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Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1943

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Considered in Committee.

[Major MILNER in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4—(Extension Of Powers As To Drainage Schemes)

I beg to move, in page 4, line 1, to leave out Sub-section (7).

Those associated with this Amendment have no desire to hamper or to restrict the Minister in the work he has undertaken. The Committee will agree that it is the duty of the Minister, in the national interest, to bring under cultivation or into economic use every possible acre of land. That is no easy task. In a public declaration just before the war, the Labour Party called attention to the very backward state of the industry and to the grave difficulties which had arisen through the inability of owner-occupiers to provide the capital to carry on efficiently. Land, said the statement, was often waterlogged, water supplies were inefficient and soil deteriorating, and there was widespread under-farming. Some may think that picture somewhat over-coloured, but Lord Portsmouth, in "The Times" on Friday, wrote:
"There are thousands of acres of alluvial land in my own county where water cannot flow off the land, as the river level during the crucial months is higher than that of the meadow drains leading back to the river."
Lord Portsmouth goes on to advocate catchment board control. This state of things should not continue. It is a duty which we owe to our seamen that every acre shall be brought under cultivation or under economic use. But the responsibility, I submit, with respect, is a national one. Clause 4, Sub-section (7), places part of the responsibility of financing these very necessary schemes on the catchment boards. The Committee will be aware that catchment boards, set up under the Land Drainage Act, 1930, have, broadly speaking, no funds of their own. They are precepting authorities. While, of course, it is true that the Minister may make loans to a catchment board, those loans have to be repaid at some stage or other. The position, as I see it, is this—I am sure the Committee will forgive me for saying that I have not yet mastered the technique of Parliamentary draftsmanship, and this Bill is somewhat difficult to understand. [An HON. MEMBER: "They all are."] That I shall probably learn as time goes on. As I understand the Bill, if the catchment board desires to make a grant towards an approved scheme, 50 per cent. of the cost of the approved scheme will be met from Government funds, and the balance recovered by the catchment board from the local authorities within the area of the catchment board.

We therefore have this very curious position. Agricultural land, as the Committee is aware, is de-rated as a result of the Local Government Act, 1929, and will not, when it is improved, make any contribution at all towards the local rates. Industrial undertakings are de-rated under the same Act up to 75 per cent. of the local rates and therefore—and I speak subject to correction—the cost of the contribution made by the catchment boards to these very necessary and desirable schemes will in the long run have to be met by the non-industrial undertakings and the ordinary ratepayers within the area of the catchment board. The agricultural industry perhaps has been sacrificed to an industrial economy, but I feel sure that the agricultural interest will not like and do not desire the cost of these schemes to be borne by ordinary working men and women out of local rates. But the Minister may say that so far as the cost is concerned, spread over a county and the county boroughs, the individual contribution of the local ratepayers would be very trivial. If that defence is put forward it will be something like the defence of the servant girl who speaking of her baby pleaded to be forgiven on the ground that it was only a very small one. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will see the justice of the case I am putting forward.

There is one further point. May I ask the Minister whether it is proposed to retain the limit of the product of a twopenny rate which is the limit of the precepting authority of the catchment board under the Land Drainage Act, 1930? If it is proposed to retain the limit, a catchment board, which has been efficient, has carried out its work properly and spent up to the limit of its twopenny rate, will be unable to make any contribution unless the Minister advances the money. There may be land within a catchment board area which requires attention and for which a draft scheme may be brought forward. Therefore if the Minister cannot agree at this stage to the deletion of the Clause from the Bill, will he agree at a later stage to take out the words to which I have called attention which give authority to a catchment board to make contributions out of their funds to a scheme, and accept the responsibility nationally for carrying out this very desirable work?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture
(Mr. Tom Williams)

I ought, at the outset, to say to my hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) that we entirely agree with all his references to the necessity for draining the land of this country. It has been one of those things neglected on the part of our nation, and it has required a war almost to give it the necessary fillip. But the Amendment he now moves to delete Subsection (7) of Clause 4 is a very small matter, and I hope that I shall be able to satisfy him in two minutes that it is not nearly as large as perhaps he originally thought. This Sub-section is purely permissive. Only when a catchment board feel, with all their knowledge, that the scheme to which they make a grant is a scheme that will be of benefit to themselves would any grant be made.

