments, and rectors who are dependent on the glebe and who have to let the glebe to a tenant will be in receipt of a fixed income, as the whole management will be in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture; they will no longer be, as they are now, at the mercy of their tenant, who very often is the churchwarden, or of that Old-Man-of-the-Sea whom they know so well, and fear so much, the Diocesan Inspector. I think there can be no doubt that under this arrangement the proceeds of the land will be considerably increased, and all the money will still be paid, as heretofore, to the Church of England. I really think this is a Bill that should recommend itself to most people.
I hoped that there would not be much opposition to it and, as I have tried all my life to play with the cards on the table, I went down to the palace of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on Millbank and had an interview with a very courteous individual, a high official, in that magnificent building. He said to me: "What are the Government going to do about your Bill?" I said: "How on earth should I know? I am the last person to know. You ought to know about that." Then he said: "So far as I know we have not moved—" I forget whether he used the word "yet" or not, but he said: "We have not moved in the matter." That was very comforting, but there has nevertheless, no doubt, been a good deal of underground work by the opponents of this Bill—whether authorised 481 or unauthorised I am unable to say. I have the advantage of subscribing to a Press cutting agency, which has been good enough to send me some very remarkable cuttings of what has appeared in the provincial Press. One of the first cuttings that attracted my notice was a very important one. It said that in consequence of the certain opposition of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and of the Church dignitaries it must be taken for granted that the Government would be bound to resist this Bill. I do not think that can be authentic. Still there was in all these newspapers a distinct trend to what really would be strong opposition to the Bill.
The Western Times, a newspaper from which I should ask to be allowed to quote to the House, gave good resumé of all the reasons why this Bill should be opposed. The first, reason given in this newspaper, in the course of a well-written argument, was that there ought to be no interference at all with the present state of things because, from time immemorial, the Church itself had always been very much in favour of putting men on the land. I suppose that is quite true. If you go back three thousand years you will find the Shepherd King, as soon as he ascended the throne, was faithful to his class and issued an injunction against not only the futility but the stupidity of having large estates. He pointed out that, it was all wrong and foolish to add field to field and call estates after men's own names. He went even further than that, for we read in the Psalms that he advocated the sub-division of large estates, which were perhaps the order of the day then, and said: "I will divide Shechem and mete out the valley of Succoth." I have not the remotest idea where Shechem or Succoth is, but perhaps noble Lords familiar with the Psalms will be able to enlighten us. It is evident that the Psalmist himself was in favour of small holdings and we may, I think, truly say that, he was one of the pioneers of that great movement. Then we come down another thousand years to the Early Christians. British Early Christians had their land in common and it is to them we owe especially the great commons that are of such value and benefit to the country as a whole.
482 As regards the Ecclesiastical Commissioners I should be rather disposed to think that they hardly acted up to this Hebraic standpoint. They were hardly up to Royal David's form. I should like to ask one question of the noble Lord Lord Bledisloe, if he will be good enough to answer it. I do not know whether he will, but it is an easy question to answer. My question is: What was the number of small holdings and allotments on the vast estates of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners before the Bill of 1908 was introduced? I had some little to do with that Bill and I can assure the noble Lord that we did not receive any great assistance from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with regard to small holdings, but rather the reverse. I have not the time and this is not the place to call attention to any direct instances, but I think I may fairly say that at first the attitude of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was extremely cold towards the movement. Ultimately, however, they rather altered their attitude—like the cuckoos in June they altered their tune. They began to realise that the county councils had the power of taking land compulsorily and when the county councils began to show their teeth the Ecclesiastical Commissioners altered their position to some extent.
In the newspaper to which I have referred there is a panegyric on the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. We are told that they informed the county councils that when farms fell in they would not object in any way to offer the farms for small holdings if (and only if) they thought there was a reasonable chance of their being properly cultivated. They went even further than that, for they took the great credit of having offered them on their own accord to the county councils and, incredible as it may seem, the county councils refused the offer and these ungrateful agricultural labourers would not have anything to do with the farms offered. That seems a very good argument and a difficult one to answer, but I well remember in the early days that argument being brought forward in this House by a noble Lord. It undoubtedly had a very great effect, but, fortunately, I happened to know the land that was offered to these poor people. It was land on the top of a very high hill; it was not very good land; 483 the rent was pretty high and the land was two miles distant from the nearest village. Was there any wonder that the men would not take it? If they spent three days a week there that would have meant their walking eight to ten miles a week and in a year it would have meant that they would have to tramp between five and six hundred miles. That is a great deal to ask an agricultural labourer to undertake who has to do a hard day's work in the fields.
