House Of Commons
Wednesday 14th August, 1907.
The House met at a quarter before Three of the Clock.
Private Bill Business
Kilmarnock Corporation Water Order Confirmation Bill. Read the third time, and passed.
Inverness Royal Academy Order Confirmation Bill, "To confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, relating to Inverness Royal Academy and Educational Endowments," presented by Mr. Sinclair, and ordered, under Section 7 of the Act, to be considered upon Friday.
Message From The Lords
That they have agreed to, Armagh Urban District Council Bill, with an Amendment.
Amendment to—Oxford and District Tramways Bill [Lords], without Amendment.
That they have passed a Bill, intituled, "An Act to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, relating to Dumbarton Burgh and County Tramways." [Dumbarton Burgh and County Tramways Order Confirmation Bill [Lords.]
Also, a Bill, intituled, "An Act to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, relating to Aberdeen Harbour." [Aberdeen Harbour Order Confirmation Bill [Lords.]
And, also a Bill, intituled, "An Act to confirm a Provisional Order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, relating to the Burgh of Dumbarton." [Dumbarton Burgh Order Confirmation Bill [Lords.]
Dumbarton Burgh and County Tramways Order Confirmation Bill [Lords], ordered, under Section 7 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, to be considered To-morrow.
Dumbarton Burgh Order Confirmation Bill [Lords.] Ordered, under Section 7 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, to be considered To-morrow.
Aberdeen Harbour Order Confirmation Bill [Lords.] Read the first time; and ordered, under Section 9 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, to be read a second time Tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 317.]
Butter And Margarine Bill
Petition from Liverpool, for alteration; to lie upon the Table.
Weekly Rest Day Bill
Petition from Leytonstone and other places, in favour; to lie upon the Table.
Returns, Reports, Etc
Treaty Series (No 22, 1907)
Copy presented, of Accession of Nicaragua to the Convention, signed at Geneva, 22nd August, 1864, for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, 17th June, 1907 [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.
Treaty Series (No 23, 1907)
Copy presented, of Accession of Panama to the Convention, signed at Geneva, 22nd August 1864, for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, 29th July 1907 [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.
Commercial (No 8, 1907)
Copy presented, of Report by Sir Eldon Gorst and Mr. Llewellyn Smith on the System of British Commercial Attachés and Commercial Agents [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.
Trade Reports (Annual Series)
Copies presented, of Diplomatic and Consular Reports, Annual Series, Nos. 3899 and 3900 [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.
Factory And Workshop Acts (Dangerous And Unhealthy Industries)
Copy presented, of Regulations, dated 6th August, 1907, made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in pursuance of Section 79 of the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, for the process of heading of yarn dyed by means of a lead compound [by Act]; to lie upon the Table.
Local Taxation (Scotland)
Copy presented, of the Annual Local Taxation (Scotland) Returns for the-year 1905–6 [by Act] to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 305.]
Trade (Foreign Countries And British Possessions)
Copy presented, of Abstract and Detailed Tables showing Countries of Consignment of Imports and Countries of Ultimate Destination of Exports (Supplement to Vols. I. and II.) [by Command]; to lie upon the Table.
Questions And Answers Circulated With The Votes
Board Of Education Second Division Clerks
To ask the President of the Board of Education how many Second Division-clerks, appointed under the Order in Council, 21st March, 1890, are employed in the Board of Education; how many clerks have been promoted to higher posts in the office from this class since its introduction; and the date of such promotions. (Answered by Mr. McKenna.) In the Board of Education there have been 188 Second Division clerks appointed under the Order in Council of 21st March, 1890. Understanding that by "higher posts" the hon. Member means all posts carrying a salary superior to that of the higher grade of the Second Division, one clerk was promoted on 16th January, 1906, to be a junior staff clerk.
Shopkeepers And Income-Tax
To ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in the assessment of income-tax under Schedule D upon shopkeepers, the house in which they carry on their business, as regards rent and valuation, is taken into account in such assessment; whether it is usual when the assessment is made by the surveyor of taxes, and when such assessment is paid in due course by the shopkeeper, for such surveyor to make a fresh application months afterwards for tax under Schedule A upon the same premises and for the same year; whether he is a ware that the surveyor of taxes at Cookstown has directed one of his collectors to call upon certain shopkeepers who had paid income-tax under Schedule D, as aforesaid, and, without previous notification, demand payment peremptorily of income-tax upon the difference between the rent and valuation; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter. (Answered by Mr. Asquith.) Income-tax under Schedule A is payable in respect of premises used for business purposes as of other premises; but, in estimating the profits of a business for assessment under Schedule D, a deduction is allowed for the amount of the net Schedule A assessment. The tax under Schedules A and D is, as far as possible, collected concurrently. A long interval could only occur under exceptional circnmstances. The surveyor is not aware of any case in which a peremptory demand has been made which has not been preceded by the ordinary demand note for payment.
Devonport Gun Wharf Workers
To ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware that the eighteen men employed in the workshops of the Army Ordnance Department, His Majesty's Gun Wharf, Devonport, are not now granted the extra 1s. per week which has been given to the labourers; that these men, before the advance, were in receipt of 22s. 6d. per week, that included 6d. per day allowed them for skilled work; and that the extra 1s. which was paid to them for a few weeks has been withdrawn, by the deduction of 2d. per day from the 6d. for skilled work, leaving them only 22s. 6d. as before; and whether, seeing that men employed in the dockyard on similar work are receiving from 24s. to 27s. per week, he will favourably consider restoring to these eighteen men the advance in wages recently granted to their comrades. (Answered by Mr. Edmund Robertson.) As I have already explained to the House on 3rd June, the wages paid to the men doing the work in question remained unchanged, and, on the information now in my possession, I do not consider them inadequate for the work which the men have to perform.
Day Industrial Schools
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, having regard to the success of day industrial schools and the desirability of extending the scope of such schools by admitting suitable voluntary cases, he will, in his proposed legislation for next year affecting children, take steps to modity Section 16 of The Education Act, 1876, which, by fixing the maximum limit of the Treasury contribution to day industrial schools at 1s. a head for committed cases and at 6d. a head for other cases, has done a great deal to hamper the development of these schools. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) I hope to deal with the matter in a Bill next session; but I cannot at present make any promise of an increase in the amount of these grants.
Long Lane, Se, Police Barracks
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he can give the total expenditure on land and buildings of Monro House and Bradford House, Long Lane, S.E., recently erected for married men of the M Division of Metropolitan Police; whether he can state how many families each house accommodates and the amount of rent charged for each tenement; whether the rent includes all the charges, the interest of the loan, the sinking fund, rates, taxes, repairs, and cost of management; if not, what is the annual amount of the deficit; and whether the deficit is charged to the rates, or how it is met. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) The total expenditure on land and buildings was £12, 500. Each house accommodates twelve families. The rents vary from 7s. 6d. to 10s. a week, the total rental amounting to £513 10s. per annum. The rent is inclusive; rates, taxes, and other outgoings being defrayed from the Metropolitan Police Fund. Having regard to the shortness of time during which the building has been in occupation, the annual amount of the deficit falling on that fund cannot at present be stated.
Victoria University, Manchester
To ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer if he can state for what reason the maximum State grant to Universities has been reduced; and whether he is aware of the hardship inflicted upon the Victoria University of Manchester by depriving it annually of £2, 000, in reliance upon which engagements had been made, which cannot now be cancelled, for increasing the service of the University to the community. (Answered by Mr. Asquith.) It has been decided that in future no institution participating in the grant for University colleges shall receive more than £10, 000 per annum. Unless the total grant, which has been increased during the last few years from £27, 000 per annum to £100, 000 per annum, is to be indefinitely increased, some maximum limit for particular grants must be fixed, and the limit in question has been arrived at upon the recommendation of the Advisory Commit tee, who fully considered all the circumstances and, in particular, the claims of the smaller colleges. The University was informed last year that the grant then made must not be regarded as an assured source of income, the whole of which might be appropriated to purposes of recurrent expenditure, and that the allocation of the grants would be entirely revised in the current year.
Irish National Education Board
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he will give the dates on which meetings of the National Education Board have been held between the 1st July, 1906, and 30th June, 1907; the names of the Commissioners present at each of these meetings; the number of meetings attended by each of the twenty Commissioners during the twelve months in question; and the remuneration in the way of salary or expenses, etc, paid to each Commissioner for each meeting attended. (Answered by Mr. Birrell.) The following statement gives the dates of meetings of the National Education Board during the period referred to and the number of Commissioners present at each meeting—
|Dates of Meetings.||Number of Commissioners present.|
The Commissioners do not receive any remuneration by way of salary, but their travelling and personal expenses are paid, and the payments are regularly audited by the Exchequer and Audit Department. The Commissioners inform me that they do not think it desirable to give details as to the attendance of individual members of their body, as they consider that no useful purpose would be served by furnishing this information.
The Organiser Of Irish
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland if he will state the number of applications from principal and assistant teachers respectively received by the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland for the position of organiser of Irish, and the number of such teachers who have taught Irish successfully during the past year, receiving the general report of excellent or very good. (Answered by Mr. Birrell.) The Commissioners of National Education inform me that the number of applications for the post of organiser of Irish received from principal and assistant teachers respectively is tifty-five and twenty-six. The information asked for in the latter part of the Question will take some time to prepare.
Lunacy Commissioners' Report
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Lunacy Commissioners have laid upon the Table their Annual Report for this year; and, if so, when will it be issued. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) The body of the Report for 1906 was laid upon the Table on the 27th of June last. The appendices are now in the printers' hands, and it is hoped that the whole Report will be issued in about a fortnight.
Metropolitan Assistant Police Commissioners
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether a military man has recently been appointed one of the assistant commissioners of the Metropolitan Police; whether the gentleman appointed has had any previous experience of police work; and whether, before making this appointment, any consideration was given to the advisability of promoting one of the present superintendents or appointing a person acquainted with the police duty of a large town. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) The last occasion when a military man was appointed an assistant commissioner was in 1902. The gentleman then appointed had been Assistant Commissioner of Police of the City of London, and had had twelve years police experience.
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, whether clergymen of the Disestablished Church in Ireland are compelled to furnish quarterly returns of all marriages celebrated by them; are the clergy of other denominations required to furnish such returns; and are any payments made to the clergy of any, and, if so, which, religious denominations for such returns. (Answered by Mr. Birrell.) The clergy of all denominations in Ireland, except the Roman Catholics, are bound, under the Act 7 and 8 Vic., c. 81, to register marriages in duplicate and to furnish quarterly returns of marriages to the proper officer. The duty of registering Roman Catholic marriages in Ireland is imposed on the husband by the statute 26 and 27 Vic., c 90, known as Monsell's Act. No payment is made to the clergy of any denomination for furnishing returns of marriages.
Geashill Farm Dispute
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he can state the cause of the delay in completing the purchase of Mr. Charles Dempsey's farm at Ard, Geashill, King's County, which the Estates Commissioners propose to divide with an evicted tenant named Wyer; is he aware that Dempsey is being sued by the Land Commission for the amount of annuity due on the whole farm up to last May, although half the land is in the possession of the evicted tenant; and will he see that the sale is expedited. (Answered by Mr. Birrell.) The Estates Commissioners have, at the request of the owner, made inquiries into the matter referred to in the Question, and they are at present considering their inspector's report. The Commissioners have no knowledge that part of the farm is in the occupation of the evicted tenant, Wyer.
Teachers Of Irish Model Schools
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether, in view of the fact that the Commissioners of National Education have framed rules to regulate the appointment of teachers to model schools, and that Rule 51 states that candidates are invited by advertisement to submit their names, he can say why this rule has not been adhered to in the case of the Belfast model school, where a vacancy existed recently in the girls' department. (Answered by Mr. Birrell.) The Commissioners of National Education inform me that candidates were not invited by advertisement for the vacancy in the Belfast model school for girls, because the vacancy was filled by the transfer of the teacher of the Newtownards model school for girls. The vacancy in the latter school has been duly advertised, and the appointment will be made at an early date.
Water For Belfast Rioters
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether, in view of the loss of life at Belfast through the firing with bullets in the streets, he would make representations to the authorities as to whether, in the event of the necessity of dispersing a mob, some other means, such as the use of water, might be adopted. (Answered by Mr. Birrell.), I think my hon. friend may rest assured that, as in the recent case, the authorities will only use firearms in the very last resort, and when all other means have failed. I will, however, bring my hon. friend's suggestion to the notice of the authorities.
