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Clause 14—(Relief To Tenants From Liabilities And Loss Of Compensation Resulting From Directions Under Defence Regulations)

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1943

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I beg to move, in page 8, line 29, at the end to insert:

"Provided that no tenant of agricultural land shall be entitled to claim an away-going crop, or compensation from the landlord assessed on the basis of an away-going crop, in respect of a greater acreage of land than that which would have been permissible under the contract of tenancy or custom of the country if this subsection had not passed."
It has been represented to us that in certain parts of the country, either under custom or under agreement, the tenant has a right to claim an away-going crop up to a fixed proportion of the arable acreage as laid down in the lease. As a result of our ploughing-up campaign we have substantially extended the arable acreage, and we have laid it down that land which was originally grass is how for all purposes to be Considered arable. The effect of that would be to give the tenant the right to increase very considerably, if he wanted to, his acreage of away-going crop. We do not think that that would be fair either on the landlord or more especially on the incoming tenant, because it would very largely increase the amount of his incoming valuation. Therefore the Clause is designed to make it clear that the tenant shall only be entitled to claim for an away-going crop on the basis of the arable as originally laid down and not on the basis of the arable as increased by the ploughing-up campaign.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 8, line 38, to leave out from "to," to the end of the Subsection, and to insert

"compensation from the landlord assessed in like manner as in the case of crops sown (other than away-going crops) or tillage's or manuring carried out in accordance with the said contract or custom."

We in Scotland feel very uneasy about this Amendment. The Clause as it stood previously regularised the position of tenants compelled by direction to contravene their lease or contract. It seems to me that the Amendment simply defeats the object of the Clause, since no occupier who is preparing to vacate his holding would willingly go to the trouble to grow crops in order to hand these on to someone else. My feeling is that it is only just and fair that where the tenant is under the direction of a county war agricultural committee to grow an excess acreage of a crop, he should be allowed to treat that excess crop as an away-going crop. What happens with an away-going crop? The valuers estimate the yield and the price and arrive at a true valuation after deducting harvesting expenses. This Amendment means that a tenant under direction of a committee in time of war when forced to grow an acreage in excess of that in his lease will only receive the bare cost. He, in fact, hands the crop to the proprietor. The incoming tenant does nothing at all but harvest the crop. I feel very strongly about this, because we in Scotland feel that it is only just and fair that an outgoing tenant who has been ordered to grow more food than on his lease undertaking should be given that part of the profit due to him on such excess acreage.

It was brought to my attention yesterday that there might be some difficulty about the position in Scotland, which is not on a par with conditions in this country. The Secretary of State and I have not had time to get together on this, but I will give my hon. Friend an assurance that we will look into it again, and if we find that any action needs to be taken, we will put it right in another place.

A point arises which affects the national interest. If a tenant is aware that some other person is going to reap what he has sown, it seems to me he is not going to take such care or possibly put in such quality of work and even seed as he would otherwise.

If I may say so without being rude, I deprecate remarks of that type coming from Members who profess to represent agricultural constituencies and farming. I repudiate most emphatically, on behalf of the farming community as a whole, any suggestion that farmers would do the sort of thing my hon. Friend has suggested. I do not believe farmers are so unpatriotic, whatever the financial results, that they would deliberately put in a crop badly because they did not think they were going to get enough money as a result.

I am not suggesting for a moment that farmers would do anything of the kind. Everyone knows they are doing a fine job of work. But unconsciously one does not take the same interest when working for someone else.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

There are many Amendments on the Paper, but none of us knew that the Bill was going to be taken so soon, and large numbers of Members who wanted to take part in the proceedings are away. I should like to protest against that.

It was open to any hon. Member to move the Amendments.

I have three Amendments down, and I am in the same position. Can I move them at some other stage?

There will be a. Report stage, of course, but it was competent for the hon. Member to move his Amendments.

We have passed them over. I should like to move them, because I should like to hear what the Minister has to say about them.

The Amendment which I moved and which has been accepted takes the place of, and in our opinion achieves, what the various Amendments in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend were designed to do, and I do not think he need be under any anxiety that his absence has caused any damage to the cause he has at heart.

I want to take advantage of this opportunity of reaffirming what I said on the Second Reading with regard to the position of landowners in the matter of ploughing up grass land. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) had an Amendment on the Paper which he has since been good enough to take off, and I promised that I would again try to make clear what I understood the position to be. By an agreement made and published in December, 1939, my predecessor was authorised by His Majesty's Government to announce that where grassland was ploughed up a landowner would be entitled to claim for compensation at the end of the war if the annual value of the land, or the farm of which it formed part, had been diminished as a result of being ploughed up. The compensation will be based on the cost of restoring the land, that is, reseeding, or alternatively a sum calculated with reference to the amount by which the annual value of the land is diminished. Nothing in this Clause affects that agreement to the prejudice of the landowner, and the fact that we have inserted this Clause for the purpose of clarifying the position as regards tenants quitting during the war or subsequently does not impinge on or alter in any way the agreement. It is true that the option as regards restoring the land rests with the Minister, but without giving a pledge as to application in any particular case, it is anticipated that the large majority of cases will be dealt with by reseeding as an essential part of our post-war policy of maintaining the facility of our agricultural land.

I should like to thank my right hon. friend for reiterating his statement, which is quite satisfactory and I think meets our point much better than the Amendment which we have on the Paper.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.