Clause 30. — (Agricultural lands and heritages.)

Orders of the Day — Local Government (Scotland) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 20th February 1929.

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Photo of Mr Dennis Herbert Mr Dennis Herbert , Watford

It will perhaps be for the convenience of the Committee, as the first Amendment is to move out Sub-section (1) and to insert other words in its place, if Sub-section (1) be formally moved out first, and the discussion then taken on the Question that other words be substituted.

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

I beg to move, in page 30, line 33, to leave out Subsection (1), and to insert instead thereof the words: (1) For the purposes both of the owner's and of the occupier's share of rates as hereinafter defined the annual value of agricultural lands and heritages shall be arrived at by deducting from the gross annual value in lieu of the amount specified in the Act of 1926 an amount representing 87½ per cent., and accordingly the First Schedule to the Act of 1926 shall for the purposes of such rates have effect as if paragraph 14 and the words in the first column of paragraph 13 'for the purposes of the owner's share of rates' were omitted, and as if for the words in the second column of paragraph 13 '25 per cent.' there were substituted the words '87½ per cent.,' and any reference to the said Schedule in any Act or in any order made under the Act of 1926 shall he construed as a reference to the said Schedule as so amended.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, "That the proposed words be there inserted."

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

This new Sub-section is, with one or two small additions, really a re-drafting of the original Sub-section. The object of it is to make clear, in the first place, that de-rating which is effected in the case of agricultural subjects by this Clause applies to rates "as hereinafter defined." In the definition Clause hon. Members will find, on taking into account certain Government Amendments which appear on the Paper, that rates will include water rates other than domestic water rates. Therefore the meaning of this new Sub-section is that the de-rating provisions in regard to agricultural subjects will apply to all rates other than domestic water rates.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

Will the Lord Advocate tell us exactly the words of the Amendment that bring about that change?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

The first line of the Amendment which says: For the purposes both of the owner's and of the occupier's share of rates as hereinafter defined … That is a pointer to the definition Clause, and in the definition Clause the hon. Member will find the word "rate" defined, in the first place, as including the water rate, and then he will find the water rate defined as excluding the domestic water rate. The reason for that is obvious. This is really a drafting Amendment and that is why you find, in the concluding words, the following: and any reference to the said Schedule in any Act or any order made under the Act of 1926 shall be construed as a reference to the said Schedule as so amended. We are providing for payment on a basis of one-eighth in the case of agriculture, and hon. Members will note that 87½ per cent. is seven-eighths of 100.

Photo of Mr John Wheatley Mr John Wheatley , Glasgow Shettleston

We all agree with the Government on that point.

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

I am glad to find one point on which the right hon. Gentleman and I can agree, and under these happy conditions I have pleasure in moving my Amendment.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 1, to leave out the words "both of the owner's and".

The purpose of this Amendment is obvious to the Committee. On these benches we have opposed the whole of the scheme from the outset. We believe that it will not fulfil the intention which the Government avow to be the intention of the Bill, and that is to provide relief for industry and substantially to relieve the general stagnation that overhangs the industry of this country. We have got a case for industry in general in support of our opposition to the whole de-rating scheme, we certainly have a tremendous case on this particular Clause and in support, of this particular Amendment. Why, for the sake of revivifying British industry, we should be asked to make a gift of a sum, which, I think, has been calculated by the Secretary of State for Scotland at £770,000, to the landowners of Scotland this year and for each succeeding year, is something that I am quite unable to appreciate.

8.0 p.m.

On the Second Reading, I ventured to suggest that the total amount of relief given to agriculture, if it managed to find its way into the farmer's hands, would not enter as an appreciable factor into the production of any crop on the farm. This relief to the farmer would not show itself in the price of a gallon of milk. How it is going to express itself in the price of a pint or a quart of milk, which are the ordinary domestic quantities purchased for consumption, if it cannot find expression in a gallon, is something which I do not know. I have in my pocket a letter which I received to-day from the gentleman who is responsible for the control of the largest wholesale milk supply in the west of Scotland, in which he tells me that the agriculturists of Scotland who are engaged in dairy farming are dumping their surplus supplies over the Border and cannot find purchasers for the surplus supplies of milk, even when they are sent across the Border into Birmingham and London. He tells me that Birmingham has abundant supplies of milk at 2s. a gallon. He also tells me that 1s. 6d. a gallon is the price in Scotland, and that the same milk has got to be sold across the Border for 1s. 3d. The price of milk in London to the retailer is something like 2s. 4d. a gallon, while the producer is only getting 1s.

What possible stimulation is there going to be to Scottish agriculture by reducing the rates to the farmers in order that they may produce their commodities at a cheaper price and, presumably, secure a larger sale when the agriculturists of Scotland cannot dispose of the quantities of milk which they are producing? If we had a case against the farmer getting relief from rates we have a' tremendous case against the landlords, because the farmer is a productive worker. Presumably, on the type of farm that I know, a small mixed dairying farm of 150 acres up to 300 or 400 acres, that we find in Renfrewshire and Ayrshire, where the rental would be something like £240 a year or thereabouts, the farmer, if I understand this Clause aright, is only to be rated at £30 and the landlord is to be similarly rated.

If the general redistribution of the burden of rating, intended by the Government in this Bill, takes effect, presumably about 5s, in the £ will cover the rates in an agricultural district of that description. That means to say that the landowner and the farmer are going to be asked to pay something like £7 10s. per annum in the shape of their contribution to the expenses of local administration. I understand that the farmer and the landowner have a remedy already, although the whole thing is tremendously involved. In Clause 33, we find that the occupier, when any rate becomes due in respect of such lands and heritages, is entitled to recover from the owner thereof by retention out of rent or otherwise a sum equal to the amount of the owner's share of such rate multiplied by two and one-half. That is, provided he has entered into an agreement prior to the 16th May, 1928. There is no such obligation on the owner if agreement is entered into after that date. Even that obligation only remains binding for a limited period, so that we are proposing in this Bill not merely to relieve the farmer of his rates. Perhaps the farmer has a case, although I have contended that there is no case that supports the view that any relief given to him will stimulate agricultural production.

As I read the situation for agriculture, the problem is to see that the population of Great Britain have the necessary money in their pockets that will enable them to purchase British agricultural products as against the cheaper products that are imported, by patriotic British citizens, from China, Holland and other parts of the world. Margarine has got to be bought by the working classes in place of butter. Preserved eggs have to be got in place of new, fresh laid eggs that the home farmer can so easily produce. It seems to me that the intelligent way to stimulate British agriculture is to make it possible for the people of Great Britain, by enhanced purchasing power, to purchase wholesome commodities produced by the farmers of their own land rather than to have to depend upon second-rate, unfresh, adulterated products from other countries. That seems to me to be the basic proposition for the restoration of agricultural prosperity in Great Britain, but, if we assume the truth of the Government's case that by relieving the farmer of a large proportion of his rates so that he, a man living usually in a very commodious house, usually situated in a healthy neighbourhood with excellent amenities, is relieved of all his rates except one-eighth, while the slum dweller in the Bridgeton division of Glasgow, with a very limited income, has to pay eight-eighths of his rates, that seems to me to be quite contrary to any conceptions of justice and common decency and fair play that I have ever been taught to believe or to appreciate. But the Government, in its wisdom, and presumably having the benefit of expert advice that is not available to me, has decided that this very worthy person, the farmer, is to have his rates taken down to one-eighth.

