305 STANDING COMMITTEE C Tuesday, 26th May, 1925.

[Sir CYRIL COBB in the Chair.]

ALLOTMENTS BILL.

[OFFICIAL REPORT.]

NEW CLAUSE.
—(Amendment of s. 17 of the Act of 1922.)

The provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section seventeen of the Act of 1922, relating to the assessment of a council to rates shall apply to an approved society providing land for allotments in the same manner as it applies to a council.—[Captain Bourne.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Captain BOURNE: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." This proposed new Clause brings out the same principle as the original Clause 9 of the Bill, and enables the allotment authority to apply to be rated as occupier of the allotment area. As a general principle it seems very much better that the allotment society should be rated as sole occupier and should apportion the rates among its own tenants in the rent. The reason for moving the new Clause is that there is no exact standard edition of Acts of Parliament and the original draft used the words "line 1," but I am informed that "line 1" may not be the same in all editions of Acts of Parliament, and so this new Clause is necessary in order to bring the Bill into conformity with the ordinary drafting.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.

NEW CLAUSE.
—(Date of operation.)

From the date of this Act coming into operation the gross assessable value of land hereafter to be used as allotments shall not be increased during the first three years of such user.—[Sir Thomas Davies.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir THOMAS DAVIES: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." I think this is one of the most important parts of the Bill, and my allotment holders 306 think so, too, and I have many hundreds, if not thousands, of them. I do not think I need say much about it for the reason that, in speaking against the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), I said practically all that I wished to say. When men take over, as they do in many cases, grass land or derelict land, for a year or two after they have taken it over, they do not get a penny an hour for the labour they put into it, and when, as under this. Bill, they will have practically a long leasehold, almost equal to a freehold, of the land, they will be encouraged, instead of growing the common or garden things, which they have been accustomed to grow on allotments, such as potatoes, cabbages, and spring greens, to look upon their allotment as the first step to a market garden or small holding, and the more we can encourage them to begin planting it with things that will stay there for several years, such as rhubarb, currants, gooseberries, fruit, or asparagus, which we commonly call grass in our part of the country, we shall find that the allotment system will turn out to be simply a stepping-stone, which we all want to encourage, for men to take up the land as a livelihood in small quantities and go on to larger holdings. As an example of that, may I say that only yesterday a man came to me out of Wiltshire, only about eight miles from where I live, and said he wanted to buy some 31 acres of land at a certain price, and put a house on it, and he wanted a little money to help him. I said: "In your parish of Minety, how many small holdings have you got?" And he replied: "At least 40 under 30 acres." We want to encourage that kind of thing. Here is a population that is thrifty and hard-working. This man said he started life as an agricultural labourer, then took an allotment, and kept on increasing his holding. Again, last Friday week, when I went down from London, I went to a place near Swindon where there was a man who was buying a house and three acres of market garden land. I said: "How in the world did you come to train yourself to this?" He replied: "I was an agricultural labourer, working on the Earl of Suffolk's estate, and having been there for about 13 years, I became an under-gardener in the Countess of Suffolk's gardens, got an idea of gardening, and now I want to buy this land." There are two cases that have come to 307 my own knowledge within about a week, in which, from the start they have received from their allotments, these men have been led to go on to larger holdings. The way to encourage them is that for the first three years of taking an allotment they should be rated, not free—I do not ask that—but that the land should be rated at the same figure as that at which it was rated when it was in other occupation, or even if it was partly derelict. That would be one of the biggest steps we could take to plant our people on the land and give them, as is done in many foreign countries, a stake in the country. To-day the agricultural labourer, as a rule, is a landless man, and a landless agricultural labourer, with no prospect before him, is a discontented man, and rightly discontented too. We want to make the steps as easy as possible for him, and, therefore, I hope this Clause will be accepted. I wish the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme had been here, because he emphatically said that if we rejected his Amendment—and we did—he and his party would whole-heartedly support mine. I hope now that they will carry out that pledge.

Mr. HURD: I wish to support the new Clause. I have also been among the allotment holders during the week-end, and I think this is a very valuable Bill in many respects. Unquestionably you cannot give the allotment holder the sort of permanent security on the land that you would like to give. One man told me in Wiltshire, on Saturday, that he had been an allotment holder for 5 years and had been displaced four times for building or other purposes. You cannot altogether avoid that, but at least you can do justice to such a man, and say that, at any rate, his rating shall not be increased during the first three years of his tenancy until he has really put some improved value into the land.