Crown Agents' Contracts
To ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Crown agents invite freight tenders for all cargo and stores shipped by them; whether in any cases deferred rebates are granted; if so, what has been the rate of the rebates and the amount so received during each of the years 1904, 1905, and 1906, and how the money has been applied; and whether any preference is granted to certain lines of steamers in consideration of these rebates. (Answered by Mr. Churchill.) The evidence given by Sir E. Blake on the 9th July before the Royal Commission on Shipping Rings (which has been published) contains full information as to the practice of the Crown agents in shipping matters. If the hon. Member desires it he can be supplied with a copy of the list of West African rebates handed in by Sir E-Blake in reply to Question No. 10, 874.
Turkish Raid Into Persia
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has received official information to the effect that the Turkish force which recently crossed the Persian frontier was marching with fire and sword in the direction of Urumia, and had shelled the Christian village of Mewan, killing about ninety persons, including women and children, and carrying off ten girls; and, if so, whether he is making representations to the Sublime Port on this matter. (Answered by Secretary Sir Edward Grey.) I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave to the hon. Member for Mid Armagh on the 8th instant. In reply to the representations made to the Porte, His Majesty's Government are informed that the information of the Turkish Government is to the effect that the first attack came from the Persian side, and that orders have been sent to withdraw the Turkish troops within the neutral zone and to punish those guilty of excesses.
Inland Revenue Porters
To ask the Secretary to the Treasury how many porters are employed in each of the various branches of the Inland Revenue Department; how many classes are they divided into; what is the scale of pay of each class; whether they are all allowed pensions on retirement after the usual number of years service; and, if not, seeing the low scale of pay of these men and the large salaries and pensions given to the higher officials in this department, will he explain why. (Answered by Mr. Runciman.) I am informed that the number of the porters and the offices to which they are assigned are as follows:—Controller of Stamps and Stores Office: I foreman packer and porter, 30s.—2s.—40s. 8 packers and porters, 20s.—1s.—30s. Pensionable. Stamping Department: I van attendant and porter, 20s.—1s.—30s. Pensionable. Office-keepers' Branch: 4 door porters, 1, £65—£2—£85* 3, £52—£2—£56. Pensionable. I head coal porter, £90 per annum. Pensionable. I deputy head coal porter, 27s.—1s.—30s. a week. Non-pensionable. 3 porters, 28s. a week. 40 porters, 20s.—2s.—24s. a week. Non-pensionable. Liverpool Collection: I porter and messenger, 25s.—1s.—30s. I hall porter, 20s.—1s.—25s. Non-pensionable. London Central Collection: I hall porter, 30s. a week. I coal porter, 20s.—2s.—24s. Non-pensionable. Manchester Collection: I porter and messenger, £2 a week. I coal porter for 35 weeks annually, 10s. a week. Non-pensionable. Comptroller's Office, Edinburgh: I coal porter and furnace man, 30s. I coal porter 20s. Non-pensionable. Glasgow Collection: I hall porter, 25s. a week. Pensionable. I coal porter, 11s. 6d. a week. Non-pensionable. Comptroller's Office, Dublin: 2 fire lighters and coal porters, 20s. a week. Non-pensionable. Belfast Collection: I porter and stamper, 35s.—1s.—40s. Non-pensionable. As regards the last part of the Question, it is one of the conditions of the employment of the non-pensionable men that their service shall give no claim to pension, and the salaries are adequate to the duties.
Exchequer And Audit Establishment
To ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he will furnish a copy of the Exchequer and Audit Establishment list for each of the last ten years. (Answered by Mr. Runciman.) I am informed that there are no spare copies for the earlier years of the list, which is issued merely for use in the Exchequer and Audit Department, but if the hon. Member cares to call at the office of
the Comptroller and Auditor General he can have access to the official volume.*To be succeeded by one on lower scale.
Local Government Board Auditors
To ask the President of the Local Government Board whether, seeing that new entrants as Local Government Board auditors have no practical experience of audit work, and that, considering the nature of the duties, such experience is of value, he will explain, why such positions are not given to the trained and experienced auditors of the Exchequer and Audit Department. (Answered by Mr. John Burns.) An auditor now usually serves as an assistant auditor before he is appointed as a full auditor, and, moreover, an assistant auditor before appointment has commonly had training with an auditor. In this way the persons appointed obtain knowledge and experience of the particular-work connected with the audit of the accounts of local authorities, which the staff of the Exchequer and Audit Department could not be expected to possess.
Contracts And Fair Wages
To ask the President of the Local Government Board whether his Board exercises any control over the form of contract entered into by local authorities, and in particular as to the insertion in such contracts of what is known as the Fair Wages Clause; and whether he requires the insertion of such a clause in contracts for the carrying out of which it is necessary for local authorities to obtain the sanction of the Board or a loan sanctioned by the Board. (Answered by Mr. John, Bums.) The Board have no control over the form of contract entered into by local authorities except in the case of Poor Law authorities. It is competent to a local authority to insert a Fair Wages Clause in their contracts, but the Board have not in any ease required them to do so. My hon. friend is perhaps aware of the Parliamentary Return as to the contracts of local authorities which was issued in 1905, and which gives information as to the course adopted by local authorities in this matter.
Durban Passengers Grievance
To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the fact that three passengers on board the White Star liner s.s. "Persic," which sailed from Durban on 27th March, were forced to land at Plymouth, notwithstanding that they intended to proceed to Tilbury, without being informed of the risk which one of them ran from exposure to a railway journey, owing to the fact that he was suffering from typhoid fever; whether the fact of this disease having occurred on board was notified to the port authority or Board of Trade; whether it ought to have been notified, and to whom; whether the summary landing of these passengers at Plymouth relieved the ship's officers from any duty of reporting the disease on arrival at Tilbury, or in any way expedited the discharge of the vessel in the port of London; whether he proposes to take any action in the matter; whether his department, or other authority, has any power to prevent the spreading of disease in this way in this country; and whether, having regard to the loss and expense incurred by several persons through the above events, he will cause full inquiry to be made into the whole matter. (Answered by Mr. John Burns.) Perhaps I may be allowed to Answer this Question. My attention has been called to the case mentioned in it, and I have made inquiry with regard to it. The passengers referred to left the ship at Plymouth under the advice of the ship's medical officer, but I do not understand that they were forced to do so. The medical officer appears not to have regarded the case as one of typhoid fever, but as extremely suspicious. He states that he reported the case at Plymouth to the pilot, giving him the principal symptoms as a guide for those ashore, and that the pilot assured him the case would be looked to. I am informed that the discharge of the vessel was not in any way expedited by the landing of the passengers at Plymouth. The Local Government Board have informed the steamship company that in their opinion the ship's medical officer should either have sent an intimation in writing to the port medical officer of health respecting the case or should have mentioned it on the certificate given by him with regard to the health of the passengers and crew. The Board have suggested to the company that it should be made clear to the surgeons of their ships that, in all cases where suspicion exists of infectious disease on ships arriving in any port, information of the facts should be sent in writing by the surgeon to the port medical officer of health. The company have given an assurance that in future this will be done.
To ask the Secretary to the Admiralty when it is proposed to issue the Return giving the casualties to ships in 1906. (Answered by Mr. Lambert.) This Return is in the hands of the printers, but no date can be fixed for its issue.
Bellary Quit Rents
To ask the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that ten rupees per acre is now demanded as quit rent in the cantonment of Bellary and fifteen rupees per acre in the civil lines; whether these quit rents are largely in excess of the figures usually charged; and whether he will inquire if there is any sufficient reason for such increase. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Morley.) I have no information on the subject, but I will ask the Government of India to acquaint me with the facts.
Unearned Land Increments In India
To ask the Secretary of State for India whether such increases in assessment as are from time to time, and in exceptional localities, made in India, in due proportion with increases in land values, not resulting from the action of the landholders, provide revenue for public purposes by intercepting the unearned increments; and whether, if that be the case, he will resist proposals for relinquishing the power to raise assessments, the retention of which is so greatly to the interest of the poorer masses of the Indian peoples. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Morley.) The revenue derived from the land assessment is unquestionably a most important item in Indian finance, and any proposals for depriving the Government of its prescriptive right to revise from time to time the assessments in temporarily settled tracts would need to be supported by very strong considerations. No such proposals are before me. The question of securing equitable and moderate assessments, especially when, as is often the case, the revenue payers are in humble circumstances, stands on a different footing.
War Office Boy Messengers
To ask the Secretary of State for War how many boy messengers are employed at the War Office; how many leave on an average each year; how many have left during the last five years for age limit, for misconduct, and for other reasons; how many obtained posts in the Civil Service as men; and whether any provision is made for the after employment of boys who leave on account of age. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Haldane.) Seventy-three boy messengers are now employed at the War Office. From 1st July, 1902, to 30th June, 1907, an average number of twenty-nine left annually, thirteen left under the age limit, six for misconduct, and 128 for other reasons. I have no information to show how many obtained posts in the Civil Service as men. No special official provision is made for the after employment of boys who leave on account of age, but every effort is made unofficially to assist them in this direction.
British Garrison In Egypt
To ask the Secretary of State for War what is the strength of the British troops stationed in Egypt and the Soudan. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Haldane.) It is not considered expedient to publish the strength of British troops stationed abroad.
Yeomanry Drill Book
To ask the Secretary of State for War whether the War Office are contemplating the issue of a drill book for that branch of the Territorial Army hitherto known as the Yeomanry; and, if so, whether it will contain all the information which a yeoman is required to know, so that reference to numerous text books may be unnecessary. (Answered by Mr. Secretary Haldane): It is not the intention of the Army Council to issue to the force mentioned a training manual containing a variety of information extracted from other manuals. It has been decided, after careful consideration, that the issue of several manuals containing the same information, is objectionable.
Questions In The House
Turnchapel Coaling Depot
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether there is any intention of proceeding immediately with the work involved in the establishment of a new coaling depot and fuelling depot for submarines at Turnchapel, near Plymouth.
Work on the coaling depot was started a considerable time ago, and is in hand now. Tenders will be invited shortly for the construction of the Fuel Oil Depot.
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether a collision between the new battleships "Commonwealth" and "Albemarle" occurred early this year, resulting in severe damage to the former; whether he can state what was the Report of the Court of Inquiry which was held into the circumstances; whether the Report of the Court was accompanied by a covering letter from the Commander-in-Chief; and, if so, what was the nature of that Report and what was the final decision of the Board of Admiralty in the matter.
The Commander-in-Chief, Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Arthur Wilson, reported that it was not in his opinion a case for court-martial, and the Board of Admiralty were of the same opinion.
Will the right hon Gentleman answer my Question as to the Court of Inquiry?
I have answered it.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will not answer my Question why information of a precisely similar kind asked for in this House by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs was given him by the Admiralty to use against another hon. Member of this House?
That is a totally different Question. I have answered the hon. Member's Question. The Commander-in-Chief reported that it was not, in his opinion, a case for court-martial, and the Board of Admiralty were of the same opinion.
May I ask, does the Tight hon. Gentleman consider that an Answer to the paragraph which asks what was the Report of the Court of Inquiry which was held into the circumstances.
As I have said, the Commander-in-Chief reported that it was not, in his opinion, a case for court-martial, and the Board of Admiralty are of the same opinion.
Part of the Question is whether the Report of the Court was accompanied by a covering letter from the Commander-in-Chief, and what was the nature of that Report.
I have just said what the Commander-in-Chief's Report was.
The hon. Gentleman really has not answered the Question.
The Home Fleet
I beg to ask the secretary to the Admiralty, what is the number of ships now forming the Home Fleet: of these, how many were present at the recent review at Portsmouth and afterwards proceeded to sea?
The Answer to the first part of the Question is 219 vessels, excluding submarines. One hundred and seventy of these, together with fifteen submarines, assembled at Cowes, all of which except four proceeded to sea after the inspection.
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, what ships of the Home Fleet were engaged in the recent manœuvres in the Channel; what was the duration of these manœuvres, and will there be any further exercise of the Fleet at sea in the course of the present year; and, if so, when may it be expected?
One hundred and sixty-six vessels of the Home Fleet were engaged in exercises for two days in the Channel after leaving the Solent. Vessels from the Home Fleet will take part in fleet exercises in October next.
The Channel Fleet
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, if it is proposed to make any addition to the Channel Fleet; if so, what ships will be affected; from what divisions are they to be drawn; and what steps will be taken to replace the ships thus transferred?