This Sub-section and these schemes do not apply to reclamation schemes which are being carried out by the Minister, through his agents in all parts of the country. The Sub-section applies only to schemes which are carried out by the catchment boards themselves under Sec- tion 14 of the 1940 Act. Therefore, the only possible circumstances where a catchment board may wish to make a grant—and only they themselves can decide whether they shall make a grant or not—would be when they themselves have carried out a scheme and they feel that the work they have accomplished will have a beneficial effect upon their main river, or that it might save the catchment board money on any subsequent schemes; and even then it is only where the catchment board feel that they may make such a grant that any grant can be made. I can tell my hon. Friend and the Members of the Committee that the number of cases where a catchment board would make a grant to such a scheme would be very few indeed. So far we only have in mind two such cases, and my hon. Friend can take it from me that the catchment boards are so careful in disposing of their funds, collected rightly, as he suggests, in many cases from urban dwellers, that they will not unduly give away money collected from districts of that description. The fact that it is merely a permissive power means that it will be used very rarely indeed, and only when the catchment board feel that the work they have carried out will help their main river will such a grant be given. I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment. As to the question he put about the twopenny rate, there is no idea at the moment at all events of affecting the maximum of the twopenny rate which a catchment board can spend at present. In these circumstances, I hope that my hon. Friend will feel disposed not to press the Amendment.

I rather regret the somewhat apologetic tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary. I hoped that he was going to rebut what the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) had said. Why on earth should not the urban ratepayer pay towards the cost of producing food at the present time? This is now a beleaguered island, where every inch of ground is required for the cultivation of food, and, instead of using apologetic terms, should it not be said that the urban dweller as well as the rural dweller should contribute to the cost of producing food?

The Noble Lord should appreciate that it would hardly help catchment boards to exercise such generosity as they felt disposed to do if words such as he suggests were uttered by a person standing at this Box. The catchment boards are only responsible for dealing with the main channel. The areas referred to in this Sub-section are areas that may be remote from the main channels in the sense that the responsible persons are either the local drainage committee, where one is in existence, or the owners of the land locally. Where the catchment board feel that they might make a contribution, we think they ought to be permitted to do so, but in the last analysis it clearly is the right and privilege of the catchment board to go into the particular circumstances of the case.

I admit that my language may have been unfortunate, but what I wished to do was to get a rebuttal of the idea, which is far too common in this House and in this country, that at the present time of great emergency the urban ratepayer and taxpayer should not make every contribution he can, even beyond what he would reasonably do, towards the cost of producing food in this country.

It seems to be assumed by the Mover of the Amendment, and also by the Noble Lord, that the only source of income of the catchment board is the twopenny rate, placed more or less upon urban people, but is it not the case that they have another source of income, which is the land in the internal drainage districts? It is taxed in order to maintain the funds of the catchment board, and in that case the land itself is paying a contribution.

In view of the explanation which has been given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 4, line 35, at the end, to add:

