(1) In addition to the powers conferred upon them by any other enactment the Public Works Loan Commissioners may out of funds at their disposal advance on loan to societies on a co-operative basis having for their object or one of their objects the provision of profitable working of allotments which are entitled to any land for an estate in fee simple, or for any term of years absolute whereof not less than fifty years shall for the time being remain unexpired, and any such societies may borrow from the Public Works Loan Commissioners such money as may be required for the purpose of such provision or profitable working of allotments, whether in relation to the purpose of requisites, the sale of produce, credit, banking, insurance, or otherwise.
(2) Such loans shall be made in manner provided by The Public Works Loan Act, 1875, subject to the following provisions:
(3) For the purpose of provision or profitable working of allotments every such society as aforesaid is hereby authorised to purchase, take, and hold land, and if not already a body corporate shall, for the purpose of holding such land under this Act and of suing and being sued in respect thereof, be nevertheless deemed a body corporate with perpetual succession.—[Mr. Acland.]
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This new Clause is, briefly, to enable the Public Works Loan Commissioners to advance funds at their disposal on loan to societies formed on a co-operative basis to assist these societies to buy their allotments. The main point about allotments is that nothing short of real security of tenure is of any permanent value. I acknowledge that the Minister has done much and is trying to do more, but the only thing which gives real security is ownership and it is of enormous benefit when the allotment holder really owns a certain amount of land, which cannot be taken away from him. We know that at present the powers of the State are very limited and the difficulty is to combine the desire which we all feel, that the allotment holders should be assisted to purchase their land with the known restrictions which are put upon the advancing of money. The principle of enabling the Public Works Loan Commissioners to lend money for this purpose was strongly urged in the report of the Allotments Committee which everybody wishes to carry out if they can, but at present, when the matter is brought to the notice of the Minister, he says what is quite true and what we must accept as true, namely that the Treasury has not got the money. For the purposes of this Debate it might be said that if the Coalition Government remains in office, that uncomfortable position should speedily be removed and the country restored to a position of greater solvency.
The point I wish to snake, however, is this, although the allotment holders—and in this matter I speak for both the organisations in the country—are perfectly willing to accept the fact that the Public Works Loan Commissioners cannot possibly now make any loans for the purpose because the Treasury will not allow the money to be advanced, yet unless we put some provision of this sort into the Bill it is very doubtful, even when better days come, whether they will be able to advance the money for this purpose. We want to be in a position of certainty so that we will not require to introduce another Bill enabling this to be done when the country's finances have become easier. The allotment holders all over the country are perfectly willing to accept the present position that no money can be advanced, if they are assured that when money can be advanced, they in common with other people will have a chance of getting some of it. I know of many instances where allotment scieties and associations wish to buy land and are willing to pay a quarter of the purchase price, and where the bank is willing to advance another quarter, and where, if a public body were willing to advance on anything like reasonable terms, the other half, or in certain circumstances only a third, the thing would go through. We acknowledge that cannot be done now, but some provision should be inserted to enable advances to be made for this purpose when the Treasury embargo is taken off. I think that aspect of the matter is rather a new point. It was not fully brought out in Committee. I have done my best to make it quite clear that the allotment organisations do not expect anything to be done at present during this stringency, but that they want to take powers against the time when things may be a little easier.
I desire to support this Clause very strongly indeed. It was originally put down in Committee at the instance of the National Union of Allotment Holders, and it is regarded by allotment holders up and down the country as of the greatest possible importance to them. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, in contesting the Clause in Committee, put forward the difficulties with the Treasury, but I desire to reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) has just said. The other point taken by the Minister was that the Public Works Loan Commissioners were doubtful of their security, but the answer to that is that if they are doubtful of the security they will not advance the money. I do not think the House would anticipate further legislation on this subject, at any rate for some two or three years. Things may get better; adequate security may be supplied, and therefore I beg my right hon. Friend to accept this Clause. It is far better to follow the principle that the allotment holders have put forward, not to ask for subsidies, but that they may be enabled to finance their holdings themselves, and I hope the Clause will therefore be accepted.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN:
I very much regret that I cannot possibly accept this Clause, for the reasons which I gave in Committee. I should very much like to see something of this sort done, but it is a financial matter. I have approached the Treasury and the Public Works Loan Commissioners on the subject, and their answer is that, even if the Clause be inserted in the Bill, there is not the slightest chance of any Money being made available for this purpose. They suggest that the security, in their opinion, in most cases would not be sufficient, and they point out that even in the ease of housing under some of the public utility societies there have been losses. What would be the effect of putting this Clause in here? It would simply raise expectations all over the country that would not be fulfilled, and I think that is the very worst thing we could do. Of course, in two years' time, if financial conditions have greatly changed, there will be nothing whatever to prevent my hon. Friends bringing in a short Bill of one Clause to enable this to be done, but to put it into the Bill now, when we know the money cannot be made available, would be a great mistake, and, much as I regret it, I must ask the House to reject the Clause.