The armoured cruisers "Black Prince" and "Duke of Edinburgh" will be added to the First Cruiser Squadron, and the two destroyer flotillas at Portland, with their attendant vessels, will be attached to the Channel Fleet for the present. The "Black Prince" is now in the Second Cruiser Squadron, and will be replaced there by the "Carnarvon." The "Duke of Edinburgh" comes from the Fifth Cruiser Squadron, and will be replaced shortly. The destroyers, which have hitherto formed part of the Home Fleet, are merely transferred to another command, and it is not at present intended to increase the total number of active service destroyers in Home waters in view of the large number with four-fifths crews which are attached to the Home Fleet?
Is it in contemplation to transfer any battleships to the Channel Fleet?
No, Sir. I have said the armoured cruisers "Black Prince" and "Duke of Edinburgh" are to be transferred.
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, whether he is aware that his predecessors have relieved a considerable proportion of the counties in Scotland of their liabilities, under the Militia Act of 1854, to provide stores and quarters for Militia battalions; and whether, in view of that partial relief, he will, when completing arrangements consequential upon the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, consider whether an equitable agreement can be come to under which the remaining Scottish counties will be relieved of their obligations under the Act of 1854 to provide or maintain Militia stores and quarters.
The reply to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As regards the rest of the Question, the whole matter is now receiving careful consideration.
I beg to ask the' Secretary of State for War whether he will consider the possibility of extending the privilege of, under certain circumstances, wearing plain clothes, now granted to warrant officers and non-commissioned officers not below the rank of colour-sergeants, to men of lower ranks of good character.
The extension of the privilege to wear plain clothes has only recently been made to certain classes of non - commissioned officers. Soldiers of good character are under existing regulations permitted at the discretion of their Commanding Officer to wear plain clothes on pass or furlough beyond the limits of the garrison in which they are quartered. It is not proposed to further extend this privilege.
Tidworth Cavalry Stables
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether the new cavalry stables at Tidworth have yet been commenced.
It is understood that the contractor will commence building operations next week.
We have been told for the last two months that the work is about to be commenced.
The Scots Greys
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War on what date it is proposed to move the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) from Tidworth to Bulford; and for how long a period they will be stationed at the latter camp. I beg also to ask the Secretary of State for War whether sufficient accommodation exists at Bulford mounted infantry camp for the whole of the personnel and horses of the 2nd Dragoons.
As regards these Questions there is no intention of moving this regiment to Bulford.
Are we to understand that the regiment is to remain at Tidworth throughout the winter? Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that on a former occasion he informed me that, if the barracks were not completed before the winter, the regiment would be temporarily removed?
The noble Lord is to understand nothing of the kind. The horses will go to Bulford, if the stables are not ready in time. There is plenty of accommodation at Tidworth for the men. I must add that I am surprised at the number of Questions put to me about this matter. I know the gallant officers and men of the Scots Greys, and do not for a moment suppose they are so effeminate—[Laughter, which drowned the end of the sentence].
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his comment upon my Question. Is he aware that the distance from Tidworth to Bulford is five miles; and how does he suppose the squadron leaders are going to look after the men with the horses at Bulford during the winter months when they themselves are stationed at Tidworth?
They will have to suffer a little inconvenience. At the urgent request of the hon. Gentleman and other Members, we moved this regiment from Piershill because the barracks were not sufficient and not sanitary. Necessarily this involved a little time before arrangements could be made under circumstances of great pressure. I am sure the regiment would be themselves the last to complain.
Do we understand that the regiment is to be quartered five miles away from their horses during the winter?
You are to understand that; and the soldiers are thankful that they have not to put up with worse hardships.
asked what arrangements the War Office proposed to make for the horses to be looked after at Bulford during the night? Were the men to sleep in huts or tents?
There is abundance of houses at Bulford.
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War what reasons have led the War Office to depart from their previous policy of stationing cavalry in cavalry barracks.
The Aliwal Barracks at Tidworth are being adapted for cavalry by provision of the necessary stables. There is no question of previous policy involved.
Medals For Meritorious Service
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether the awards of the meritorious conduct modal are made only to officers and non-commissioned officers above the rank of corporal; and, if so, whether there is any reason why the medal should not also be given to corporals and private soldiers.
The medal for meritorious service is not awarded to officers, but only to warrant officers and sergeants. It carries with it an annuity not exceeding £20, and since its institution has always been confined to soldiers, or discharged soldiers, above the rank of corporal. The sum allotted for these annuities is not more than sufficient to meet the claims of warrant officers and sergeants. Corporals and privates may, after eighteen years service with an irreproachable character, be awarded the medal for long service and good conduct with a gratuity of £5.
The New County Associations
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether it is proposed to take-steps to form County Association" throughout the Kingdom simultaneously or only in selected areas.
I shall endeavour to start an association for every county in Great Britain during the coming autumn and winter. I have appointed a special Committee to assist me in this work.
India And The Sugar Convention
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he will now have printed and distributed with the Votes the petitions presented from public bodies in India concerning the Sugar Convention, following the precedent of the Colonial Office.
Perhaps the hon. Member will move for the Papers. They will then be laid.
Panama Canal Labour
I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the labourers engaged in the British West Indies for work on the Panama Isthmian Canal were informed that they would be permitted to taka with them their wives and families.
No, Sir, not so far as I am aware.
I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies when the full statement of the financial position of the Transvaal, which he promised to lay before the House, will be issued.
The Papers which were laid on Monday are expected to be issued in the course of this evening.
Transvaal Courts Of Law—Access Of Natives
I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether His Majesty's Government have now received from the Transvaal any reply to their telegraphic inquiry as to the Bill published in an Extraordinary Government Gazette of Saturday 3rd August, abolishing the access of natives to the courts of law in respect of decisions administratively taken by which individual natives or whole tribes can be transferred against their will from one district to another.
The Secretary of State is still awaiting an official answer to his inquiry. It would, however, appear from Press telegrams that the part of the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman refers has been withdrawn.
South African Federation
I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, having regard to the publication of the Command Paper on South African Federation, and the reasons urged in it for the union of the South African Colonies, His Majesty's Government propose to take any action in the matter.
The Papers were published for the information of Parliament. It is for the people and the Government of South Africa to decide when and how any further advance in the direction of federation shall be made.
Do the Government contemplate offering advice or assistance in the matter?
The Government will certainly give any assistance they can, bearing in mind, however, it is for them to follow and not initiate.
Isthmian Canal Commission
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will state the circumstances under which it was lately held that the courts in the canal zone have no jurisdiction against the Isthmian Canal Commission for breach of contract.
My right hon. friend must refer the hon. Member to the reply returned to the hon. Member for Ecclesall on this subject yesterday.
Post Office Savings Bank Depositors— Investment In Consols
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the case of a Welsh quarryman whose savings in the Post Office Savings Bank, having reached the maximum sum allowed to be deposited, were from time to time, upon the advice of the postmaster invested in the purchase of Consols, and to the fact that in this way a sum of £500 was so invested at prices considerably over par, and that the quarryman in question, having now an opportunity of purchasing his home, finds that such Consols, if now sold, would realise only about £400; and whether he will arrange with the Postmaster-General that instructions shall be issued to local postmasters to the effect that, when advising depositors to invest their savings in Consols, they shall be informed of the risk of fluctuations in the market price of the same, and that there is no guarantee that, when wishing to realise, they will be be able to obtain a price equivalent to their investments.
No, Sir. My attention has not been called to the case referred to; but the official notices relating to the purchases of Government Stock through the Post Office Savings Bank clearly state that the Postmaster-General cannot take the responsibility of advising depositors with reference to their transactions or for any loss which may result from a fall in the price of the Stock between the dates of purchase and sale. If any postmaster has advised individual depositors otherwise, he has clearly been guilty of a breach of duty, of which due note will be taken, if the allegation is substantiated.
Post Office Purchases Of Consols
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will state in detail what amount of Consols, then bearing interest at 2¾ per cent., were purchased on account of the Post Office Savings Bank in the year 1897, and at what prices.
The total nominal amount of Consols purchased on account of the Post Office Savings Bank Fund in 1897 was, as shown by the Return, House of Commons 108 of 1905, £6, 349, 485 11s. 9d. and the average price paid was £112 6s. I do not think that any purpose of public interest would be served by setting out in detail each separate transaction.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give me the highest price paid in 1897 for Consols?
I will inquire.
Trustee Savings Bank
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer if his attention has been directed to a statement made by Mr. Gladstone in this House on 18th June, 1880, with reference to the Trustee Savings Bank, that the annual account is naturally and reasonably based upon the price of public securities on the day when the account is taken; and can he explain why the method of valuation which was natural and reasonable in 1880 is now abandoned.
I am aware of the statement referred to. It is fair to point out that it occurred in a speech in which Mr. Gladstone proposed to adopt a different method in place of that of market-price valuation. In recent years, as I have frequently explained, the publication of these valuations has been discontinued in accordance with the recommendation of the Select Committee of 1902.
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, having regard to the fact that while it is on all hands admitted that the savings bank should be self-supporting, there are, at the present time, deficiencies in the capital accounts of the Post Office Savings Bank, the Trustees' Savings Bank, and friendly societies, estimated, in the absence of official balance sheets, to amount to at least £15, 000, 000; that the interest on the securities held fell short last year by £133, 000 of the united amounts of interest paid and working expenses; that while the banks are liable to the public for upwards of £200, 000, 000 they hold no reserve to meet claims; and whether, having regard to the foregoing facts, he will consider the advisability of appointing early next session a Select Committee to inquire into the whole question for the purpose of suggesting a means whereby the banks may be restored to a solvent condition.
The hon. Member's calculation of the capital deficiency rests upon the method of valuation of securities at current market price, which was condemned as misleading by the Select Committee of 1902. As regards the deficiencies of annual income of the Savings Banks Funds, it must be borne in mind that in the case of the Post Office Savings Banks the Exchequer has gained considerably more from the surpluses on that account in former years than it has had to provide to make good the deficiencies of recent years; while the deficiency on the Trustee Savings Banks Account last year was less than £10, 000, and is being gradually reduced.
Inland Revenue Department
I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer the following Question, of which I have given him private notice:—Whether his attention has been called to a report on the work and organisation of the Inland Revenue Department published in the daily Press on the 12th inst., and purporting to be prepared at the request of the right hon. Gentleman; whether such report has official sanction; and if this report, apparently reflecting upon the honour, honesty, and competency, among others, of the assessors and collectors of Government taxes, represents the opinion of the Board of Inland Revenue.
My attention has been called to this matter. I understand that my hon. friend the Member for Cheltenham has since written to the Press explaining that the suggestion that the report in question was prepared or published at my request is wholly without foundation. It simply formulates a number of allegations and suggestions which my hon. friend has made from time to time, and for which he alone is answerable. I disclaim for myself and for the Board of Inland Revenue all responsibility for what it contains.
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will be prepared to sanction the formation of a Metropolitan Police Association and, if formed, to recognise the association, in order that the members of the Metropolitan Police Force may be able to approach him, or the Chief Commissioner, jointly, and thus be on the same footing as Post Office or other Government servants whose associations are recognised by the heads of the several Government Departments under whom they serve.
No, Sir. The public safety depends on the discipline and obedience of the police—a fact which I am confident is fully recognised by the police—and such an association might tend to impair the ready obedience to orders which is essential in a highly disciplined force. The police can and do submit their grievances if they have any to the Commissioner and through him to the Home Secretary, and the admirable character and services of the force constitute an added claim for the prompt consideration of all reasonable representations which the Commissioner and the Home Secretary are always ready to give to them.
Lambeth Licensing Prosecution
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to a statement by a police inspector in a recent case at the Lambeth police court to the effect that the Commissioner of Police had issued an order directing that a licensed victualler, charged with selling intoxicating liquor to a drunken person, was not to be permitted to have such person examined by a private doctor; and will he say whether such order has been issued, and, if so, whether it has received the sanction of the Home Office.
There is a rule in operation to the effect that in cases of drunkenness medical men are called in at the instance of the person charged, but not at the instance of third parties. As a considerable time must always elapse between the discovery of a drunken person on licensed premises and the decision to issue a summons against the licensee, there would seldom be anything gained by allowing a licensee against whom a charge has been made to have the person who was drunk examined by his own medical man. To meet the case so far as possible, however, there is a rule that when proceedings are likely to be taken against a licensee, the divisional surgeon of police is to be called in to examine the drunken person. The working of the Rules I have mentioned is under my consideration.
