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Clause 10—(Good Estate Management)

Volume 438: debated on Wednesday 4 June 1947

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 5, to leave out from "land," to "is," in line 7, and to insert:

"whether treated by itself, or as affecting other land."
We have left chapter 1 of this Bill, with its limited blessings, and have arrived at the longer chapters, with their almost unlimited sanctions. Clause 10 attempts to define the rules of good estate management. That has not previously been attempted in any Statute. As at present drafted, Subsection (1) makes rather heavy weather of the definition.

I think it might be an advantage if we discussed at the same time the next two Amendments together—in page 7, line 10, after "husbandry" to insert:

"or such an occupier of other land affected by the adequate management of the first mentioned land."
and, in line 16, after "owner" to insert "has been and."

Subsection (1) as I say, attempts to define what is and what is not good estate management, and the Amendment which I move is purely administrative. It attempts to improve the definition, but not to undermine the 'principle which is in this Clause, and more particularly in this Subsection. As the Subsection is at present drafted, an owner

"shall be deemed to fulfil his responsibilities to manage it in accordance with the rules of good estate management in so far as his management of the land and (so far as it affects the management of that land) of other land managed by him is such as to be reasonably adequate."
That means that if a man owns two farms, one slightly further up the valley than the other, and allows the drainage from the slightly higher farm to flood the slightly lower farm, then in considering the management of the lower farm acts of neglect which are presumed to have taken place in respect of the higher farm are likely to be taken into account. We consider that that is the wrong way round. If any complaint is to be made about the management of the higher farm, the whole question of whether or not that land is being managed according to the rules of good estate management should be limited to the top farm, and not approached by the very devious and intricate means of going into the management of the farm lower down the valley. This view was put forward by my hon. Friends in Committee, and commanded a certain amount of sympathy from the Minister. On a previous Amendment this afternoon, the Solicitor-General suggested that it was necessary to avoid inordinately long Clauses. I am sure it -is also necessary to avoid inordinately confusing definitions. The difficulties which will arise in assessing whether or not land is managed according to the rules of good estate management, unless these words, or something similar to them, are accepted, will be extreme, and will give rise to an enormous amount of dispute.

I beg to second the Amendment.

I wish also particularly to support the second Amendment which has been referred to. These two Amendments would work together. We shall find great difficulty in deciding these matters if we have to take into consideration more than one particular piece of land. I hope the two Amendments will be inserted in the Bill.

Both the mover and seconder have sought to justify this group of Amendments on the ground that they clarify the definition contained in Clause to (1). That is a laudable motive, but I must ask the House to reject the Amendment now before us, because as I see the position, the words which it is sought to substitute for those which at present appear in the Bill not only do not clarify the position, but, on the contrary, introduce a great deal of obscurity. I know hon. Members will say "If it is only a matter of drafting, surely you can improve the words and to that extent assist us?" I would if I could, but there is a fundamental vice underlying the Amendments—that if an owner manages land in such a way that it affects any other land, whether in his ownership or not, then he is guilty of bad management, if that effect is injurious. That is obviously much too wide.

What the Clause seeks to do is this: Supposing there is an owner who own plot A and also owns or manages plot B, and his management of plot A adversely affects the management of plot B, he comes within the terms of the Subsection. The Amendment would result in a much more indefinite position. Its result would be that, supposing the owner of plot A so manages it that it injuriously affects, in the wide sense of that word, any other land, say plot X, Y or Z, in which he has no interest, which is owned and managed by completely different people, and which may be at a distance from plot A, he comes within the scope of the Subsection. I am sure that hon Gentlemen do not wish to bring about that position. It would impose an intolerable burden upon the landowner, and greatly multiply the responsibilities placed upon him by Clause to. In contradistinction to that, we say that we are only concerned, in Clause 10 (1) with holdings or areas of ground which can fairly be said to be managed by the landowner, that is to say plot A, which he owns, and plot B, which he manages, in the sense that he may have let it out to a tenant. Therefore, in considering whether he is within the purview of the Clause we simply say that consideration must be limited to those two plots. The Amendment would require that the area all round, which could in no sense be said to be under that person's ownership or management or under his responsibility, would have to be considered. I ask the House to say that the Amendment not only does not improve the Clause but that in so tar as it is easily intelligible—I do not mean that in any depreciatory sense—it would impose an intolerable burden on the landowner. Indeed, the word "affect" being of such general significance in the context of the actual Amendment, in which it is used, it is impossible to see how far its extent would go.