"(11) Where the landlord of an agricultural holding has become liable to pay any sum in respect of the holding, either to a Catchment Board under subsection (4). of the said section fourteen as so amended, or to any other drainage board under the corresponding provision of the said section as so set out, or to the Minister under the Third Schedule of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1941, as applied by section six of that Act, the following provisions shall have effect, that is to say:—
  • (a) if the landlord and tenant agree, or in default of such an agreement the landlord proves to the satisfaction of an arbitrator appointed under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, that any works in respect of which the said sum is payable were rendered necessary by the neglect of the tenant to comply with any obligation relating to the maintenance or repair of a water course imposed on him by virtue of the contract of tenancy, the landlord shall be entitled to recover from the tenant or any assignee or successor of the tenant interest on such amount as may be agreed between the landlord and the tenant or, in default of such agreement, determined by the said arbitrator, to be such part of the said sum as was attributable to the execution of those works;
  • (b) the interest shall be payable at such rate as may, in default of such agreement, be fixed by the Treasury, and shall be payable as from the date on which the landlord became liable in respect of the said sum, and shall be payable at the same times and be recoverable in the same manner as the rent payable under the tenancy;
  • (c) where the landlord has elected to pay any such sum as aforesaid by instalments, the whole of that sum shall, for the purposes of this subsection, be deemed to have become payable at the date when it would have been payable but for the election;
  • (d) for the purposes of any arbitration under this subsection, a certificate by the Catchment Board or other drainage board or the Minister, as the case may be, that such part of the said sum as may be specified in the certificate was attributable to the execution of works so specified shall be conclusive evidence of that fact.
  • This subsection shall not apply in any case where the arbitrator has made an award, or an agreement has been made between the landlord and tenant, before the passing of this Act under subsection (6) of the said section fourteen as so amended, or under the corresponding provision of the said section as so set out, or under subsection (2) of the said section six, as the case may be, but save as aforesaid shall apply, in substitution for the said provisions, in all cases where any such sum has become payable by the landlord of an agricultural holding whether before or after the passing of this Act."
    It has hitherto been possible under Section 14 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1940, for a landlord and tenant to agree—or where they cannot agree to have the point decided by an arbitrator—that if drainage works to which the landlord is required to pay contribution, under that Section are due to neglect by the tenant, the landlord can recover the cost from the tenant. Equally, under Section 6(2) of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1941, the landlord can recover from the tenant in the same way, where the work is performed by the Minister. It has been suggested that the landlord should be given an alternative, namely, the right to recover the interest on the money because he may have to wait an unduly long time if he can only recover the actual capital cost at the end of the tenancy, which may not take place for 10, 20 or more years. We do not think, and I hope the Committee will agree with us, that it is fair that the landlord should, so to speak, have the best of both worlds and should be entitled, either to claim repayment of the capital cost, or to claim interest on the money in the shape of increased rent, and we have come to the conclusion that, on the whole, the fairest thing to do would be to enable him to claim interest on the money and remove his power to claim the repayment of the capital cost. Of course, it is always open to a landlord and tenant, by agreement, to vary it, but the legal position will be that the landlord will be entitled to claim interest on the expenditure involved.

    I should like to express appreciation of the Minister's proposal. Perhaps he has not gone quite as far as some would have liked, but I think he has met the case in a very fair and proper way.

    Amendment agreed to.

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

    Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 6—(Acquisition Of Land For Drainage Works)

    I beg to move, in page 5, line 5, at the end, to insert:

    "Provided that no land shall be acquired under this Section unless the contract for the acquisition thereof is made, or, as the case may be, the notice to treat is served, while the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, is in force."
    This proviso fulfils a promise made by my right hon. Friend on the Second Reading, namely, that these powers shall remain in force only while the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, remains in force. Since the Amendment merely gives effect to that promise, I hope it will be accepted.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 5, line 5, at the end, to insert:

    "(2) In the case of land owned and/or leased by public utility undertakings the question of acquisition shall be subject to negotiation and failing a settlement to arbitration."
    I move this Amendment in the interest of the public utility undertakings. Their interests, I think, ought to be safeguarded, as far as the compulsory acquisition of land is concerned. I appreciate that the Minister has made every endeavour to meet the wishes of the public utility undertakings and has given a certain assurance that their interests will as far as possible be protected. The main effort, of course, to-day is the war effort, and in it, I maintain, the public utility undertakings are playing a very important part to-day. We are not seeking much. Water, gas and electricity undertakings ought, I think, to have the privilege of negotiating with a view to agreement or, failing agreement, of having the matter settled by arbitration rather than to have, compulsorily, to surrender any land which may be required for drainage purposes. As I say, these bodies are making a great contribution to the war effort, and it would be an unwise policy if we impeded any progress they may be required to make in the development of their respective undertakings. It is in that sense, and purely in that sense, and more particularly in the interest of municipal undertakings, that I move the Amendment.