I was told the other night by a gentleman who has made a very close study of agricultural affairs in this country, that, if one reads the history of legislation in this country, the farming industry has been the pampered darling of the House of Commons. Always the various political parties in power has striven to secure for themselves what is known as the "farming vote." I hope that the political parties of the future will not continue to pursue this will-o'-the-wisp, because I am credibly informed—and I give it to my friend the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) for his personal use in electioneering—that there is no constituency where the farming vote is of any appreciable account, and I suggest to my hon. Friend, with his personal knowledge and personal qualities, that it would be very much better for him if he were to devote himself to the flapper vote rather than to the farmers' vote. Legislation has been poured out for them. The farmer has always come to the House of Commons and wept about being on the verge of bankruptcy, but anybody who studies the reports of bankruptcy cases in the newspapers, will find that bankruptcies among farmers are very few indeed when compared with the number of bankruptcies in ordinary commercial and industrial undertakings. They have good voices for weeping about their condition, and they always seem to be able to impose their views upon Governments. Certainly they have imposed their desires in a very strong form upon the present Government.

Therefore, they are to be asked to pay only one-eighth of what the ordinary citizen is asked to pay, even thought they are getting very much more out of the public services than is the average suburban and city dweller. But while I object strongly to the granting of this relief to the farmer, I am almost inarticulate with rage at the suggestion that a similar relief should be given to the landowner. It would perhaps be inappropriate for me in this Committee to relate the history of Scottish landowning. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), in a very excellent and readable and not too expensive work, called "Our Noble Families," with the sub-title, "How the Lords stole Scotland," has dealt with the Scottish landowning families faithfully, and, I hope, in a not unkindly fashion. He has, I think, proved to the satisfaction of all disinterested readers—and he is fully backed up by the well-established history of our country—that the history of the establishment of the big proportion of our Scottish landowners is a history of plunder and pillage. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary, who represents the Government here, bears a name which is honoured in the history of Border forays. He knows how his ancestors sallied across the Border and deliberately stole the cattle of the people who lived on the other side of the frontier. They were honoured and revered by all who lived at that time for their success in those enterprises. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman's ancestors were foolish in the extreme inasmuch as they only stole movables and perishables. If he had had the right kind of ancestors, they would have stolen real estate. They would have planked themselves down on a sufficient space of the surface of Scotland and said, "Here we are, and here we rest."

That is the practice which has gone on for hundreds of years and, so far, there has been nothing in the way of effective protest. Each year Scottish agriculture and industry have to pay tribute to a body of people who are a mere group of receivers of tribute. As I have pointed out, a farmer in the neighbourhood in which I live, pays to the landowner £240 a, year of rent and the landowner does nothing in connection with the running of that farm. I know his excuse. This is how he justifies his existence. He says, "I have the responsible task of picking a suitable farmer who can farm the land well." That is a job for any man to spend a lifetime on! Scottish farm leases usually run for long periods and descend from generation to generation, which means that this job, by which the landowner justifies his existence, may be done by a member of the family about once in every hundred years. Yet this Government approve of and continue this robbery. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary will perhaps recollect that in one of the villages of South Lanark, associated with the Covenanting history of Scotland, there is a cottage, above the door of which is a carved stone bearing the words: In this house dwelt…,tailor, who had his ears cut off with his own shears by the Bloody Graham of Claverhouse. This stone is erected to commemorate and perpetuate the brutal outrage. The Government propose to perpetuate a brutal outrage by allowing the farmers of Scotland to be mulcted by the landowners in the form of rent and then in addition they come along in this Clause and say to the landowner, "Not only are you to be allowed to take the rent of this working farm, but you are to be excused the payment of all but a miserable fraction of the rates which legitimately fall upon it." I hope I am a broad-minded and tolerant man. I hope I do not take extreme views on important issues. I hope I try to realise my responsibilities to my constituents and to the country which trusts me, as one of 615 Members of the House of Commons, to husband the resources of the nation and direct its internal economy in an intelligent way. But it is asking too much, even of a moderate man like myself, to ask me to vote here in a responsible way for a further present of nearly £1,000,000 of public money to a very small handful of people in Scotland who are rendering no service either to the agricultural industry or to industry in general. Nor are they, as a mass, rendering any serious service to the general government of Scotland, either through the House of Commons or through the local governing bodies.

Scotland is becoming very much as Ireland was in previous history, a country of absentee landlords. The farmers, the farm labourers, the industrial workers of Scotland, have to work on the land of Scotland or down in the mines of Scotland, or in the factories of Scotland, in order to keep the landowners of Scotland and the friends and relations of those landowners in ease and luxury either among the social pleasures of London or in more salubrious parts of the world during the rather rigorous weather which prevails here at this time of year. I think it is atrocious. I congratulate hon. Members on the back benches opposite from the bottom of my heart for rising up and proving that they were not merely a collection of dumb, driven cattle, and that they were prepared to resist the slavish tyranny imposed upon them by their so-called leaders. If they were justified yesterday in turning against their Government on the demand that that Government should give a gift to Irish landlords, surely the Scottish Members on that side, though a small and diminishing band, have enough sense of national self-respect not to stand for this particular hit of public graft, because that is all it is.

Always in this House we say, "Thank Heaven, our politics are clean. We do not have in this country any of those disgraceful things that discredit American politics. There is no Tammany in this country. We do not have the big political 'boss' who swings and sways elections and who pays bribes here and bribes there to rum-runners and bootleggers and breakers of the law." We pride ourselves on the cleanliness with which we run our political system. [Interruption.] I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten), if I heard his interruption correctly, that a rum-runner is a decent person compared with a Member of the present Government. We know of better ways in Scotland of giving money to our friends than by engaging in the bookmaking business. Here we have this atrocious case of this Government giving relief to this landowning class, and I do not know one of them, I cannot think of any big Scottish landowner, who has been in the bankruptcy court in my time. Perhaps hon. and right hon. Members opposite are better informed than I am. Can they tell me of any Scottish landowner who has been in the bankruptcy court? Can they tell me of any one of them who has had to seek parish relief? Can they tell me of any Scottish landowner who has had to stand in the queue at an Employment Exchange? Can they tell me of any one of them who has been summoned to the small debt court and threatened with eviction because he could not pay his rent? I have seen one or two in the divorce court, but none in the court for eviction out of their homes.

There has been no poverty among the land-owning classes in Scotland. There has been no need to relieve them of so-called burdens, because they have not been carrying a burden. They have been a burden that has been carried by the whole industry of Scotland, and I repeat in this House what I have said before, that the real burden that weighs Britain down in competitive industry among the other countries of the world is that, while the industries of the other countries have to carry capitalism on their backs, Britain has not merely to carry modern capitalism, with all its interests and profits and dividends, but it has to carry feudalism as well. If England is bad in having to carry not merely its industrial magnates but its feudal magnates, Scotland is infinitely worse, because feudalism is even more strongly entrenched and more rapacious in its demands in Scotland; it is in a stronger strategic position because of the old feu system that still obtains in Scotland, dug right in there, drawing tribute week after week, rendering absolutely no assistance to agriculture. Anyone who knows a number of the farming population knows that the landowner of Scotland who is prepared to assist his tenant farmer with improvements, with new steadings, with better buildings, with assistance in improving stock or draining land, is the exception and not the rule; and the Scottish tenant farmer has more difficulty in extracting a small repair out of his landowner than has the tenant in a town dwelling in extracting a similar concession or improvement from the owner of town property. All of us who know anything about working class conditions know that it is almost impossible for the town dweller to get any concession of that description from his house owner, and the landowner in the country is infinitely worse than the house owner in the town.

