House Of Commons
Friday, 7th November, 1930.
The House met at Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.
Committee Of Selection
Sir Henry Cautley, Mr. Charles Edwards, Sir Leolin Forestier-Walker, Colonel Gretton, Mr. Frederick Hall, Mr. Thomas Henderson, Colonel Nicholson, Major Owen, Mr. Parkinson, Mr. Reid, and Mr. Cecil Wilson nominated Members of the Committee of Selection.—[ Mr. Parkinson.]
Orders Of The Day
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a, Second time."I should like to point out that the general agreement on all sides of the House shown by the backers of this Bill is a happy augury for the eventual passing of this valuable Measure. It is also a notable symptom of the remarkable trend of agreement among all parties in the State that practical measures of assistance for the great basic industry of agriculture are necessary to-day if we are to preserve the life-blood of the nation, a happy and contented rural population, and to develop the economic resources of our land. This is not a new Bill, but one that was carefully considered in the early months of this year, not only on the floor of this House, but upstairs in Committee, and it failed to become law only because of the pressure of business in another place. We observe, moreover, that powers very similar to those asked for under this Bill were put into operation by the Rabbits Order, 1917, which was incorporated in the Corn Production Act, Part IV. That Act, unfortunately, was repealed in 1921, and the rabbit was fully alive to it, and grew and prospered. Under this Bill, if an owner or occupier of land can convince a county council that excessive damage is being done to his crops, trees, fences, or pastures by reason of the neglect of a neighbouring occupier of land to repress, keep down, or exterminate the rabbit, the county council can require that in 14 days this occupier who is causing the nuisance shall abate or prevent the damage; but if he does not comply, the county council has the right to send people to carry out the reduction of the rabbit and, further, the offending occupier may be called upon to pay the expenses. The county council, moreover, at the request of the complainant, can send an inspector or inspectors who can send in a report, and the complainant is charged a fee of £2, but— and this was a very happy Amendment brought in by the Labour party—he can recover this fee if his claim is upheld. On the other hand, there is a right of appeal to the county council from the occupier who is presumed to be the offender in not having kept down his rabbits, and in that case the county council can take no further action until they have heard the case of both the complainant and the defendant. Landlords throughout the country may object to a public body being given the right of intrusion, visitation, or inspection of their property; but I would submit that if we pass this valuable Bill, the mere threat of such action being possible will be sufficient to ensure the carrying on of those harmonious relationships which have always existed between landlord and tenant and between all classes in the countryside. It is only a power which eventually will work out for the reduction and keeping under control of this verminous pest, the rabbit. In my view, the rabbit, this hardy and prolific rodent, can be either a crop or a pest, either a source of revenue and income or a dangerous spoiler of the ground; and under our all too haphazard methods in the past of treating the rabbit, he has become in many parts of the country a dangerous nuisance to growing crops on arable land and to the increasing and valuable industry of forestry. On the other hand, if properly controlled and restricted to otherwise unproductive land, I can see great developments possible in making the rabbit a useful crop for food, fur, and other economic purposes; but he must be very severly fenced about and kept in his proper place. Every restaurant-keeper knows the value of rabbit in the construction of chicken cream, and where would the great fur industry be without the coney and lapinski, so valuable in the sable, dyed ermine and mink markets of the world? But what we are really considering is the question of excessive damage done by rabbits in this country. If we take a farmer who has growing crops on arable land near woods, over which he has no control, in the spring I have seen half a crop of corn eaten down, and the same with turnips later in the season. What has been his remedy in the past? He could call upon the landlord to give him compensation, or if an owner-occupier, he would have to fence about his land the next time he planted a crop, which is all very expensive and not by any means efficient in keeping out Mr. Rabbit. Then there is the young coppice, be it ash or hazel. That, we all know, is going to be a very valuable crop, cut every eight or 10 years, and made into hurdles or put to other agricultural uses. In the case of young coppices or young plantations, so necessary after the felling carried out during the Great War, I say that all these must be most carefully fenced about, at great expense, and it is at best a chancy business. In a small way, in my own plantations I have lost 200 trees in a night from the depredations of rabbits. Then we must consider railway embankments and canal banks. These are often infested with rabbits, which prey upon the land of neighbouring farmers, who are unable to take any action because of the law of trespass, and we cannot expect that the railway officials should cope with this evil in their spare time, beyond setting a few gins and traps, which are most undesirable. We have all heard of the misplaced enthusiasm which introduced the rabbit into Australia and New Zealand, and has resulted in one of the most serious pests with which the farmers out there have to contend. The climate there is suitable to the rabbit, its enemies are too few and lowly organised, so that it has increased enormously. I do not pretend that conditions here are similar to those in Australia, but I mention this because it is 'a valuable warning of what might become a rabbit pest if not properly controlled. I have said enough to show that control is the valuable principle underlying this Bill. We want to make the best use of our agricultural land, and the splendid work which has been done by our scientists in increasing crop output by artificial manures, in the war on blights and vegetable pests, is in danger because of this four-footed and charming but rascally rodent. Unlike the legendary pheasant of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), whose depredations on crops have never been substantiated, the rabbit has been carefully considered and it has been found to be like matter in the wrong place, dirt and a verminous pest. I ask the House to endorse the words of that East Anglian parson who was frequently asked to a great house in the neighbourhood, and who, when asked to say grace on one occasion, is reported to have replied as follows:
"Of rabbits young, of rabbits old,
Of rabbits hot, of rabbits cold,
Of rabbits tender, of rabbits tough,
We thank the Lord we've had enough."
I beg to second the Motion.The Mover of this Motion has explained the Clauses clearly, and has pointed out that rabbits cause a great amount of harm. We all agree with him. He also touched briefly on the history of the Bill, and Members will realise that it is a hardy annual. It was originally the Rooks and Rabbits Bill, but the rooks have disappeared, largely as a result of a Select Committee which was set up by another place. In 1928, the Bill passed through all its stages in this House without a division and without Amendment, either on Report or in Committee. It. went through the other place, and failed: to pass there, although they, to a great. extent, fulfilled the requirements of the Select Committee. That Committee in its Report said:
This is only a small Measure, but it will be of considerable benefit to the efficient farmer, who is the farmer we want to benefit. There may be some farmers opposed to it, but the organised farmers, speaking through the National Farmer's Union, have been urging for a long time that this Bill should be passed. They are very keen on it, and anxious to see it become law. It has also the approval of the County Councils' Association, who are of opinion that the county councils can easily work it. We all agree that rabbits are a nuisance, or can be a nuisance, and the efficient farmer will do all he can to get rid of them. If a man wants to keep rabbits on his own land, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent him. It is not a Bill to exterminate rabbits, but to prevent damage by rabbits. It is intended to assure that if a man wants to keep rabbits, he shall feed them himself, and not make his neighbour feed them. That can be agreed to on all sides by landlords and tenants alike, and is perfectly fair. It is, of course, true that an occupier of land has the right to destroy rabbits on his own land, but this is not in all cases sufficient, and, therefore, the question we have to decide is what is the best way to deal with them. The only alternative I can see to the method suggested in this Bill is by way of compensation, but that would not be as good as the method proposed. The good farmer likes to go about his farm and see his crops in a flourishing condition and growing well. He wants to produce as much as he can for his own benefit, and the benefit of the country, and compensation will not prevent damage being done. It is poor consolation for a farmer to see his crops damaged, and to have to haul his neighbour before the county court and claim compensation. He might have to do that year after year, whereas under this Bill the damage will be prevented. If the farmer had to proceed by way of compensation, it would cost him a considerable amount of money, and without doubt it would cause more friction than would be caused by this Bill. I expect that it will be suggested that the county councils are not a suitable body to deal with this, and that it would be much better to have proceedings before the county court. The county councils, however, are quite prepared to do it, and are able to do it. They will delegate their powers to one of their committees, presumably the agricultural committee. These agricultural committees are composed of sound, practical men with a knowledge of country life and agriculture, and we may be certain that they will not ask the owners and occupiers of land to take any steps which are impossible for them to fulfil. They know what can be done, and they will only order things to be done which can be done. If we agree, as I think we do, that rabbits are a nuisance, there is a way of dealing with it. When a nuisance of another kind is caused, the procedure is not to go to the county court, but to the local authority, and ask them to cause it to be abated. In the case of housing, if a house becomes unfit for human habitation, the procedure is much the same as the procedure in this Bill. The local authority first instructs the owner to do repairs, and if the owner refuses, the authority enters the house and puts it in repair at the expense of the owner. That is analogous to what is done in this Bill in the case of rabbits. It may be urged by some of the opponents of the Bill that undesirable people will be allowed to enter on land and do considerable damage when they are killing their rabbits. The county councils can be trusted not to send un-desirable people on the land. They understand the position, and will see that responsible people are sent to do the work and cause as little trouble as possible. I do not believe that it will be necessary to exercise the powers in this Bill very often. The simple fact that it is in existence will cause people to keep their rabbits down, and the threat of sending a man to destroy the rabbits will make the owner of them take steps immediately to reduce them, without waiting for the order to be put in force. It is our business to encourage land to be used in the best possible manner, and to do all we can to encourage the growing of good crops. This Bill is a small Measure, but it will do something to stop crops from being damaged by rabbits. I hope that it will receive its Second Reading, and pass through all its stages before this Parliament is dissolved."No witness was willing to ascribe to these destructive animals any compensating virtues. Whatever virtue their carcases may have after death, during their lives rabbits are unmitigated nuisances to the good farmer and forester"
Let me congratulate my Conservative friends upon their advance on this question of rabbits. When I first came to the House, the rabbit was regarded almost as a sacred animal. Now, in the words of my hon. Friend, it is "a rascally rodent." I am inclined to agree with him, and congratulate him on his advance. My opinion is that a rabbit is a very good thing in a pie, but. on the land it is a pest, and I am very glad that any Measure should be introduced to control the ravages of the rabbit. Some years ago, in Devonshire, I farmed a good deal of land. We had a series of dry summers, the rabbits increased enormously and we had great difficulty in getting them down. To anyone who has seen the ravages of rabbits in a field of wheat, or a field of roots in winter, or, again, in a field of clover, it is perfectly outrageous the amount of damage that rabbits can do. Therefore, I welcome any Measure which reduces the destructiveness of rabbits.I had this experience on my own land. I had great difficulty in eradicating the rabbits. I employed a trapper, and I found out afterwards that he always left a few rabbits for seed, with one eye on the next year. A few weeks ago I saw a meadow absolutely overrun with rabbits, which were an absolute nuisance to the neighbours. But this Measure does not go far enough for me. It is rather a milk-and-water Measure. The person who has sustained damage has first to complain to the county council. My hon. and gallant Friend who seconded the Motion knows the Devon County Council as well as I do. Suppose I complained to the county council. It does not meet until December. Then it has to refer the complaint to the agricultural committee, and that has to get to work. What will the rabbits be doing all that time? The Bill is not strong enough for me. If a man kept rabbits to the detriment of the neighbourhood, I would prosecute him. That is the only way. This keeping of rabbits is a form of poaching, although the great bulk of owners of land in this country do their duties well. I would say one word more on the question of steel traps. I wish that the steel trap could be avoided.
