(1) The restrictions imposed by Section forty-one of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1908, on the compulsory acquisition of land which has been acquired by any corporation or company for the purposes of a railway, dock, canal, water, or other public undertaking shall not apply to the hiring of land by a council of a borough or urban district or by the council of a county to whom the powers and duties of an urban district council have been transferred under the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section twenty-four of the Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1908, for the purpose of providing allotment gardens:
Provided that every such hiring shall be subject to a condition enabling—
At beginning of the Clause, insert a new Sub-section:
(1) The period during which an Order for the compulsory acquisition of land for allotments is, under Section one of the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act, 1919, exempted
from the requirement of submission to and confirmation by the Minister is hereby extended to the expiration of six calendar months after the passing of this Act.
The Lords disagree to the Amendment made by the Commons, and for the disagreement they assign the following reason: Because it is not desirable to extend the period during which local authorities are empowered to make orders for the acquisition of land compulsorily without confirmation by the Minister.
The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Sir Arthur Boscawen):
I beg to move, "That this House doth not insist upon its Amendment to which the Lords have disagreed."
If that Motion be agreed to, I propose to move an Amendment to the Bill in lieu thereof. I may be allowed to explain that under the Land Settlement Facilities Act, power was taken to enable local authorities to acquire land without confirmation, in view of the necessity of getting land quickly for the purpose of small holdings and allotments. In view of the fact that there will be a necessity for acquiring a good deal of land for allotments in the next few months, because land, under the D.O.R.A. Regulations, will have to be given up next March, it was proposed in this Hill, as originally introduced, that this power of acquiring land without confirmation, as regards allotments, should be extended for one year. In another place, this Clause was deleted. When the Bill came to this House, on my Motion it was re-inserted, but with a limitation that the extension should be only for six months instead of one year. In another place this new proposal has also been deleted. In the circumstances there are three courses which I might adopt. I might agree with the Lords in their Amendment. In that case, we should throw away altogether a power which, although I do not attach very much importance to it, will be useful as minimising the delay in acquiring land in the next few months. I might disagree with the action taken in another place. If I did that, and if the other place insisted on what they had done, there would be a complete deadlock between the two Houses, and the Bill would be lost. There is a third course which I propose to adopt and that is to ask the House to send back the Clause with an Amendment, and the Amendment is that instead of extending the time to six months from the passing of the Measure, that is to say to next February, the extension should be to 31st December of this year. That does not give us quite as much time as I had hoped for, but at the same time it will give local authorities sufficient time to exercise their powers.
I think the Minister of Agriculture has behaved wisely in this matter. I am not particularly pleased with the Bill; still, I imagine, it is not wished to lose the Bill and I think it will be of advantage to the allotment holders. It would not be worth risking the Bill over this matter which is not considerable. I am glad the Minister is not agreeing with the Lords. As a matter of fact, the course he has suggested to the House is one which I suggested to him, when he was kind enough to consult me about it, and I hope the House will approve of it. I feel certain if they do, the Lords will not further insist, and that on this compromise the matter will be adjusted.
I desire to make the most strenuous possible protest against the action taken in another place in connection with this matter. In March next a quarter of a million allotment holders of this country have, under the D.O.R.A. Regulations, to give up their allotments. Both the Minister here and the Under-Secretary in another place, in introducing this Bill, gave, as one of the principal reasons for the Measure, that it was to secure allotments for these quarter of a million men who have to give up their holdings in March next. There was a Clause in the Bill giving at least 12 months to local authorities to procure other allotments in place of those that had to be given up. In the other place that was deleted altogether. The Minister then introduced a Clause putting the period at six months. In Committee, I questioned the Minister as to whether that time would be sufficient, and he said that it would, but that it would, perhaps, be barely sufficient. The proposal now before the House is that the period should be reduced to four months, I cannot conceal from the House my great apprehension that this period will not be sufficient. I doubt very much whether during the next four months it will be possible for local authorities to conform to this, and while I cannot disagree with the course my right hon. Friend is taking, I do want to point out to the House that the position in which we are put to-day has been caused by the vote of only 30 gentlemen in another place, to a large extent, I believe, utterly irresponsible to anybody. I have the very gravest doubts as to whether the position is sufficiently secure. I agree that we are in a very difficult position to-night, because if this matter be prolonged further, there is very great risk of not securing this Bill at all. It is only that consideration which, as far as I am concerned, makes me agree with the pro-position before the House. But I do desire to put before my right hon. Friend the necessity, if this Measure be passed, of immediately communicating with the local authorities, and asking them to take the earliest possible steps to put this Section into operation.
What guarantee have we that the Lords will accept the amended Amendment? We all regret that the Lords have put this obstacle in the way. The allottee and the local authorities have a right to be considered, and this senseless Amendment of the Lords ought to be strongly protested against by this House. We are helpless in the matter, because we dare not let the Bill drop, owing to the great loss it would be, not only to the allottees, but to the whole country. Therefore I join in the protest against the action of the House of Lords.
Amendment made, in lieu of the Commons Amendment, to which the Lords have disagreed: At the beginning of the Clause insert the words
(1) The period during which an Order for the compulsory acquisition of land for allotments is, under Section one of the Land Settlement (Facilities), Act, 1919, exempted from the requirement of submission to, and confirmation by, the Minister is hereby extended to the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and twenty-two."—[Sir A. Boscawen.]