Captain BOURNE: I am going to ask my hon. friend not to press the new Clause, for one reason, and, I think, a very good one, namely, that I have consulted the Minister of Health, who is of opinion that this Amendment, as it deals with rating, should not be brought in on this Bill, but on the Rating and Valuation Bill. I have the following letter from him:—

"DEAR CAPTAIN BOURNE,

With reference to our conversation a few days ago about the Allotments Bill, I write 308 to confirm what I then said to you, namely, that, in my opinion, the proper place for dealing with any alterations in the rating of allotments was in the Rating and Valuation Bill and not in an Allotments Bill.

I hope, therefore, that Sir Thomas Davies will not press his Amendment; and in that case I can promise you that, should any Amendment dealing with the rating of allotments be moved in Committee on the Rating and Valuation Bill, I will give it my full and fair consideration.

You will understand that I am in no way committing myself to accept such an Amendment; all I mean is that I should approach it with an open mind and without prejudice.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed) NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN."

I am, personally, thoroughly in sympathy with the Amendment, and it is only because I feel that this is not a suitable Bill in which to deal with it that I am asking my hon. Friend to withdraw it. If he does withdraw it, I shall be extremely pleased to move it myself on the Rating and Valuation Bill in Committee.

Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON: I hope the Committee will support the new Clause. May I remind the Committee that when the previous Allotments Bill was before the last Parliament but one, we had an exactly similar discussion, and were put off by the official attitude that this was a desirable thing, but that that was not the proper time to do it. Since that time the Government have brought in a Rating Bill, but they have not included this valuable provision in it, and does anyone seriously think, after hearing the letter we have had read, with its non-committal phrases, that there is any real chance of getting this Amendment carried in the Government's Rating Bill? Surely, if we feel that it is a desirable thing, on principle, now is our opportunity of putting it in, and we can let the Government knock it out afterwards if they like. At any rate, let the Committee show its mind and what it really thinks on the matter, because we here, as men interested in allotments, can express our opinions, whereas when we are part of the larger body dealing with the Rating Bill, we shall not have the same opportunity. Therefore, I appeal to all those who believe that this is in principle a valuable Amendment, from the allotment holders' point of view, to pass it now, in order that we may get it established as 309 the mind of this Committee, even though we may not be successful in carrying it into law later on.

Mr. LAMB: I hope the hon. Member for Cirencester (Sir T. Davies) will not withdraw his Clause, but will press it to a division. I am sure we were all pleased to hear the promoter of the Bill say he was in sympathy with the object of the Clause, and I think it will be very valuable, whether or not it be ultimately accepted as part of the Bill, that, at any rate, this Committee, which is dealing with the special question of allotments, should express its opinion in the strongest possible way in favour of the Clause. I can conceive of no way which would command more respect, on the floor of the House, than for this Committee to include this Amendment in the Bill. After the speeches made by the Mover of the Amendment and by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd), I do not think it is necessary to say much in support of the Amendment, although I should like to support it very strongly. They referred primarily to those employed in agriculture. There is nobody with a greater desire to benefit those employed in agriculture, and particularly those employed in labour in agriculture, than I have, and I think it is generally known in the House, but, on the other hand, I should like to point out that this Bill is not confined to that class only, and that the industrial allotment holder is vitally interested. Indeed, I do not know whether the industrial worker is, not more actively and intimately concerned in the success of this Bill than even the agricultural labourer, who, generally speaking, is perhaps provided with a large garden, when the other man has not these facilities. The allotment holder, in industrial areas especially, finds that the first three years are the most disappointing and the most crucial in the period of his allotment holding, because during that period he has to do a lot of hard work to bring the allotment into production. Later on, after the three years, there is more return from the labour he has put in. He gets more encouragement, and I think very probably, then, he would be able to stand the extra charge which might be put on him for rates. I strongly support the Clause, and I hope the pro- 310 moter will not agree to it being withdrawn.

Sir T. DAVIES: I really cannot withdraw the Clause. It is one of the most crucial things in my part of the country, and may I say how the sense of injustice grows? When the Agricultural Rating Bill was going through the House of Commons two or three years ago, I read a letter to the House from an association of allotment holders, living about four miles from where the parents of my hon. and gallant friend in charge of this Bill live, at a place called Kemerton. They said that they, as an allotment association, had taken over a piece of land tion, had been very badly farmed, and they found, on taking it over, that they were charged with rates amounting to £8 on the whole field. It was a large field, but when they had been there six months, and worked as hard as they could work on this field, they had to pay the rates again, for the second half-year, and they were then £16, or double. That, of course, caused a great deal of heart-burning, and they wrote a very indignant letter. That sort of feeling, if it spreads all over the country, will make men very discontented, and, therefore, I do not think I should be doing my duty, as representing a large agricultural division, in which allotments, small holdings and market gardens are extending by the hundreds of acres yearly, if I gave way. I would point out to the promoter of the Bill that, if we pass this Clause, as I hope we shall, unanimously, when it gets to the Floor of the House, if the Minister of Health says he does not think it ought to stand, we shall simply be able to point to it and say: "This is the considered opinion of a body of men who have given every consideration to it, and they are of the opinion that this should be the law of the land. If this is not the right place for it, all that you have to do is to pledge yourself that a Clause shall be inserted in your Valuation and Rating Bill, and we will have no objection to cutting it out of this Bill," but, unless we have that pledge, I hope we shall stick to it hard and fast.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