That is in the Bill.
I know, but I am sorry to say that in my own county the steel trap is used. The rabbits have to be killed, but I wish someone could invent some kind of trap which would be equally efficacious. I have heard rabbits squealing in the traps, and it is a terrible thing. One has the choice of having the crops destroyed or of hearing the rabbits squealing. I give the Bill hearty support. I do not think it goes nearly far enough, but I do hope that, having passed its Second Reading last Session, it will this year go through all its stages.
I support the Second Reading, and deeply regret that the Bill did not become an Act of Parliament last Session. We have had serious discussions throughout the week, but this morning we seem to be in a very light-hearted vein, and there is the holiday spirit prevailing. I am afraid it is always so when there is something appertaining to our greatest industry, agriculture, before this House. As this Measure did not become an Act of Parliament last Session, bunny is still enjoying himself, and is taking moonlight picnics in the fields of neighbouring owners, and destroying crops. I am going to make an appeal to the Minister of Agriculture that he should accede to the reasonable request that this Measure should become a Government Measure. I feel sure that if that had been done last Session, it would have become an Act of Parliament in a very few minutes. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman because, in view of the programme which he is launching in the Land Settlement Bill, for the creation of more market gardens and smallholdings, it is essential that this Measure should be passed into law. The occupiers of these smallholdings and market gardens will otherwise be placed at a great discount, and put to the risk of having serious losses to their crops. You cannot possibly encourage these small cultivators without protecting them by Acts of this kind.
I do not think that many words are required from me in support of this Bill. An hon. Friend has suggested that when a Bill of this kind is introduced by a Member on the benches above the Gangway, and supported by the Farmers' Union, it ought to be welcomed by all who are interested in agriculture. When I started practice and was representing tenant farmers of North Wales on a commission, in every part of the country to which one went one heard constant complaints of damage done to crops by rabbits coming from neighbouring land; and in many parts of the country the complaints are equally serious to-day. A small farmer does not care to embark upon costly litigation which brings him into conflict with his neighbour. He is faced with an unpleasant choice; either he must suffer considerable loss by the depredations of rabbits, or go to an enormous expense to fence his land to keep the rabbits out. It is unfair that he should have to face either of these alternatives, and I believe this Bill will very largely meet the complaints that one hears from farmer occupiers. Attention has been drawn to the damage done to young trees. On more than one occasion I have noticed in those parts of North Wales with which I am familiar that young trees have been attacked by rabbits when they have been unable to get any other sustenance during a hard winter, and now that a con- siderable sum has been expended on afforestation, not merely by the Forestry Commissioners but also by owners and occupiers of land, it is grossly unfair that so much of that expenditure should be nullified by the depredations of these little animals.I support what the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Rosbotham) has said regarding the importance of dealing with this difficulty at the present moment. If the projected land legislation of the Government is enacted, I hope it will be effective in settling a large number of people on the land. It is possible that many of them will not have had very wide experience, and anything which occurs to discourage them in the early years will be a calamity. They ought to be able to start farming with every encouragement, and in some parts of the country there will be no greater encouragement to them than the knowledge that the Ministry of Agriculture are taking steps to ensure that they will not be raided by these little animals. The right hop. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) suggested that the Bill was not strong enough, or that the machinery might be slow in operation and that, in consequence, it would not attain its object. I take it that the best body to deal with these matters is a county council, because one realises that when any measure of this kind is referred to a county council it will at once delegate its powers under it to the county agricultural committee. I am not able to say what kind of agricultural committees there are all over the country, but I have been impressed by the activity of some of those with which I am acquainted, and I feel sure that if this Bill gets to the Statute Book, the agricultural committees will at once authorise their officials to inquire into any complaints that are made before any matter is brought before the committee itself or any sub-committee, so there need not be any delay. Personally, I am a little more concerned about the provisions of Clause 2 dealing with appeals to county courts. I am not certain whether the promoters of the Bill realise it, but in many scattered rural districts a county court judge sits once only in every two months, and I know of certain areas where he sits once only in three months. That may lead to cases being held up for long periods; any country solicitor can say how the game is played in this connection. I would prefer to see appeals to the justices of the peace for the division. Cases are rare in which magistrates do not meet once in every 14 days at any rate or once a month at the outside; and there would be a distinct advantage in having an appeal to such a court in that the local magistrates have a more practical knowledge of these matters. Local magistrates are now representative of all classes of the community. On most country benches there are not merely members of the land-owning class, but there are representatives of the tenant farmers or occupying farmers, and they could deal readily with such a question as this, which arises under Clause 2 where objection is raised to a notice served under the Act on the ground:
"(b) that no damage sufficiently substantial to justify the service of the notice is being caused or is likely to be caused by reason of any failure on his part to restrict the number of rabbits on the land to which the notice relates; or
If a county court judge has to deal with such a point, he may require a considerable body of evidence before he can come to a decision. Local magistrates, with an intimate knowledge of the district, could deal with the matter more expeditiously and more successfully. I would remind the House that in the Land Drainage Act it is provided that certain appeals will lie to the local justices, and I am certain that appeals under this Measure can be more successfully dealt with by magistrates in petty sessions. That, however, is only a matter of detail which can be brought up if the Bill goes to Committee. I am certain that this is a Measure which is earnestly desired by all occupying farmers. It has received the support of the Central Farmers' Union and, I believe, of practically every county farmers' union; and I hope that the Minister of Agriculture will give the Measure his support and see, as far as he can, that it is pressed through all its stages, so that it can become an Act during the present Session of Parliament.(c) that adequate steps have been taken by him to abate or prevent such damage."
The speakers in this Debate have not over-stated the case for controlling rabbits. I note that on this occasion a much keener interest is being taken in this question. It was my fortune on two occasions to pass a Rabbits Bill through this House, and I experienced a much rougher passage than seems to be in store for this Measure today. Even under the proposals of this Bill the occasions will be very rare on which the extreme method of destroying the rabbits will need to be adopted by the local authority. No doubt there are certain obstinate people who are quite indifferent to the complaints of their neighbours in present conditions, but I think we are all agreed that there is an urgent case for controlling rabbits, and preventing such an injustice as that which has been brought to my notice where people have given up farms, and ceased to cultivate their land, owing to the damage done by rabbits.Complaint has been made that there is a possibility of undue delay under this Bill, but I do not think that, in practice, delay will actually arise. I would like to remind the House that similar provisions to those contained in this Bill were in force during the War under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, and a similar provision was re-enacted in the Corn Production Act. Experience of those Measures has shown that it has seldom been necessary for county councils to put into force the power of destroying rabbits provided in this Bill. The reason for that is that when the owner of the land realises that some action is likely to be taken, he takes steps himself to destroy the rabbits. When a complaint is lodged, it will no doubt be the normal procedure of the county council for the official responsible to make an inspection, and in that way the inspector will generally be able to convince the responsible owner of the rabbits that, unless he puts his land in order, further steps will be taken. The actual administration of this Measure will, no doubt, be put into the hands of sub-committees. It will be possible to appoint small ad hoc committees to deal with this question. There is no doubt that to-day there is an overwhelming consensus of opinion amongst agriculturists in favour of this Bill. I am sorry that this Measure was not brought forward as a Government Bill, and I am sure that if the Minister of Agriculture would set his mind to controlling rabbits, he would be doing much more good than by promoting the other agricultural Measures with which he is now occupied. I do not think there is any doubt that this Measure will he given an easy passage through the House of Commons. I congratulate the Mover upon having secured first place in the Ballot, and upon devoting that opportunity to the Rabbits Bill. As you may not sow weeds on your neighbour's land, it is very unjust that you should be allowed to destroy his crops with rabbits. The county council has no difficulty whatever at the present time in administering the provisions controlling weeds, and I feel sure that they will have no difficulty whatever in administering this Bill by a similar procedure. No one contests to-day the principle that you may not pasture cattle on your neighbour's land, and it is equally unjust that people should be allowed to pasture rabbits upon it.
The Government are quite ready to accept the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill, and we hope it will be more fortunate this year than it was last year. This Measure has become rather a hardy annual, and when it has become law, as I have no doubt it will, we shall look back upon it as we do upon Bills like the Daylight Saving Bill, and wonder why on earth we did not pass it before. I should think the rabbit has rarely been called more names than it has to-day. There is only one point in the Bill which I will mention, and it is the provision dealing with the initiation of the procedure. The first Clause of the Bill provides that:
That means that nothing happens under the Bill until some person proves to the satisfaction of the county council. It, means that initiation of the proceedings depends upon the complaint of the neighbour who suffers loss. I do not think that that is the best way of dealing with a matter of this sort, and when the Bill comes to the Committee stage I shall suggest a modification of this procedure. I would like to say to those in charge of the Bill that our draftsmen will be quite willing to give their help in drafting the necessary Amendments. That is the only point of substance that we have to make with regard to the Bill. I spoke on the Bill last year, and I have nothing to add that I know of to what I said then; everything that can be said about it has been said much better by other speakers. I observe, however, that the Bill has the support of all parties in the House, and that it has the support of the National Farmers' Union. I have been getting into trouble just lately with the National Farmers' Union, over some remarks which I made in this House last week, and which, I think myself, they have taken a little too seriously. If we are to wait until we are all agreed about everything, it will be a long time before we do anything. Nevertheless, I am glad that we are all pulling together on this point, and perhaps I might suggest, as a suitable subject for a cartoon, Captain Morris and myself shaking hands over the body of a rabbit. It might provide a bond of peace. There is only one thing which I regret and to which I daresay we shall have further opportunities of referring. That is that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Guinness) appears to think that this Bill, good as it is, is more important than, for instance, the Marketing Bill. I do not quite share his views on a matter of that sort, but still there will be plenty of opportunities, I hope, of discussing it. This little Bill has, shall we say, burrowed its way through the intricacies of this House quite a number of times, and I can quite imagine that, when the little animal escapes from this stuffy Chamber and scampers along the passage to what it might believe to be the freer airs of the more spacious domains of the aristocracy, it will have a happier time there."If any person proves to the satisfaction of a county council."
They are better shots there.
Instead of saying, as the hon. Member has said, that they are better shots, I was going to say that it would have found itself regularly entangled in a snare. However that may be, I am sure that here on all sides there is a unanimity of hope that this time it will have better fortune.