Yet you come along and you ask us to pass this Bill. At this time in the Twentieth Century, for the sake of restoring trade, you ought to come forward with a Measure saying that landowning by private individuals in Scotland has got to be put an end to, that the land has got to be owned by the nation as a whole, with the agriculture of the country really conducted from national sources, where there is national interest and national knowledge. It should be a basis for the whole industrial, cultural, and physical development of the people, and it ought to be in the hands of the nation, and you should be coming along to this House asking us to abolish private land owning; but here you are coming along instead and asking us to approve of the continuation of the tribute that we have paid for these hundreds of years, and in addition you are asking us to give a present out of public funds of nearly £21,000,000. I protest, with all the strength which I possess, against any such atrocity. I object in the strongest possible terms, and I am satisfied that if the Government proceed with this, Scotland will give a very definite expression of opinion on the subject within the next few months.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I had no thought of taking part in this particular Debate, but the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who has just sat down, has made an appeal to the self-respect of Scotsmen which I should think no Scotsman could resist. I have not the picturesque imagination of my hon. Friend, nor have I that gift of eloquence with which he adorns all his speeches and delights the House, but I am one of those very ordinary people with no fancy and no play of wit, and, therefore, confined, in so far as I have any remarks to make on this subject, to a direct reference to the realities of the position rather than to those fantasies which have been created in the speech which my hon. Friend has just delivered. I do not propose to go into the matter in the same way as he has done, because, after all, the principle to which he has adverted is one that was discussed at length on the Second Reading of the Bill, and, therefore, it would be quite wrong and out of order to descant at any length upon that side of the question. But let me just say, with regard to the question of injustice, to which he referred, that I think he has mistaken the position. He asked: "How is it that a farmer should be relieved of seven-eighths of his rating bill, whereas the man who lives in a town is no getting this relief at all?" He described that as an injustice. But you must advert to the conditions before the change, and you must, if you are going to find that there is any injustice, assume that everything was just before and that the alteration creates the injustice.

The principle upon which this Bill is based, as I understand it, is that our rating scheme in this country, with regard to its bearing on the land and on our factory organisation, was one which was completely out of accord with modern conditions. Whereas in the old times the land, being the chief subject of wealth in this country, had to bear the great burden of rating, in modern days it no longer has the productive benefit which it had enjoyed; therefore, to tax it as we have done in the past, and to tax factories as we have been doing, was to create a general injustice and produce a condition of things in which the rating system no longer was able to satisfy the country's needs. What we are doing at the moment is not to create an injustice by a change, but to put things on a proper basis. Anybody who has compared the burdens imposed on land with the burdens imposed on other forms of property, must come to the conclusion that the burden was greater than the land could bear. Coming to the case of the farmers, I admit that if we were able to increase the consuming power of a large part of our population, we would be in a position to buy articles which are more expensive, but that is not a very effective way of doing it, because, so long as Denmark can send us eggs as good as ours, producing them in conditions in which wages are not so high as those paid in this country—

Photo of Sir Robert Hamilton Sir Robert Hamilton , Orkney and Shetland

May I ask on what grounds the right hon. Gentleman makes that statement?

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I am repeating statistics which have been given upon that question. I have not got them at my fingers ends, but I do not think that it is doubted that our wages are higher than those in Denmark. Certainly there are many parts of the Continent where butter is produced at a much lower price than in this country, and under my hon. Friend's suggestion there would be still a certain amount of dairy produce—

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I really do not think that on this Amend- ment the right hon. Gentleman can go into the whole question of agricultural policy. Since the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has moved the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, we are now limited to discussing whether the relief should be granted to owners and occupiers, or to occupiers only.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

On that ruling, I suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton went a good deal outside that point, and I think that we should be allowed to deal with the farmers' relief. May I submit that we should be allowed to go as far as he did in moving the Amendment?

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

The hon. and gallant Member overlooks the fact that, when the hon. Member for Bridgeton was speaking, the question before the Committee was the proposed new Sub-section. Since he has moved the Amendment we are limited to the words of the Amendment to the proposed Amendment. If that Amendment be disposed of, it will be open to the Committee to go back to the discussion on the question whether the new Sub-section shall be inserted.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I will confine myself to the Amendment to the proposed Amendment and deal simply with the question of the owner. The hon. Member for Bridgeton put forward a view, which is entirely fantastic, with regard to the real facts of Scottish landowning. No doubt in times past there was a good deal of stealing of property. My hon. Friend seems to think that the Border family of the Elliots were not wise in taking only movable goods in the shape of cattle instead of large tracts of property. Anybody who knows anything about the conditions of things nowadays will acclaim the far-sightedness of the Elliots, because in fact that movable property has turned out in the end to be a far greater advantage to them than large tracts of Scottish territory would have been. What has been the history of the owning of Scottish land? In whatever way these properties may have been acquired originally—on which there may be many opinions—there is no question that, taking agricultural property, the amounts derived from it at the present day do not represent anything at all in the shape of rent for the land itself; and the dividends, if I may so put it in a business sense, do not amount to more than 3 per cent. upon the cash capital which has been spent upon the buildings, drainage, and fencing of the territory which is let to the tenant farmers. No revenue is being obtained from the land, and it is an error for my hon. Friend to say that we have burdened this country with some capitalist incubus and feudalistic tradition. The only burden from which we suffer is lack of a return on capital which has been spent on the land of Scotland by the people who have owned it. Are they not entitled to something upon their capital?

I hear with wonder and amazement the attacks which are made upon those who have spent capital on the land. Instead of being treated as benefactors, they are treated as pariahs who ought never to be recognised in any decent society. I cast my mind back to that annus mirabilis when the Labour party was in office in 1924. The main feature of that year was the advent of the Russian delegation. What did that Russian delegation want? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I am perfectly in order—

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Dundee

On a point of Order. Shall we be allowed to reply to an attack upon the Labour Government's dealings with the Russian people in 1924?

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I think that the right hon. Gentleman introduced it merely as an illustration.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

It is an illustration, and it is going to be so apposite that hon. Members opposite will not like it. What was the main request which the Russian delegation had to make to this country? It was that they should get a loan of capital—

Photo of Captain William Benn Captain William Benn , Aberdeen North

Surely when many of us are waiting to advance important points on behalf of large Scottish cities, it is not in order that the time of the Committee should be taken up by a street corner speech such as the right hon. Gentleman is delivering.

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I have noticed in all quarters of the Committee that there is a tendency to take illustrations which are somewhat wide of the Amendment. It is becoming a somewhat general practice, but obviously we cannot go into the whole question of the Labour Government's policy in regard to Russia.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

My hon. Friend made an attack on this Sub-section on the ground that we are making a gift to capitalists and I am only replying to that. I say that, so far from deriding the capitalist, it ought to be within the recollection of the hon. Member that the only country in the world which, so far as I know, got rid of its capital made its first approach to this country to ask for a loan in order to carry on business. It does not lie in the mouths of hon. Members opposite to make any animadversions against the people who have supplied the capital which has enabled the land of this country to be worked.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

The right hon. Gentleman will recollect, I think, that the necessity for the Russians to come here for capital was due to the fact that they had made the mistake of leaving the land in private hands.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

The reason they were hero was because they had destroyed their capital and came here to get more. I say those who have spent money on the land of Scotland are entitled to every consideration at the hands of the Government, because without their enterprise there would have been no revenue at all from the land. In the condition in which the agricultural industry of this country finds itself, and with the difficulties under which it carries on its business, this is a very much-needed reform. I shall only add this: The right hon. Gentleman who leads the Liberal party has put before the country a scheme for land reform. As everyone knows, at one time he made repeated attacks upon the landowners of this country, but since then he has made public acknowledgment of the fact that those landlords have been very badly treated by the State. Hon. Members will find the allusion in a speech he made in Caxton Hall. He said the landlords had done their duty by the country, and were in no sense guilty of having taken too much out of the land for their own benefit.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I think it was about 1919.