The defenders of the present system brought in the subject of the Partington estate, but I need not take up the time of the House in arguing that. They made a good case out of it. The last thing they brought forward and laid great stress upon was this. They said: "We are all in favour of your Bill, we shall only be too delighted if we can see you get the Bill through; but, as usual, you are too late; it is too late to do it now, it ought to have been done ten years ago at least. Why? Because then there was a very much larger amount of land. In those days the glebe was something like 650,000 acres of land with £1,000,000 revenue, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, of course, took great advantage of the agricultural boom, which took place between 1908 and 1920, and sold an enormous quantity of land—over 100,000 acres—and now you are too late. It is not worth thinking about. There is not much land left and all the best land has been sold." Things are not always what they seem. "All that glitters is not gold"—but some of it is and some of the land that is left is golden.
It is very good land indeed and what is not the very best land is quite good. It is something like the post-prandial drink which was offered to his friends by an Irish baronet, who was well known to many of your Lordships' fathers. He asked his butler one day, when the decanters were put on the table: "Is that the best port?" "It is not, Sir," the man replied. "What is it then?" he asked. "It is the best you've got, Sir." That land is like the Irishman's Blue or Yellow Seal, it is very good stuff indeed, and, there is a great deal of land which is well worthy of being cultivated and which would be received with great gratitude by any of the persons who were fortunate enough to get hold of it. I only mention this because they made 484 great stress of this argument. How anybody can stand up in a body of intelligent men and say that as there is only a small flowerpot of land left, only half a million acres, therefore this Bill on that account ought not to receive consideration, I cannot understand. With all this land left I would hardly have believed that any person would have had the hardihood to stand up and argue for the rejection of the measure on that ground.
Probably one of the great objections to the Bill will be that it is a Money Bill and therefore we cannot discuss it properly because it would be a breach of Privilege to discuss such a Bill. How can you possibly make this Bill into a Money Bill? It does not interfere in any way with public money. It does not put a shilling on the rates. It does not add one farthing to the heavy taxation which is crushing us out of existence. All it does is to transfer the money from one pocket to another. In this instance, as in not many others, the two pockets belong to the same man and, in addition, the money put into the second pocket will certainly be increased and there will be no loss to the man himself.
All I have to do now is to thank your Lordships for permitting me to introduce this Bill and to point out what is really wanted. I am asking you to give a second Reading to this Bill. What is a Second Reading? It is only the affirmation of the principle of a Bill. The machinery for carrying out this Bill may not be of the very best, but that is relatively unimportant. All we ask you to do is to accept the principle. The method for carrying it out is only a matter of arrangement. There is one point on which we lay enormous stress. We say that, if this Bill is passed, all the money is to go to the Church and not one single sixpence is to go to any-body else we say that the money belongs to the great Church of England; we say "Render unto Cæsar the things that are Caesar's," and we do not even ask for the canine privilege of picking up one solitary crumb that may fall from the ecclesiastical table.
Your decision on this Bill will be eagerly awaited to-night by large numbers of your fellow-countrymen, who are afraid now that vested interests—for that is really what it comes to—will prevail in the end. We—I think I may include 485 all the Liberals on these Benches—are pleading for the poor clergymen whose existence now in many cases is in danger. We are also pleading for the poor parishioners. Remembering the glorious record of your Lordships' House in the wondrous management by which you and your fathers before you have managed your vast estates, and remembering the care you and yours have shown to the women and children of those men who have the good fortune to live on those estates, we plead for them, we plead for those poor men who are living in some parts of England and whose condition is still a national scandal, a national danger and a national crime. We are pleading for these poor workers on the land who fought for you, for me and for the country, which they all helped to save. Remembering all this, we plead for them and hope that to-night our efforts will not be altogether in vain.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Lincolnshire.)
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (LORD BLEDISLOE)
My Lords, we all have to admit that the noble Marquess, who has introduced this Bill to your Lordships' notice, is a great protagonist of the small holders of this country and has probably done more than any one man to develop small holdings, under his Act of 1908, which is the foundation now of all modern legislation on the subject, and to maintain the enthusiasm and activities of politicians in this connection. I should like to make it perfectly clear that whatever may in the past have been the attitude of members of the Party to which I belong on the subject of small holdincrs—and I believe we were, in fact, responsible for the first measure of the kind which was placed upon the Statute Book—our enthusiasm to-day for the reasonable development on economic lines of small holdings is at least as great as that of the noble Marquess, and I believe very much greater than that of the Psalmist.