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that on the 3rd instant a vessel from Antwerp was loaded with workmen at the Royal Albert Dock, London, for conveyance to Antwep to take the place of workmen on strike, each man selected to go being stamped with an indiarubber stamp; and whether he can take any steps to stop this practice in the interests of the good name of the country.
I have no information on this matter other than that contained in the hon. Member's Question, but in any case I have no authority to interfere.
Calf Lymph Production
I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board, in view of the fact that a sum of £1, 350 is set down on the current Estimates for the hire of calves for the production of glycerinated calf lymph, will he state the number of calves hired for this sum and the average age of calves so hired.
The sum of £1, 350 is the amount estimated to be required for the hire of calves during the current year. The number of calves hired will depend on the number found to be necessary from time to time during the year, and it cannot at present be stated what that number will be. The number hired up to 30th June last was 203. The average age of the calves hired last year was four months.
Why does the right hon. Gentleman estimate for £1, 350 this year, which is double the amount found necessary for last year? Does he anticipate a terrible outlay for small pox?
I have no reason to assume that such a calamity will occur.
I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board, in view of the fact that during the last financial year the Board paid a sum of £860 17s. 6d. in respect of the hire of 505 calves for the production of glycerinated calf lymph, and that these calves were not on hire for more than a fortnight, whether he will explain why the Board find it necessary to pay so large a sum as 34s. for the use of a calf for a fortnight.
Before the lymph obtained from any calf is used, the calf is slaughtered and the carcase andergoes dissection and examination in order that it may be ascertained that the animal was in perfect health and free from any taint of tuberculosis. The amount paid includes a sum for the depreciation of the value of the carcase owing to the post-mortem examination. It has not been found practicable to obtain suitable calves at less terms than those now paid.
Victoria And Albert Museum
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Education whether he is now in a position to make any statement as to the appointment of a Consultative Committee for the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The matter has been having my careful consideration, and I am now in communication with the Treasury about it. I hope to have arrived at a satisfactory organisation in the early autumn, but am not yet in a position to make any statement, as the matter is still incomplete.
Merioneth Schools Disputes
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Education whether he will lay upon the Table a copy of the correspondence which has passed between the Board and the Merionethshire local education authority relative to the payment of the salaries of the teachers in the non-provided schools-there.
This correspondence is still proceeding. When it is complete I shall be happy to lay it upon the Table.
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Education whether in that office promotion by merit to the Higher Division or Examiners' Class is absolutely barred to Second Division clerks; whether in the outdoor staff a similar barrier exists in practice between the inspectors and sub-inspectors; whether the examiners and inspectors are appointed by nomination without examination; and, if so, whether he will take steps to modify the existing system of appointment and promotion.
The replies to the first and second paragraphs of the Question are in the negative, and to the third in the affirmative. The Question in the fourth paragraph, therefore, does not arise as regards promotion; while, as regards appointment, it has been having my consideration, but I am not prepared: to make any statement in regard to this.
School Accommodation Regulations
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Education whether, in provided schools, the limit of accommodation sanctioned by the Board is the seating at desks and benches, or 10 square feet of area per child; whether, in non-provided schools, the limit allowed is constantly 8 square feet per child; and, if so, why a child in a non-provided school requires less space than one in a provided school; and whether he can state the number of cases in which additional accommodation would be necessary if 10 square feet were required in every school, and the approximate cost to the rates.
My hon. friend will find on page 7 of the List of Public Elementary Schools recently issued by the Board of Education (Cd. 3510 of 1907) an account of the principles upon which the accommodation of schools has been settled in the past. Speaking generally, all schools or class-rooms which were originally recognised subsequent to 1890 are assessed on the 10 square feet basis for older children, and on either the 8 square feet or 9 square feet basis for infants. Schools erected prior to 1890 with the aid of a loan were also assessed on the 10 square feet basis, but there are a considerable number of council schools whose accommodation is calculated at 8 square feet per child. I have no information as to the last paragraph, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
Dundee Postal Staff
I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether he is able to state an approximate date when the revision in the sorting office at Dundee, which has been under consideration for some eighteen months, is likely to come into effect. I beg also to ask the Postmaster-General whether he has decided that the telegraph branch of Dundee is overstaffed; if so, how many appointments are to be allowed to lapse, and how many hours overtime were worked in that department during last year; and, seeing that there are several learners, several of whom have service of three and a half years, will he see that they are appointed before any appointments are allowed to lapse and that the four vacancies which exist at present are filled without undue delay.
It will be convenient to deal with the hon. Member's two Questions together. The settlement of the revision of the Dundee Post Office, a matter of much intricacy, has been delayed owing to the necessity of considering it in connection with questions of a general nature which have been occupying attention. I am unable to mention any approximate date; but the hon. Member may rest assured that the matter will be carried through as soon as circumstances permit. In the meantime I am unable to furnish details on some of the points raised by the hon. Member, and I will communicate with him on the subject.
Confidential Reports In The Post Office
I beg to ask the Postmaster-General whether he will extend to officers of all grades in the Post Office similar regulations to those already in force in the Army, Navy, and Royal Marines, which require that an annual confidential report by superior officers on a subordinate, which is of an adverse character and affects his fitness for his present position or for promotion to a higher one, shall be read verbatim to him by his superior officer; and whether the Postmaster-General will direct the heads of departments to communicate to a subordinate the result of a report which is held to prejudice his chances of further advancement in the service; and, if so, whether a copy of such instructions will be laid upon the Table of the House at the same time they are promulgated.
As the hon. Member is aware the question of confidential reporting in the Post Office has lately received the consideration of the Select Committee on Post Office Servants of which he was a member, and my right hon. friend will give their recommendations careful consideration. I may add it is somewhat unreasonable to expect the Postmaster-General to answer questions in reference to this Report in a space of a few weeks, considering the intricate questions it deals with, questions which it took the Committee two years to report on.
Valuation Of Scottish Sheep Stocks
I beg to ask the hon. Member for South Somersetshire, as representing the President of the Board of Agriculture, whether the President of the Board of Agriculture has yet come to any decision with regard to the valuation of sheep stocks in Scotland under The Agricultural Holdings Act, 1906; and, if so, will he give this House particulars as to the result.
The question to which my hon. friend refers is receiving very careful consideration at the hands of the Government, but we are not yet in a position to make any further statement respecting it. We shall, however, endeavour to do so with the least possible delay. I may add that the question is somewhat more complicated than might be supposed, inasmuch as the answer to be given in each case depends upon the terms of the agreement or lease, and these are by no means uniform.
The Public Trustee
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether, in accordance with the provisions of Subection 3 of Section 8 of the Public Trustee Act, the Treasury has required that the Public Trustee shall be a person already in the public service.
Am I to gather from that Answer that, inasmuch as the Treasury have not exercised their statutory powers of requiring that a Public Trustee should be a gentleman already in the public service, they agree with the view of the Lord Chancellor that the chairman of Allsopp's Brewery is the best qualified person available for that post?
I do not know exactly what the view of the Lord Chancellor is. I, at all events, concur in it.
Neath Land Tax Commissioners
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that Mr. Thomas Leyson, as clerk to the Land Tax Commissioners for the division of Neath, in the county of Glamorgan, convened a meeting of the Land Tax Commissioners for that division for 30th January, 1907, by advertisement in the London Gazette, but did not send a notice of such meeting to each of the Land Tax Commissioners for such division as provided by The Land Tax Commissioners Act, 1906; whether he is aware that the said clerk alleges that, at a meeting held in pursuance of the notice by advertisement in the London Gazette on the said 30th January, twelve persons were appointed to be General Commissioners of Income Tax to supply vacancies in the list of General Commissioners of Income Tax for the said division; whether he will ascertain if, in fact, any such meeting was held, and who were present thereat; whether, if such a meeting was held, appointments of General Commissioners of Income Tax made thereat are valid; and if the appointments, if any, made at the said meeting are invalid, will he take steps to secure the proper appointment of General Commissioners of Income Tax for the said division.
The Act of last session did not impose on the clerk to the Land Tax Commissioners the duty of giving notice of all meetings to each Commissioner. The Act directs that this notice is to be given in such manner as the Treasury may prescribe. It is true that the Regulations which the Treasury issued under the Act have now imposed this duty on the Clerk, but at the time when application for this meeting was made to the Board of Inland Revenue and indeed when the meeting was actually held the Treasury regulations had not been issued and the meeting was accordingly convened in the ordinary way, after notice had been duly inserted in the Gazette. In these circumstances the Board of Inland Revenue have been advised that the appointments made at the meeting were valid.
Customs Statistical Assistant Clerks
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether a Treasury letter, dated 4th June, 1907, has been communicated to the assistant clerks (new class) in the Statistical Office, Customs, threatening them with punishment unless they withdrew the charge they have made that the conditions under which they were induced to enter the Civil Service are not being observed; whether the assistant clerks in reply have fowarded a memorial to the Commissioners of Customs for transmission to the Treasury in which they directly traverse the accuracy of the statements contained in the Treasury letter, repeat their charge, and attach copies of official documents in substantiation of their statements; and, if so, whether this reply has been received at the Treasury.
NO threat of punishment was held out in the communication to which the hon. Member refers. The Treasury have merely declined to consider any applications from the clerks in question for special promotion, until the charge of a "breach of faith" has been withdrawn; and I see no reason to depart from that decision.
Civil Service Old Writers
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that the old writers who have been recently discharged from the Civil Service average over seventy-five years of age and over thirty-five years service; and whether he will grant them any further gratuity beyond £100 each.
The subject of these old writers was fully dealt with by my predecessor last year both by way of Answers in this House to Questions by my hon. friend, and by correspondence. I fully concur in the view which he took of the case, and I fear that I must decline to re-open the question.
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman apply to these cases the precedent set in the cases of Lord Roberts and Lord Cromer?
[No Answer was returned.]
Select Committee On Post Office Servants Report
I beg to ask the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Bristol a Question of which I have given him private notice. It is as to a statement by Mr. W. B. Cheesman, of the Fawcett Association, that the Report of the Hob-house Committee was so revised by the Department before its presentation to Parliament as to make it unrecognisable. I wish to know if there is any foundation for that statement.
I have seen the statement referred to. Mr. Cheesman was a witness before the Committee on behalf of the Fawcett Association, which is the organisation of the sorters in London. There is absolutely no truth in the statement attributed to him that the Report was sent to the Department for revision, or that it was revised by them. I, as Chairman of the Committee, prepared the Report in accordance with decisions taken upon each class of evidence, within a few days of hearing the witnesses thereon; though the task of summarising and collating the decisions necessarily occupied a long-period of time subsequently. There is no substantial difference between the decisions thus originally taken and those embodied in the Report, though, as the House will understand, decisions taken on very numerous and complex scales of pay were and could be only provisional, and required in some cases modification, and in others augmentation, when the earlier decisions came to be reviewed in the light of the later ones. Calculations were made for me by the financial experts as to the total cost of each alteration in the conditions of service or scales of pay, though, as I have pointed out, these were not permitted to affect the Draft Report. This was done with the approval of my colleagues, though the results were expressly not communicated to them, lost bias from financial considerations should subsequently be suggested. I would further mention that it is expressly pointed out in paragraph 530 of the Report that the Department were asked to work out the details of a scheme, the principles of which were originated by the Committee. The scheme subsequently presented by the Department was considerably altered in the Draft Report, to the advantage of the staff. A further statement has appeared in the Press that before the Report was submitted to the Committee, copies of it were sent to the Cabinet. This statement is without any foundation or truth. No copies of the Report were given or sent, so far as I know, to anyone save members of the Committee. If copies of the draft or completed Report have reached anyone before the Report was laid on the Table, they were procured by improper and underhand methods, without my knowledge and against my wish, and, as I am assured, contrary to the desire of the other members of the Committee.
Deceased Wife's Sister Bill
asked the Chairman of the Committee on Petitions what was the number of petitions presented for and against the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill.
replied that one petition had been received in favour of the Bill; 129 against, bearing 7, 724 signatures.
Irish Teachers' Grievances
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland if he has recommended to the consideration of the Education Board the grievances which national school teachers suffer under by the abuse of the arbitrary power of dismissal vested in the managers: and, if so, can he state with what result.
Yes, Sir, I communicated to the Commissioners of National Education an expression of the Irish Government's opinion that, if it were at all possible, effect should be given to the desire of the teachers for some protection against arbitrary dismissal. The Commissioners subsequently informed me that they had specially considered the matter. They think it desirable that a referee should be available in the case of dismissal of teachers, and two out of the four forms of agreement between managers and teachers which are in use provide for the appointment of a referee. The Commissioners, however, hold that they have no power to compel managers to adopt a form of agreement containing that provision.