Photo of Mr Andrew MacLaren Mr Andrew MacLaren , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

Just when he had the war fever on.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

I hope he was sincere, even when he had the war fever on.

Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

The scheme which he has put before the country is based upon the fact that landlords have not sufficient money to provide the capital which the land requires, and if that be true, as I take it the Liberal party, at least, will agree —[Interruption.] The Liberal party have apparently acknowledged, through the mouth of their leader, that the land of this country requires a great deal of capital which we cannot expect the landlords to supply on account of their poverty. If that he true, then surely the time has arrived when something should be done by which the burden imposed upon agricultural land is decreased and an opportunity given to make a fair revenue out of it. Accordingly, I am wholly opposed to the Amendment.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

If the Government are to be guided by enlightened consideration for the public interest or the interests of agriculture, and, I would say the interest of the landlords themselves, they will accept this Amendment to the proposed Amendment. The only effect of this particular provision of the Bill is that the process of giving benefit to the landlords is accelerated; even without it that benefit would be inevitable. The whole benefit of rating relief will go, must go, over a course of years, and by the operation of the economic law of rent, to the benefit of one partner in the agricultural industry.

Photo of Mr Andrew MacLaren Mr Andrew MacLaren , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir B. Horne) cannot deny that.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

I will quote against the right hon. Gentleman authorities which I think even he will find it difficult to dispute. I say it would be very much to the interest of the landlords if the Government would accept this Amendment to the proposed Amendment. The effect of the Bill as it is drafted is to give an annual payment of £776,000 to the landlords and of £110,000 to the tenants, but even if that direct payment were not made to the landlords, and if the whole of the relief could be given to the tenants, in the long run, and not such a very long run, the effect would be the same. Landlords are making a great mistake if they think there is going to be an immediate advantage to them of even half this £776,000. In the next seven years, during which time they are entitled to keep the whole of this £776,000 the immediate effect will be that that money will be taken back from them. As the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Philip Snowden, pointed out when dealing with the general question of rating relief, that money will be taken back from them as income tax and super-tax.

I have had the figures worked out for an estate of £4,000. For the first seven years, when he is paying rates and taxes on the highest level, and paying back half-rates to the tenants, the total advantage to the landlord will be £62—on that rent roll of £4,000. But is it said that this means that the landlord is not going to get any benefit? Of course he is. During the whole time the value of estates is rising by the full amount of this £776,000 a year. I must assume, and I do assume, that the object of the Government is to help agriculture as a whole, to help every partner in agriculture, to help all engaged in agriculture to strengthen its position. If that be so, it is an object which can only be served by a system of relief which distributes its benefits fairly as between the parties to agriculture and not by a system which gives benefit to one partner only.

The other day I was looking up the Debates on the Act of 1896, and I read a speech by a Scottish landlord who was then a Liberal, though by no means an extreme Liberal, for he has since become a Conservative. It was Mr. Munro Ferguson, as he was then, now Lord Novar. He said he objected to what was then being done in his own interest as a landlord as well as in the interests of justice. He said everybody knew how the economic law of rent worked. We also know how it works out in practice. When men come asking for an empty farm, you first thin out the men who you do not think will make good tenants, through not having sufficient capital or other reasons, and you come down to two or three equally good men, with equally good qualifications. Then, according to the rules of the game, according to the rules of the competitive rent system, you must let the farm to the man who offers the higher rent, and each man will in future offer higher rent because of the lower rates he will be paying.

There is one class which is helped by this Bill, and in regard to which its provision is thoroughly sound, and that is the owner-occupier. Up to the present, the owner-occupier has had a very hard time. The owner-occupiers constituted a very small class before the War when prices were at their ordinary level, but after the War they bought their farms which were being sold over their heads at high prices and are very much in need of assistance at the present time. There are many ways which ought to be employed to assist occupier-owners, and, if the Government accept this Amendment it will mean that some other steps will have to be taken to meet the case of the occupier-owner. It has been said that what is now proposed is an act of graft; in fact, it is said that it is a gift from the Tories to the landed interests. If so, it is one of the most deadly kind. In the future, it will be said from every platform that under this Measure £776,000 is being paid to the landlords and only £110,000 to the tenants. When the landlord comes to the Douse of Commons and claims his just rights, he will find his case prejudiced by the suspicion and sense of injustice created by the proposals which the Government have now placed before the House of Commons.

The hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division (Mr. Maxton), in the course of his criticisms, said that notwithstanding the statements made about the hardships of the landlords, very few of them had gone into bankruptcy. I would like to point out that a good many landlords have had to sell their property, and they have ceased to be landlords before they have to face bankruptcy. As a matter of fact, there are in the County of Caithness more landed estates in the possession of trustees for bondholders than there are in the possession of private landlords. There are a great many landlords who deny themselves things and exert themselves to the utmost in order to develop their estates. I have heard farmers of extreme radical and socialist views complaining that certain landlords are doing so well by their tenants that they are actually maintaining "this rotten system." But even if it be true that the great majority of landlords will use this money to the best of their ability for the improvement of their estates, there will he a large number of landlords who will devote the money to other purposes.

9.0 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) talked about the landlords having a very hard time at the present moment and not having enough money to improve their estates. For those reasons, the right hon. Gentleman argued that we should give them something in order to improve their estates. That is not the way in which we ought to spend public money. We are responsible for seeing that public money is spent in the public interest, and we have no right to give money to people in the hope that they will spend it on the object which we wish to serve. When we are giving money for other objects and in other directions we are very careful to lay down such safeguards as will ensure that the money will be devoted to the objects which we are all anxious to serve. There are two classes of landlords who will not spend the money in this way. The first is the class who bought estates since the War merely for the sporting interest. I have already quoted a case in which a purchaser told his tenants that he paid too much for the property, because it was only the sporting rights in which he was interested and that he could spend no more in agricultural improvements. That man will not spend the, money he receives under this Bill upon improving his estate. In the ease of the trustees and the bondholders to whom I have referred, what will be their legal duty? Under this Bill, they will take the money offered to them and give it to the bondholders, and they will not spend it upon improving their estates. If this method of relief is to be adopted at all, it can only be safeguarded in one way, and that is by giving the tenants security of tenure. I wish the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead had not left the Committee, because I desire to give him very high authority for a statement which I made that, unless security be given, the benefit under this Bill will undoubtedly go to the landlord. My authority is Mr. Graham Murray who was Lord Advocate in 1896. He said: As regards that peculiar class of crofter, it is of course absolutely impossible that in any way the relief of the occupiers' rates could ever reach the landlord. There are three things to note. The Tory Government did not think it was a good thing to do that in 1896, and now they are defending that course. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead said it would be a good thing to give the money to the landlords because they would spend it on their property. In 1896, they did not give this particular direct relief to the landlord. Since that time, we have had repeated Royal Commissions. There was a Royal Commission in 1902 and another in 1911, and they all reported against this proposal. The Dunedin Report made no recommendation in favour of it, although that Report traversed the whole ground.

The second thing to note is that by inference it is admitted that, if security of tenure does not exist, the benefit does not go to the tenant. Thirdly, under the Crofters Act of 1886 the crofters had security of tenure, and, so long as they were safeguarded in that way, the benefits could not accrue to the landlord. Therefore the right way to deal with this question is to give the farmers and the smallholders security of tenure. I think it would be much better to scrap the scheme and substitute the one which we Liberals have placed before the country for the revival of agriculture. If you will not do that, the next best thing would he to give security of tenure to the occupier, then you will be able to anchor the relief to the tenant. If you do not do that, then, in the interests of the country and of agriculture and in the interests of the landlords themselves, the right course is to accept this Amendment to the proposed Amendment, and then introduce other provisions which would deal effectively with the case of the owner-occupier and small-holder. I have suggested a scheme and the necessary amendment is on the paper whereby it would be possible for small-holders to go to the Land Court and get their rents reduced. If this Amendment to the proposed Amendment were accepted and some alternatives such as those I have proposed were then adop- ted, that would be a better way of serving the interests of agriculture than the method proposed in the Bill.