    My hon. Friend's Amendment merely asks that in the case of land owned or leased by public utility undertakings, the question of acquisition shall be subject to negotiation and, failing a settlement, to arbitration. If I may say so with respect to my hon. Friend, that is exactly what the Clause provides. It states:

    "Where it appears to the Minister that it is necessary for him to acquire any land for the purpose of executing drainage works thereon, he may acquire the land either by agreement or compulsorily."
    It is clear that one cannot get agreement without negotiation. Therefore, agreement involves negotiation with the local authorities or the public utility companies, and only when that negotiation has failed to achieve agreement would compulsory powers be sought. My hon. Friend can see that the Bill, as it stands, foreshadows consultation and negotiation and, we hope, agreement with the local authorities and the public utility companies, and the Amendment, therefore, seems to me to be unnecessary.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

    Clauses 7 and 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 9—(Recovery From Tenants Of Interest On Expenditure Incurred In Executing Works For Supply Of Water)

    I beg to move, in page 6, line 32, to leave out "on the holding."

    This Amendment and the following Amendment are inter-related to the new proviso, and their object is to make clear what the tenant is to be charged. For instance, where water is laid on it may happen that water is laid on to farm B, and in order to get to farm B it may be necessary to cross farm A. It is clear, therefore, that it would be unfair to charge the tenant of farm A with the work done on his holding, for which he will get no benefit, and also fair to charge the tenant of farm B with the cost of the works on his holding and on the holding of farm A which were necessary in order to enable him to get a water supply. This Amendment and the following Amendments make the position clear.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made:

    In page 6, line 33, after "water," insert "to the holding."

    In line 41, at the end, insert:

    "Provided that, in the case of works for the supply of water to the holding and to other land, the tenant of the holding shall only be liable to pay interest on such part of the net cost of the works as may be apportioned to his holding by agreement between the landlord and the tenant or, in default of such agreement, by arbitration, and the interest shall in that case be payable as from the date on which the share of the net cost was so apportioned."

    In line 46, at the end, add:

    "less the amount of any grant made by the Minister towards that expenditure."—[Mr. Hudson.]

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

    Clause 10—(Improvement Of Common Lands)

    I beg to move, in page 7, line 7, to leave out "recoverable," and to insert "recovered."

    This is purely a drafting Amendment, and the same thing applies a little later in line 11, where we are also asking to leave out "recoverable" and to insert "recovered."

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made:

    In page 7, line 9, leave out "in," and insert "on."

    In line 11, leave out "recoverable," and insert "recovered."—[ Mr. Húdson.]

    I beg to move, in page 7, line 26, at the end, to add:

    "(4) A notice served for the purposes of this section shall specify the sum which the owner on whom it is served is required to pay and the rights in respect of which he is required to pay it and that sum shall not exceed either of the following limits, that is to say:
  • (a) the amount by which the value for agricultural purposes of the specified rights will be increased by the doing of the work;
  • (b) the same proportion of the expenses as the amount aforesaid bears to the amount by which the value for agricultural purposes of all the rights affected will be increased by the doing of the work."
  • This Clause, as the Committee will see, deals largely with common lands, and the object of the Amendment I am moving on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower) and other hon. Members is to endeavour to protect owners of common lands from any undue charge or high charge which they may be unable to bear. If the Minister was in a position to make a concession, it would be a pity if this Amendment was not moved.

    I realise the motives which led my hon. Friends to put down this Amendment, but the situation with which Clause 10 is designed to deal is, so far as I know, unprecedented. The situation is that there are a certain number of fells in Cumberland, and the right of grazing over those fells is at present completely uncontrolled. In the normal case of fells each farmer has what is called a stint, and that entitles him to graze a certain number of cattle and sheep under certain conditions. Whatever may be the original rights of the owners, the lords of the manors, they certainly have not been exercised for many years. They have lapsed. My committee in Cumberland consider that by doing a certain amount of work on the fells they can materially improve the grazing of those fells and, therefore, the number of cattle and sheep that those fells will carry. But it is clear that if we are to spend the State's money on this improvement, we must be able, after the improvement has taken place, to control the grazing. At present after the improvement had taken place anyone would be entitled to send as many cattle and sheep on to the fell as he liked and undo the good work which had been done. Therefore, we shall have to take possession technically of the fells, do our improvements and lay down an agreement with the farmers as to the number of cattle and sheep they are entitled to graze, the conditions under which they can graze them and the time they can graze them. In view of what we believe to be the increased agricultural value of the work we shall do, we think it only fair to recover from the farmers a reasonable proportion of the cost.