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now", and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months".12 n. After having heard the remarks of the Minister of Agriculture, I feel that I must take it upon myself to move the rejection of this Bill. I must confess that I thought that the Minister was most unfortunate in his opening remarks. He said that he hoped that this Bill would become like the Daylight Saving Bill, upon which everyone is now agreed. I wonder whether the Minister is aware that there are many farmers in the country who strongly objected to that Bill, when it was introduced and who are by no means reconciled to it yet. They would be surprised at the lack of knowledge on the part of the Minister of Agriculture as to their deep feelings on that matter. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Rosbotham) hoped that the Government would take up this Bill and give it their blessing. I think it is a very suitable Measure for this Government to take up and support, because, after all, it will only be adding one more to the perfectly useless and harmful Measures which this Government are imposing upon agriculture. This Bill is a perfectly useless Bill. You cannot kill rabbits by Act of Parliament. Attempts have been made for a very long time, by orders and one thing and another, to kill rats. We have county council inspectors for the purpose of killing rats, and the rat still flourishes. Under this Bill the county council is to kill rabbits, but it is not going to do the rabbit very much harm. One of my reasons for moving the rejection of the Bill is that the Minister of Agriculture himself said that he would alter some of its procedure. He proposes that, instead of its being necessary to prove to the satisfaction of the county council that damage is being done by rabbits, rabbit inspectors, I suppose, should be appointed all over the country, who would wander into everybody's property and make their reports, and then, apparently, without having to prove a case of any kind, they would be able to come down on the landlord or occupier and serve upon him an order for the destruction of rabbits. I think that that is a very dangerous principle. Instead of the necessity for proof to the satisfaction of the county council, the Minister himself suggests that there should only be the necessity for proof to the satisfaction of the county council's inspector, and this, apparently, is going to be one of the first steps of the Socialist Government to do away with every right of property in land. From the point of view of killing rabbits, the Bill is quite useless. What is the good of it if you cannot use traps? I know something about killing rabbits, and, although I hate it, I know that you cannot possibly deal with rabbits Unless you use steel traps. I believe that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are trying to ascertain the most humane methods of trapping, but trapping is absolutely essential. It is not possible in any other way to get rid of rabbits from railway embankments and the banks which exist in the western counties of England. Otherwise, you will have the county council entering on to the land and spending weeks there ferreting and so on, but doing nothing properly to destroy the rabbits. That is a vital objection to this Bill, and one which, so far as I have heard, the Mover and Seconder of the Bill did not attempt to answer. While there may be a rabbit pest in the West of England and in other parts where there are a great many rabbits, that is not the case with us in the North. We are more anxious to keep our rabbits, and a great many of our farmers look after their rabbits and are glad to see a few about, though in the mining districts we know that we are not going to keep them very long, however much we may want to do so. Therefore, this problem is not such an urgent one with us as it may be elsewhere. I do think, however, that it is a dangerous principle to allow another body to come in and say, "You must do what we like with your own land." I feel certain that in the end it will be best to trust to publicity in this matter. This Bill is unnecessary, will be useless, and will not achieve the purpose for which it is proposed.
I beg to second the Amendment.Perhaps I should not have been so anxious to rise to second the rejection of this Bill if it had not been that there was a sort of chorus of understanding between the Minister of Agriculture and the late Minister of Agriculture that "It is only a little Bill; let us put it through." Friday appears to be a day upon which people who have little Bills hope to put them through the House of Commons. I would remind the House of Commons that it is these little Bills which very often strike a blow at public and private interests and rights, and at the liberties of the subject. I want to know who asked for this Bill. I am sorry that I was not in my place—[Interruption]—owing to my having been unavoidably detained, when the Bill was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Hanbury), but I understand that the farmer and the smallholder, whose case has been so ably put to-day, already have the right to abate rabbits on their land, and I cannot see why we should pass a Bill which is going to allow a county council to come in and do work for the farmer or smallholder who is either too incompetent or too lazy to do the work for himself. If he has already the right to abate rabbits on his land, why does he not do so without asking the county council to come in and do it for him? I hold no brief for the rabbit. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not? "] Because at the present moment I have three rabbits in my garden. But I am not prepared to go to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who is vice-chairman of the Surrey County Council, and ask his assistance to abate those three rabbits. I am prepared to abate those rabbits for myself. I cannot see why further duties should be placed upon local authorities. As my hon. and gallant Friend has said, it means the creation of rabbit inspectors, and the Minister himself seems to adumbrate the idea that there should be more inspectors. Is he not content with the number of inspectors he will probably have to have by reason of the Bill he is going to introduce in the matter of agriculture? Then he complained that it really was very unfair that you should have to wait till someone else has complained before anything is done. Surely we have a right to say that, before the county council should be asked to move in a matter of this kind, the complainant should have to state his case and have it gone into. The question is really much more serious than the light-hearted references of Members backing the Bill would have us believe. The local authorities are not only to appoint inspectors, they are not only to go on people's land against their wishes, a further interference with the rights of owners of property, but they are also to become local traders, because on page 2 of the Bill it says they may make arrangements for the sale of rabbits. So that now we are going to have our county councils setting up as rabbit purveyors. This is an instance of grandmotherly and unnecessary legislation. Have we nothing better to occupy our minds with at present, when really serious legislation is needed, than abating rabbits, which can be well abated by farmers and small holders for themselves? Then we find that the county council is to delegate its power to someone else and, further on, that any expenses incurred by the county council—and they are not slow to incur expense—are going to be borne by the ratepayers. How many ratepayers are anxious to foot the bill for the abating of rabbits on someone else's property by their local authorities? There is a point which I think should be considered. Clause 2 says that if a person upon whom notice has been served considers for various reasons that it should not have been served upon him, he may within seven days after receipt of the notice send his objection in writing to the clerk of the county council, and if the county council do not reply within seven days, he may within 14 days apply to the county court. Under the first Clause, the county council may serve on the occupier a notice—as if the occupiers of the land are not getting enough notices at present—ordering him to abate or prevent the damage within a time not being less than 14 days. So that he has to abate the damage within 14 days and, if he wishes to say that this is an unfair notice, he has to wait 14 days before he can go to a county court. I presume that, during the 14 days while he is forced to wait, the county council will have put in its horde of inspectors armed with every lethal weapon it can find except the steel trap, and they will be busily engaged in abating the rabbits while he is waiting for a reply from the county council and the county court. The Minister says it is only a little Bill, but it is a little Bill full of totally unworkable and unnecessary arrangements. If you are going to begin by abating other people's rabbits, which you might abate yourself, for at present you have legal right to do so, would hon. Members who are interested in other forms of sport be as interested if the right was given to abate deer, for example, that went on someone's land? Hon. Members opposite will agree with that. If rabbits, why not deer, why not pheasants, why not anything that belongs to anyone else? You are going to encourage the interference of the local authorities, always at the expense of the ratepayer who is not at all anxious to have his money spent in this totally unnecessary way. You are going to have the county councils engaged in interfering with people all along the line, not only with rabbits but in many other ways, and for that reason it is a Bill that is unworkable and unnecessary, and I do not believe it is really wanted by the main body of people of the country, the ratepayers, who are most concerned.
It seems to me a great pity that, at a time when the country is suffering from acute distress, the House of Commons has nothing better to do than for its members to vie with one another in bestowing abusive epithets on the prettiest quadruped of the countryside. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken said he would not like to ask me, as vice-chairman of the Surrey County Council, to send in the county council's inspector in order to abate three rabbits which, I understand, afflict him. I assure him, as a friend, neighbour and fellow-magistrate on the same bench, that, if he will say nothing there, I have several friends who, without the trouble of going to the council, will relieve him of far more than three rabbits at no expense.
I said I was quite able and prepared to abate my three rabbits myself.
Then it is a great pity that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not done so.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is doing it.
I have never poached, but I have found in the morning hanging on my fence the results of other people's poaching. I have asked no questions. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) says, rabbits are very good in a pie, especially if your wife is a good cook. My constituency has a historic interest in this controversy. Seven hundred years ago the ancestors of my constituents, like their successors to-day, were the proprietors of a very valuable and interesting class of dog, which -did so much depredation in the warrens that then existed in South Shields that the Prince Bishop of Durham fulminated against them with both his ecclesiastical and civil powers unless they desisted from the practice. After all, that is the real reason of the rabbit trouble. If the rabbit were not protected by the law at present, its numbers would be far fewer than they are. I do not know exactly what you are going to do under the Bill with the rabbits to be found on commons. I suppose you are going to serve notices on the lord of the manor as the owner of the freehold. Why not, if you desire really to abate rabbits in the place where they breed with the most damage to surrounding property, repeal the law that enables a man to be prosecuted for being on a common in pursuit of a rabbit? It seems to me that would be a far more practical way.Again, I think that this Bill, if it really is meant to deal with damage to agriculture, does not go nearly far enough. I imagine that far more damage is done to poultry by foxes than is done to other forms of agriculture by rabbits, and there is not a word in the Bill about foxes, which is, as the right hon. Gentleman would say, one of the sacred animals of the countryside. Then you have the hare. My agricultural friends assure me that the hare is a worse fiend than the rabbit, because the rabbit nibbles and does little else, but the hare not merely nibbles, hut tramples down. It is interesting to recall one of the greatest agricultural writers of the country, William Cobbett, who seemed to think that the hare was a far bigger nuisance than the rabbit. Writing over 100 years ago, one of the most beautiful of his many beautiful descriptions of the countryside and its farms, he said:—
Nothing is done in the Bill about anything like that. The way I have suggested of dealing with this topic is far more easy if all that we are doing is really aiming at the rabbit. But if hon. Members want to do something to assist agriculture against this sort of pest, as they are pleased to call it, they ought to go in for a thorough, sweeping reform of the game laws. I am astounded to see Members from agricultural constituencies on this side of the House getting up and supporting a miserable measure of this kind instead of doing something which I should have thought the Labour party in agricultural constituencies would have been the first people to wish to see done. The rabbit, in my opinion, is one of those animals the utter destruction of which would result in the countryside being a far less interesting place than it is. I know of few things more beautiful than rabbits scampering across the fields fairly late in the evening. While I do not agree with what has been said by the Mover with regard to some of the aspects of the case, I think the House would be well advised not to put this Bill in front of other more useful Bills which are going to be considered by Standing Committee B, but should reject this Bill to-day, and rely upon the Minister of Agriculture of a Labour Government to bring in a proper sort of Bill to deal not merely with the rabbit but with the hare, the pheasant and the fox, and then I am sure he will find he will not get so much support from the other side as, unfortunately, he seems to get for nearly all his Measures."However, my farmer friend must get in his crop before the hard weather comes; or my Lord Carnarvon's hares will help him. They have begun already; and it is curious that they have begun on the mangel-wurzel roots. So that hares, at any rate, have set the seal of merit upon this root."
I have had the honour of being associated with this Bill ever since it has been before the House. I should like to associate myself with the action taken by my hon. Friend in bringing forward this Measure again, and I am glad he has been fortunate in the ballot. On the first occasion that I introduced the Bill from the back of the Chair it included rooks as well as rabbits. That, unfortunately, was the reason, after the Bill had passed through this House, why it did not receive assent in another place. On the last occasion I brought in the Bill I introduced it through the ballot, but, unfortunately, my position was not very early. Although the Bill passed through this House without a Division, with very little opposition, and went through Committee upstairs, without any opposition at all and only two slight Amendments, put in to comply with suggestions made on the Floor of the House, unfortunately, owing to the rules in another place, it could not be taken there owing to its late arrival. I sincerely hope, after what I imagine will be a very early passage in this House today, we shall have better luck when the Bill reaches another place. I do not propose to detain the House by putting forward the arguments which I introduced on previous occasions, because most of them have been very well presented by those who have spoken in favour of the Bill. I have risen only for the purpose of associating myself with it, and for the purpose of replying to some of the criticisms of the Bill to-day. I find very little to which to reply with regard to the opponents of the Bill. It is true that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hexham (Colonel Brown) has moved the rejection of the Bill, though I do not think that it was seriously done.