Yes, later on, but no one knows better than he does that any Member of the House can get up, and say, "I object," and that that is the end of the One-Clause Bill. Obviously his party would do it, and we should also, if the circumstances arose. It is somewhat astonishing to hear the argument that the security would not be satisfactory, because one would assume from that that if this Clause were accepted, the Commissioners would be compelled to loan the money. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that that is not only not true, but absurd. He knows very well that the loaning of money for the existing security is determined by them, and by them alone. They are the sole judges of the situation; they can accept or reject as they like, and to assume that if this Clause were put in the Bill it would compel them to invest money regardless of security, is to suggest something that is contrary to experience and to practice. In regard to the argument that putting the Clause in might raise false expectations, that is not the object. If at the present moment there were plenty of money, and the Commissioners were in a position to advance money for this purpose, I venture to say that Members in all parts of the House would support it, because there is at least general agreement that if there be one class of people who ought to be encouraged it is the allotment holders. There is general agreement that, from a health point of view, they ought to be encouraged. It makes the very best type of citizen, and the pride which these people take in their gardens ought to be sufficient inducement for us to give them an opportunity of owning their land. It is frankly admitted that there is no money now, but, pessimistic as my right hon. Friend may be, he will not suggest that some day that position may not be improved.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN:
If I may interrupt my right hon. Friend, I did not realise when I was speaking that there was another way of meeting the point, but I am reminded that the Public Works Loans Bill is brought in every year, and that there is nothing to prevent an Amendment to that Bill being brought forward at any time, without the necessity of introducing a separate Bill.
If there be any substance in that argument, it is that the right hon. Gentleman believes it is a good thing, but that he does not want it in this Bill. There can be no other substance in that additional argument. He says there is another way by which we can do this If these ways are open, it is obvious that he thinks it is a good thing, but we are dealing at the moment with an Allotments Bill, and surely, instead of bringing in fresh legislation or Amendments to other Bills, if it be generally recognised that this would be a good thing, and that allotments ought to be encouraged and developed, and even if we frankly admit that there is no money at the moment but that to put in the Clause here will save the necessity of introducing another Bill, then let us put it in now, and then, when circumstances change, effect can be given to it. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman is not only not conclusive, but I submit that he ought to reconsider the matter and accept an Amendment in which he believes on principle.
I think we are all agreed that it is very desirable to give every possible facility to these allotment holders. The Clause gives sufficient power to the Public Works Loan Commissioners to accept or refuse applications from allotment holders, and in the second line it says that the Commissioners "may, out of funds at their disposal, advance" money. If they have no money at their disposal, then they will not be able to advance any, and even if they have, it is not obligatory upon them to advance it.
I speak as a Public Works Loan Commissioner, and I wish to say that we think this Clause is inadvisable. It is true that we have no money now, but at any time we may have this money, and it would be holding out false hopes if the Commissioners let it be understood that they would consider this as a proper security for public funds to be advanced by them. We do not think so, and we had better say so at once. Secondly, as regards this security, we feel that if this land be left on our hands eventually, it will be an even worse security for the Commissioners to dispose of than land on which houses have been built, on which we have already advanced money. Our experience is that land having been built on appears to us to offer insuperable difficulties in the future, but in the case of land not built on, we think still more trouble will ensue, and a great deal of public money will unfortunately be irrecoverable. Further, in reference to these allotments, it is our belief that the money, or sufficient money, will be provided, or can be provided, by the local authorities, and it is quite possible that local authorities and these associations might be competing if this Clause were carried. I think that any differences would be unfortunate. Therefore, as one of the Commissioners, I wish to point out that I think it would be better if this Amendment were not pressed.
May I say that, largely speaking, the land that will be taken for allotments will not be building but agricultural land. Much of it is valueless, and what gives it value is purely the work put into it by the allotment holders. It will not be a wasting security but an increasing security. I have seen land practically barren taken by people who have put three or four years hard work into it, and at the end they have been compelled to give up the land. We want, by means of this Bill, to enable people, who have put in years of work, to purchase their allotments, and so have security of tenure. Otherwise the amount of compensation given to these people is utterly futile. That will not compensate them in any way for the work they have done, and other people will reap the benefit of their hard work. I hope the Minister will reconsider the matter and accept the Amendment.