    I may say that this has never been tried before. We cannot possibly say what the final result will be. Frankly, it is an experiment, and for that reason we do not want to be tied by the particular wording of this Amendment, which might quite conceivably prove to be wholly inappropriate. I can, however, give an assurance that we shall carry out the principle of the Amendment and that in apportioning the cost we shall decide to the best of our ability what is to be the proportion of the cost that can properly be charged. But we think that to have this Amendment in the Bill would seriously hamper our work, because it is taken from a Clause in the Bill which applies to quite different circumstances. In view of the assurance that we shall take the spirit of the Amendment into account when apportioning the cost, I hope my hon. Friend will feel justified in withdrawing the Amendment.

    My right hon. Friend mentioned the fells in the North. Is this sort of thing liable to happen in other areas where there are large commons, such as Exmoor and Dartmoor?

    No, Sir, it is designed to cover only the cases which have come to my knowledge so far, that is, the Caulbeck and Skiddaw group of fells.

    But can this Clause be made applicable to commons in other places, or does it apply only to the North country?

    It applies only to similar conditions. If it were found that any similar conditions existed, clearly the Clause would give us power to take similar action if it was appropriate, and in that case my assurance would hold good. We would carry out the spirit of the Amendment when apportioning the cost.

    Can the Minister say how the additional cost will be recovered? Will it be by lump sum payments or rental? It would appear that a rental would be more reasonable, as the farmer might only be a short period in his holding and then give place to someone else.

    I should not like to commit myself. This is an experiment which has never been tried before. I agree that the odds are that we shall do it by an increase of the rent, but I should not like that to be taken to mean that if a man came along and said, "My share is £5; instead of having to pay an extra couple of shillings for 20 years, will you take a fiver?" it would not be a reasonable thing to do.

    I am glad that my moving the Amendment has enabled my right hon. Friend to make this extremely interesting statement, because it is of vital importance that these large areas which have a productive capacity which may be very much developed should be brought under some rule and order. I wish him well in his experiment. Owing to the assurance that he has given, which is extremely satisfactory and fair, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment,

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

    Clause 11—(Extension Of Time For Recovering Certain Expenses)

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

    I should like to ask if there is any room for misunderstanding in regard to date. A complaint may be made at any time within 12 months of the matter of the complaint arising. Is there any room for misunderstanding as to when the complaint first arose and for it to be out-dated as a consequence?

    My impression is that in this case the law as it stands at present requires us to claim recovery of expenses incurred in making good defaults under Defence Regulations within six months. To avoid any possible hardship the time is merely being extended to 12 months.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clauses 12 and 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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

    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.

    Clause 16—(Control Of Artificial Insemination)

    I beg to move, in page 11, line 10, at end, to insert:

    "and any semen so detained shall be detained at the owner's risk in such place and manner as the Minister may direct and, if such proceedings as aforesaid result in a conviction, shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the Minister may direct."
    Sub-section (6) of this Clause as drafted provides merely for the detention of semen pending the result of any proceedings instituted and this Amendment is designed to provide for dealing with the matter after we have obtained a conviction.

    Amendment agreed to.

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

    Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 18—(Application To Scotland)

    I beg to move, in page 12, line 33, after "1923," to insert:

    "the expression 'the Committee'" means the Agricultural Executive Committee referred to in subsection (1) of section thirty-one of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940."
    This and the following Amendment are drafting and for clarification to meet the point raised by the vigilance of the hon. Member for Kinross and Perth (Mr. Snadden) on the Second Reading and to make it clear that the whole of Clause 9 applies to Scotland.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: In page 12, line 41, at the end, insert:

    "(b) section nine shall have effect as if the words 'for the purposes of section fifteen of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940, as amended by any subsequent enactment' were omitted."—[Mr. Chapman.]

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

    Clauses 19 and 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 21—(Application To Northern Ireland)

    Amendments made:

    In page 14, line 18, leave out "and,"

    In line 18, after "eleven," insert "and twelve."