The noble Marquess has anticipated certain arguments which may be directed against this Bill. These arguments appear to have been derived mainly from newspaper cuttings which, personally, I have not had the privilege of seeing. One argument he suggested was that this might be described as a Money Bill. I 486 am sure it would be so described in another place, but I am certainly not going to base any opposition to the Bill on that ground. Let me assure him that if he thinks that His Majesty's Government are going to oppose this Bill owing to the opposition of Church dignitaries, which seems to be the main gist of the cuttings to which he has referred, our withers are wholly unwrung by anything Church dignitaries may say on this subject. It is a matter which, in relation to our desire to develop small holdings, is of relatively small importance. If this Bill is really intended to develop small holdings surely it is upon that ground only and on the strength of arguments in support of that thesis alone that you can ask for a Second Reading.
I am going to suggest to your Lordships—and I say it with all deference to the noble Marquess and with a large measure of sympathy with him—that there is no argument before the House to show that small holdings are certain to be increased by the passage of the Bill or that the income of the impoverished clergy is likely to be increased thereunder. So far as I can gather, the object of the noble Marquess in introducing this Bill is to increase small holdings, and nothing else. I rather assume that that is the sole object of the noble Marquess in submitting this Bill. From that point of view we have very carefully examined its provisions, and our considered opinion is that the Bill will not have this effect and may have an effect of an opposite character.
First of all, in looking at these estates of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners from this standpoint, I think we are entitled to ask two questions. Are these estates at the present time only sparsely provided with small holdings, that is, small holdings in a statutory sense, holdings of less than 50 acres? And is there any reluctance now—whatever there may have been in the past—on the part of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to meet county councils in the, provision of statutory small holdings? After a perfectly impartial investigation of this subject, we find that there is no ground of complaint against the Ecclesiastical Commissioners so far as small holdings are concerned. The agricultural estates of the Commissioners amount to 240,000 acres, divided into 3,000 separate holdings. Of these 3,000 holdings no fewer than 1,800, 487 or 60 per cent. of the whole, do not exceed 50 acres. They are, therefore, technically or in a statutory sense small holdings. As regards the matter of glebe lands, which are also dealt with by this Bill, the noble Marquess stated that they totalled 600,000 acres.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
I beg the noble Marquess's pardon. That is the figure which I have—250,000 acres. As these are spread over thousands of rural parishes throughout the country a very large proportion, possibly as much as 70 per cent., must be in holdings of less than 50 acres. We have no precise figures on this subject, but I think we may assume that as far as glebe land is concerned a preponderant portion of the land is in holdings of less than 50 acres. The noble Marquess has already pointed out that no money will actually change hands as between the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on the one side and the State on the other. Apparently the Ecclesiastical Commissioners under the Bill will become no more than a sort of conduit pipe through which the net revenues of these lands will pass from the Ministry to the Clergy. As he said, it is taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another. But again I ask: Will it have the effect of either adding to the income of the clergy or increasing small holdings?
As regards the first point, I think it must be perfectly obvious that if you are going to introduce another authority between the owners of the land and the ultimate small holders it must involve some cost and certainly the employment of a certain number of officials who are not at present employed. I believe that from every quarter of the House in present circumstances and in the present state of the National Exchequer, there would be opposition to a multiplication of Government officials. But the Bill will not render these lands any more available than they are to-day for the purposes of small holdings. There are in existence ample powers, which can be directed against the Ecclesiastical Commissioners just as much as against any private owner, for the acquisition upon reasonable terms of any land required for this purpose and suitable for this 488 purpose, if necessary by compulsion. Let me remind your Lordships that compulsion can be exercised in the last resort just as much against the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as against any private estate owner in this country.
The noble Marquess admitted, and it is true, that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have repeatedly offered land to the county council when the tenancy of such land has become vacant. He went on to say that a good deal of it was unsuited for the purpose—I am sorry to say that in other cases also a good deal of land offered to the county councils has proved to be unsuitable for small holdings—but a large area of such land has been found perfectly suitable and has been accepted by the county councils. Mere transfer to the Ministry of Agriculture would not result in such land becoming vacant. Existing tenants of the land have to be dispossessed whether the land is in the hands of the Ministry of Agriculture or any other hands, and your Lordships have provided by successive Acts of Parliament that full and sufficient compensation for disturbance shall be provided for such persons even when the land is required for small holdings.