I hope the Minister of Agriculture will resist this Clause. It contains, I think, two or three very real dangers. We are asked by this Clause to advance public money to private individuals to make a private purchase. If an allotment holder acquires for allotments, land which is potential building land, then he is to earn an increment at somebody else's expense. There is this further objection. There will be for the next few years a very heavy burden on local authorities, and every penny we can raise in any direction ought to go to the relief of those local burdens. There ought to be in this House a very serious objection to granting money to private individuals or groups of private individuals. If the local authority acquired the land, and let it to local occupiers, that could be arguable, but, in the present economic pressure, to advance money to private individuals, would be a very bad practice, and I hope it will not be followed.
I wish to add my voice to the many voices raised in appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. E. C. Grenfell), who is a, Commissioner, is entitled to due weight, but he has only told us that he, as a Commissioner, would not agree to the lending of the money for the purpose intended in this Clause. That may be the opinion of the Commissioners to-day, but not for all time. There may come a time when the Commissioners may have a different opinion from that expressed by my hon. Friend, and surely the House has no right to tie down the Commissioners in the future? After all, as the hon. Member for London University (Sir P. Magnus) has pointed out, it is only an enabling Clause. The Commissioners may lend money if they think fit, and if money be available. Therefore, if at some future time money be available, and if, in the opinion of the Commissioners at that time, this be a suitable investment, why should be tie the Commissioners down not to grant the money? I think the Minister has scarcely given sufficient consideration to the argument put forward by my right hon. Friend opposite, that, after all, the allotment holders do not expect any immediate benefit from this if adopted. Surely that statement, coming from such a source, is entitled to a little more consideration than has been given it? I would ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider this matter, and, if possible, lend a more favourable ear to the arguments put for ward. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite goes to a division, I shall certainly vote with him, and I shall do so, having in my mind the supreme importance of giving all the aid we possibly can to allotment holders, who are, all over the country, as I know, attaching very great importance to getting as much as possible out of this Bill. It is all very well for my right hon. Friend to say that at some future time you can pass a one-Clause Bill. He knows very well that, unless you have Government support for a Bill in this House, there is not much chance of carrying it. Therefore, now is the time, and not some future time, when, if hon. Members opposite brought forward a one-Clause Bill, it might be objected to by one Member. That is no prospect at all. Why not deal with the matter now in a comprehensive way, and in such a way as to provide for all emergencies?
The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Simm) said he would have supported this Clause if it had been to give the money to a public authority, but he could not see his way to support it, because it sought to give money to a collection of private in individuals. Personally, that is just the reason why I should support this Amendment. I would very much prefer to support an individualistic effort in a co-operative form than give money to local authorities, which is a form of State Socialism, and never works so well as private individuals co-operating together. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman opposite takes this to a division, I shall certainly support him. I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), like Saul amongst the prophets. I heard him, amid the cheers of the Labour Party, frankly giving up Land Nationalisation —throwing over what I had always considered to be one of the planks of the Labour party, and pressing a Tory Minister to advance public money in order that private individuals might be made landowners. I think, if this Friday afternoon be spent in no other way, it has been most profitably spent by making it perfectly clear that the Labour Party have thrown over land nationalisation, and are out to create a series of Tory freeholders who will support a Unionist Government in the future.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his attitude upon this Clause, for one reason, in order to encourage the Labour Party in their new departure. I listened very carefully to the arguments used by the Minister against this new Clause. Really the only argument which he used was that this might raise expectations which could not be satisfied. The question as to the adequacy of the security he did not raise, because he realised that the Clause is permissive. All those who have spoken on behalf of the allotment holders have asked for the Clause, and, surely, if it was likely to raise expectations which could not be satisfied and lead to the disappointment of the allotment holders they would not be pressing for the Clause, I hope the right hon. gentleman will re-consider his attitude in this matter.
As an allotment holder I hope that the Minister in charge of the Bill will accept this new Clause. I do not know a more appropriate time than the present for the introduction of this Bill, and this Clause into it. To-morrow, at least in the County of Durham, there will be a large number of allotment shows, which are a manifestation of the great advantage of allotments to the individual and to the community. The apprehension of these allotment holders as to the insecurity of their allotments and their tenure is well known. During the period of the war, and since the effect of the allotments on the individual and their families has been very advantageous. During the War the allotment holders performed a very valuable work for the community, producing food, and thus economising resources at a time when economy was really essential. I know, as one who has endeavour to do some work in speeding the idea of allotments and gardening in my own country, that they have been of great advantage to those people both from a moral, material, and intellectual standpoint. Anything that would militate against this movement would be very unfortunate. Here is an opportunity for the Minister to give even a greater impetus to these desirable acquisitions to the individual and to the State.