Mr. R. W. SMITH:

May I ask the hon. Baronet if his suggestion is that the landlords would receive the whole £770,000?

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

The figures given by the Secretary of State for Scotland indicated that the amount of benefit from relief in respect of owners' rates was estimated at £770,000, and the relief in respect of occupiers' rates at £110,000. During the currency of an existing lease an occupier would receive from his landlord one-half of the relief given in respect of the owner's rates. That is made clear in the Bill; it is during the currency of the existing leases, or for a period of seven years.

Mr. SMITH:

I understood the hon. Baronet to say that the owners receive £770,000, but it is only half that amount.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

No; the hon. Member has misunderstood the answer. The Bill is quite clear on that point. It is only during the currency of existing leases, or, in the case of a sitting tenant from year to year, for seven years, that the tenant receives half the landlord's relief. Under the permanent arrangement, it is estimated that the relief in respect of owners' rates will be £770,000, and in respect of occupiers' rates £110,000.

Mr. SMITH:

For the next seven years it will be half that?

Photo of Mr Frederick Macquisten Mr Frederick Macquisten , Argyll

This position arises because, as I understand, in England the tenant pays all the rates and the landlord none. They are being relieved of all the rates, that is to say, the land is being relieved. It does not matter who pays the rates; the point is to relieve the land of the burden. If the specious arguments from the other side were to be accepted, the result would be that the Scottish landlord would not be relieved at all. We are going to get our relief for the land, and it does not matter who pays the rates so long as the land gets the relief. The presumption is that at the end of the seven years, when it comes to making a new bargain, the tenant will be able to say to the landlord, "You are getting your land so much cheaper, and, therefore, I expect a reduction of my rent."

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

If prospective tenant A said that, and if B said, "Never mind about the reduction of the rates on your land; I am prepared to give you so much," and if both are equally good men and equally well qualified farmers, B is likely, and he ought, under the rules of competitive rents, to get the farm.

Photo of Mr Frederick Macquisten Mr Frederick Macquisten , Argyll

What has that to do with it? That might happen in regard to any other commodity, and it could not be prevented. I am assuming that the sitting tenant will be able to say to his landlord, "You will be getting the same return out of your land; you are being relieved of your rates, and the land is being relieved in order to help agriculture." Is it suggested that we in Scotland are not going to be relieved of our rates—because there is no other meaning that can be attached to it—

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

If the hon. and learned Member is putting that question to me, the answer is quite simple. By the courtesy of the Chair, I was allowed to say at the end of my speech that we have later on the Paper an alternative proposal for dealing with this question, but to have given a long description of the methods we propose would have been completely out of order.

Photo of Mr Frederick Macquisten Mr Frederick Macquisten , Argyll

The hon. Baronet, towards the end of his speech, said something about going before a Land Court. I do not think that that is a particularly satisfactory procedure. As regards security of tenure, there is ample security of tenure in Scotland. In my long professional experience I have never known a tenant to be pushed out of his farm, and I would like to ask the hon. Baronet if he himself knows of any case of eviction in Scotland. [Interruption.] There may be one or two, but they are very few.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Dundee

The Farmers' Union will supply them.

Photo of Reverend James Barr Reverend James Barr , Motherwell

I have known of cases in my own experience time and again.

Photo of Mr Frederick Macquisten Mr Frederick Macquisten , Argyll

I have not come across them. There were cases in generations gone by, and the same thing happened in England, but now, even in the case of holdings from year to year, evictions are the rarest possible occurrences. Indeed, the strength of local public feeling in our country districts is so great that no landlord could hold up his head if he put a decent man out of his farm. I remember a member of the Farmers' Union complaining to me that one of the faults about agriculture was—

Photo of Mr Robert Bourne Mr Robert Bourne , Oxford

I think the hon. and learned Member is going rather far from the Amendment to the proposed Amendment under discussion.

Photo of Mr Frederick Macquisten Mr Frederick Macquisten , Argyll

My observations arose out of the remarks of the hon. Baronet on the question of security of tenure, and I was merely pointing out that they were not really germane to this particular Amendment or to the Clause, which allows the landlord, as the man is at present paying the rates, to get the same reduction for his land as is allowed under the English Bill. I think it would be disastrous if the Clause were to be subjected to this Amendment, because we have no guarantee that the subsequent Amendment will be carried, and it would mean in effect that Scotland would not get the same relief that was obtained in England.

Photo of Mr Duncan Graham Mr Duncan Graham , Hamilton

If this Clause were really intended to bring the agricultural industry into a prosperous condition, I do not think there would be very much opposition to it from this side of the Committee. As one who represents an industrial constituency, I want to make it perfectly plain that we on this side are as keenly anxious as anyone on the other side to see the agricultural industry prosperous, and I rather resent the opinion that seems to be held by hon. Members on the other side that they are the only people who stand up for the interests of the agricultural section of the community. This Amendment does not propose to affect the man who is really the main individual in the working of the agricultural industry of this country. There is no Amendment from this side that will make worse the position of the farmer, but we do propose that the least useful member of the agricultural industry should not be included in the benefits that are proposed in this Clause.

I am not going to make any personal reference to the landlord. He may be a perfectly nice fellow, and I do not doubt that in most cases he is as good as any- one on this side; but I think it is bound to be admitted by any reasonable person in any quarter of the Committee that the landlord is not now necessary to the working of the agricultural industry, and that it is quite possible to do without him. We are not proposing to eliminate the landlord, but we ask that the landlord should not get the amount of money that has been mentioned. If there is to be close upon £1,000,000 given to the agricultural industry, it should go to the people who are working the land and not to the people who are living upon it. A number of us on this side of the Committee have heard discussions on this question of subsidy, and this, in mar opinion, is a subsidy. The men who are advocating the claim of the agricultural industry, and particularly that of the landlords, to a subsidy are the very men who nearly brought this country to ruin two years ago because of their opposition to a subsidy.

Photo of Mr Duncan Graham Mr Duncan Graham , Hamilton

We did not get anything at all. You gave it to the coal-owners. I remember a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I think it was in Kelso about two years ago—in which he replied to attacks made by the National Farmers' Union, that the Government were not giving to the agricultural industry as much assistance as they thought they ought to receive. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to enumerate the many ways in which the agricultural industry was being helped by the present Tory Government, and, when the amount was totalled up, it was seen that something like £11,000,000 a year was being paid in subsidies to the agricultural industry. On the top of that, there is this additional proposal of giving roughly £1,000,000. I want it to be clearly understood that as far as we on this side of the Committee are concerned we would have no objection at all to a great deal more money being given to the agricultural industry if it was really intended to raise the industry to the position it ought to occupy, but we do object to public money being given presumably to the industry but really intended to go into the pockets of that section of the community who render no service whatever in return for the benefits which they are now to receive.