311

The CHAIRMAN: The next Clause "Provision for allotments in absence of town-planning scheme," standing in the name of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) is out of Order. I have my doubts in regard to the further Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member—

NEW CLAUSE.
—(Provision of allotments in special cases.)

Whether a local authority has taken part in preparing a town-planning scheme or not, it may submit to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour schemes for providing allotments not exceeding one quarter of an acre in extent for every unemployed man on the live register within that area who is willing to cultivate such allotment and is reasonably fit for such work.

I would like to hear the hon. Member upon the point. I understand that if he is allowed to move this new Clause, he will move it in an amended form in consequence of my having ruled his other Clause out of Order. It seems to me that if a local authority has taken part in preparing a town-planning scheme, we have already dealt with that in the Clause which we substituted for Clause 3 in this Bill, and we should not now be in Order in discussing an Amendment which deals with a special class of persons in connection with allotments, namely, the unemployed. On the other hand, if a town-planning scheme has not been undertaken by a local authority, I do not think that we should be in Order in discussing an Amendment which added to the Bill something not contained in the Bill itself, that is to say, special facilities for the unemployed. I would like to hear what the hon. Member has to say, and what may be said on both sides of the Committee, on that matter. I want to hear the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street as to how he can bring this new Clause in Order on the two points to which I have referred, namely, with regard to a local authority which has taken part in preparing a town-planning scheme, already dealt with under out substituted Clause 3 and, secondly, where a local authority has not prepared a town-planning scheme but where, as I understand it, local authorities already have power to do this kind of thing for making use of unemployed persons within the parish.

Mr. LAWSON: This Clause would simply impress upon the local authorities 312 who have taken part in preparing town-planning schemes the necessity of giving particular attention to the unemployed within their area. If the Allotment Bill is to be a live Act when it is placed on the Statute Book, the direction in which it is to be developed must be in giving an opportunity of employment to men not merely to supplement their income, but to supply the needs in their own home with respect to food. Charges are being made from time to time that a certain number of the unemployed do not want work, but want what is called the dole. Here is an opportunity of instructing the local authorities to prepare a town-planning scheme and to give special attention to these men.

The CHAIRMAN: That is, picking out a special class of persons to benefit under the allotments scheme. I want you to address your mind to the argument why we should choose that special class of person more than any other class of person, such as the policeman, the ex-service men, and so on, in view of the fact that the Poor Law already provides for these people.

Mr. LAWSON: I am not sure under what section of what Act the Poor Law does provide for the unemployed. I should be glad to be informed of the conditions under which the guardians can find work for the unemployed.

Captain BOURNE: On the point of Order, I submit that this Clause is out of order on this Bill. This Bill, in Clause 11, incorporates the Allotments Acts from 1908 to 1922, inclusive, and the 1908 Act refers back to 1890 and 1862. There is on the Statute Book an Act of Geo. III. Chap. 12, which provides that the churchwardens and overseers of the poor may purchase, hire, or lease within the parish suitable land, "not exceeding twenty acres … and to employ and set to work in the cultivation of such land … any such persons as by law they are directed to set to work, and to pay to such of the poor persons so employed as shall not be supported by the parish, reasonable wages for their work." That Act is amended by a further Act of William IV, Chap. 42, which provides that the hiring and working of this land shall be a matter for the guardians and not for the churchwardens and overseers of the poor, and that they may hire it to the extent of 50 acres. Anything that the 313 hon. Member hopes to get by this new Clause is already covered, and more than covered, by Acts already on the Statute Book.

Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS: Does not the argument just put forward by the hon. and gallant Member relate to the guardians employing men to cultivate the land, whereas this Clause deals with men working themselves on the land. I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member's argument is conclusive, because it seems to me there the powers are different.

Captain BOURNE: Clause 13 of the Act of Geo. III. Chap. 12 goes on to say: "Provided, and be it further enacted, That for the promotion of industry amongst the poor, it shall be lawful for the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of any parish, with the consent of the inhabitants in vestry assembled, to let any portion and portions of such parish land as aforesaid, or of the land to be so purchased or taken on account of the parish, to any poor and industrious inhabitant of the parish, to be by him or her occupied and cultivated on his or her own account."