In answer to a further Question—
said the Commissioners submit these forms of agreement, and use such influence as they have to persuade the managers to adopt one form or the other, but they have no power to compel them to do so.
Irish National Education Board
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he will give the dates on which meetings of the National Education Board have been held between the 1st July, 1906, and 30th June, 1907; the names of the Commissioners present at each of these meetings; the number of meetings attended by each of the twenty Commissioners during the twelve months in question; and the remuneration in the way of salary or expenses, etc., paid to each Commissioner for each meeting attended.
The Answer to this Question consists mainly of a lengthy tabular statement which it would be more convenient to publish with tonight's Votes, and with the hon. Member's permission I will adopt that course.
Knox Estate, Sligo
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that the tenantry on the Knox estate, situate in Geevagh, near Rivers-town, in the county of Sligo, have recently endeavoured to purchase their holdings from the landlord, Utred A-Knox, Esq.; whether he is aware that these offers of the tenants have been rejected by the landlord, who is an absentee; and whether, seeing that the landlord refuses to sell only on the basis of prohibitive prices, the Estates Commissioners will be asked to intervene with the view of bringing about a sale in this case.
The Estates Commissioners have no information in respect of the estate referred to. If, however, it be the case that the parties have failed to agree as to terms of sale, the Commissioners will, on being furnished with particulars, consider whether the case is one in which they might usefully offer their services as conciliators under the regulations.
Irish Teachers' Civil Rights
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether the Commissioners of National Education have taken any action in the direction of carrying out the Chief Secretary's recommendation in favour of restoring civil rights to the teachers.
The reply is in the negative. For full particulars I would refer to the Answer which I gave to the hon. Member for East Kerry on 13th May.†
Irish Education Code
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he will ask the Commissioners of National Education to make arrangements whereby their codes and syllabuses will be laid upon the Table of the House of Commons for, say, one month before coming into operation.
The Commissioners of National Education inform me that it has never been the practice to place upon the Table of the House of Commons their codes and syllabuses, and that they see no reason for making a new departure in the matter.
Will the right Gentleman say why they object?
They simply stated that it had never been their practice. I think, however, it would be a desirable thing if they were to do it.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make representations to the Commissioners to that effect?
I will do my best to ingratiate myself with that body.
Lismore Union Clerkship
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether the Local Government Board have sanctioned the appointment of an uncertificated bankrupt to the clerkship of the Lismore Union; whether the person appointed was connected with the Tallow conspiracy; and, if so, whether there is any precedent for the appointment of an undischarged bankrupt to such a position.
It is the fact that the clerk in question was, more than four years ago, in company with a number of other persons, cast in heavy damages in a civil action for what was known as the Tallow conspiracy, and was made a
bankrupt in respect of the judgment debt and costs. I am not aware of any former precedent, but the Local Government Board, after full consideration and seeing the clerk in question, have not thought fit to refuse their sanction to the appointment.† See (4) Debates, clxxiv., 581.
May I ask what circumstances have arisen to justify that action in view of the fact that the late Chief Secretary (Mr. Bryce) refused to sanction the appointment of a man guilty of a criminal conspiracy.
Since that time the case has received fuller consideration.
Does he remain an undischarged bankrupt?
The hon. Gentleman does not say that at all, but there are circumstances connected with every case which require consideration and the debt in respect of which this man was made a bankrupt was of such a character as to amount to the perpetual exclusion of him for life from any such service as this. After full consideration the Local Government Board came to the conclusion that they saw no reason why, in this particular case at all events, sanction should not be given.
Then the right hon. Gentleman does not deny that the man was guilty of a criminal conspiracy?
No. Damages were recovered in the civil action.
Will the right hon. Gentleman state what were the reasons given by the Court for declining to give him his discharge in bankruptcy?
I should like to have notice of that Question. But I quite agree that the refusal may have been made when application was made to obtain his discharge, but even as to that I am not quite sure. All I can say is that I gave the matter a most careful consideration. I have seen the gentleman in question. I placed myself in communication with him and I came to the conclusion that he was a perfectly qualified person to discharge the duties of this office to which he was nominated, not by me but by the Board.
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he has received information respecting the firing at Patrick Sheehan, of Ballindereen, when returning from Galway on 5th August; whether Sheehan was wounded; whether he has been fired at previously; and whether any arrests have been made in connection with this outrage.
Yes, Sir. Patrick Sheehan was fired at when returning from Galway on the night of the 5th August. He received several grains of shot in the hand and leg. He had not been fired at previously, but his house was fired into upwards of a year ago. No arrests have been made in connection with the present outrage. The night was dark and Sheehan did not see his assailants.
Will the right hon. Gentleman say why no arrests have been made? Have the police made no endeavour to make arrests?
Yes, the police have made every endeavour, but if you are shot on a dark night by persons you do not see it is not always possible to make arrests.
Are there so many suspects in this district that the police have no idea as to possible identity?
[No Answer was returned.]
Borrisokane Cattle Driving Prosecution
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been called to the proceedings at Borrisokane petty sessions on 7th August in connection with the charge against twenty men of illegal assembly, trespass, and driving cattle off the grazing lands of Lisnagower and Spring Park; will he state the result of the prosecution and how many magistrates were on the bench; and what further proceedings are to be taken.
There were two cases of unlawful assembly for hearing at the petty sessions referred to, and there were fifteen defendants in one case and eleven in the other. One case was fully heard, with the result that the bench was equally divided in opinion, and the case was therefore adjourned. Owing to the lateness of the hour the second case was also adjourned. The Court consisted of sixteen magistrates. The cases will be heard at the next petty sessions on the 4th proximo.
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that some time on the 5th and 7th instant the Weston schoolhouse, at Ahascragh, near Ballinasloe, which is used as a parochial hall, was broken into and wanton destruction committed both to the building and its contents; and whether the police have any clue as to the motive for the outrage or the perpetrators.
The reply to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative, and to the second part in the negative.
Ballyshannon Cattle Driving
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been called to the fact that gates were removed recently from a grazing farm near Ballyshannon, and a thick stone wall levelled and the cattle driven off the lands; whether police have been drafted from this neighbourhood for service in Belfast; and whether the authorities have any information as to the perpetrators or the object of the outrage.
The police authorities inform me that the facts are as stated in the Question. Three constables were recently transferred from Ballyshannon to the north of Ireland, but their places have been filled up. The police have not succeeded in tracing the offenders.
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been called to the circumstances connected with a charge brought against thirteen men at Ballinamore, county Leitrim, of resisting the service of writs; is he aware that the men were armed with pitchforks hedgeknives, scythes tied on the tops of stakes, and other implements, and they successfully defied the officers of the law; will he state the result of the prosecution; and whether he is aware that many magistrates are afraid to do their duty in such cases.
At Ballinamore Petty Session, on 27th July, proceedings were taken by the police against thirteen men with the object of requiring them to find sureties to be of good behaviour. The evidence was to the general effect stated in the Question. The magistrates by a majority refused the application. I am not aware of any foundation for the suggestion contained in the concluding part of the Question.
Tullamore Grazing Farm
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland if he is aware that the Estates Commissioners, some fifteen months ago, completed the purchase of a large grazing farm, the property of Messrs. Denning, about four miles from Tullamore, and divided it among adjoining small farmers without payment, but subject to purchase annuities, and that one of these tenants has just sold his allotment for £100 while retaining his original farm; and whether, seeing that the fact that the allotment is now in the possession of one occupier and the farm in that of another has defeated the purpose of the transaction, he proposes to take any, and, if any, what action in the matter.
The Estates Commissioners inform me that they have no knowledge of a sale by any of the purchasers in question, but if the hon. and learned Member will give the name of the person to whom he refers, the Commissioners will make inquiries in the matter.
The Belfast Riots
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he has any further information to place before the House with regard to the condition of affairs in Belfast.
I am glad to be able to report that from information I received last night it was quiet in Belfast and things are looking well this morning-Representatives of the Board of Trade have arrived and are busily engaged in holding a conference. I have every hope that a speedy agreement may be arrived at.
Loch Shieldaig Salmon Prosecution
I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland, in view of the fact that the expenses incurred in the prosecution of two men for being in a boat at sea at Loch Shieldaig, Ross-shire, on the 14th and 21st May, on a charge of intent to take salmon, were defrayed by the Local Fishery Board, will he state the names of the members of that Board and when it was constituted.
The Board, which was constituted in 1888, consists of Mr. Murray of Loch Carron, and the Earl of Lovelace.
Closure By Compartments
I beg to ask the Prime Minister whether, having regard to the views expressed by Members of all political Parties and by members of the Government on behalf of the Government as to the defects and disadvantages of closure by compartments, he can make any announcement which would lead to at least the hope that he will ask the House early next Session to consider the establishment of a Committee of Public Business.
The matter will be duly considered during the Recess.
Selection (Standing Committees)
reported from the Committee of Selection; That they had discharged the following Member from the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills (added in respect of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Bill): Sir Samuel Scott; and had appointed in substitution (in respect of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Bill): Mr. Gibbs.
Report to lie upon the Table.
Factory And Workshop Bill Lords
Reported, with Amendments, from Standing Committee B.
Report to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 306.]
Minutes of the Proceedings of the Standing Committee to be printed. [No. 306.]
Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be taken into consideration upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 315.]
Cabs And Stage Carriages (London) Bill
Reported, with Amendments, from Standing Committee B.
Report to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 307.]
Minutes of the Proceedings of the Standing Committee to be printed. [No. 307.]
Bill, as amended (by the Standing Committee), to be taken into consideration upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 316.]
Public Petitions Committee
Fourth Report brought up, and read; to lie upon the Table, and to be printed.
Police And Sanitary Committee
Special Report brought up, and read; to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 308.]
Minutes of Proceedings to be printed. [No. 308.]
Women's Enfranchisement (No 2) Bill
"To enable Women to vote at Parliamentary Elections," presented by Mr. Dickinson; supported by Sir Charles M'Laren, Mr. Burt, Mr. Corrie Grant, Mr. Fenwick, Mr. Gulland, Mr. Snowden, Mr. Howard, Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, Mr. Hart Davies, Mr. Charles E. Price, and Mr. Charles Roberts; to be read a second time upon Wednesday next, and to be printed. [Bill 319.]
Public Health Act (1875) Amendment (Water Rights) Bill
"To empower Local Authorities to acquire Water Rights otherwise than by agreement," presented by Mr. Leif Jones; supported by Mr. Brace, Mr. Luke White, Mr. Shackelton, and Mr. Charles Roberts; to be read a second time upon Wednesday next, and to be printed. [Bill 320.]
Small Holdings And Allotments Bill
As amended (by the Standing Committee), further considered.
*MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme) moved an Amendment providing that where a council proposed to purchase land compulsorily under the Act it might submit to the Board an Order "for the compulsory purchase of the land specified in the Order." The effect of the alteration, he said, would be to put the purchase of land by the local authorities for the purposes of small holdings on all fours with the hiring of land for small holdings. As far as the hiring clauses of the Bill were concerned, the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act of 1845 was no longer operative, and the first schedule alone governed the price which the arbitrator had to give. All he desired by the Amendment was to confer the same power on local authorities in respect of the purchase of land. The Solicitor-General in his speech had pointed out that these purchase clauses, governed by the Land, Clauses Consolidation Act, had been oppressive to railway companies and municipalities. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman had used a stronger word than "oppressive"; he had said that the clauses were strangling railway and municipal enterprise. At all events, it was notorious that under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act of 1845, railway companies and municipalities, going to arbitration, had to pay a price for land which was far in excess of its value. He would like to give hon. Members a single instance of this. A learned King's Counsel in that House had told him that one of the first cases he
conducted was that of the North Eastern Railway, who desired to alter two level crossings at Bridlington, and in order to effect this change the company required the use of the land about the crossings to make a temporary way for the public. The actual value of these pieces of land was about £10 apiece, but a claim was put in for £5, 000. The matter went to arbitration and, despite the expert witnesses called by the company, judgment for £2, 500 for each piece was given. This sum the company had to pay before they could acquire the land. That was an example of the working of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, and yet it was under that Act that they proposed to restore the land to the people. He would appeal to all hon. Members who were anxious that the Bill should be a success, and that the small holdings established under it should be successful, to vote for the Amendment. It was not possible to conceive any small holder being successful who started burdened with the excessive price he would be called upon to pay for his holding under the present purchase clauses of the Act, or with the heavy rent based upon such excessive price. A small holder who had to pay for interest and sinking fund upon three or four times the market value of the land could not possibly hope to succeed. Hon. Members might say that so far as the present Bill was concerned the Lands Clauses Act of 1815 was modified by the directions contained in Schedule 1, and this then prevented any chance of those excessive prices. That was evidently not the opinion of the Solicitor-General, who did not put much faith in the schedule in his speech yesterday. And the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill was obviously of the opinion that the schedule was not of much importance; for he accepted an Amendment in the schedule making the words governing purchase the same as those governing the hire of land, and in doing so, he said the Amendment was of no importance whatever and was perfectly innocent, but as it would do no damage, the Government might accept it. The Government and the Opposition knew that such a direction in the schedule was absolutely inoperative, because until the Lands Clauses Act of 1845 was abolished all the directions and qualifications in the schedule might be treated as so much
waste paper. It might be said that he was only discussing compulsory purchase and that this only led to arbitration and excessive prices, whereas, under the Bill, in most cases purchase would be by agreement. If that were the argument he would point out to the House that railways and municipalities, and all those who paid high prices for land, had also every opportunity of purchasing by agreement. They did not go to arbitration and pay ten, twenty, perhaps thirty, times more for the land than it was worth simply for the love of the thing. They had to pay that high price because the agreement price was governed by the price which could be obtained under arbitration. Therefore, whether local authorities were purchasing small holdings, or railway companies were buying land for level crossings, or municipalities were acquiring land for schools, in all these cases they would be forced to pay arbitration prices for the simple reason that the agreement price would be based on that arbitration price. All hon. Members who desired to see the purchase clauses in the Bill work satisfactorily ought to vote for his Amendment. It was only by voting for such an Amendment that it would be possible for the purchase clauses of the Bill to be of use. Let hon. Members remember that they had in course of passing into law a Valuation Bill for Scotland, and they also hoped to pass a similar measure for England, which would have the effect of fixing the capital market value of the land. By such a measure they would have a sure and certain guide for the purchase of land for purposes of public utility. A short clause such as he proposed in his next Amendment, fixing the price paid for small holdings and allotments at the price fixed for the valuation of that land would give them a basis to work on and would free them from the shackles of the Act of 1845, substituting in its place a fair, uniform, and general basis. But the Solicitor-General argued that this was pre-eminently a hiring Bill, not a purchase Bill. And yet what were these hiring clauses worth? As they stood, county councils could not hire land for more than thirty-five years, and at the end of that period the landlord could resume possession, and all the capital which the local authority had invested on the land, the improvement also which would be the result if the
small holding were a success, would revert to the landlord. The sinking fund and interest upon that capital, which on account of the short period of the lease were sure to be heavy, would have to be paid by the tenant. Therefore it amounted to this: If the county council hired land they must avoid putting into it invested capital, for the reason that neither they nor the tenant would get the value of it, but, instead, it would be enjoyed by the landlord. He knew that there was a special clause which gave the local authority the power to renew the lease at practically the same rent at which it was first obtained, and that a valuer was not to give the landlord any increased rent on account of improvements carried out by the county council or the small holder; also that he was not to increase the rent on account of the success of the holding or of the holdings in the neighbourhood. But this clause was only operative where the hiring was compulsory and did not apply in cases where the holding had been hired by agreement. Everyone knew that the compulsory hiring powers contained in the Bill had only been put in to act as a screw, and that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the hiring would be done by agreement. In all cases where there was an agreement the State would have absolutely no prima facie right to renew the tenancy. It was an important point which he hoped the Government would realise and alter before the Bill became law. He trusted that they would make a condition that the State should have the right to renew a tenancy which had been acquired by agreement in precisely the same way as if that tenancy had been acquired compulsorily. In the matter of hiring tenancies he would especially advise county councils and local authorities not to hire by agreement but compulsorily, and above all never to hire where there was likely to be any building. Local authorities should be very careful before they burnt their fingers with any land which was likely to be wanted for building purposes and where, hired by agreement, the landlord could resume possession. When resuming possession the landlord would pay compensation to the local authority, who in its turn, would pay compensation to the small holder, but in every case where such resumption by the landlord took place it would
be the poor local authority who would lose on the deal. It was bound to be so, because the landlord would compensate the local authority under the Agricultural Holdings Act, and the compensation under that Act was very small indeed, whilst on the other hand, the local authority would have to compensate the tenant under the Market Gardeners' Act, which, of course, was extremely high compensation. Thus the House would see that the small holder would come out of it very well, because he would get ample compensation; so would the landlord, because he would only pay a nominal compensation and would resume possession of his land; but the local authority, getting no advantage, would yet have to pay the most fie thought it was not yet too late for the Government to consider these difficulties and alter the Bill so as to avoid them. He had pointed out the defects in the hiring clauses of the measure and he appealed to the House, in view of them, to consider whether it would not be worth while to make the purchase clauses stronger and more operative than they were at present. If the Government accepted his Amendment there would not be the slightest difficulty in doing this. They would simply strike out of the Bill the Act of 1845, which hampered our railway companies and municipalities at the present time and would hamper that development of small holdings. Unless that were done the measure could never be a business proposition. He begged to move.
in seconding the Amendment, said that if small holdings were to be successful it was absolutely necessary that they should be secured at a price which would enable the county council to let them to the tenants at an economic rent. That meant that the land must be obtained by the county council at a price dependent only on its value as agricultural land. In legislating on this question, it must be remembered that there was no magic about small holdings. The tenant had to depend for profit solely on the character of the land, the labour and capital he put into it. This Bill threw on the tenant the duty of repaying all the money that had to be paid by the county council to the owner, because it was expressly provided that no part of the loss or expense was to be borne by that body, and it must therefore be ultimately paid by the occupier. For that reason it was essential that the machinery by which the land was to be acquired should be the simplest and most inexpensive possible. He did not think any lawyer would challenge the statement that the Lands Clauses Act of 1845 provided a most expensive method of ascertaining the value of land or of obtaining land, and it was most essential that the county council should acquire land in a simple, inexpensive and effective manner.
Amendment proposed to the Bill—
"In page 11, line 36, to leave out from the word 'order' to the end of Clause 26, and insert the words 'for the compulsory purchase of the land specified in the order'"—(Mr. Wedgwood)—instead thereof.
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the end of line 38, in page 11, stand part of the Bill."
said he did not think it was necessary to follow in detail the hon. Member's speech, which really was appropriate to a Motion for the rejection of the Third Reading of the Bill. He would explain in a few words why it was necessary to retain certain powers of the Lands Clauses Acts which they had kept in the Schedule, and he thought he would be able to point out how greatly they had varied the procedure which otherwise would have had to be followed if the Lands Clauses Act had been left untouched and applied as a whole. It was necessary to have certain clauses of the Lands Clauses Acts in this Bill in order that they might deal with some of the limited owners, who would naturally crop up in these transactions, and in that they were following the precedent of Section 9, Subsection 4, of the Act of 1894. They were requisite also for procedure, for notice to treat and to quit, and for specifying the persons who were entitled to compensation, and the method by which that compensation might subsequently be obtained. If they had not applied those clauses in the schedule they would have to had add another dozen or twenty clauses to the Bill setting out certain parts of the Lands Clauses Acts. Those Acts were not applied to the hiring clauses, because they were not applicable to hiring. The Lands Clauses Acts nowhere took any cognisance of hiring by compulsion or agreement; it applied only to the purchase of land by compulsion. If the hon. Member would look at the schedule—and he was afraid that the hon. Gentleman had not studied it with that care which he would have expected of him—he would find that they had incorporated the Lands Clauses Acts subject to the necessary adaptation for the objects they had in view. The Lands Clauses Acts as a whole were as great a bugbear to him, if possible, as they were to the hon. Member himself. They had been so from the first, and he took particular credit not only to himself, but also to those who had acted with him, for the way in which they had evaded the difficulties and the expenses they would have been put to if they had adopted the Lands Clauses Acts as a whole. Did the hon. Member realise what were the limitations they had made on the operation of those Acts? First of all, they had a definite clause omitting all compensation for compulsory acquisition of land. Then they had set up a much simpler form of arbitration by a single arbitrator appointed by the Board. They had got a subsection in the schedule specifically excluding counsel and expert witnesses save in exceptional cases, and a provision that there should be a scale of costs prescribed by the Lord Chancellor. He did not think they could go further in prescribing the cheapest possible method of acquiring land at a fair price. The hon. Member had stated that the landlord could resume, possession at the end of thirty-five years, but, by a subsequent admission, he said that he was incorrect. It was Certainly a matter on which hon. Gentlemen opposite became rather heated, that the landlord had no right to resume possession at the conclusion of the lease, so long as the county council wished to renew.
Is not that so where the land is hired compulsorily? Where it is hired by agreement—
MR. HARCOURT said if the hon. Member had not interrupted him he was going on to explain, of course, that this was the case only where the land was taken compulsorily. By varying and limiting the clauses of the Lands Clauses Act, an enormous amount of repetition of clauses which otherwise would have had to go into the Bill, had been avoided; and he was convineced that they had got the cheapest possible method for the acquisition of land—a cheaper method than had ever yet gone into an Act of Parliament, and he must retain these words for the purposes for which they were included.
next moved an Amendment to the effect that when the capital unimproved value of any land acquired under this Act compulsorily should have been ascertained under any Act of Parliament hereafter to be passed for the general valuation of land for the purposes of rating or taxation, the compensation to be paid for such land should be such ascertained capital value, with any addition for buildings and improvements upon the land, or for severance, that the case might require. He would not, he said, have moved this Amendment had it not been that there was a precedent for putting in an Act of Parliament reference to legislation which might be subsequently passed. Seeing that there was such a precedent, he thought they had here a valuable opportunity of including this provision in the Small Holdings Bill, so soon as the Valuation Bill for England had become law. They hoped next year to get this Bill which would apply to England and Wales, and as soon as that was obtained, they would have a cheaper way of purchasing land for such public purposes as small holdings than the present Bill afforded. He did not think it would be asking too much to require that this valuation of land, ascertained in the best possible way and by public assessors, should be used as the basis on which land might be purchased in the country. He thought the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had said that if the Valuation Bill had been passed he would have been glad to embody the clause in this Bill, or, at any rate, that in default of the Valuation Bill being passed, this Bill offered the best method of ascertaining the value of the land. He thought the simpler way would be the embodiment of this clause which the right hon. Gentleman himself approved. In asking the right hon. Gentleman to insert this proviso in the Bill he did not think he was asking him to do anything very great. He did not say that the price should be absolutely the valuation price. All due allowance might he made for severance, for improvements, or for anything, in fact, that the right hon. Gentleman chose to insert in the schedule. All he asked was that the Valuation Bill which would be, he hoped, carried next year, should be used as the basis for the compulsory purchase of land for the welfare of the whole community. It might be said by some hon. Gentlemen that when the Valuation Bill was passed it would then be quite possible to embody in this Act a clause such as this, but that would require a special Bill to be passed in order to allow the new valuation lists to be used as the basis of purchase. What they wanted was, by this small clause, to save all the time and trouble of passing a special Act when the Valuation Bill did become law. Therefore, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider this request, with which, he was sure, he was in hearty sympathy. He begged to move.
MR. MASTERMAN (West Ham, N.) seconded the Amendment.
"In page 11, line 38, at the end, to insert the words, 'Provided that when the capital unimproved value of any land to he acquired under this Act compulsorily shall have been ascertained under any Act of Parliament hereafter to be passed for the general valuation of I and for the purposes of rating or taxation, the compensation to be paid for such land shall be such ascertained capital value, with any addition for buildings and improvements upon the land, or for severance, that the case may require.'"—[Mr. Wedgwood.)