The noble Marquess said that the land comprised certain plums. He rather indicated that although all that glitters is not gold, there was a certain amount of gold, and those golden parts would be the parts that would be taken for small holdings. But the more golden those parts are the more gold would have to be paid to the outgoing tenant. What is going to happen to these people? Surely in our desire to provide small holdings we must at least consider the requirements of the sitting tenant. At any rate the Small Holdings Act of last year was founded on the principle that, while making every reasonable effort to provide more small holdings in the country, we did not feel justified in unduly disturbing those who were already cultivating land to the advantage of the nation and themselves.
I do not quite know, after studying this Bill, whether the noble Marquess proposes that a new small holdings authority should be set up such as he did not contemplate in his Act of 1908, but I cannot imagine anything more unfortunate than that the Ministry of Agriculture on the 489 one hand and the County Councils, with much more local knowledge, on the other should be competing in the task of providing prospective small holders with the land that they require. So far from accelerating the activities of the county councils the result, to my mind, would inevitably be that the county councils would lose a great deal of the enthusiasm that they feel to-day—and with every quinquennial period that passes that enthusiasm is becoming more evident—and the task would ultimately be left to a Government Department that is particularly unfitted for it and that, in our judgment, would carry it out far less efficiently than the county councils are doing at the present time. I do not know that I can say any more, but I am going to ask your Lordships not to agree to the Second Reading of this Bill, and for the best of reasons—namely, that in our judgment, and after careful and not un-sympathetic examination of the Bill and its probable results, we believe that it would not tend to add to the number of small holdings and would especially, if an attempt were made to speed up the provision of small holdings under it, involve considerable cost, by way of compensation and otherwise, which would reduce the amount of revenue now passing to the somewhat impoverished clergy with whom we have considerable sympathy.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord opposite has really met the arguments that were brought forward by the noble Marquess who moved the Second Reading of this Bill. I should like to point out very shortly that some of the matters that he raised are really not relevant to the Bill that is now before your Lordships' House, but before doing so I would make one point quite clear. I certainly should not support the Second Reading of any Bill of this kind unless I had ascertained that the provisions for compensation were in my opinion entirely satisfactory, because, although I have sometimes been accused of another view, I may mention that about fifty years ago I wrote a book, as the noble Lord will know, laying down views on compensation which I have never changed from that day to this. The provisions proposed regarding compensation are in principle quite right. If other words are needed they can easily be added, but, so far as the income of 490 rectors or vicars is concerned (I will deal presently with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners), that income is, I think, entirely secured by the provisions of the Bill itself. The only criticism of the Bill that I have to make—and I dare say that the noble Marquess will consider this point if the matter comes to Committee—would be that, in his clause dealing with compensation, he does not say the number of years prior to the transfer that are to be considered in order to obtain the basis of the income actually received. But that is a matter of detail.
In a matter of this kind the highest test of compensation is that equal security—and I think the noble Marquess is right in speaking of greater security under this Bill—should apply to the existing income from land as is now being enjoyed. That is the highest measure of compensation, and I think the noble Marquess is quite right, having regard to the conditions of land tenure and ownership in this country, in saying that he provides a very desirable measure of compensation in favour of the Church. I do not want to go into points of detail, but I feel quite certain that, if all the landed possessions now dedicated to Church purposes were transferred on the terms that the present holders should be secure in the income that they are now enjoying, this would be an admirable settlement from the point of view of the Church. I have said that several of the matters to which the noble Lord referred do not arise on this Bill. There is no suggestion here of interference with existing tenants. On the contrary, exactly the same principle would be applied as regards small holdings constituted under this Bill as applies to small holdings at the present time. I do not want to misinterpret the noble Lord in any way, but I thought that he suggested that, in the Bill as it stands, there would be some insecurity for the existing tenant to which he is not subject at the present time.