I should like Members on the opposite side of the Committee to direct their attention to the point in our Amendment, which does not deal with the farmer at all. We are not seeking to put him into a worse position, but we are trying to lay down conditions which will make it possible even under this proposal for the actual cultivator of the soil, to get the benefit which is contained in this Clause. I wish to express my regret that an hon. colleague of mine the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) when referring to certain incidents which have happened in Scottish history, described one of the finest characters in Scottish history as "Bloody Graham of Claverhouse." I wish he had used a better phrase. In any case, I hope Scottish Members will appreciate the motive animating us in proposing and submitting this Amendment. I hope that if they are really anxious to help the farmer they will use their influence with the Government. I would not suggest that they should use it as strongly as it was used on behalf of the Irish loyalists, but if they and all Scottish Members were to say that if this relief is to be given it should be applied only to farmers—and that is the object of this Amendment—the advantage to our country would be greater than it will be if the Government reject this Amendment and proceed to push this Clause through the House of Commons by the strength of their majority. I hope that our Amendment will be accepted.

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

A great deal of discussion which has taken place on this Amendment seems somewhat familiar to me. We heard most of it, if not all of it, on the Second Reading Debate. I do not complain in the least that hon. Members opposite should be so hard driven to find arguments against the Government's Bill, but it forms an adequate reason for my not detaining the Committee as long as I would otherwise have desired to do. I would like the Committee to appreciate exactly what would be the effect of this Amendment. At the moment we are not dealing at all in this Clause—it would be out of order so to deal with it—with the question of what is to happen to the relief, if any, once the owner gets it. That arises on Clause 33. Under the law at the present moment—it really dates back to 1923, although it assumed different shape in 1926—in agricultural circles the owner pays on three-quarters of his valuation and the tenant pays on only one-quarter. When we came to consider the relief to the agricultural industry in England as a whole where the occupier pays all the rates, it was obvious at once that even if we took away and relieved the tenant of his whole one-quarter, we should not get anything like the benefit from agricultural de-rating they are getting in England. But it does so happen that the one-eighth which is now left as the figure affecting both owner and occupier brings out, taking Scotland as a whole, the reliefs we get in respect of the de-rating of agriculture just a trifle better than the amount in England, a position which I, for one, would be very reluctant to give up. That is the very thing that this Amendment is asking us to give up. Not only that, but the result of this Amendment would be to take away from the owners the relief which they are getting at present to the extent of one-quarter of the valuation and leave them to be rated on the net annual value.

I do not want to argue at length the question of whether a benefit like this ultimately comes to the landlord or not. My humble view is that it certainly does, and I will tell the Committee why. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, but I do not think that that is the real question to consider at all. The landlord or owner of the property is the only person with whom the property permanently remains. Obviously the tenant, who is a temporary person, cannot carry it away with him, but the whole question is whether the benefit enables the land to be let at a reasonable rent. Obviously one must consider what burdens the landlord has to bear. The question is, what effect subsequently does it have on the letting of the property? We need not quarrel about the early stages, for it is the later stage which is of importance. Experience in the past has suggested that it does affect the amount of rent and affect it beneficially from the point of view of the tenants. You might have suggested that we should have made the tenant entirely rate-free by taking the one-quarter away, but I think that would have been a regrettable thing, for it would have left the tenant without any interest in the expenditure of rating in his own district.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Dundee

Is it not the case that under the Government's proposals, as a matter of fact, the tenant farmer, during the period in which he gets one-half of the landlord's share, is in pocket, and therefore pays no local rates at all?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

That may so be argued, because of the conditions under which the existing tenancy was entered into, but you can only test it by taking the permanent conditions. We shall deal with that more fully on Clause 33, but I think there is a complete answer to the suggestion of the hon. Member. I was dealing with the general question. It really would not have been satisfactory to have been content with wiping out the one-quarter of the tenant and, have done nothing for the landlord. We should have left Scotland in a worse position than England, and have left the tenant without any incentive or interest in local affairs, and it would have been of very little material benefit to him.

With regard to whether the landlord is properly described as a partner in the industry or not, we hold very strongly, and with a good deal of historical basis, that the landlord is a partner with the obligations of a partner in providing certain things. It is just because those things are unfairly rated at present that we feel that the de-rating ought to be given to his part as well. Hon. Members talk of this as a subsidy from the Government. It has got nothing to do with that, and it is not a question of a gift at all. It is a question of relief from liability for rates and a question of whether it is fair or just Perhaps I have gone a little further and at greater length than I intended to go, hut it is an engrossing topic, and the arguments are interesting. I hope, therefore, the Committee will forgive me if I have spoken too long.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Dundee

The Lord Advocate slid with agility over the essential grievance which has been produced by this method of relieving agriculture. Is it not the case that under the Government's proposals the tenant farmer, during the period that he gets one-half of the landlord's share, is actually going to be in pocket, and therefore for the first time in British economic history you are going to have a class in the country whom it will pay to vote for increased rates?

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

No. I did not argue that point, because it seemed to me totally out of order, but we will deal with it on a later Amendment.

Photo of Mr Thomas Johnston Mr Thomas Johnston , Dundee

It is an essential point. The method which has been taken to relieve agriculture is one by which a favoured class of the community is not only going to pay no rates at all, but will be put in pocket, and therefore there will be people who will have a direct economic incentive to vote for increased rates. I am perfectly certain that such a situation has never before obtained in Scotland, and I am amazed that the Lord Advocate has not faced up to that fact. He did not face up to the fact that the landlords under this system are going to get £770,000 in relief and the tenant farmers £110,000. That means £770,000 in Scotland going to the landlord class. I will not refer to the position of other tenants, shopkeepers and commercial classes of other kinds, who get no relief, but I merely draw attention to the fact that under the proposal the landlord class in Scotland are to get, in direct subsidy from the Exchequer, £770,000 per annum, and the tenant farmers only £110,000.

Photo of Mr Archibald Skelton Mr Archibald Skelton , Perth

I desire to say one word further on only one aspect of this topic. The feature of the Amendment which, if there were no other, would make me its inveterate enemy, is that if it were carried the most important class of owner-occupiers would be deprived of the greater part of the relief of rates. We know that the percentage of owner-occupiers in Scotland is somewhere in the nature of 25 per cent. or 27 per cent., but it is a growing percentage, and anyone who has got the interests of agriculture and of a sound social system at heart must sympathise with this point of view. I know there are many on the benches opposite who wish to see the development of a property-owning peasantry in Scotland. Hon. Members will be in agreement with me when I say that if you wish to see a really sound, strong and healthy country, one of the most important features you can develop is the owner-occupier, and particularly the owner-occupier of smaller holdings of land.

Everyone knows that one of the very great difficulties in approaching land settlement in Scotland, as opposed to that operating in England, and in the problem of producing a class of small owner-occupier in Scotland, has been that they have had to carry a double burden of occupiers' rates and owners' rates. For my part, much of my Parliamentary observations have been devoted to attempting to further the cause of land settlement, and particularly the small ownership in Scotland. There is nothing that I more welcome in the whole of the Measure than the fact that at last it sweeps out of the way one of the real hindrances to the development of a proper system of land settlement in Scotland. I am amazed that, in their desire to score a party point on the subject of landlords, oblivious to the patent fact of a partnership established historically and actually between the landlord and tenant, hon. Members on the other side should have allied themselves to this doctrine that you may not relieve that part of the rates in Scotland which are paid by the agricultural owner. Their Amendment, if carried, would completely check, nullify, and bring to an end all hope of a proper development of a land settlement system in Scotland. We on this side of the Committee who know that the future of democracy lies not in the follies of Socialism, but in the building up of a property-owning democracy—

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

Assisted by the lawyers.

Photo of Mr Archibald Skelton Mr Archibald Skelton , Perth

Assisted, we hope, by patriotic and right-minded men. We all know that the future of democracy and the nature of this country lie in building up a strong property-owning democracy, four-square and independent, and, as far as Scotland is concerned, the sweeping away of owners' rates on agricultural land is an essential step towards bringing that about in the agricultural districts.