    In line 23, after the second "Act," insert:

    "(including any Act of the Parliament of Northern Ireland)."—[Mr. Hudson.]

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

    Clauses 22 and 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    New Clause—(Amendment Of Pro Visions Relating To Dams And Sluices)

    (1) Subsection (2) of section sixteen of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940 (which requires drainage boards to pay compensation in respect of the exercise of certain powers relating to dams) shall not apply to the exercise of any power to repair or maintain a dam, and accordingly for the words "by reason of the exercise by the board of any powers conferred on them under this section" there shall be substituted the words "by reason of the alteration or removal of any dam by the board in the exercise of any powers conferred on them under this section."

    (2) Where any dam is repaired or maintained by a drainage board in the exercise of any powers conferred on them under the said section, the expenses thereby reasonably incurred may, if a notice in writing requiring payment thereof and specifying the sum claimed is served on the owner of the dam by the board within one year from the completion of the work, be recovered by the board from that owner at the expiration of three months from the date of the service of the notice and shall, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery, be recoverable by the board summarily as a civil debt:

    Provided that an owner from whom any sum is so recoverable may, by notice in writing served on the board within the said three months, elect to pay the said sum together with the interest thereon from the said date by such number of equal annual instalments, not exceeding five, as may be specified in the notice, so however that—
  • (a) the first instalment shall be payable within one year from the said date; and
  • (b) the rate of interest shall, in default of agreement between the owner and the board, be fixed by the Minister.
  • (3) Where the landlord of an agricultural holding has become liable to pay any sum under the last foregoing subsection in respect of the repair or maintenance of a dam, the following provisions shall have effect, that is to say:

  • (a) if the landlord and tenant agree, or in default of such agreement the landlord proves to the satisfaction of an arbitrator appointed under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, that any of the works in respect of which the sum is payable were rendered necessary by the neglect of the tenant to comply with any obligation relating to the maintenance or repair of the dam imposed on him by virtue of the contract of tenancy, the landlord shall be entitled to recover from the tenant or any assignee or successor of the tenant such amount as may be agreed between the landlord and the tenant, or in default of such agreement determined by the said arbitrator, to be such part of the said sum as was attributable to the execution of those works;
  • (b) where the landlord has elected to pay any such sum as aforesaid by instalments, the whole of that sum shall, for the purposes of this subsection, be deemed to have become payable at the date when it would have been payable but for the election;
  • (c) for the purposes of any arbitration under this subsection, a certificate by the Drainage Board that such part of the said sum as may be specified in the certificate was atributable to the execution of works so specified shall be conclusive evidence of that fact.
  • (4) Section seventeen of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous War Provisions) Act, 1940 (which empowers drainage boards to control the use of sluices) shall have effect subject to the following amendments:—

  • (a) in subsection (1) after the words "by notice in writing served on the occupier or person in control of any dam within their district" there shall be inserted the words "or, if in the opinion of the board immediate action is necesary to meet an emergency, by direction given to that occupier or person," after the words "as may be specified in the notice" there shall be inserted the words "or as may be so directed "and the words in proviso (a) to that subsection" unless it is stated in the notice that in the opinion of the board immediate action is necessary to meet an emergency" shall be omitted;
  • (b) in subsection (2) after the words "notice served" there shall be inserted the words "or direction given," and after the words "the person on whom it is served" there shall be inserted the words "or to whom it is given."—[Mr. Tom Williams.]
  • Brought up and read the First time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