We were rather taunted by the hon. and gallant gentleman the Member for Fylde (Colonel Ashley) that we were partially dropping some of our great principles and adopting an individualistic policy instead of a collective policy or a policy of land nationalisation. We know that the State is composed of individuals and we realise that the better the individual the better the State will be when that day comes when the Minister in Charge of this Department is able to put forward a Bill taking over the whole of the land for the people. We will then have the State strengthened by the experience of those who have had the security of their allotments—
I quite agree, Sir. I was lured away by the arguments of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. However, I hope the proposed Clause will be accepted, so that the apprehensions of insecurity on the part of the allotment holders will be taken away. They will then be able to promote a more intensive cultivation and better work will be done.
I should just like to say one word in support of this proposed new Clause. The movement for allotments has been one of the most splendid in this country, and anything we can do that is practicable to help we ought to do. The Public Works Loan Commissioners will not lend the money unless they are satisfied that the security is good. This Clause will not lay any compulsion upon them to lend the money unless they have the funds available, but it does seem to me that this is just one of those movements which the money in the hands of the Commissioners ought to be put into. We have the assurance of the right hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) that allotment holders realise that at the present time money is tight, and that they cannot look for any at the moment. With that assurance I myself cannot see why the Minister of Agriculture could not accept this new Clause. I hope he will.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN:
I would just say one or two words, then I hope we will come to a decision. Listening to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Major Steel) it might be imagined that the Government and I were not anxious to do everything we could to help allotment holders. This very Bill we are passing shows that we are taking every possible step to do so, and nobody is more anxious to promote the allotment movement than we are. Ever since I have been at the Ministry right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, I think, know that I have taken every administrative act possible to assist allotment holders to remain on the land taken, and generally to promote the movement. I have brought in this Bill largely on my own initiative for the purpose of improving the law as regards allotments. There are, however, some things one can do and some things one cannot do. It is net helpful to press us to do things that really will be calculated, in my opinion, to do more harm than anything else to the movement I quite agree that the time may come and circumstances may be different—having regard to the different position of some of these associations—when it might be possible to allow these loans to be advanced by the Public Works Loan Commissioners to associations. That is impossible now. It is likely to be impossible for a few years to come. The whole question of the character of these associations will have to be
considered before anything takes place. I can assure the House and hon. Members who are interested in this that if we put this new Clause in here and now the only effect will be that practically every association throughout England and Wales, despite what has been said, will ask the Public Works Loan Commissioners to make them a loan. They will say: "Why did Parliament put in this Clause unless they intended the Public Works Loan Commissioners to do this." In cases all over the country pressure will be brought to bear on the Public Works Loan Commissioners, and they will have to turn down requests for loans and disappointment and trouble will arise. Therefore I do put it to the House that I am bound to resist the Amendment, and I appeal to the House, having regard to the fact that we are doing everything possible to assist allotment holders with this Bill, to support me in my resistance.
With regard to the suggestion which the Minister of Agriculture has just made, I will guarantee, if this Clause be accepted, that to-morrow a letter can go out from my organisation, representing over 1,000 Associations, pointing out that there is no money for this purpose at the present time, and I feel sure that my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), will be ready to do the same with regard to his organisation. Therefore I do not think the difficulty raised by my right hon. Friend will arise.
|Division No. 259.]||AYES.||[12.8 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander|
|Ammon, Charles George||Finney, Samuel||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray|
|Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.||Foot, Isaac||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Galbraith, Samuel||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Barnes Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Gillis, William||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)|
|Barrand, A. R.||Glyn, Major Ralph||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Grundy, T. W.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Hayward, Evan||Myers, Thomas|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Naylor, Thomas Ellis|
|Briant, Frank||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Brown, Brig-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Hirst, G. H.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Hogge, James Myles||Robertson, John|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Holmes, J. Stanley||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jephcott, A. R.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Swan, J. E.|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon, James H. (Derby)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Waterson, A. E.||Wintringham, Margaret||Mr. Acland and Mr. Kingsley Wood.|
|White, Col. G. D. (Southport)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Wignall, James||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Adair, Roar-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Pain, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. Hacket|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Parker, James|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Hailwood, Augustine||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hamilton, Sir George C.||Renwick, Sir George|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hayes, Hugh (Down, W.)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hills, Major John Waller||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hinds, John||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Scott, A, M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Buckley, Lieut-Colonel A.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Jameson, John Gordon||Simm, M. T. (Wallsend)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Cope, Major William||Lister, Sir R. Ashton|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Ednam, Viscount||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Warner, Sir T, Courtenay T.|
|Evans, Ernest||Macpherson, Rt. Hon, James I.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Macquisten, F. A.||Windsor, Viscount|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Mason, Robert|
|Forestler-Walker, L.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Winterton, Earl|
|Forrest, Walter||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wise, Frederick|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Murchison, C. K.||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Murray, Rt. Hon. C. D. (Edinburgh)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Neal, Arthur|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J.(Westminster)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. Dudley Ward.|