Photo of Mr Andrew MacLaren Mr Andrew MacLaren , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

May I deal with the last remarks of the hon. Member? There has been a strong suspicion in the minds of those who have been watching the steady progress of Conservative legislation in regard to land, that they have a latent idea in their minds of creating peasant proprietorship, with a view to establishing in our countryside something like that which we have observed in France of peasant proprietorship with its niggling, narrow outlook on life, and its rooted Conservatism. I will leave it at that. It is enough that the hon. Member has told us that that is the main cause of his enthusiasm. Coming to the matter immediately under review, I should like to congratulate the Lord Advocate upon maintaining the reputation of his high office in Scotland and adumbrating something that one of his predecessors used to say in this House, much to the abhorrence of the Conservative party at that time. The late Lord Strathclyde maintained that it matters not what advantage may be granted by the State to any tenants or agricultural landowners or users, ultimately the landowners would gain it in rent.

Photo of Mr Andrew MacLaren Mr Andrew MacLaren , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

I understood the Lord Advocate to say that it came back to the landowners finally. The hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) put this point to the right hon. Member for Hill-head (Sir R. Horne), that it was an economic fact that the ultimate residual claimant of any advantage, either by subsidy or reduction in rates, will be the landlord. That seemed to be contested by the right hon. Member for Hillhead, but it was conceded by the Lord Advocate. If I am misrepresenting the Lord Advocate, I will willingly give way, so that he may make clear what it was that he intended to say. It is a great advantage for the Members of the Opposition to be able to go back to Scotland and to tell the Scottish electorate that all the advantages under this Bill, on the admission of the Lord Advocate in the House of Commons, will ultimately fall into rent, to the benefit of the landlords.

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

The hon. Member must not misrepresent me. I made it quite clear that I thought there could be no difference between us as to the first point, because the tenant comes and goes and the landlord is the only permanent person; he is the owner of the property. Therefore, it is perfectly true to say that the benefit which follows on the land must come back to the landowner. But I also said that the later stage is the interesting stage, as to whether or not when a fresh tenant comes that fresh tenant gets any benefit out of it. It is there that the hon. Member is not quite fair to my argument.

Photo of Mr Andrew MacLaren Mr Andrew MacLaren , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

I should be the last to attempt to misconstrue anything that the Lord Advocate said. It is enough for us that he says that until the new tenancy arises, the landlord is in the position to gain the advantages, whatever they are. The further point is, when the new tenant comes will there be a lowering of rent or an increase of rent? Our observations of practice warrant us in saying that the advantage will go to rent.

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

That is where we disagree.

Photo of Mr Andrew MacLaren Mr Andrew MacLaren , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

It has been argued in this House and in legal circles in Scotland that the landlord really pays the rates. It has been stated in Debate tonight that when the tenant enters into occupancy of a farm he takes into account the amount of the rates that he has to pay. If the rates are low, he will be induced by that fact to take the farm earlier than he might have done if the rates had been higher. Surely, it is a clear deduction, and one that any Scotsman should immediately appreciate, that if the rates are reduced by any subvention from the State the benefit will accrue to the landlord, because he will get ready tenants. Let me give a concrete illustration. When advantages were given by the State to the landowners in a guaranteed price for wheat under the Corn Production Act, what did we witness all over the country? We had to bring in a Credits Bill to help the farmers who had got into trouble because, under that Bill, the landlords had screwed the advantage out of the tenants and forced the farmers almost to the point of bankruptcy. I could give other illustrations, but I should have thought that it was a waste of time to try to prove that the advantages ultimately go to rent, even on the argument advanced by the Lord Advocate because, as he rightly says, tenants come and go, but the landowners remain, and if any advantages accrue to the property they will be the residual claimants of those advantages.

Another point made by the Lord Advocate is of importance. He said that it is all a question of assessing the property. It is most unfortunate that we are discussing this Amendment to-night, but there is no escape from it. The Opposition have at their disposal no other means of protesting against the subsidy going to the landowners, than by tabling this Amendment. The Amendment, as tabled, is consequent upon the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act. The Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act has rather circumscribed in form any Amendment that we can attempt to move in regard to rating. The Lord Advocate says that the Rating and Valuation (Apportionment) Act was discussed. I would remind him that the Guillotine was on and that substantial Amendments which might have affected what we are discussing to-night were ruled out and not discussed.

Let me put the case as I think the Government ought to put it before the country. They say that if they give relief in the form of rate reduction they will help industry, whether it be farming or other industry. One would have thought that in order to secure that relief of industry there would have been at least two entries in the valuation rolls.

When the Rating and Valuation Apportionment Act was under review I tabled an Amendment, which was not reached, asking that in the valuation there should be two entries, one, the value of the land, and, the other, the value of the improvements and equipments on the land, so that in the claim apportioning the relief to rates the local authority would know whether they were giving the relief in respect of the land, as land, or in respect of equipment and general industrial development. That not being done, and proceeding on the old vicious conception of rating on the old composite subject of land and improvements, we are left with no other opportunity of discussing this vital point that the landowner as such as a drawer of rent is a non-producer and renders no service to the State. If you had a proper drafting of the Clause in the Rating and Valuation Apportionment Act, where the relief would have gone in respect of im- provements, then in cases where the landowner carried out improvements himself—I should be the last person to discourage any landowner carrying out his improvements—I would say that if a landowner is developing his land and creating improvements he has as much right to relief in respect of those improvements as the occupier. That is not so under this Bill. Landowners will get relief in respect of rates because they own highly valuable land. They will take advantage of every rate relief that is given. I was speaking to the chief landowner in my own shire—

Photo of Mr James Couper Mr James Couper , Glasgow Maryhill

There is no agricultural land in Glasgow.

Photo of Mr Andrew MacLaren Mr Andrew MacLaren , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

—and he told me quite frankly that during current leases he would not stand to gain much, but he said that in the drawing-up of new leases he was keeping his eye on the fact that there would be less rates to pay. The Lord Advocate tells us that the opposite will be the case by virtue of the fact that a landowner will have less rates to pay, and that he will say to his tenants: "Having less rates to pay, I am going to make less extortionate demands upon you for rent." It would do something to convert the opposition to an admiration of landowners if the Government will produce one landowner in England or Scotland who, having received an advantage in rate relief from the Government, will go round to his tenants and say: "Is there any tenant who wants to take advantage of the relief; I will hand it over to you?" Knowing Scottish landowners as I do, they are the last type of landowner on this earth to give away any advantage that they receive from rate relief; and my experience is pretty similar amongst English landowners.

There seems to be a strong feeling on the benches opposite that we have gone somewhat wide of the mark in order to attack landowners. Frankly, I think that there is much time wasted on both side of the House in denouncing individuals instead of trying to attack the system and improve it. I have been insistent in demanding that the rate pressure should be taken off agriculture and industry in order to help them. What we complain of is that, instead of the relief being given to industry, whether it is agriculture or industry, the Bill is so drawn that the advantages will go to the people who are not in any sense participants, in the sense of public service industrially or agriculturally. There is a method whereby we could easily assist agriculture without giving subventions from the State, but I cannot mention them at the moment. All the advantages you are giving under this Bill will go ultimately to rent. That is undeniable, from the economic point of view or the practice in the past; and I want to congratulate the Lord Advocate on having had the courage to admit that to a certain extent that is the fact.