    This long and perambulating Clause, looks more formidable than it is in actual fact. It is simply to give effect to representations which have been made by the National Farmers' Union and the Catchment Boards Association. Section 44 of the Land Drainage Act, 1930, as applied to the control of dams has proved ineffective. In many parts of the country there has been flooding and waterlogging caused by a failure and neglect on-the part of owners or tenants to maintain or repair dams. Sub-sections (1) and (2) of the new Clause enable drainage boards to maintain or repair dams and, instead of paying compensation, to charge the persons responsible with the cost of either helping to maintain or to repair. It is, of course, of the utmost importance that this power should be exercised. The proviso to Sub-section (2) follows normal precedent and allows an owner who is called upon to meet the cost incurred in maintaining or repairing a dam to pay the sum by a number of instalments. Subsection (3) allows the owner to reclaim the cost from a neglectful tenant where it can be proved that the condition has wholly arisen from his neglect. Section 17 of the 1940 Act enables drainage boards to secure proper control of sluices and to avoid extensive flooding. In the view of the Catchment Boards Association, who have had a good deal of experience by now, the Section causes a good deal of unnecessary delay, All action must be preceded by sending a notice in writing to the tenant or the owner as the case may be. Under Sub-section (4) of this new Clause a drainage board is enabled, instead of sending a notice in writing appealing to the tenant to do certain work, to give a direction. As the new Clause meets with the approval of both the National Farmers' Union and the Catchment Boards Association, I hope that it will readily be accepted by the Committee.

    Question put, and agreed to.

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

    On a point of Order. Before we terminate the proceedings to-day, may I draw attention to the fact that the Bill has been rather rushed and that a number of hon. Members, some of them in the Forces, have not been able to get here? Can we have an assurance before the Report stage that consideration will be given to the matter that has been raised to-day?

    Schedules 1 to 3 agreed to.

    Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

    This Bill has been rushed with the most scandalous haste, and I want to protest against it. A number of Amendments have been slipped through without proper time to consider them. Under the guise of war emergency and interest all sorts of schemes and devices are arrived at in this Bill. There was also page after page of Amendments, and no one was here to take up the points in them. It is not good enough for the Minister to take the attitude that because the Members putting down the Amendments were not here he need not worry. That kind of procedure in passing a Bill of this importance through the House—

    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is only entitled to discuss on Third Reading what is in the Bill. He cannot discuss the point he has raised.

    I am discussing what is in the Bill. A large number of reactionary proposals have been carried in unseemly haste in an empty House, and I am protesting against the procedure. I hope that what I am saying about this scandalous procedure will resound throughout the country, and I say here and now that it must not be repeated.

    I, too, wish to protest, particularly at the fact that there are things in this Bill that should have been discussed. I feel that I must not let this opportunity go by without saying that there are certain important matters connected with catchment boards which have not been discussed for the simple reason that no one knew that the Bill was coming on at this hour. The Order Paper shows that other matters were to come on first, and I assumed that we should be a certain time in dealing with them. We have not even had a Report stage.

    The hon. Member-must appreciate that we have had the Committee stage and also the Report stage, and that we are now on the Third Reading.

    Members are dizzy and do not know where they are. I should have thought that the Parliamentary Secretary as a Labour Member would not have acquiesced in this procedure.

    Surely the hon. Member does not blame me for the absence of Members who have Amendments on the Order Paper.

    The right hon. Gentleman is the most accommodating tool that the Department has ever had.

    Important matters in which the Catchment Boards Association are vitally interested have not been discussed to-day owing to certain curious methods of procedure which I cannot understand.

    I rise to make a most vigorous protest against the proceedings to-day, The House was not aware that this Bill was coming on at this early hour, and many hon. Members have not been able to be present. The reason is that many of them, particularly one hon. Member, are serving in the Forces, and would have been here had it been possible. On Third Reading it is not possible to deal with the questions concerning catchment boards about which I wished to speak, but I hope that what has taken place to-day will never be repeated. It speaks badly for us that we cannot give sufficient time to agriculture, bearing in mind what we owe to agriculture and what we hope for it in future.

    I apologise to the House for not being here when certain Amendments in my name were called, but unfortunately I was taken by surprise as to the hour at which they would be called. By the assurances which the Minister has been able to give on one or two points which I have raised on the Bill have been met. In particular, he has met the Amendment on the question of away-going crops, and it will be satisfactory to the industry and will protect the land from the worst effects of an increased amount of away-going crops. With regard to some other matters which have been raised, I still see certain dangers in the Bill which I hope the Minister as time goes on will be able to put right. The Minister has given assurance after assurance on a large variety of points, but we do not see any word which can be taken up by the courts or anyhow else which puts these various assurances into law. It is a dangerous practice to build up what one might term a sort of ad hoc law whereby the industry is run on assurances given by Ministers. Therefore, I hope that where the land and the use of land are in question assurances will be put into law so that we shall not have the same sort of legislation which has resulted from the passage of previous agricultural Measures. I hope that the Minister will put into effect the assurances he has given during the Committee stage of the Bill, that the industry will take full advantage of them, that the Minister will see that the labour is available, and that we shall have the results which he anticipates and for which we all hope.