Perhaps I am not entitled to say that, hut the friendly way in which he moved the rejection, at any rate, leads me to believe that there will not be very great grief on his part if he is not successful in the Amendment which he has put before the House. In the first place, his argument was that he was an advocate for the continuance of the use of steel-traps. I only regret that he was not in the House when my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) spoke earlier in the debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "He was."] I think that probably he would have realised that the right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly voiced the opinion of a large number of people that it was desirable, in this connection, at any rate that the use of the steel-trap should tie prevented. Provision was included in the last Bill, because there had been great opposition to the use of the steel-trap. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shipley!"] Perhaps I may be allowed to refer to the interruption and to say how very glad I am to have heard the news. The correspondence which I have received with regard to use of the steel-trap since I have had charge of the Bill came from those who were opposed to the steel-trap. The weight of opinion is strongly in favour of the exclusion of the trap as a means of destruction in this particular case.The next argument used by the hon. and gallant Member was that, although he admitted that in the South and in certain districts there was a considerable amount of damage done through the depredations of the rabbit, in the North— I do not think that he speaks for the whole of the North; in fact I know he does not—in certain places, the rabbit was appreciated. I wonder whether he would like to carry that line of argument in its application to the use of a fire engine. If his neighbour happened to have a fire, is his neighbour, simply because the hon. and gallant Member does not have a fire in his district, to be precluded from having the advantages of the fire engine to try to remove his trouble. It is not an argument which contains any justice whatever. The fact that an injustice or hardship does not exist in one place is no argument why the opportunities for relief from injustice or hardship should not be given in other districts. He said he wished to keep rabbits. I defy him or anyone else to point to any provision in this Bill which would prevent him from keeping rabbits. The only thing which this Bill does is to say that if he keeps rabbits, he must not allow them to go to other places for food. There is nothing to prevent a man from taking large tracts of land if he desires to keep a rabbit farm, but this Bill provides that his rabbits must be kept at his expense, and not at the expense of other people. The second question that has been put is, who has asked for this Bill I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that it is asked for by the whole of organised agriculture. I do not confine that statement to those who are occupiers of land. I have had considerable correspondence with landowners, through their associations, and I have spoken to them individually, and this Bill is accepted by them. One and all look forward with great desire to the passing of this Bill, because it will bring about the destruction of a very considerable number of rabbits. My hon. and gallant Friend made amusing remarks with regard to three rabbits on his own premises. [An HON. MEMBER: "When did he count them?"] Unless he counted them this morning, he does not know how many there may be, because rabbits breed very quickly. He stated that he could abate the nuisance himself. It may be possible for him to do that, but I doubt whether he or anybody else can prevent damage being done by rabbits in gardens and farms adjacent to them. He cannot control them, and surely if he is desirous of keeping rabbits he ought to be compelled to maintain them. A question has been raised with regard to expense. This Bill need not, and will not be any expense to the county council. The only duty that the county council will have to perform under the Bill is to have an inspection made by an officer who is already in the service of the county council, namely, the agricultural officer. Any expense incurred in the destruction of the animals will fall upon the occupier of the land. From the proceeds of the destruction of the animals the county council will be empowered to claim their expenses, and any balance there may be will be paid to the occupier of the land. The county councils are already performing duties similar to those they are asked to perform under this Bill, in regard to rats and mice, and I cannot conceive the justice or the wisdom of asking for the destruction of the rat if you do not ask for the destruction of the rabbit. The rat, undoubtedly, consumes a far greater amount of corn than most people realise after the corn has been grown, but the rabbit consumes far greater quantities than the rat, because he eats the corn in the early stages and prevents the production of the corn itself. We shall be doing far greater benefit to agriculture than most people realise by passing this Measure. If there is one thing which occupiers of the land value to-day it is the good relationship which has existed from time immemorial between landlord and tenant. There is nothing in this Bill which in any way can be thought to interfere with the good relations between the landlord and tenant. This Bill safeguards those relations. At the present time, the only remedy that the occupier has is that he shall proceed by action in the court for compensation, and we know from experience the disastrous results of the procedure in regard to the relations between the landlord and the occupier of the land. Under the Bill it is only necessary that the occupier shall give notice to the county council of his desire for inspection, and when the inspection has been substantiated by the officer, means are taken to see that the rabbits are destroyed. I hope that the Bill will receive a speedy passage, and I am confident that a, very great sense of gratitude from all those connected with the land in the cultivation of crops will be felt when the Bill becomes law.
As my name appears on the back of the Bill, I should like to congratulate the Mover and the Seconder of the Second Reading. With regard to Clause 2, I would suggest amendment. Last year when the Bill was under discussion, I called attention to the provision under which the person desiring to be relieved of this pest., due to encroachment from this neighbour's rabbits, was charged £2 in order to get his case considered. I would make an appeal that that provision should be withdrawn. It looks very much like penalising the small man.
According to the Bill, if the appeal proves to be frivolous the £2 can be returned. That is one of the Amendments which was put in the Bill upstairs.
I accept that partial attempt to meet the case, but a man who pays money to a, public authority is much in the same position as the man who pays money to the rate collector. He will find it thundering hard to get it back. As the man himself is already a victim, it seems hard that he should be fined for reporting that he is a victim. Seeing that the Bill contains no means which will compel the defendant who really is the aggressor in these cases to put up the £2, it seems to me to be the old tale of a fear of touching anything approaching the owner of these woodlands from which very often hordes of rabbits come to do the damage on the land of the tenant farmer. I speak rather feelingly in regard to this matter, because three years ago when barley was a good price I was unfortunate enough in a field of about 20 acres to have seven acres eaten completely by hordes of rabbits which came from the woods of the landowner. If I as a tenant farmer had dared to set foot in these woods, I should have been regarded as a very questionable person in that portion of the countryside. I would ask my hon. Friend to withdraw the £2 fine on the sufferer, on condition that there is no Amendment moved to impose a fine on the man who really causes the damage by allowing his stock to trespass on other peoples land. It is a very simple law, which is generally recognised, that every man is supposed to fence against his own stock. Why not include rabbits in that stock, and instead of compelling us, as we are compelled, to net and protect ourselves against the incoming of these very pernicious little animals, we should be in a position to be safeguarded from their depredations.There has been a very considerable measure of agreement in regard to this Bill, except on the part of those who happen to be diehards on both sides of the House. I am delighted to find the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) becoming such a left-winger. I know the interest he has taken in the preservation of common land and, having secured the commons for all time, his next effort and crusade will probably be to go after foxes and pheasants, which he will find much more difficult to catch than the rabbit. I understand that the Government will give facilities for the passing of this Bill on which there is such a measure of agreement. Even the National Farmers' Union is co-operating in support of the Bill and, therefore, we may reasonably expect that the same spirit will prevail in relation to far more important matters affecting the welfare of the agricultural industry.
I desire to support the rejection of the Bill, because I am opposed to any extra burden being placed on the ratepayers of this country. The promoters of the Bill do not expect that it will entail any extra expense; but I am afraid that every Bill which comes before this House entails some further burden upon the rates and taxes, and that is why I desire to support the rejection of the Measure. The hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. W. B. Taylor) believes that it would be very difficult to get repayment of any money which has been paid in the way of a fine. That is the experience of everyone. It is very easy to pay money to the tax collector, or the rate collector, but very difficult indeed to get a penny of it back, and if you do it is only after a very great struggle. I object to the promiscuous destruction of rabbits. I play cricket and golf, and I come across scores of rabbits, and a promiscuous destruction of these animals may result in due course in my own extinction. I also come across a considerable number of ducks, but they are generally on the opposing side. If all these rabbits are to be sold in the market, there will be a glut of rabbits, and we shall have considerable trouble with the butchers. I am not anxious to record a vote against this Bill. I realise that there is a coalition between the promoters of the Bill and the Minister of Agriculture. The Measure is probably required, but at the same time I do object to all Acts Parliament which are likely to result in increased taxation. We cannot afford it in these days, and whether it means a penny extra rate or whatever it is, there is no doubt that at the present moment we want to cut clown, not increase, taxation.
I desire to make a few remarks on this Bill, because I possess a farm where the number of rabbits per acre is as great as on any farm in the United Kingdom. In summer time at the bottom of my garden, if I throw a stone 150 yards—
Can you throw a stone 150 yards
No, I cannot, but at a distance of 150 yards I can count rabbits thicker than. I can see sparrows in St. James' Park. A bunny has two sides—a utility side and a destructive side. Take the utility side first. His body is good food, and many tons of rabbit food are sold in this country throughout the year. People are able to obtain cheap and wholesome food. In the second place, he has a skin which, prior to the War, was valued at about ld., but to-day is valued at from 3d. to 7d. That value has increased solely owing to feminine vanity. Every woman looks forward to possessing a little bit of fur. Whether she is a factory worker or a noble countess, it makes no difference to her desire to adorn her person with a little bit of fur. The ordinary working girl cannot afford real fur which is obtained from the Northern parts of Europe and Alaska, but the development of the rabbit as a fur-bearing animal has enabled any lady who is in possession of a moderate income to adorn her coat with fur. That is a very great asset. Naturally, the contentment of a woman is the great desire of every man whoever he may be. If a worker in the possession of £2 or £3 per week is able to say to his wife, who is generally his domestic slave, "Well, my dear, I am quite willing to give you the money for this coat that you desire and for a little bit of fur," that woman is a contented wife. Feminine vanity has given rise to a British industry which has developed enormously not only in the preparation of rabbit skins but also in dyeing skins, and at the recent exhibition at the Crystal Palace we saw the wonderful way in which the skins of rabbits have been turned into furs which one never would have thought any rabbit had ever worn. That is on the asset side. The rabbit is an important asset from the point of view of food and also from the furibearing point of view.It has also another asset. In these times of agricultural depression farmers are turning their attention to the destruction of rabbits more than ever before. In parts of my division there are farms where there used to be a large number of rabbits; to-day it is very difficult to find one. I have a small share in a, small syndicate. On the ground, covering about 1,500 to 2,000 acres, we used to shoot hundreds of rabbits before the War. Last year we were not able to get hold of more than 15 in the whole season. The farms were shot over and so well snared and netted and ferreted that there were no rabbits left. Before the War when farmers were fairly prosperous they disdained the rabbit as food, but they use that food to-day, and in addition sell rabbits in the market in order to purchase groceries or other foods for the following week. Now we come to the other side of the account. Rabbits are destructive. have found them very destructive. But I made a balance sheet, and I placed the cost of protecting the farmer against the rabbits on one side, and on the asset side I placed the amount of money that received from the rabbits. My account last year left me a credit to the extent of £30 to £40. I am hopeful that this year my loss on my farm will he reduced by nearly £100 owing to the sale of the rabbits. There is the question of the injury to the farmer. If I do not net a field where I grow cabbages, naturally the rabbits will eat those cabbages. If I do not net a field where I am growing roots, the rabbits will have a considerable portion of those roots. Rabbits even learn after a time to jump over 30-inch netting; I have known that done. On the netting losses are very small. I guarantee that in a country such as I farm, and within a radius of probably 20 miles, where you used to find more rabbits per acre than in any other part of England, to-day if you canvass the farmers you will find that the great majority of them would vote against this Bill. I shall vote against the Bill.