Question proposed, "That these words be there inserted in the Bill."
thought the hon. Member knew that he was in general agreement with the principle he sought to establish, but he differed from him widely, as he had done upstairs, as to the method by which he sought to apply that principle. He was certainly prepared to admit that a change was required in the existing valuation for England, but he could not admit that it was reasonable or convenient, even if there were a precedent, though not a very close one, to apply by an Amendment on Report an Act of Parliament hereafter to be passed. It was quite true there was a precedent, the only one which existed, in the Allotment Act of 1887, by which a clause was inserted that the powers under that Act should be exercised by the Local Government Board until the county authorities had been created by the Bill of the next year and had come into actual operation. But that was rather a different thing from inserting a perfectly vague provision as to the whole question of ownership and transfer of land. He did not think the hon. Gentleman had quite considered what this might mean. No doubt in his own mind the hon. Member had a perfectly clear idea of the lines which the Valuation Bill ought to take, and if it varied by a hair's breadth from those lines they would be denounced by him with his usual eloquence. It was always difficult, even for those who were almost infallible, to forecast exactly in what shape a Bill would receive the Royal Assent. They did not know until the Hill became law whether the valuation would be annual, quinquennial, or decennial. He was quite sure the hon. Member would wish it to be an annual one, and he would rather wish that himself. Supposing it turned out to be a quinquennial valuation, under the provisions of this Bill the land would have to be purchased on a valuation which had been made four and a half years previously, and at a price altogether out of date. These were matters which must be considered before they applied things in this way. In reference to the argument that a special Act would have to be passed to apply the Valuation Bill of next year, he might state that there was a precedent which might relieve the hon. Member from so oppressive a bugbear. The Metropolitan Valuation Act of 1859 applied the valuation that was brought into force in respect of income-tax assessments; in fact, it changed the whole of the income-tax assessments, not by a new Act, but by the mere application of the Act when it was passed. He hoped that the application of the new valuation principles when they were carried into law would apply not only to land acquired by the local authorities for small holdings but to all purposes for which land was acquired by local authorities. But he did not see how such a provision could be inserted in this Bill and at this stage of it.
after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.
MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London) said he did not wish to continue the discussion, but though hon. Members on his side did not join in it, he desired to say that it must not be assumed that they approved the general principle laid down either by the hon. Gentleman or the right hon. Gentleman.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
*MR. ELLIS DAVIES moved an Amendment to omit the words "nor more than thirty-five years." The words of the Bill, he said, were "not less than fourteen years, nor more than thirty-five years," and the object of his Amendment was to retain the minimum period and do away with the maximum of thirty-five years for compulsorily leasing by county councils. The expenses of adapting the land, erecting buildings, draining, fencing, and supplying water had to be borne in the first instance by the county council, and as this Bill depended for its success on the county councils, he thought it was essential that the conditions under which those bodies worked should be reasonable. The Bill proposed a maximum period of thirty-five years, and the result, he supposed, would be, where the land had been compulsorily acquired for thirty-five years, and it became necessary for the county council to put up buildings, drain and fence and do whatever was necessary, that the local authority would be faced at once with the problem whether it was reasonable to spend money on land that they could only hold for thirty-five years. He put it to Members whether they could really recommend a county council to spend money under a lease for thirty-five years. He pressed upon the Government that unless the county councils could acquire the land for a longer period they would, he feared, be only too well justified in refusing to carry out the Bill by spending public money on the erection of buildings and fencing and draining and supplying water. It seemed to him that the shortness of the lease was fatal from another point of view. The whole expense of not merely buying the land, but of adapting it and putting up buildings and executing other works, though at first borne by the county council, must ultimately fall upon the tenant in the way of rent. It was now admitted that the rent to be paid by the tenant to the county council must not only be a fair rent as for agricultural land, but a rent by way of sinking fund to enable the county council in the short period of thirty-five years to recoup itself for any expenditure in adapting the land and putting buildings upon it. Any Member who had any acquaintance with small holdings knew the hard and uncertain life of the tenant farmer. Had he ever been asked by any landowner in this country, in addition to his rent, to repay the landowner the capital value of the buildings which had been erected on his land and especially to do so in thirty-five years? His submission was that unless the county council had power to acquire land for a much longer period than thirty-five years, and if they had to expend public money on buildings and other works, they would not be able to demand from the tenant farmer an economic rent, and the rent he would have to pay would be so heavy as to make success impossible. But he proposed the Amendment which stood in his name for another reason. He had no land of his own, and he confessed frankly that the power of compulsory leasing did not attract him. It was perfectly well known that it was practically impossible to sell land subject to leases at a rack rent, and it was even more difficult to mortgage it. It seemed to him rather hard, to say the least, that they should compulsorily take from a man his land, and make it for a period of thirty-five years unsaleable and, to coin a word, unmortgageable. It was perfectly well known that in some districts of England, particularly in Manchester and Liverpool, there was a very common method of acquiring land on long leases or subject to rent charges. No money was paid, but an annual rent-charge was created on long leases granted with the result that the land, to all intents and purposes, subject to the payment of this rent, because the property of the purchaser. On the other hand, the person who sold the land obtained a perpetual rent-charge, and immediately became possessed of an interest which had a known market value and for which he could find a ready market or if necessity arose raise money on it. If some such Amendment could be made in the Bill the position of the county councils would be very much better. They would be enabled to acquire land which for all practicable purposes would be their own subject only to the rent-charge. The result would be that the county councils could erect buildings put up houses, fence and drain, make roads, provide water, and do all the other necessary work in connection with a small holding in full assurance, that every penny they spent would ultimately be returned to them in the way of rent. Moreover, they would be able to let the land to the tenant at a rent which would render it possible for the tenant to make the holding a success. If the county council could obtain land under a perpetual lease, or for ninety-nine or 100 years, they would be in a position to let the land to the tenant at a fair rent, plus a small addition necessary for a sinking fund. He begged to move.
seconded the Amendment.
"In page 12, line 1, to leave out the words 'nor more than thirty-five.'"
Question proposed, "That the word; proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
said the provision to which the hon. Member objected was the outcome of the old game of battledore and shuttlecock between the House of Commons and another place over the Bill of 1894. The original system under that Bill for the compulsory hiring of land was a system of not less than fourteen years, no maximum being fixed. In another place a maximum of not more than twenty-one years was inserted. The House of Commons refused to accept that limitation, and ultimately the limit of thirty-five years was inserted. The proposal before the House would make the initial lease a perpetual lease, and he did not know whether his hon. friend had considered the effect that might have on the price assessed by the valuers. He was under the impression that if the county council took a perpetual lease and paid a perpetual rent they would have to pay a perpetually higher rent, and that would be greatly to the disadvantage of the tenant.
said he was not at all sure that on this subject he agreed with those with whom he usually acted, and, therefore, in what he was about to say he spoke only for himself. He would, of course, have preferred the whole thing to be done by purchase, but he was not going back on that, as the question had been decided by the House. They had now got only to consider the two alternative policies of a lease which could not exceed thirty-five years and of a perpetual lease, or what was called in Scotland a feu. Personally he would prefer a feu both from the point of view of the cultivating tenant and from that of the landlord. Speaking from the point of view of the municipality, if the municipality was to tire land under the Bill for these short terms it would have to go through all the difficulty of fresh negotiations, and possibly fresh litigation, with the landowner at the end of fourteen or thirty-five years. That was not a very simple position. He would have thought, if it were not possible—and he assumed for the sake of his argument that it was not possible—to pay down a capital value, it would at all events be more convenient to enter into a permanent contract, and that the municipality should have all the rights and duties connected with the land which were given to the feuar in Scotland, and in England, as in Lancashire and other places, to the lessee for 999 years. They would then obtain, of course, what was called the unearned increment of the land, if any accrued, and they would have the full rights of ownership subject only to a perpetual charge equal to the original rent value of the land. Now he turned to the tenant's position with the landlord. He understood that the Government held that the plan of the Bill would be far better for the landlord than the plan the hon. Gentleman had proposed. The right hon. Gentleman opposite held the view that it was a hardship to deprive the landlord of any increment in the value of his land that might accrue by lapse of time and the progress of society, and that the landlord at the end of a lease for fourteen or thirty-five years should receive the amount of that increment when a new arrangement was come to. That was an argument which, as far as it went, was well worth considering; but, speaking for himself, if he was not to be allowed to be the practical owner and manager of his estate, he would rather part with the rights of ownership altogether, and if he could not get a capital sum, he would prefer to part with them for a rent-charge with all the security of the county rate. Under the Bill the landlord would lease the land, compulsorily or by agreement, for a term not exceeding thirty-five years. The Government were not going to hand back the land at the end of that time. Their plan was to give the county council practically a perpetual lease with a break at the end of thirty-five years at their will. He could say that in his judgment that was not a satisfactory arrangement from the landlord's point of view. If the Government could not get the capital to purchase the land outright, at all events let them do that which was practically equivalent to it—let them give a perpetual rent-charge, saleable, of course, on good security, and which would entirely exclude for all time the landlord from the management of or any responsibility in connection with the land. He ought not to be left in the ambiguous position in which the Bill left him. He did not know whether at the end of fourteen or thirty-five years he was going to have all his responsibility thrown back on his possibly unwilling shoulders, and would have to go to the cost of revaluing his rights in the land and to enter into fresh negotiation—perhaps fresh controversy—with the local authority. There was an ambiguity thrown over all his relations with the land. He was left the nominal owner under an arrangement to which he, at all events, would think no landlord would care to submit. For his own part, though he could not speak for the landowners, he would much rather lose any subsequent rights he had in the land, such as the so-called unearned increment, than be put in the unsatisfactory, ambiguous, and semi-responsible position in which the landlord was left under the Bill. These were the views he personally entertained speaking from the point of view of the small holder, of the municipality, and of the existing landlord. He spoke in this, however, only for himself, and possibly many of those interested either from the side of the municipality or of the owners of land might take a different view on this complicated question from that which commended itself to him.
said that although his right hon. friend had spoken for himself he was disposed to agree with much that had fallen from him. This clause dealt specifically with the acquisition of land by compulsion from the landlord. Looking at the matter as it concerned the landlord, what were the advantages of the proposed Amendment? His right hon. friend had said that if he were to be deprived of his property in the way proposed by the Bill, he would infinitely prefer to be deprived of it altogether once and for all. There was a good deal to be said from that point of view. So far as he was concerned he would prefer a perpetual lease to being messed about by a continual renewal of the lease at the end of a period of fourteen years or thirty-five years. He could not conceive a more disagreeable position than for a landlord never to know whether he was going to have his land thrown back on his hands or not. There was another point of view. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that, assuming the Amendment were adopted, he at least was of opinion that the annual rent that would be fixed for a perpetual lease would be considerably greater than the rent fixed under the Bill as it stood. That might be a very good thing for the future owner presumably, but it would be a bad thing for the owner whose land was going to be taken. He could easily fancy that there might occasionally be cases where the land in England—he was not nearly so well acquainted with the system in Scotland as his right hon. friend—was taken from the landlord for the purposes of this Bill in which the landlord might look forward to the possibility of recovering that portion of his estate. He might not wish that a part of his old family estate to which he was devoted should be finally and perpetually severed from his possession even if he were paid cash for it—when he could get it. He had never abandoned the hope that they might be successful in getting an Amendment to this Bill by which, at the end of the first Lease, if the landlord desired it, he might be able to require the county council to purchase the land. If the county council wished to renew the lease that would be proof positive that the scheme of acquiring the land had been a success. It would be most unfair to refuse that right to the landlord. That was the general view which he entertained on the question. He might be foolishly sanguine in the hope that by some means such an Amendment might be inserted in the Bill before it became law. He was influenced by this consideration that if once perpetual leases were accepted there would be an end for all time of any hope of the landlord recovering his land.
said that the Leader of the Opposition had expressed his preference for a perpetual lease to the limited lease provided for in this clause. But he wanted to put the point to the right hon. Gentleman that while that might be satisfactory from the landowner's point of view, how could it ever pay the community to enter into a perpetual lease if they had to pay an annual rent at all approximating the present rent? Land could be bought anywhere at thirty five years purchase, and he supposed that that was the reason a lease of thirty-five years was provided for in the Bill.