The CHAIRMAN: That is the point, "on his or her own account."

Mr. LAWSON: Speaking as one who has taken some part in local administration, I should be glad if the hon. and gallant Member in charge of the Bill would tell the Committee what a churchwarden is. What does he do? It is a long time since I heard of one.

The CHAIRMAN: We need not go into that matter.

Mr. LAWSON: I mean, what do they do in connection with the administration of local affairs?

The CHAIRMAN: The hon. and gallant Member will probably say that all these duties have been transferred to the parish councils. I think that is so.

Mr. LAWSON: I think the hon. and gallant Member said that this power has been transferred to the guardians.

The CHAIRMAN: I think it is the parish councils.

Captain BOURNE: The guardians.

The CHAIRMAN: The acreage is extended up to 50 acres.

314

Mr. LAWSON: The guardians do not take part in town-planning schemes, neither do the parish councils. Whether this power is in the Statute or not, it certainly has not been operated by the authorities, for good or for ill. There seems to be general agreement that we are going to have somewhere about 1,000,000 unemployed for many years to come. Therefore, in a Bill dealing with land on a small scale, is it not wise to give the authorities concerned the power to deal specifically with the class of men who most need the opportunity of working upon the land? Here is an opportunity of testing how far some of these men are industrious and prepared to do a little work. Charges are flung about that there are a certain number of people who make it their business to qualify for the unemployment benefit. That is to say, they do not want work.

Mr. LAMB: On a point of Order. Are we not discussing whether the Clause is in Order? When we have decided that, we can discuss the merits of the Clause.

The CHAIRMAN: I was waiting for the hon. Member to tell me on what he bases his view that this new Clause is not superfluous. I think it is already provided for, and therefore the Clause is superfluous.

Mr. LAWSON: I do not know on what grounds you rule that the authorities are already instructed to make provision for a man who wants a quarter of an acre. I do not see any such provision, and I do not see any mention of the unemployed. What we propose is, that the authorities who prepare town-planning schemes should give special consideration to the class of people who would be likely to want an opportunity of working on an allotment.

The CHAIRMAN: As the matter is doubtful, I will allow the Clause to be moved and argued.

NEW CLAUSE.
—(Provision of allotments in special cases.)

Whether a local authority has taken part in preparing a town-planning scheme or not, it may submit to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour schemes for providing allotments not exceeding one quarter of an acre in extent for every unemployed man on the live register within that area who is willing to cultivate such allotment and is reasonably fit for such work.—[Mr. Lawson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

315

Mr. LAWSON: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second Time.

Mr. KELLY: I beg to support the Motion.

Question put.

The Committee proceeded to a division.

Mr. WILLIAMS: On a point of Order. If we give the Clause a Second Reading, can we reject it after argument? Can we reject it on the Motion "That the Clause be added to the Bill"?

The CHAIRMAN: No.

Division No. 8.] AYES.
Applin, Colonel Kelly, Mr. Sutton, Mr.
Connolly, Mr. Lawson, Mr. Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan
Greenall, Mr. Lee, Mr. Frank Whiteley, Mr.
NOES.
Allen, Mr. Sandeman Churchman, Sir Arthur Knox, Sir Alfred
Balniel, Lord Davies, Sir Thomas Lamb, Mr.
Bird, Sir Robert Fenby, Mr. Looker, Mr.
Bourne, Captain Gee, Captain Rice, Sir Frederick
Brown, Brigadier-General Clifton Harland, Mr. Wells, Mr.
Williams, Mr. Herbert

Bill, as amended, ordered to be Reported to the House.

316

Mr. LAMB: On a point of Order. I suppose it is too late now to say why we vote against the Clause.

The CHAIRMAN: I have called a division.

Mr. LAMB: I do not press the point, but I would say that none of us who intend to vote against the Clause have had an opportunity, or rather, we have not embraced the opportunity of saying why we vote against it.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 9; Noes, 16.

The Committee rose at Fifteen Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.

The FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Cobb, Sir Cyril (Chairman)

Allen, Mr. Sandeman

Applin, Colonel

Balniel, Lord

Bird, Sir Robert

Bourne, Captain

Brown, Brigadier-General Clifton

Churchman, Sir Arthur

Connolly, Mr.

Davies, Sir Thomas

Fenby, Mr.

Gee, Captain

Greenall, Mr.

Harland, Mr.

Hurd, Mr.

Kelly, Mr.

Knox, Sir Alfred

Lamb, Mr.

Lawson, Mr.

Lee, Mr. Frank

Looker, Mr.

Rice, Sir Frederick

Shaw, Captain Walter

Sutton, Mr.

Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan

Wells, Mr.

Whiteley, Mr.

Williams, Mr. Herbert