But your name is on the back of it.
I know, but there was a misunderstanding about that. I am afraid that I cannot go back upon my conviction that this Bill will do considerably more harm than good. The rabbits to-day do considerably more good than harm.
I take the view that the Bill is not a good one. What happens under it is this: A man may go to a county council to complain about his neighbour without the neighbour being there at all. He may go behind his neighbour's back to the county council, and then, more or less in, camera, a committee or one of the officials decides the case against the neighbour, who perhaps has had no notice that anything is being done or said against him. What happens then? If a notice is served by the county council 14 days only are given for the abatement of the nuisance. If the nuisance is a real one it is clear that 14 days are insufficient completely to abate the nuisance to the satisfaction of the county council, and if the nuisance is a small one the order ought never to have been made. Look further and see what the farmer has to do once an order has been made against him. He has to take on his own shoulders the responsibility of starting an action in the county court in order to protect his rights. He has seven days in which to state the grounds of his objection. If the objection is not withdrawn within seven days he is given 21 days in which to go to the county court. But within that time the county council are already authorised under the Bill to come in and start abating the nuisance. There is no provision in the Bill that if the farmer is appealing to the county court the county council must hold their hand.I hate to see any legislation passed that will ultimately raise rates or taxes. I see no provision that the county council must pay if they take a wrong decision—a decision which, after all, they have taken on one-sided evidence in the absence of the man on whom the notice has been served. I would like to see in the Bill a provision that the two parties concerned should appear before some judicial committee or some committee of the county council and have the matter thrashed out fairly. It should not be left to a man to go to the council and merely say, "I think that rabbits are coming on to my land from my neighbour's." The Bill puts a power into the hands of an unscrupulous man to go behind the back of his neighbour. What real evidence have we that rabbits coming from neighbouring ground are such a plague? When a man's crops are eaten down by rabbits those rabbits are nearly always the rabbits which he has not bothered to exterminate on his own land. If rabbits stray to neighbouring land there are obvious runs through the boundary hedges, and a man can put wires there and catch the rabbits that come off another man's land. The proposals of the Bill might well cause unnecessary friction between neighbours. If I am wrong in my interpretation of the provisions I have misread the provisions of Clause 1, which says:
The farmer has no notice whatever that anything is being done until he gets a notice from the county council, who have already decided the case on the prima facie evidence of someone who comes along and says, "I have seen a dozen rabbits on the other side of my hedge and damage is likely to be caused to my crops." That power I dislike, and I shall vote against the Bill."If any person (in this Act referred to as a complaint) proves to the satisfaction of a county council that, by reason of the failure of an occupier of land within their area to restrict the number of rabbits on the land in his occupation, substantial damage is being caused or is likely to be caused to crops, trees, fences or pasturage on land in the occupation of the complainant, the county council may serve on the occupier a notice requiring him to abate…."
I must apologise to the House for not being here earlier to listen to this very interesting discussion, and it, is with great gratification that I find that there has been such a prolonged debate on this subject. I have only been in the House six years and I think there has been a Rabbits Bill each year since I came here. I remember that on one occasion I was the only person to rise in my place and, amid the usual groans and "grousing" of my fellow Members, to protest against the arbitrary powers which it was proposed to hand over to a body of people under a Bill of this kind. This should not be called a Rabbits Bill; it is really a "County Councils Jollification Bill." Under it, county councils will be given new and, in my opinion, most dangerous powers. I am proud to say that many of my nearest and dearest personal friends are members of county councils, but, for some extraordinary reason, once they get into the council chamber, all that makes them near and dear to me seems to vanish. They become extravagant and, very often, a most arbitrary body. I take a very definite stand against all extensions of the powers of county councils. They are just remote enough from the electors to feel irresponsible and they are not large enough bodies to feel their full responsibility. County councillors almost without exception, when one charges them with their shortcomings say, "You and the House of Commons thrust these duties on us, and force this expenditure on us, and make us inquisitorial, and therefore it is your fault." It shall not be my fault to-day if the House of Commons decides to increase their inquisitorial powers in this instance.What would be the position of the farmer or the landowner under this Bill? The county council can appoint a committee to take over these powers. On county councils there are many people, especially to-day, who are fond of rabbit shooting and other forms of shooting, and many would be only too glad to join a committee of this sort. It is not too much to suppose that members of such a committee would have friends fond of shooting, and those friends might suggest likely places for rabbit-shooting. In all seriousness, this Bill might make it pos- sible for the committee of the county council occasionally to have a Saturday's shooting over somebody else's land. Some of us on going home at the weekend, hoping to have a little shooting, might be told, "No, sir. You cannot shoot to-day; the county council are shooting to-day." Surely the House is not going to permit such an atrocity to get on to the Statute Book. I think this is the fifth occasion on which a Bill of this kind has been introduced, and I hope it will be the last. I hope that this time a sufficient number of rationalists have been able to attend here on Friday morning to give the Bill its quietus.
I have a great aversion from giving a silent vote, but I so often have to do so, that I hope that on this occasion I may be allowed to state my opinion of this Bill. There are four great troubles or nuisances in this country. The first, which is diminishing itself by degrees, naturally, because of the folly of the people concerned in it themselves, is Socialism. The second is the matter of lawyers which is beyond our discussion to-day. The third is the question of officials and the fourth is that of rabbits. Officials and rabbits, to my mind, both prey on the land of this country. They both take a great deal out and give back very little. Both have excellent points, but their excellencies are almost invariably entirely outweighed by the damage which they do. I have studied the rabbit, and I must admit that he shows a considerable quality of brain on some occasions. As a gardener, I have always noticed that if you put down a half-guinea plant and a half-crown plant in your garden, the rabbit will always eat the half-guinea plant first. Wealthy Members opposite who can go in for guinea and five guinea plants of course suffer very much more loss than I do in this respect.I hold that the only way of dealing with rabbits is something which has not yet
Division No. 4.]
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Cameron, A. G.|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Blindell, James||Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Chater, Daniel|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Brothers. M.||Church, Major A. G.|
|Batey, Joseph||Butler, R. A.||Cluse, W. S.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Cocks, Frederick Seymour.|
been mentioned. I hope that in due course we shall have once again a really intelligent Minister of Agriculture who will deal with the matter in the proper way. Trapping has not diminished the number of rabbits. It has increased them throughout the whole of the West Country, and the nuisance is very much worse now than it was 30 or 40 years ago. The real way of dealing with rabbits—I believe it has been tried in other countries with some success—is by birth control. This is perfectly serious. It is well known that in these matters the rabbit has gone to excess, if I might put it in that way. What I would like to urge on any respectable Minister of Agriculture would be to go into this matter from a scientific point of view, and to see whether he could not exercise, by degrees, some control in this particular way. That, I believe, is the real solution. This Bill merely sets up more committees and gives more work to already overburdened county councils. It goes upon entirely wrong lines in attempting to deal with this matter, and although I have a great respect for those who are associated with the Bill, I think they are not quite as up-to-date as some of us, and are not setting about this matter in the right way. I hope that sooner or later we may have a Government which will adopt the proper means, but in the meantime I do not see how I can vote for these proposals. The Government have introduced many indifferent and inadequate Measures, and if they are going to support this Bill—and I believe they consider it to be very valuable—I hope that, at any rate, we may deal with it in the Committee stage on the Floor of the House. Although I have no great aversion from the principles in the Bill, I must vote against the Second Reading. My quarrel with the Bill is that this is not the best way of doing what it seeks to do.
Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
The House divided: Ayes, 147; Noes, 21.
|Courtauld, Mayor J. B.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey |
|Cove, William G.||Mansfield, W.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||March, S.||Shield, George William|
|Daggar, George||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Marjoribanks, Edward||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Markham, S. F.||Simms, Major-General J.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Marley, J.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Messer, Fred||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)|
|Egan, W. H.||Mills, J. E.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Milner, Major J.||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon Sir W.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Montague, Frederick||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Foot, Isaac||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Freeman, Peter||Mort, D. L.||Smithers, Waldron|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Moses, J. J. H.||Snell, Harry|
|Glassey, A. E.||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Muggeridge, H. T.||Sorensen, R.|
|Gould, F.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter]||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Walker, J.|
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Penny, Sir George||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Perry, S. F.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Hore Belisha, Leslie||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Watkins, F. C.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Wellock. Wilfred|
|Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)||Pole, Major D. G.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Potts, John S.||West, F. R.|
|Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Raynes, W. R.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Kennedy, Thomas||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Romeril, H. G.||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh,|
|Law, Albert (Bolton)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Lawrence, Susan||Rowson, Guy||Womersley, W. J.|
|Lawson, John James||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Leach, W.||Samuel Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Wright, W. (Rutherglen)|
|Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Savery, S. S.|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
|Lees, J.||Sawyer, G. F.||Mr. Hanbury and Lieut.-Colonel|
|Lloyd, C. Ellis||Scrymgeour, E.||Acland-Troyte.|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Gower, Sir Robert||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Longden, F.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Lowth, Thomas||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Campbell, E. T.||McElwee, A.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Ede, James Chuter||Rathbone, Eleanor|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES—.