Unless there is great prospective value.
said that if the county council undertook to pay the annual rent for much more than thirty-five years, they would be paying rent for nothing. If, therefore, there was to be a perpetual lease, the rent charge would have to be much lower than for a short lease, otherwise it would necessarily be a losing bargain from the public point of view.
said he could understand that an advantage would be gained by the landowner and the local authority, but he could not exactly see where the small holder—the tenant—came in. As he understood it, the proposal was to adopt what was called in Scotland the feu system where the holder of the feu had the right to sell or devise it. In fact the feuar was practically the owner subject to a perpetual rent charge. That was the proposition which the hon. Gentleman made, but what about the labourer? Was he to have a feu as well—to have a perpetual holding which he could sell, devise or mortgage subject to a rent charge? If not, the labourer, under these conditions, would be very badly off, because if the county council acquired that land under a perpetual lease the rent charge would become proportionally higher. The county council would put an extra rent on the small holder. Therefore the system would be good for the landlord and for the county council, but bad for the small holder who would be a yearly tenant unless he also got his holding in perpetuity and had the same right to selling, devising, and mortgaging as the first holder. He believed that it was the intention of the Act that the county council should let to small holders on a yearly tenancy. That was admitted, he understood, by the right hon. Gentleman during the Second Reading of the Bill. In fact that was the only view which the county council could adopt, because if a tenant was unsatisfactory and had a long lease the county council would not be able, under the Bill, to turn him out of his holding except under exceptional circumstances. He asked whether it was the intention of the Government to give the small holders any security in the form of a lease or simply to hold them as yearly tenants? If the answer was that that was left to the local authority, then he was quite sure that if the local authority was composed of business men, only yearly tenancies would be granted.
said that the right hon. Member for Bordesley had asked where the small holder came in. It seemed to him that the whole conception of this Amendment was for the benefit of the landlord. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to approve of providing security of tenure to the small holder. It was true that no security of tenure would be given by the Bill to the small holder, but the Bill was a considerable advance towards giving him a right to remain in his holding so long as he continued to work the land properly. The possibility of the renewal of the lease at the end of thirty-five years was not in the mind of the small holder when he was considering at the outset whether he would put his capital into the land. He knew that there were thousands of small holders in England who were yearly tenants but who were practically tenants for thirty-five years.
said that that security of tenure was due to the good understanding between landlord and tenant.
said that he hoped that a better understanding would exist between the local authority and the small holder than there had been between the landlord and the small holder. What was wanted was that the small holder should be given his land under conditions by which he could live comfortably. He was glad to welcome the Leader of the Opposition as a recruit in this particular matter and regretted he was not present as a member of the Committee to assist by his cogent arguments the members below the gangway when they were defeated by thirty-two votes to thirteen. He did not see why this should be a bad bargain for the landlord. They wanted the removal of the limitation, and if it were not removed it should be at least extended to fifty years so as to cover the life of the buildings which would have to be put up. There were other circumstances which would seem to show that ninety-nine years would be a satisfactory period. Seeing that the Leader of the Opposition, hon. Members who sat below the gangway, and the Liberal Government in 1894 all demanded the same thing he pressed the Government to accept the Amendment.
thought the Amendment ought to be accepted. In his opinion the county council could rent the land for less rent in perpetuity than they could for a certain number of years. Speaking as a small landowner, and he thought any small owner of land would agree with him, he would rather sell his land at a perpetual chief rent than on a lease to be broken at the option of the county council every few years. He would be able to realise that rent at any moment he liked because it would be an absolute security and one of the best that any trustee could invest in. Therefore it was fair to the landowner and would enable the county council to rent the land at a much lower rent than otherwise they would be able to do.
said that, exercising the freedom which the Leader of their Party allowed to them, he must say that he could not support the Amendment, because he thought it would operate against purchase, which he considered was the most desirable end. If county councils wished to acquire land for small holdings, they had two courses open to them under the Bill as it now stood. If they doubted whether the small holdings would be a success, they could hire the land for fourteen years or for any period up to thirty-five years. But if they had sufficient confidence in their scheme and desired to hold the land for a longer period then they could buy the land, paying the purchase money at once, and borrowing the amount on the terms of its being repaid under any period up to eighty years. But if the Amendment were carried, the council would have a third alternative, namely, to hire the land for a long term of years, and this alternative might be adopted in preference to a purchase. He thought that the council should be encouraged rather to purchase the land than to lease it, and under these circumstances he would not be able to support the Amendment.
said the Amendment was not an important one, but as far as it went he thought it would be well to accept it, because it gave a wider latitude. There was no doubt about it that the landlord would be better off, if he got the same rent in perpetuity than he would be if he only let under a lease for thirty-five years, and therefore, he thought, he would take less rent. There were certain outgoings which had to be calculated upon with a short lease. When the landlord got the land handed back to him there were certain improvements which would have to be done, such as drainage and so on, and that was a responsibility which the landlord would absolutely get rid of if he got the same rent in perpetuity instead of granting a lease for thirty-five years. There was no doubt about it that if one had a perpetual rent of £100, it would sell for a larger price than a rent of £100 a year on a farm for a limited period. Therefore he thought the landlord would be prepared to let the land at a cheaper rate for the longer period than he would on a lease for thirty-five years. In his opinion it would be well to give the county council the power of getting the advantage of a longer lease than was provided for by the Bill, and he thought it would be advisable for the Government to accept the Amendment.
said he was not by any means certain that there was quite the community of opinion which was supposed between the Leader of the Opposition and hon. Members below the gangway, because the right hon. Gentleman spoke, as an individual Member, in favour of perpetual leases, and said that a perpetual lease was a form of modified purchase. He would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman would be willing simply to extend the option of the county council. Looking at the question on its merits he admitted that there was a good deal to be said on both sides, and it was not a question by any means easy in regard to striking the balance of advantage. That which operated with those who proposed the clause was that a perpetual rent would have to be paid, no matter what the subsequent movement of prices might be, and the county council would probably hesitate to commit themselves to a stereotyped perpetual rent which might work out as an increased purchase money. If they spent a larger sum in purchase money the land would still be liable to the right of resumption, and when all the arguments were taken into account he was of opinion that if they were going to have a hiring system at all it was desirable that they should have breaks in the tenancy. They gave the county council a great advantage—the county council had a right to renew and the landlords could not contest it. So far as security of tenure was concerned, the county council had a right to insist upon it. Therefore, although it was a matter of doubt, it seemed on the whole that it was to the advantage of the county council that the present system should obtain rather than the new system proposed by the Amendment.
said that as the debate developed the importance of the Amendment increased rather than diminished. He quite agreed that a one-sided provision for hiring in perpetuity would not be a fair arrangement. If this advantage was to be given to the county council, it was only fair that it should also be given to the landlord, who should be entitled to require a lease to be renewed in perpetuity. But if that were done another question would arise, and one point of great importance put by the mover of the Amendment and referred to by his right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition had not been touched upon by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. That point was that if the county council were to take a short lease they must charge the tenant such a sum as would recoup them for the expenditure incurred for equipping the holding, and therefore the charge would be heavier. That was a very important point, and he thought they ought to know what the answer of the Government was to it. If there was to be any considerable expenditure in order to start the small holder in a satisfactory way under a short lease the charge on the tenant must be very onerous, and he was curious to know how the Government met that criticism. The Solicitor-General had suggested that the proposal in the Amendment would lead to the rent being higher than an agricultural rent under a short lease system. He did not understand why that should be so. He agreed that the security offered by perpetual rent was so much better and more marketable and more easily dealt with for the purpose of rasing money than an ordinary agricultural rent that a perpetual rent should be something less than an agricultural rent. The only thing that could make it more would be the prospective increase in the value of the land. If agricultural land was taken for fourteen or twenty-one years and that land had a certain, rather remote, prospective building value, the rent of the land for the next fourteen years might be no more than the ordinary agricultural rent. It was only where there was a prospective building value in the near future that the rent could be more than the agricultural rent. But that could never be, because, as the hon. and learned Gentleman had pointed out, any prospective building value would be dealt with under the powers of resumption and not in the lease. Therefore he could conceive no circumstances which would tend to make a perpetual rent charge greater than an agricultural rent. Where land was likely to be resumed for building purposes the perpetual rent charge would be of no value.
said it was perpetual against the county councils. Only the landlords could resume.
said that was of no advantage from his point of view, and it was not a system that would recommend itself to the county councils or the landlords. If a perpetual rent charge was fixed they would have in such cases as that to introduce some modification which removed the power of resumption. He did not think the system as proposed in the Amendment and explained in the speech of the mover was applicable to building land, having regard to the other conditions in the Bill. But he did not see why it should not be applicable and advantageous to everybody in the case of agricultural land which had no prospective building value, and where there was no probability of the power of resumption ever being exercised. He believed that if it were adopted in that case the landlord would obtain a readily marketable security such as he would not have under the Bill, and that an opportunity would be given to the county councils to obtain the land at a less price than they would otherwise have to pay for it, and consequently an opportunity of letting the land at a lower price. Hon Gentlemen below the gangway would not perhaps be in entire sympathy with all the observations he had made, and if he voted for the Amendment, and that would depend on the reply of the right hon. Gentleman and what might follow, his vote must be understood to be guided and qualified by the views he had set forth.
said he would endeavour to reply to the question of the right hon. Gentleman. It was quite clear that where a short lease was taken by the county council the terms of repayment for the buildings and equipment of the land would be very much heavier. If the county council were to take a short lease of fourteen years it clearly meant that in their opinion the matter was ratheran experimental one, and they would probably not proceed to erect expensive buildings on that land. They might lease land adjacent to buildings and attach it to them. A wise county council, and he believed they were all wise, when acquiring land on which building might take place in the near future, would either take a long lease or they might purchase a small quantity of land upon which they would put up the buildings and hire a certain amount of land to go with those buildings.
asked whether it was contemplated that the county councils should purchase frontages and put buildings upon them, and hire the rest of the land and attach it to the buildings.
said the right hon. Gentleman knew quite well that nothing of the sort was contemplated. He would like to point out that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was not at all of the same mind as the hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded this Amendment. He did not want what they wished. The effect of this clause was to give the power to the county councils to hire land for fourteen years or any other number of years. On this question he had no strong feeling one way or the other. But in any case he thought it would entail some disadvantage, and he would continue to oppose the Amendment. He would like to offer a suggestion which had reference rather to the date at which they had arrived and the possible proceedings which might take place if he were to accept this Amendment. It was certain that a mere option to the county council to take a lease for fourteen years or in perpetuity would not be left in this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: Why? It had happened before and he might be permitted to argue, though he could not prove what was likely to happen in another place. What would probably happen was that either compulsion on county councils always to take a perpetual lease would be put in the Bill or else it would come back to this House possibly with the figure 35 or more probably with the figure 21. They would then find themselves once more engaged in the old game of battledore and shuttlecock with no advantage to themselves or to the Bill. Under those circumstances he hoped hon. Members would not press this proposal.
wished to say a word or two on behalf of the landlords who did not want to sell. Up to the present moment the whole debate had been about the landlords who wanted to sell their land. It was said that the Bill would make things better for the landlord because he would be able to mortgage any portion of his property. Naturally the landlord who did not want to sell would desire to take advantage of any opportunity he could have of resuming his own property, and as the Amendment, if carried, would make the landlord's power I of resumption less and interfere with his chance of resuming possession at the end of fourteen or thirty-five years, he certainly would not support it. Scanty and meagre as the justice meted out to landlords was it would be still more intolerant and hard if they refused them the powers of resumption given under the Bill as it stood. It was clear that if a perpetual feu was established the right of resumption for building purposes would still remain. What would happen to building land outside a town? The county council could take it only at the existing agricultural value because of the right of resumption. He had I heard the ominous words of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who indicated that there was a possibility under the Amendment of interference with that right of resumption. He had great fears of the possible tyrannical developments which might easily happen not under the right hon. Gentleman, but under the ægis of those who, in future years, might be his successors. It was not fair to expose to this danger landlords who did not want to sell and did not want the advantage of being able to get a better price or to mortgage their property, but who did desire to retain the right to resume, whenever a fair opportunity offered, possession of their land, which he was sure they could turn to better use in the interests of the community generally than all the county councils put together.
said the only difference between the landlords whom the right hon. and gallant Gentleman represented and those who did want to sell was that one wanted an exorbitant price and the other a fair price. He did not sec why any landlord should be allowed to stand in the way of men who wished to get a living by the cultivation of the land and to increase the agricultural prosperity of the country. He differed from the right hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to the effect of increasing the period of years. If it was increased in all probability the price would be increased. It was only necessary to ask those who had had experience to find out that the longer the term of years the more likely it was that they would have to give a higher price. Notwithstanding that fact, he still thought the right hon. Gentleman would have been wise to have accepted the Amendment, because it gave more elasticity to the whole clause. He could not conceive that any possible harm could accrue from cutting out the thirty-live years. If the right hon. Gentleman thought the House of Lords would put more difficulties in their way let him leave it to them; that was their business. It was the business of the House of Commons to make the Bill as good as possible. He doubted whether the House of Lords would find fault with this clause if amended. He felt sure that the adoption of this proposal would make the Bill more popular, and he would support the Amendment if it was pressed to a division.