Photo of Brigadier-General John Charteris Brigadier-General John Charteris , Dumfriesshire

I intervene only for a few moments. The observations of the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) have given such a totally false impression of what I know within my own knowledge to he the attitude of many Scottish landowners that, with the permission of the House, I will give a few instances. I will mention no names, but I shall be glad to give to the hon. Members the names in the three cases I propose to give, and he can investigate them himself. One of the largest landowners in the South of Scotland has, through his factor, already caused it to be circulated that all the benefits he will receive from the Rating and Valuation Bill will be put into a fund; and put into the land. That, surely, will be to the benefit of the farmers who are farming. Another has offered, again on his own initiative, at the end of the present tenancy, when the proportion of the relief ceases to be handed over by the landlord to the tenant, to continue to give to the tenant such relief as his total relief on all rates. It is not as much as he gives at the present, because the amount given by the landlord to the tenant during the present tenancy is more than the tenant pays at the moment in rates. There is the third instance.

Some years ago, when a Bill was under discussion in this House, one of the largest landowners gave me a copy of the accounts of his estate extending over a period of six or eight years. I went through them with the help of an accountant and the total rent bill was less than the amount he had put into the land during the whole of those years. So far from the picture the hon. Member has drawn being correct, of landlords taking all they can and denying the tenants improvements—and this is by no means a single case—this is an instance in which the landlord was actually putting back into his property more than he was receiving from it. The hon. Member will believe men when I say that I am not saying things which I do not know to be facts. Is it possible that landlords who have adopted that attitude towards their tenants and property before this Bill was brought in are going to be the skinflints and rogues which the hon. Member tries to make out. He spoke of his own shire. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Maryhill (Mr. Couper) was quite right in saying that there are no agricultural landlords there whatever. No person imagines that the County of Glasgow represents typical agricultural land in Scotland, and when the hon. Member tries to make this Committee believe otherwise, he is simply ploughing the sands. Glasgow has no more to do with agriculture now than my own county of Dumfries has to do with the transport problem of London. The fact is that this Bill, as it becomes more and more understood, is not only not opposed, but is appreciated by the agricultural community, both tenants and landlords. The Bill is a fair Bill. I hope the Committee will not accept the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 179; Noes, 101.

Division No. 211.]AYES.[9.57 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelBalniel, LordBoothby, R. J. G.
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. CharlesBarclay-Harvey C. M.Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.
Allen, Sir J. SandemanBentinck, Lord Henry CavendishBriscoe, Richard George
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Berry, Sir GeorgeBrocklebank, C. E. R.
Apsley, LordBethel, A.Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.
Atholl, Duchess ofBetterton, Henry B.Broun-Lindsay, Major H.
Atkinson, C.Birchall, Major J. DearmanBrown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyBlundell, F. N.Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C (Berks, Newb'y)
Buckingham, Sir H.Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir VivianPeto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)Henn, Sir Sydney H.Plicher, G.
Charteris, Brigadier-General J.Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.Preston, William
Christie, J. A.Herbert, S. (York, N.R.,Scar. & Wh'by)Radford, E. A.
Churchman, Sir Arthur C.Hilton, CecilRaine, Sir Walter
Clayton, G. C.Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)Rawson, Sir Cooper
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Hopkins, J. W. W.Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)
Cohen, Major J. BrunelHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Colfox, Major Wm. PhillipsHume, Sir G. H.Ropner, Major L.
Conway, Sir W. MartinHunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir AylmerRuggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Cooper, A. DuffInskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cope, Major Sir WilliamIveagh, Countess ofRye, F. G.
Couper, J. B.Jones, Henry Haydn, (Merioneth)Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Courtauld, Major J. S.Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)Sandeman, N. Stewart
Craig, Sir Ernett (Chester, Crewe)King, Commodore Henry DouglasSanderson Sir Frank
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)Kinloch-Cooke, Sir ClementSandon, Lord
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)Lamb, J. Q.Savery, S. S.
Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D. Mel.(Renfrew,W.)
Dalkeith, Earl ofLooker, Herbert WilliamSkelton, A. N.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovil)Lougher, LewisSmith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Davies, Dr. VernonLuce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard HarmanSmith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Eden, Captain AnthonyMacAndrew, Major Charles GlenSmith-Carington, Neville W.
Edmondson, Major A. J.Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)McDonnell, Colonel Hon. AngusSpender-Clay, Colonel H.
Elliot, Major Walter E.MacIntyre, IanStanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.
Ellis, R. G.McLean, Major A.Streatfeild, Captain S. R.
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)Macmillan, Captain H.Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Erskine, James Malcolm MonteithMacquisten, F. A.Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Everard, W. LindsayMacRobert, Alexander M.Tasker, R. Inigo.
Fairfax, Captain J. G.Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Falle, Sir Bertram G.Manningham-Buller, Sir MervynTomilnson, R. P.
Fanshawe, Captain G. D.Margesson, Captain D.Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough
Fermoy, LordMason, Colonel Glyn K.Waddington, R.
Ford, Sir P. J.Merriman, Sir F. BoydWallace, Captain D. E.
Forestier-Walker, Sir L.Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Forrest, W.Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Foster, Sir Harry S.Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Fraser, Captain IanMonsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.Watts, Sir Thomas
Gadie, Lieut.-Col. AnthonyMoore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)Wayland, Sir William A.
Galbraith, J. F. W.Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)Wells, S. R.
Gates, PercyMorrison-Bell, Sir Arthur CliveWilliams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew HamiltonMurchison, Sir KennethWilliams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Greene, W. P. CrawfordNelson, Sir FrankWilliams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. JohnNewman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Wilson, Sir Murrough (Yorks,Richm'd)
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.Nuttall, EllisWindsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hammersley, S. S.O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryO'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. HughWomersley, W. J
Harland, A.Oman, Sir Charles William C.Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)Owen, Major G.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.Penny, Frederick GeorgeMr. F. C. Thomson and Sir Victor
Henderson,Capt.R.R. (Oxf'd, Henley)Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Warrender.
NOES.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)Gillett, George M.MacNeill-Weir, L.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Maxton, James
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edln., Cent.)Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)
Ammon, Charles GeorgeGreenall, T.Naylor, T. E.
Barnes, A.Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)Paling, W.
Barr, J.Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Ponsonby, Arthur
Batey, JosephGriffith, F. KingsleyPotts, John S.
Beckett, John (Gateshead)Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Purcell, A. A.
Bellamy, A.Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Benn, WedgwoodHall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Riley, Ben
Bennett, William (Battersea, South)Hardie, George D.Ritson, J.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Hayes, John HenryScrymgeour, E.
Broad, F. A.Hirst, G. H.Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Bromley, J.Hollins, A.Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)Shield, G. W.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Buchanan, G.Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)Shinwell, E.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. NoelJones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Cape, ThomasJones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Charieton, H. C.Kennedy, T.Smillie, Robert
Clarke, A. B.Lawson, John JamesSmith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Compton, JosephLee, F.Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Cove, W. G.Lindley, F. W.Stephen, Campbell
Dalton, HughLowth, T.Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Day, HarryLunn, WilliamStrauss, E. A.
Duncan, C.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)Sullivan, Joseph
Gardner, J. P.Mackinder, W.Sutton, J. E.
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.MacLaren, AndrewTaylor, R. A.
Tinker, John JosephWestwood, J.Windsor, Walter
Townend, A. E.Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.Wright, W.
Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir CharlesWhiteley, W.Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Wellock, WilfredWilliams, T. (York, Don Valley)Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. T.
Welsh, J. C.Wilton, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe) Henderson.

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Carlisle

I beg to move, in page 31, line 16, at the end, to insert the words: (3) No owner or occupier of agricultural lands and heritages shall by reason only of the foregoing provisions of this Section be required to pay in respect of such lands and heritages any water rate leviable under a local Act on a higher annual value than that on which he would have been required to pay if the said provisions had not been enacted. This Amendment is really consequential upon the Amendment which has just been inserted. The effect of it is to safeguard the case of a man who has been paying a water rate under a local Act which gives him more favourable terms.

Amendment agreed to.