|Ferguson, Sir John||Reynolds, Col. Sir James||Major Llewellin and Colonel|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
Architects (Registration) Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."Before dealing with the merits and provisions of this Bill, I should like to give a very slight indication or outline of its history during the past few years. It was introduced in 1927 first in this House, and secured a Second Reading, subject to the proviso that it be sent to a Select Committee. The report of that Select Committee, which sat for 14 working days and took evidence from 20 different organisations, was published, but, as will be seen from the recommendations, it was not sufficiently strong to enable the House to proceed with the Bill on that occasion. There were certain reasons for the report that was made, which I will explain later. The report said this:
Although the result was somewhat unfortunate in that the Bill was not reported to the House, the feelings of the members of the Committee were that, as amended, it should be given a further opportunity of being considered. The advice tendered by the Select Committee was accepted, and the next year the Bill was again introduced in an amended form. Unfortunately, owing to certain advantages being taken by hon. Members not interested in its progress, it was counted out. It was then taken to the House of Lords, introduced by Lord Crawford and Balcarres, and passed through all its stages in that House, almost without criticism, and certainly without amendment. It came down to this House, but, unfortunately, the Dissolution came, and it was unable to be proceeded with. I feel, therefore, in advancing the cause of this Bill again in this House, that I may be sure of knowing that it will be given a sympathy and an understanding that will guarantee its going upstairs to Committee, I hope, without a Division; but if there is any opposition to the Bill left—and I feel that there cannot be any of substance—I am authorised, on behalf of the promoters, to say that if the Bill is sent to Cornmittee, after having received a Second Reading, we shall be prepared to meet any reasonable suggestions which will make the Bill a better, more efficient, or more effective weapon to secure the object which we have in view. There is no desire in any way to be obstructive, or not to recognise that everyone has rights and that every kindred society has its views; and we would be prepared fully and freely to extend our minds to take in whatever further propositions are likely to be made. The promoters of the Bill are the Royal Institute of British Architects. Most people in the House and outside recognise the Institute as occupying a unique position in our public life. Out of 46 architectural associations in the British Empire, 44 are affiliated to the Institute, which shows the imperial connection which the association has established throughout its long period of existence. It was given its first Charter by William IV, and the Charter was continued by Queen Victoria, King Edward and our present King. It was charged with the duty of supervising training and looking after architects generally throughout the Empire. The Institute, therefore, is an association not merely national but imperial. The membership numbers 8,000, which is far and above other associations which would desire the amenities which this Bill seeks to bring about. I would like to make my arguments under two or three headings, and to speak first about the profession itself. I suppose that I do not exaggerate when I say that practically everyone in the country owes something of comfort and beauty in life to the profession. There is nothing that touches our lives quite so closely as the work of architects. I imagine that to those great men who have practised the profession in the past we owe a debt which we can never repay. You have only to stand on Westminster Bridge on an October afternoon and look across at this wonderful pile of buildings here to recognise almost in a spirit of awe the beauty of mind and design, of soul almost, that must have inspired those great men who followed the profession in the olden days. We have men to-day who are following them, and it is to these men that we wish to give the benefit of this Bill, by creating a standard of education and intelligence and of purpose which will keep the profession as the custodian of British architecture in future. Along with all the beauty of design and spaciousness which we see around us in some of our buildings, along with the handsome streets that are springing up, along with the charming countryside and those wonderful old houses of two or three hundred years ago, along with all that which administers so much to our pleasure and comfort, there marches ugliness, squalor and intolerable poverty-stricken conditions, especially in our slums, our mining villages and our industrial towns. There is nothing more pathetic and shameful than to go into the slum streets of some of our big towns and see how squalid the lives of some of our people can be. It is a constant source of shame to see how uncomplainingly and courageously they bear their lot. It is for these people that I would like to speak to-day. They deserve something from us which we alone can give them, and it is the duty of this House through its members to give such support to this Bill as will assure that such direct contracts will be prevented. You can go into a large town where out of one of the most slumlike areas, springs up a noble structure, the dome of a cathedral, full of great beauty, full of most wonderful design that touches the chords of the heart and makes even the most hardened feel a little bit better. Then you go out of the Cathedral and see around nothing but poverty and squalor. That is one of the things which we mean to attack through this Bill. In Clause 3 of the Bill we propose to set up a register of architects, and in Clause 5 we provide for the admission to this register of all persons practising as bonâ fide architects, and those who are under instruction or engaged as architectural assistants. We propose to allow these people, that is, the architects who are not affiliated to any architectural association, to come on to this register of architects, and we propose to allow the architectural assistants and all those who are in course of being qualified, to come on to the register without examination. We further give them five years in which to apply for admission to the register. In Clause 5 also we set up an admission committee. That consists of members of various important organisations which have a direct and mostly an indirect, association with the profession. We have made the committee on as broad a basis as it was humanly possible to conceive. The committee naturally will have a certain responsibility placed upon it, and their duty will be to confine the register to people who will satisfy the necessary demands. Having taken in all those who do not belong at present to any architectural association, we then say that we must set up an architects examination board in order to provide that those who desire at a later date to join the association, must have an examination. The examination board will consist of men of wide knowledge and experience who have a very close association with the business and training of architects. Clause 7 sets up a discipline committee, which will, when necessary, remove names from the register and deal with the complaints of such as are aggrieved. On that committee repre- sentatives of the Law Society and the Ministry of Health will find a place. No one whose name is taken off the register need feel any doubt that there is any danger of his being treated unjustly. There is a dispensation in the Bill which will allow of an appeal to a court of law. In promoting this Bill we feel that we are not asking for anything unjust, that we are not asking for anything unreasonable. We want to apply the same reasonable restrictions to the profession of architects as are applied in the case of doctors and lawyers and other members of the learned professions. We want to ensure that a man is not registered as an architect without due qualification to give adequate and useful services to the public who employ him. We want to ensure that while those who are responsible for the life and the health of the public are protected, as is the case with doctors and lawyers, those members of the architectural profession on whose skill and sense of design and of beauty three-quarters of our people depend for their daily comforts and amenities, shall also be safeguarded. Surely that is not too much to ask. We feel that explanation is needed upon one point which has been advanced against this proposal on other occasions. It has been stated in opposition that a boy of poor parents would be precluded from entering the profession. Nothing could be further from the truth. The average yearly applicants for the probationary examination of the Royal Institute of British architects number 115. About 60 of them come from elementary schools, and about 55 out of those 60 on the average are from council elementary schools. That shows that it is not a closed profession, and that from every section of the community it draws its members. But, further than that, the Royal Institute of British Architects provides bursaries and scholarships for the purpose of ensuring that boys and girls from poorer homes may have the same opportunity of getting to the top of the profession, as well as getting into the profession, as have members of other sections of the community. They lay down only that there shall be determination and ability; there is no other bar. I trust, therefore, that some of my friends opposite who have had feelings of antagonism against the proposal on these grounds will no longer have any doubt on this point. One thing I wish to make clear. We want to do away with the present possibility of an undertaker or candlestick-maker calling himself an architect. We want to ensure that the public shall no longer be deluded, but that they shall be fully protected. At present there is a ridiculous comedy of deception going on when people, without qualifications or any architectural knowledge or experience, may set themselves up and call themselves architects, and take money that should be spent with architects who know their job and have qualifications to carry out what is required. One other point, with regard to the general public. We want to protect them and ensure that they shall get a square deal; that when they go to a man calling himself a registered architect they shall know what to expect. We want to set up a standard for the architect so that when the public buy his services they will know what they are to get and will pay only for what they get. Unless we can get this Bill through and secure that every man in the profession satisfies the educational demands of his profession, it will not be possible to get a square deal. With regard to slums, many of our people have had their whole outlook, moral, mental and spiritual, embittered by the poor, sordid, squalid houses in which they have had to live. That is not the fault of an individual so much as of the period in which we live. But if we set up a standard of architecture as high as we can, we desire to see that everyone who follows the profession in the future shall subscribe to that standard, and if we can succeed in doing this we shall go a step forward on the road to the goal at which we are aiming. We want to ensure that we shall create a community of expert enthusiasts who can really bring comfort and graciousness even to a two-roomed house. We want to develop the profession into a community of practical idealists who can take control of the highways and byways, of the public streets, the countryside and our villages, and turn them into places spacious and utilitarian for the people. I believe that that can be done, and I would say, let us keep away the quack jerry-builders who call themselves architects. I do not think that we owe posterity anything, but we owe to ourselves a lot. In this century we have seen more achievement, more of heroism, than has been witnessed for the last 2,000 years. Are we merely to hand this down as history, or can we hand down to posterity something vital, something virile, something more informing of our history, something alive that will let posterity know of what the 19th and the 20th century consisted and the ideals that we created on which they may judge us? If we can do anything to make posterity better acquainted with what we have achieved in this century, then we ought to do it. To sum up, we ask for nothing unfair. We have met every legitimate objection, we have satisfied every legitimate interest. We have shown by Clause 5 that we are prepared to bring in all those at present attached to outside architectural organisation, learners and students of architecture. We have to ensure that the term "registered architect" will have a definite value and that the public will know what they are paying for; and furthermore, we have taken precaution, in the Schedules, of seeing that those people who have practised architecture and are in touch with art, and the profession shall be brought in to give us the benefit of their experience, and ensure that this committee to be set up will be carried on to the general satisfaction of all future members of the architectural profession. For the sake of future members of the profession, for whom we would like to make it a safe, secure and dignified profession; for the sake of our people, whose comfort and interests we wish to protect; and for the sake of that posterity to whom we would like to bequeath a true and faithful record of the spiritual, moral and material outlook of the 20th century, I ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill."In view of the fact, that the Clauses of the Bill had been amended by the Committee in the light of the evidence submitted, and that the final vote of five to four not to report the Bill to the House does not represent the view of the Committee of 11 Members as a whole, your Committee hope that an early opportunity will be given to the House next Session of considering a Bill framed on the lines of this Bill as amended."
I have the greatest pleasure in seconding the Motion. I have spent all my active life in organising workers into amalgamations and federations, local and national, and I know of no profession which calls for national organisation more than that of the architect. He has held Aladdin's lamp aloft through all the centuries, but professionally he is disorganised and demoralised because of the lack of communication between the various sections of his profession. I have made inquiries and have satisfied myself that every legitimate claim will be met by the sponsors of this Bill; and I feel that everyone associated with our local bodies will be able to take their rightful share in helping to remodel the houses in which we are rehousing our people. Though at the beginning the machinery may work irregularly and unsuspected difficulties may crop up, these can be handled 'with firmness and wisdom by a disciplined executive.I wish to see this body of professional men organised. We live in the days of organisation and rationalisation, and the profession that is not organised stands to lose a great deal by its detachment. The architect impinges on the intimate relationships of domestic life. His profession is concerned with the housing of our people and with the erection of our factories and mills. As things are, however, our local authorities are not protected. Even that wonderful scheme of rehousing which has come from the Ministry of Health is not protected as it might be. When one seeks the aid of a doctor one wants to secure the most efficient and the most dependable doctor, and those who have made a study of the present conditions in architecture will agree that there is a need to reorganise this profession on a national basis of dignity and authority and responsibility. At the moment the profession of the architect has no great national, responsibility, and there are no means of exercising disciplinary force from either within or without the profession. One can conceive a national executive being taken into consultation by the Minister of Health and by the great bodies which desire to reorganise housing and re-shape our towns so as to give us buildings of noble proportions and utility; and equally one can imagine the difficulties that are in the way so long as the present lack of discipline exists. In the rehousing schemes of Holland and the creation of garden cities there the architects of Holland, under the discipline of their association, have lent the State important aid. Our political and trade union organisations found, when visiting Holland. that when the architect came in he was able to improve upon every suggestion that had been made, and designed houses for the workers of Holland such as placed them in the most favoured position in Europe. I want to see some such organisation in this country. There ought to be no class bias. If I felt that the ordinary worker had not as much opportunity to contribute with his brains and skill and experience to this great profession I would be the last to support this Measure. I do not wish to impute motives, but I look upon an architect who does not desire to join his national trade union as I look upon the workman who likes to enjoy all the benefits of organisation without making any contribution towards it. I enjoyed the beautiful pictures which the mover of the Motion created in our imaginations, and I feel that there is a spirit of idealism as well as of utility behind this Measure. There is idealism in the work of the architect; we see it expressed in our modern factories, our religious buildings and in our garden cities and if we can create an authoritative body in architecture on a national basis we shall do a great. deal towards abolishing jerry building and the Ministry of Health would be able to work miracles in the way of securing at least a mean level of scientific and sanitary construction in our homes. I do not believe the last word will ever he said in architecture. I believe that beauty can be added to beauty and glory in outline and nobility of structure added to glory in outline and nobility of structure. Here is a chance, the first chance which I ever remember being offered to this House, to call together the brains, the skill, the craftsmanship and the art of a very important body of professional men; and those of us who love our country and who, whatever our religion may be, know and love our cathedrals, must at least see in those glorious structures a conception of what may be possible if the nation as a whole sets to work to create beautiful homes for our people. I want to see the time when our slums will be cleared away. I believe in my soul that the architects of this country have the power to dominate direct control, and achieve the reorganisation of our housing system in such a way that it would be worth while handing down to posterity as a lesson and an example.
