Orders of the Day — Old Age Pensions. – in the House of Commons on 19th December 1919.
(2) Where an Order for the compulsory acquisition of land has been duly made under the provisions of this Act, then at any time after a notice to treat has been served the Board may, after giving not less than fourteen days' notice to each owner, lessee, and occupier of the land or such part thereof as is specified in the notice, enter on and take possession of the land without previous consent or compliance with Sections eighty-three to eighty-eight of the Lands Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act, 1845, but subject to the payment of the like compensation for the land of which possession is taken and interest on the compensation awarded as would have been payable if those provisions had been complied with.
Lords Amendment: After Sub-section (1), insert the following new Sub-section:
(2) No order for the compulsory acquisition of land made under the Provisions of this Act shall authorise the acquisition of any land which at the date of the Order forms part of any park, or of any home farm attached to and usually occupied with a mansion house if the land is required for the amenity or convenience of the mansion house, or of any land which at that date forms part of any garden or pleasure ground, or which is woodland, not wholly surrounded by or adjacent to land acquired by the Board under this Act.
I beg to move, "That this House cloth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
I may, perhaps, be allowed to explain that this Amendment affects only Part I. of the Bill. The position is that a similar Clause for the protection of home farms, parks, woodlands, and so on, was inserted in the corresponding English measure. Further, a Clause even more drastic in its terms than this particular proposal is already in the 1911 Scottish Act, and, therefore, a Clause which, as I say, is stronger in its terms than this, regulates the procedure under Part II. of the Bill. It is now proposed to bring Part I. into line with Part II. in this matter, and the case for agreeing with the Lords in this matter is even stronger when I find a corresponding provision, not only in the Scottish Act of 1911, in the English Act of last year, but also in nearly every corresponding Statute dealing with the acquisition of land, such as even the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1916. I have consulted the Board of Agriculture specifically with regard to this question, and I am informed that it is not anticipated that this provision, if it is inserted in the Bill, will be unduly hampering in effect. It only comes into operation, as the House will see, with regard to compulsory purchase, and one hopes that in most of these cases under Part I the purchase may be arranged by agreement rather than by compulsion, hut on the various grounds which I have mentioned I venture to recommend the House to agree to this Amendment.
This Amendment of the Lords practically excludes the home farms from the possibility of small holdings being carved out. As a matter of fact, my right hon. Friend was quite right an saying that nearly all of us who have been interested in the question of small holdings in Scotland have taken the view that, as far as possible, the home farm should be excluded, and as I myself was the father of the Bill in which that was recognised, I do not feel that one could oppose this Amendment from the Lords right out. At the same time, I want to bring a case before my right hon. Friend which, I hope will receive his sympathetic consideration. It is very material to one part of Scotland where the question of small holdings is vital. There is one fact which has emerged since we discussed the Scottish Land Bills in the House of Commons, and that is the effect of the War. Indeed, this Bill is in the nature largely of emergency legislation. If the home farm is excluded in all cases, then I submit that the possibility of settling men on the land in the Islands and Highlands is somewhat remote. That is the ease I wish to make against this Amendment.
This morning I got a letter from a man in the islands who gives one or two apposite examples of the kind of thing to which I am referring. For instance, he gives a case in North Uist which is in the Outer Hebrides, where an estate of the name of Bellrannel was confiscated from the adjoining crofters prior to the passing of the Crofters Act. This estate is of 2,000 acres, and is surrounded entirely by crofting townships. One of these townships, says my correspondent, is comprised of nineteen crofters, there being no other land except this estate from which to get enlargements, and he goes on to point out that those crofters have actually said, as many crofters have been saying in the Islands and Highlands of Scotland, that they are going to take possession of the other land unless it can be obtained for them. He also gives me two examples in Sutherland. I know there are other Members of the House who represent the Islands and Highlands who have probably a number of examples in their mind. This correspondent gives an example in Sutherlandshire, where there is a certain community of nearly 1,000 souls, some with miserable patches of land, and where, like other places, the young men fought for their country in the recent War. He points out that if the home farm in those cases is not available, then the success of the Act may he jeopardised. After all, the home farm is going to be bought and compensation is going to be paid, and what I would like to suggest to my right hon. Friend is whether the words suggested by the Lords could not modified in some way. I thought of tie words "exceptional circumstances," but I know that if I suggested Hose words ray right hon. Friend would say that there would be a difficulty in defining them. What I want to achieve is that particularly in the islands and Highlands the question of the home farm should occupy a different position from that in the rest of Scotland. I would suggest that we should compromise on this Amendment, and that in the case of the islands and Highland counties the home farm should be looked upon in a different category from the other counties in Scotland. I am sure, then, there would be sonic hope in those districts of the men, and partieuiarly the ex-Service men, getting a piece of land. I hope, my right hon. Friend will hold out some hope that we shall conic to terms with the House of Lords on that point. I think it is a fair compromise, and I know perfectly well that hon. Members who represent, those counties would approve of it.
I should hardly have thought in a case of this kind purchase should be made at all unless by agreement. It would involve compensation if purchase were made against the owner of the home farm.
I should like to say a word in support of the remarks of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Rogge). I would be quite willing, and I believe the landlords might. have been quite willing, to leave the matter to the discretion of the Board of Agriculture, who, after all, are sensible men, but there are exceptional cases such as my hon. Friend referred to with which I am acquainted and connected with which I have had correspondence, where it might be hard, and would be a disabling enactment from the point of view of providing small holdings or extending existing holdings. If some loophole could be devised by the ingenuity of my right hon. Friend so that cases of that kind could be provided for, it would be an advantage. No one wants to disturb unnecessarily home farms or the demesne of the mansion house, but something must be done, seeing that the discretion of the Board of Agriculture is not approved by the House of Lords, taking up the cue of the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger). I think some modification might be made.
By leave of the House, may I say that I think my hon. Friend has exaggerated the importance of the point of view that he has put forward, although I think I quite understand it. He will find that the class of cases with which this Amendment deals is an extremely narrow one. In the first place, it only comes into operation where compulsory acquisition of land takes place. The second limitation is this: He is quite wrong when he says that the home farm is excluded in all cases. If he would be good enough to look at the Amendment, he will see that it only deals with a particular class of home farm. It is not every home farm, but only those in which the land is required for the amenity or convenience of Lire mansion house. That is the only kind of home farm which is excluded by this Amendment. Any proposal to take compulsorily, under the powers of the Board of Agriculture, a home farm of that description, which is necessary for the amenity of the mansion house, would involve a ruinous compensation and would be most undesirable from that point of view alone. When my hon. Friend further remembers that it is only the 1911 Act in which this Clause appears, I put it to the House and to my hon. Friend with some confidence, that, looking at the particular limitations with which this Clause is fenced that the prospect he indicates is really not likely to arise. If I thought it would, I would take ways and means to meet my lion. Friend. But honestly I do not think so.
I do not want to press this matter unduly, but we must remember what is going on in the Outer Hebrides practically every month. My right hon. Friend will remember, for instance, that from the island of Lewis alone 7,000 men joined the Colours, and there are some thousands of ex-Service men in that one island alone. There is the difficulty. I am not pleading for the rest of Scotland in putting forward my suggestions for extreme care in this matter.