    I should like to support the Third Reading of this Bill, and to protest strongly against the attack which has been made upon the Ministers for bringing on the Bill at this time of the clay without appropriate notice. The very fact that seven Amendments were moved and were fully debated clearly indicates that if those who had put down Amendments had cared to be here, they could have been. The request that we should arrange our legislation in order to enable those who are in the Forces in other parts of the country, or it may be abroad, to be present seems to me to be far-fetched. It is quite impossible for hon. Members to divide their time in that way, and nobody expects them to do so. The Bill is, in my judgment, a thoroughly valuable and necessary one, particularly that part of it relating to the drainage of the new areas. I have a certain amount of knowledge and experience of them, and have often wondered why greater use was not made of those very large areas. The assurance which the Minister has given us that this will mean virtually a new era in sheep farming in many areas ought to be a matter of public gratification, and on those grounds alone I have pleasure in supporting the Third Reading.

    I am bound to say that I do not think the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary deserve the attack which has been made upon them in respect of the hour at which this Measure has been taken. It is the fifth Order of the Day, but the Ministers of this Department could not be expected to arrange that Members should be more talkative on the Orders which preceded it in order that this Business should come on later. I think that this Bill will do a considerable measure of good, and I am especially pleased to see the Clauses relating to drainage, but although I think the Minister is doing his best in the circumstances, I do not feel that it is based on too sure a foundation, particularly after the experience I have had of the drainage of low-lying fenlands and the in- cidence of the burdens they carry in dealing with upland water.

    I can understand the disappointment of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major York) on learning that this Bill came forward at an hour to-day which he and some other hon. Members found awkward. As a result the Bill has not had proper discussion. We have neither had Ministerial explanations nor been able to put forward our points of view upon certain very important matters. Clause 7 in particular deals with a matter which needs to be looked into very carefully. However, the Minister has been very amenable. He has promised to look into the Clause and to put down Amendments to cover the points in Amendments which have been on the Paper, and hopes that he will be able to satisfy us. After all, drainage in the catchment areas is a very big problem. I do not know how long it took to get through the original Drainage Bill dealing with the catchment areas, but it was a very big effort. Very detailed questions are involved, and they need to be thoroughly looked into. Regarding Clause 10, the Minister gave us an assurance that he would bring forward Amendments which he claimed would cover the points raised in our own Amendments, some of which were withdrawn. I hope they will be examined very carefully in another place, and that there every opportunity will be given for discussing these complicated points, and that three stages of the Bill will not be rushed through at one sitting. The points involved deal with matters of great importance to agriculture and to food production, and it is vital that we should lay sound foundations, particularly from the point of view of drainage.

    Like everybody who has been in the House for any considerable time, I realise that it is sometimes awkward for hon. Members when Business comes on earlier than had been expected, but my experience as a back bencher who wished to move Amendments in Committee was that one had to be present during the whole of the Sitting if one wanted to be sure of catching the Chairman's eye. I would venture to remind my hon. Friends that this Bill has not been rushed. It was published, if I recollect aright, before Christmas and had its Second Reading a month ago. There has been ample time for its discussion and for hon. Members to put down Amendments. A number of hon. Members did put down Amendments which no longer appear on the Order Paper, because we have given these matters such detailed consideration that a number of the Amendments which I moved were designed to cover points which those hon. Members had taken up with the Department. We have discussed these matters with catchment boards, farmers, landowners and other interests concerned, and I claim that the Bill has received most detailed consideration in a time of urgency. I therefore hope that hon. Members will acquit me personally of any desire to rush this House. I am much too old a Member and have too high a regard for the traditions of the House to be guilty of such an act. The Bill deals with a very large number of detailed points and will prove an advantage to agriculture, and I hope therefore that the House will agree to its Third Reading.

    Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.

    Bill read the Third time, and passed.