I rise to support the Second Reading of this Measure, which applies, if not actually, at least potentially, to Northern Ireland. It has the whole-hearted support of the incorporated architects of Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that the introduction of a system of registration for architects will have a beneficial effect both morally and materially upon the profession, and, what is more important still, is that it will benefit the publis and the community generally. The architects of this country ought. to have facilities for conducting examinations and exercising disciplinary powers like the Law Society, the Dental Board and the General Medical Council. There is no doubt that before long the accountants of this country will come along and demand registration.I am interested in two of the professions which I have mentioned, namely, the medical profession and the dental profession. Ten years ago the dental profession was in a chaotic condition. Hon. Members will recollect that at one time we saw specious and vulgar advertisements and a degrading system of canvassing in connection with dentistry. In that profession at that time a vast horde of people wholly unqualified were trading upon the credulity of the public. All that has been remedied by the passing of the Dentists Act, which was introduced in 1921. That Act gave to the dentists of the country the standard of a profession, and it regulated the practice of dentistry. The result has been that all the former abuses which existed in that profession has been swept away, and the moral and prestige of the dental profession have been immensely improved. The dentists are rapidly raising themselves to the status of a learned profession, and they are very keen to drive out those who are unworthy or unqualified. The advantages of registration are apparent, and I fail to understand any of the objections which have been raised to it, seeing that it raises the tone and the moral of the profession and places it in an authoritative position for examining candidates for the profession of architecture. Any person may be his own architect. The builder or contractor may be his own architect if he is not prepared to employ a registered architect, and that is a matter for himself. The Bill will not exclude members of the architectural profession who have gone through a thorough course of training, and had been certified by the universities or granted diplomas by the Institute or the Royal College. The public have a right to know when seeking an architect, that those who use the term "registered architect" have the necessary qualifications for the due discharge of the onerous duties of an architect, and that is what is provided for in this Bill. After the inclusion of those architects who are at the present time fully qualified, there will come a time when the profession will carefully guard the register so that all who are admitted to it will have passed through a proper course of training. Meanwhile there will be a generous inclusion of all those who are shaping to become architects. That provision ought to remove one of the objections which many people have urged against the establishment of a register of architects as bringing about undue hardships on people who, not foreseeing exactly what was coming, have been debarred from proceeding to the profession which they desire to take up. I hope that eventually the architects will have a similar body to the Law Society, the General Medical Council, or the Dental Board, which will enable them to supervise the education of the rising architect, and will be entitled to examine and grant diplomas to students who are worthy of it and will have disciplinary power to disbar or strike off the register members of the profession who have been guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect, and who have lowered the credit or prestige of this noble profession. Disciplinary powers are important, but they will not be exercised until the profession has reached a stable position—
[ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and, 40 Members being present—
I think I have said all that I wanted to say on this matter. I hope that it will not be regarded as in any sense a party matter, but that Members in all quarters of the House will concur in cordially approving of the merits of the important services which the architect's profession renders at the present time, when town planning, the preservation of the amenities of the countryside, the abolition of ribbon development, and so forth, are burning questions, and that it will be agreed that this Measure will be a very useful one. I conclude by asking the House to give it a sympathetic reception and to accord it a Second Reading.
The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) drew a very moving picture of the progressive tendencies of the architectural profession, and its ideals with regard to the rebuilding of England; and my hon. Friend the Member for North Salford (Mr. Tillett), who, I believe, has spent more years in the organisation of the working class than I have been on this earth, seconded with such moving eloquence that I really hesitated as to whether I should in any way oppose this Bill. We, however, are sent here as representatives of our constituencies, and, when views are put before us by our constituents, it is our duty to bring them before this House. In voicing the opposition to this Bill, I will not traverse what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for North Salford with regard to the trade union aspect of the Bill, but I am certain that he, who over a lifetime has been making efforts to bring together the diversified elements, made up of something like 150 trade unions, which have ultimately become the great and powerful Transport Workers' Federation, will agree with me that that amalgamation and that bringing together of the varying interests among the trade unionists of the transport world was not achieved by the methods of the bludgeon, but was achieved by methods of compromise, reason, and long-standing patience. Therefore, I want to put the point of view of those whom I represent in the Dartford Division of Kent, and to put their arguments against the Bill. One of them is that there are in the polytechnics of Woolwich, Gravesend and Dartford, and, in fact, in nearly all the polytechnics of Great Britain, young men working at their trade as plasterers, bricklayers, joiners—the ordinary routine work of the ordinary working-class lad—who are devoting their evenings and their Saturday afternoons to improving their capacity to serve; and they are dubious as to their prospects with regard to the interpretation of this Bill. Sub-section (1, d) of Clause 5 says that among the persons who will be entitled to be registered will be:Every person
that is to say, the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs, who is in charge of this Bill—"You will, I am sure, be glad to hear that we had a very successful meeting of our Registration Committee, and that the Chairman is satisfied that there will be no difficulty in getting them to agree in principle to the formula suggested in your letter of the 13th March. They will probably be meeting again shortly to prepare a definite document, which I can send to you, and in the meantime we have asked Colonel Moore "—
It finally ends on 30th October with this statement, refusing any attempt at a meeting after all these put-offs and evasions, that"to do nothing in the way of pushing the Bill this Session."
After all, these societies are existing and doing work and, if the House is to take any steps at all to improve the status and standard of one of the most important crafts of Great Britain, the craft of architecture, we should see, of all people, that the foundation is well and truly laid. The gentlemen who have circulated a statement in support of the Bill include one of the most distinguished back benches of the post-War Parliament, Major Harry Barnes. Over a period of years he has done a wonderful amount of work for architecture and, in his appeal to us to do what we can in regard to the Bill, he uses phrases that are very moving. With all respect to him and to the association that he represents, unless we can get. from the movers of the Bill the assurance that these small kindred societies, view them how you will, will have their rights safeguarded in the Measure as it goes forward, I shall have no other alternative than to oppose the Bill."The Royal Institute of British Architects is under no obligation of any kind to your body … the registration committee do not propose to make any alteration in the form of the Bill."
I do not think it necessary at this stage to discuss the principles of the Bill. If ever a Bill has been subject to the scrutiny of Parliamentary procedure and debate, it is this Bill. Not. only has it been before a Select Committee, but it has been passed by the House of Lords, and it was only by a Parliamentary trick that it is not now on the Statute Book. I think the point made by the last speaker is a good one. I am assured by the promoters that they are very anxious during the Committee stage to consider all possible objections and grievances, because you do not want to get a Bill like this by compulsion, but by acquiescence. If the promoters had been as reasonable in meeting the legitimate demands of the very many kindred associations that may be affected, we should all have our Friday afternoons free as a half holiday. The great majority of Members on these benches with whom I have discussed it welcome the principle of the Bill. It is one that we can highly commend. It, is in accord with the tendency of modern social and economic life that bodies of men are trying to make themselves more efficient and more able to render service to the community and trying to raise their status, just as lawyers, doctors and dentists have been able to render great service to the community by binding themselves together and making themselves qualified. I do not think the House has the right to deny to the oldest and the most honourable profession the right to do the same thing so that the standard of efficiency can be increased. I represent a constituency where we have two types of a architecture. It has more buildings scheduled as ancient buildings than any other City in Great Britain except London. That 'is what architecture has done for us in the past. There are also splendid examples of new architecture, new housing estates and new pavilions going up in the parks. Side by side we have the old and the new. Far be it from me in any way to deny privileges to a body of men who are trying to raise their status in the general interests of the country.
I, like my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills), claim to say something on behalf of the constituents whom I represent. I have received a communication from a very large firm of architects and surveyors in my district asking me to oppose the Bill on the ground that the promoters have not given reasonable consideration to their institution. The Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors is the society to which the firm belongs and, in their communication, they infer that the promoters had not given them an opportunity of discussing with them what they would like to have in the Bill.They have been cut off fairly short with their communications and correspondence as my hon. Friend has said. As far as I know, the Royal Institute of British Architects has perhaps the largest organisation representing architects, and they claim that they are "it" and the other associations are not "it." This association says it is the second largest association of British architects and it is desirous of being communicated with and corresponded with and agreed with, if possible, with the other Association, and they ask that this Bill should be adjourned or opposed until the promoters come to the conclusion that it is right to give them a full opportunity of considering and discussing their views. I think that is very reasonable. We should never have got amalgamation of various organisations if we had not been tolerant with them, and this is a very intolerant way of going on and trying to get their ends. The mover of the Bill said there is no closed door of this Association. Perhaps there is not at present, but if they got this Bill through it would not be long before there was. That is what these people are seriously considering. I do not know, so far as trade unionism is concerned, that they are not right in getting even an Act of Parliament behind them. When it comes to a question of getting the ordinary rank and file into an organisation, we have these people who want a close combination for themselves absolutely against us, and we shall not be very long before we see bow they will act. If the Government get on with their Trade Disputes Bill, we shall have the whole of the opposite side of the House absolutely against us, simply because we want to get the workmen in our organisation under the control and command of the rules and regulations of our societies. That is all that these people are asking to be allowed to do. I hope that there will be delay in pushing this Bill through, or, if the House happens to give it a Second Reading, that the promoters will be prepared when the Bill goes to Committee to accept Amendments to Clauses which will help to meet the views of the other people who are not inclined to agree to the Clauses at the moment. If such an intention is reported to the House to-day, there is a proba- bility that I may not go into the Opposition Lobby, but unless we get some reasonable consideration for these other associations who are desirous of being represented under the provisions of the Bill, I shall have to vote against the Bill.
I have been acquainted for a great many years with the movement which is incorporated in this Bill. It has been the desire of architects in general, a very large majority of them, that some such organisation should be set up as is proposed to be set up under this Bill. The hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March) referred to certain difficulties and negotiations between the Royal Institute of British Architects and another body or other bodies. It has been stated before, and it can be stated again, that it is the desire on the part of all the authorities concerned with architectural legislation to meet together and to come to an agreed solution. It is in Committee that all these things can he fought out and settled. I am able to assure the hon. Member opposite that as far as the Royal Institute of British Architects are concerned, they are ready to meet all reasonable objections with the utmost hospitality and willingness to satisfy all kinds of legitimate criticism.The registration of architects has been a question under discussion for a great many years, and it takes a long time to bring these things to fruition. We have seen other professions, notably the dentists, brought under a registration organisation with the very best effect. The movement is one directly in accordance with the general tendency of social organisations and of legislation in the present day. The architects are in nowise different from the lawyers, medical doctors and so forth. With all these various professions developing in their different directions with so much activity, they stand in need of an organisation which in the past was quite unnecessary for them. I think that the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Mills), who is not now in his place, was from the tone of his remarks really in his heart of hearts in favour of this Measure. His criticisms were points of detail, but broadly speaking, I think that the general intention of the Measure met with his sympathy if not with his actual support. I need not extend my remarks any further ex- cept to say that as a rule the University representatives are not often—I will not say troubled—approached by their constituents to do this or that. Such is the satisfaction which we University Members give to all our constituents that they leave us comfortably alone. But on this occasion I have received an unusual number of requests that I should support this Bill, which I am now glad to do.