§ LORD BLEDISLOE
I did not mean to suggest that. All I wanted to point out was that the same difficulty regarding getting rid of existing tenants would arise under this Bill as arises at present under the county council scheme.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Everyone would assent to that proposition, but I do not 491 think that it is an objection to this Bill. I hope that, whenever small holdings are taken, they will be taken having regard to the security of existing tenants; but the purport of this Bill is a different one and, I think, an excellent one. It is that, as regards what are called ecclesiastical and glebe lands, there should be a transfer from one public Department to another—that is to say, from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture ought really, if we are to have an effective system of small holdings, to be the Department in authority and control wherever land suitable for small holdings is under public management, providing, of course, that in that transfer all interests are properly compensated. What, then, is the objection that the noble Lord makes? There will be no interference here with the enthusiasm of the county councils. On the contrary, there will be an assistance to them, because the Ministry of Agriculture would naturally be sympathetic to the demand for small holdings which is really the purpose of the present Bill.
I do not think that any one who knows what has been done by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners will suggest for a moment that they have not managed their property in an admirable manner. I see that my noble friend Lord Daryngton, who has taken his part in that management, is present. No one suggests that the management is not of the best possible kind, but that is not the question before us. I want to take the test that the noble Lord himself took. Is this Bill likely to add to the number of small holdings?—whether under tenants or owners does not really matter, because you give the tenant a security practically equal to that of an owner. I think it certainly will. My own view regarding small holdings, which I have stated before to your Lordships, is that we are bound to have a very large extension of small holdings if we are to keep agriculture on an economic and safe footing in this country. That, I know, is the opinion of the noble Lord opposite. Only the other day I spent some time in Guernsey looking into land tenure there. It was admirable. There was prosperity on every side, and yet the average holding was something less than ten acres and the largest holding that I found in 492 Guernsey was about thirty acres. The consequence is that there is content all round and the farms are admirably farmed and managed.
What has the noble Lord to say against this Bill on that point? The Ministry of Agriculture is the very Department which ought to deal with the matter. Full compensation is provided for all the interests affected, and surely it is right that in a matter of this kind, particularly when one remembers the views of the noble Lord himself, the Ministry of Agriculture should have a direct interest in meeting the county councils and making the provision of small holdings as sympathetic, if I may use that expression, and as economic as possible. Of course you cannot hare small holdings on other than an economic basis. Everyone knows that, but I want to say that in one respect the noble Lord, I think, made a mistake. Small holdings are already defined not only by a limit of acreage, but also by rental, which is not to exceed £100. That is the class of holding that is really managed by the owner or the farmer and his family, and that is the form of holding that is going to be the safeguard of agriculture in this country. Larger farms in my experience are extraordinarily expensive, and a failure both to the farmer and the landowner at the present time. I must say that I regret that a more sympathetic attitude has not been shown by the Government in respect of this Bill, which in my opinion, and I agree with the noble Marquess, is of considerable value and cannot be of injury to any interest involved, owing to the ample measure of compensation which is contained in the provisions of the Bill.
§ LORD DARYNGTON
My Lords, as an Ecclesiastical Commissioner, perhaps I. may be allowed to say one or two words with regard to the speeches which have been delivered on the other side. I think the noble Marquess, in his very amusing speech, rather skated over some of the points in the Bill, and I should like to emphasise what they are. This is a Bill to put into the hands of the Minister of Agriculture certain lands which he can sell or lease for the purposes of small holdings or allotments, and two bodies are chosen, out of all the landowners in the country, to be attacked. In the opinion of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners 493 the compensation would be grossly inadequate in large areas. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the other body are to be expropriated from all their agricultural land, whether it is land suitable or not for small holdings, and whether it is held in trust or not, and when the noble Marquess turned round to the noble Lords behind him, and said they were all going to vote for the Bill, I think they cannot have realised the fact which I have just stated. The two bodies mentioned in the Bill are the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and all incumbents of parochial benefices, and it must be plain that this Bill is a sort of nationalisation, or attempt at it, which is absolutely unjust.
§ LORD DARYNGTON
I do not think the noble Lord would have said that when he wrote his book fifty years ago. Perhaps it is the duty of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, more than it is the duty of other bodies, to provide small holdings. I believe the Commissioner's are very desirous of providing small holdings, and have shown that by their actions in the past, but much building land is agricultural, and they are not to receive the value of their properties. Most of us know how difficult it is to say what is agricultural land and what is not. I should like to quote what is said in this Bill:—Any portions of the said land and the said glebe land (notwithstanding anything contained in the Glebe Lands Act, 1888) which are in the opinion of the Minister suitable for the provision of small holdings or allotments shall be sold or leased or otherwise dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts, 1908 to 1926, and until the dates of their sale or lease shall be managed by the Minister; and any portions of the said land and the said glebe land which are in the opinion of the Minister not suitable for the provision of small holdings and allotments shall be managed by him as he may think fit, and he may sell such portions by ordinary sale.The proceeds arising from the said land and the said glebe land during the management by the Minister, and the proceeds of any sales of such land either limier the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts, 1908 to, 1926, or otherwise, shall, after the deduction of the expenses of management and sale and whatever sums may be payable by the Minister in respect of taxes and rates, be paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who shall deposit all sums so received in the first Fund or the Second Fund (as hereinafter 494 defined and described) according as to the money paid by the Minister accrues from the said land or from the said glebe land.The Commissioners are to have no voice at all in these dealings, and I think all noble Lords must realise that that is an injustice.
The amount of agricultural land held by the Commissioners has been stated to-night in this House. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners hold 235,000 acres, in 800 English parishes, spread over the whole of the counties of England. Out of 3,000 tenancies there are 1,800 tenancies of one to fifty acres. Those figures show that they have done a good deal on behalf of small holdings and are trying to facilitate the acquisition by county councils of land for small holdings. The total area of glebe land of benefices is about 250,000 acres. There is no return to show how much is agricultural land, but if the noble Marquess would look at the Glebe Land Return, 1887, he would see how many holdings there are of less than fifty acres. I would like to ask one simple question. What is the object of transferring the land from one authority to another? Is there any reason to believe that these holdings would increase? I think, if I may say so, that there have been many statements made to-night in this House without any real knowledge as to the Commissioners' properties and their liabilities. I do not know whether your Lordships are aware that the common fund of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners is an account of the yearly revenue and disbursements, and the yearly revenue is legally charged with perpetual annual payments to a large percentage of the whole. I could say much more, but owing to the late hour I will merely ask your Lordships to reject the Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LINCOLNSHIRE
My Lords, I do not want to stand between the House and a Division, but a, direct challenge has been made to me to prove that the income would increase for a certainty under the Bill. I was not surprised at the question coming from the noble Lord who represents the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, but I am surprised at Lord Bledisloe asking that question. What we are asking the House to do now is what we did in 1908. What we did then was to take over the agricultural land from the Crown. We took 495 over the Crown agricultural lands, which are now State or national lands. We took over 70,000 acres of agricultural land, and the result was that in three years—I was in office—we put 5,000 acres under small holdings, and we built, altered and improved a great many cottages. We did away with all tied cottages which were under the old management, and, for all I know, under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' management. There was one woman, I remember, who had 17 cottages in one village. We did away with all the subletting, which, under the same men who are doing the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' work now, was then allowed. In one instance a parson, who was the Crown tenant, had sub-let to another man, who himself had sub-let to a third man, and we reduced the rent from £25 an acre to £5 an acre. In addition to
§ Resolved in the negative and Motion disagreed to accordingly.496
§ that, at the end of three years we had paid into the Public Treasury £8,000 more than was paid before under the old management.
§ If we could do that with 70,000 acres, what could we do with 500,000? I ask that question with all humility and all respect, and I hope I have answered the challenge thrown out to me to say that these unfortunate rectors' incomes would not be decreased. I think that, from what we have done in the past and what I believe the agents are doing now, I have every right to say that under my Bill the rectors' incomes would be increased, and the position of their parishoners improved.
§ On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 64.495
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Aberconway, L.||Northington, L. ((L. Henley.)|
|Anslow, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Charnwood, L.||Saye and Sele, L. [Teller.]|
|Oxford and Asquith, E.||Clwyd, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Doverdale, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Haldane, V.||Hemphill, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Leverhulme, V.||Marshall of Chipstead, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Muir Mackenzie, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Southwark, L. Bp.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Worcester, L. Bp.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Armstrong, L.||Lamington, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Avebury, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Biddulph, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Bledisloe, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L. (L. Mereworth.)|
|Lovelace, E.||Carew, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Midleton, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Plymouth, E. [Teller.]||Cottesloe, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Darling, L.||Ruthven of Gowrie, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Daryngton, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Desborough, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Dynevor, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Ernle, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Inchcape, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Swansea, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Hanworth, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Novar, V.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Teynham, L.|
|Younger of Leckie, V.||Horne, L.||Wharton, L.|