At this stage I might, in a few sentences, indicate the attitude of the Government towards this Bill. The House is fortunate in that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore), in a very persuasive speech, set out in very clear and concise language the main provisions of this Bill. I think that we all share his opinion respecting the many examples of miserable architecture and design which exist in various parts of the country and which are undoubtedly offensive to the eye and to any reasonable conception of art and beauty. I would point out that many of these lurid examples of architecture which were complained of were designed by those who called themselves architects who will if this Bill reaches the Statute Book still unhappily be able to follow their art. But be that as it may, the House is compelled to remember that the proposals embodied in this Bill and in its predecessors experienced a somewhat chequered career at the hands of the House and though there is no real hostile criticism this afternoon, we should be unwise if we failed to recognise that there is a divergence of opinion, not among lay people, but among the architects themselves. There is a large body of opinion, including the Incorporated Association of Architects and Surveyors, the second largest association, I think, of architects, who are very much averse to the provisions of this Bill. I can only say, having regard to the statements of the promoters and the supporters of the Bill, that it will be well, if this Bill reaches the Committee, stage, that these facts shall not be ignored and that a real attempt shall be made to secure possible agreement in connection with these matters.I am not going to discuss the merits or demerits of the provisions of the Bill. I think that they are all familiar to the House. In so far as the need for more adequate and proper education in architecture is concerned, we can all agree, and, as far as the Bill seeks to obtain a higher standard of education and provides for further and better provision in connection with education, once again, I say, we can find ourselves in agreement. On the other hand there is criticism from many that by virtue of a Measure of this kind we are apt to create a very close corporation, and many people in these days view that with great suspicion. We are entitled to regard the matter from a different point of view from the powers extended to the medical profession, to dentists or the legal profession, in this sense that here we are dealing with creative art. It would be unfortunate if art should be robbed of the greatest artists merely because they were not registered. Here, I am expressing my personal view. The attitude of the Government can be stated in a sentence. We shall leave it entirely to a free vote of the House. The House will have the satisfaction of knowing that the Government are not throwing their weight in one direction or the other, and that the monsters of the Front Bench do not seek to interfere with the freedom of hon. Members.
One does not object to a body of professional men desiring, for their own interests, a properly constituted union or association, but I do not think it is the work of Parliament to give to such an organisation compulsory power to enrol people in its ranks. That should be left free to the voluntary work of those who can prove that their voluntary association is the right one. The purpose in view is not so much to raise the standard of architecture or of constructive art or to abolish jerry building, as to give a close co-operation and a very tight vested interest to these people, to enable them to maintain their profession for those of a certain class. That would be the effect in the long run of this particular Measure, and therefore I am opposed to it. An analogy has been drawn between the architectural profession and the professions of law and medicine. When it comes to a question of law, the poor layman is in 'a quandary, because owing to the complications introduced by lawyers who have designed and made the law he cannot judge the value of the lawyer's professional work. In the handling of property we know that even if one buys a small house and has to raise a mortgage, by the time the legal formalities have been gone through, anything up to 25 per cent. of the price paid for the property has to go to the lawyers and the law generally. On the other hand, if one buys a horse or certain goods a stamped agreement is all that is necessary. The lawyers are using their close corporation to inflict a fine on housing transactions and the property transactions of the people generally. It is one of the scandals of this nation the way in which the lawyers are bleeding the people, and no doubt other professions want to come into the same position.
You want a Transfer of Land Act.
The hon. Member belongs to a party who was in power for four and a half years, but they did not seek to bring in a Transfer of Land Bill, because that party includes a great many lawyers who would take care that such a Bill did not pass. When it comes to a question of the medical profession, we have to exercise a sort of blind faith because we cannot see the work that they are doing and we cannot appraise the disturbing factors which may militate against their success. When it comes to architecture, the layman can judge. He can judge design from the point of view of art, he can judge design from the point of view of efficiency and the needs of his business or of his domestic concerns. I should be very sorry to see the nation in the position that was indicated by the hon. Member for North Salford (Mr. Tillett), where the architects had control. I do not know what would happen to the housing of the people if the architects had control. We went through a period during 1919–20, under an Act of Parliament known as the Addison Act, during which the liability of the local authority was limited to a penny rate and the Government was responsible for the rest. As a consequence, in all the housing schemes that were laid down the architectural advisers of the Ministry had very great power and they made some very pretty designs. They designed a lot of beautiful little pictures of houses with recesses, abutments and angles, but in regard to most of these houses it cost more to put the roof on the house than the house was worth. The workers want houses to live in. They do not live on the roof. Wherever you go, under the Addison Act where the architects of the Ministry had the authority they were regardless of expense, of course they got their fees in proportion to the expenses, but when it came to the interior design of the houses a practical housewife would have designed a house more suited to the working classes of this country than these wonderful architects, with their enormous fees. That is one reason why I should be very sorry to see the housing of the people in the hands of an association such as is contemplated in this Bill.The hon. Member for North Salford spoke about the disgrace of jerry-building. That has nothing to do with the architectural profession. The architect may design but it is the local authority, through its building surveyor, that has to see that jerry-building does not go on. There is no guarantee however much you pay your architect, however dignified his position may be, or however close his corporation, that jerry-building will not go on. In connection with the biggest buildings, the man who sees that the work is carried out is not the architect but the clerk of works, and if he is a competent man the clerk of works has usually risen from the ranks of building workers. In connection with many of our great buildings the architect may have been paid his fees and made a pretty picture from the outside, but we find time after time that when it comes to the construction of the building he has designed a mare's nest, and the foreman or the clerk of works has to get him out of his difficulty. In the past from the ranks of the building workers a large number of men have been able to rise to the position of architects and have been responsible for some of the finest work in this country, and for the very good reason that it is only the exceptional man who can rise from the ranks. If we adopt this kind of legislation the architects will do very well. People who have money to spend on their sons will pay heavy fees to article their sons to the architects, although they may be quite unsuited for it. They will, however, get through because they have been articled, but they may be any sort of dud when it comes to practical work, whereas the man who has risen from the ranks, the man who has been a wage-earner as an assistant in an architect's office, or who has been engaged on buildings; the young man of brains who has acquired practical knowledge, will be more fitted for the position of architect. By leaving the profession open to such men we shall be fishing from a very big sea. If you want to catch big fish it is no use fishing in a small pond, and if you have this kind of legislation for this profession you will be confining your fishing operations to a very small pond indeed. There is something else. As a skilled craftsman myself I do not believe in the idea that once a labourer, always a labourer. If a keen young man is prepared to equip himself he should be able to rise in his profession. By this legislation you are saying that once a carpenter always a carpenter, once a bricklayer always a bricklayer, once a general foreman always a general foreman, once a clerk of works always a clerk of works; and that they can never become architects. It is much the same as what occurs in the legal profession. The smart and keenest clerk who has equipped his mind can never become a solicitor unless he has his articles of association from his principal. Many of the keenest minds in the minor branches of the legal profession have to be salaried employés, and can never become solicitors on their own account, because they have never been able to pay the fees. It will be so in this case, and I want to see the opportunity open to every man in the building profession to rise. Registration is to be limited to persons of certain organisations.
Every person who at the passing of this Act is or has been in bona. fide practice as an architect;
At the end of four years the bona fide architectural assistant will be cut right out, and only those who have been articled and paid the fees will be entitled to be registered. I am sure that architects will do very well out of this Bill. They will be able to draw very heavy fees. The Bill entirely precludes from any consideration some of those extremely capable men who sometimes have to put the architect right, namely, the clerk of works and the general foreman. I have known some of these men. They have been engaged on very big work in London, and their creative genius and ability have been known to those who have engaged them. It would be a great mistake from the national point of view, and from the point of view of the improvement of our architecture and our homes and the efficiency of buildings designed for commercial and industrial purposes, to say that these men shall not have the opportunity of rising in the profession, and that only those who have had an academic training and an experience in the limited scope of one particular architect's office shall be considered, to the exclusion of those clerks of works and general foremen who have had the advantage of acquiring a knowledge and a skill by working for one architect and another on all kinds of different buildings and coming into touch with different ideas whereas the articled pupil only gets the experience of one particular firm. It is, in my judgment, a mistake to have this piece of legislation. There is no need for it. If a, man can submit a design which meets with the approval of his customers, he should be entitled to undertake the work. From the point of view of the liberty of all men in all trades to rise in the profession without let or hindrance, I hope the House will reject this Bill and say to the architectural profession that if they desire an association to speak in their name, if they desire to raise the status of their calling, they should do exactly the same as the engineer and transport worker have to do. They should join their organisation and by their zeal, pride and interest in their calling should make it a success without coming to Parliament and asking for compulsory powers to exclude better men than themselves from the profession.Every person—
(i) who was for a period of five years immediately prior to and is at the passing of this Act a bona fide architectural assistant; or (ii) who subsequently to the passing of this Act has completed a period of five years (one year at least of which period shall have been prior to the passing of this Act) as a bona fide architectural assistant."
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
Ordered, "That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the question of Capital Punishment in cases tried by civil courts in time of peace and to report whether another penalty, and, if so, of what nature, should be substituted for the sentence of death in such cases where that sentence is now prescribed by law:"
Mr. Ayles, Mr. Barr, Dr. Bentham, Mr. Culverwell, Mr. Lovat-Fraser, Dr. Hunter, Mr. Thomas Lewis, Mr. Marjoribanks, Major Milner, Mr. Philip Oliver, Sir John Power, Mr. Ramsbotham, Sir Gervais Rentoul, Major Ross, and Mr. Toole nominated Members of the Committee.
Ordered, "That the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Capital Punishment of last Session, together with the Appendices, be referred to the Committee, and be printed."
Ordered, "That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records:"
Ordered, "That Five be the quorum of the Committee." — [ Mr. Charles Edwards.]
Committee Of Privileges
Ordered, "That the Committee of Privileges do consist of Ten Members:"
The Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, Mr. Stanley Baldwin, Mr. Bowerman, Lord Hugh Cecil, Mr. Secre- tary Clynes, Mr. Secretary Henderson, Sir Dennis Herbert, Mr. Macpherson, and Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay nominated Members of the Committee.
Ordered, "That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records:"
Ordered, "That Five be the quorum of the Committee." — [ Mr. Charles Edwards.]
Publications And Debates Reports
Ordered, "That a Select Committee be appointed to assist Mr. Speaker in the arrangements for the Report of Debates and to inquire into the expenditure on Stationery and Printing for this House and Public Service generally:"
Mr. Bowen, Mr. Bowerman, Mr. Bracken, Mr. Dickson, Mr. Hammersley, Colonel Howard-Bury, Mr. Isaacs, Mr. Naylor, Sir Basil Peto, Mr. Shakespeare, and Rear-Admiral Sueter nominated Members of the Committee.
Ordered, "That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records."
Ordered, "That the Committee have power to report from time to time."
Ordered, "That Three be the quorum." —[ Mr. Charles Edwards.]
The remaining Order was read, and postponed.
Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
Adjourned at a Quarter before Three o'Clock until Monday next, 10th November.