5.45 p.m.

Having heard the explanation of the Solicitor-General, I am not yet satisfied that the original terms of the Bill really meet the point, though I am prepared to admit that the Amendment, as drafted, may not be in the appropriate words to effect what we desire. The point we want to make clear is whether when this Bill becomes an Act it will be right to bring in the management of other land when deciding whether an owner is fulfilling his responsibilities of management in accordance with the rules of good husbandry. We do not like the wording of the Clause as it stands. We appreciate the point made by the Solicitor-General and on behalf of my hon. Friends, I would ask whether the Government, appreciating our point, with which I believe the Minister is much in agreement, will look at these words again before this Bill becomes an Act. We ask them to see if the words can be made clearer than they are at present, and at the same time to bring out the point about considering the effect on other land, when deciding whether an owner is fulfilling his responsibilities to manage land in accordance with good husbandry. Could the Solicitor-General give an undertaking that he will look at these words, and see whether they meet the point which my hon. Friends have made?

I confess I am rather muddled as to exactly what these words mean. From what the Solicitor-General said and from my reading of this Clause, it would appear that if an owner owns land in one county, and also owns land in another county or another part of England, it is possible to consider these two separate pieces of land in conjunction when deciding whether he is carrying out his responsibility for good estate management. The Solicitor-General said that the words we desire to have included in the Bill would make the Clause far too wide, and would involve consideration of how the management of one piece of land affected neighbouring farms. It seems to me reasonable that that should be taken into account—far more reasonable than to take into account how the owner concerned was managing another piece of land, very widely separated from the land in question.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 16, after "owner," to insert, "has been and."

Subsection (2) of Clause 10 is important because it lays down the rules of good estate management by which owners will be judged. We are a little afraid that if the words in that Subsection are not altered a rather too narrow construction may be placed upon them. As now drafted the Subsection reads:
"In determining whether the management of land is such as aforesaid regard shall be had, but without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of the last foregoing Subsection, to the extent to which the owner is providing, improving, maintaining and repairing fixed equipment …"
If a too narrow interpretation is placed upon those words, it might apply only to actual current expenditure. That would be an unfair yardstick because, first, on a great many estates it has been the custom to do repairs on farms in rotation and, second, the actual current expenditure on fixed equipment is no criterion of whether a landowner is able or willing to do his job properly. Owing to the extreme difficulty of getting licences and permits to do essential work, landowners who may be anxious to get the work done are sometimes unable to do it in terms of current expenditure. We feel that if a man's future tenure of land is to be judged in the narrow sense of this Subsection, it would be fair to take into account past expenditure in addition to current expenditure.

I beg to second the Amendment.

Whereas maintenance and repair are primarily matters of small outlay to meet current deterioration, provision and improvement constitute large outlay. That is what we are thinking about. Often such improvement cannot be arranged on every holding on an estate except at an interval of so many years. Normal standards of good estate management in this country allow for major expenditure to be carried out on holdings in rotation. It might very easily be argued that if the Clause is left as at present drafted, considerable expenditure which took place when a tenant came in—and one is glad to say that tenancies are, on the whole, of very long standing—would be ruled out completely from consideration when a dispute arises. If these words, "has been and" are inserted, then where previous expenditure is relevant it will not be excluded from consideration. At the same time, it does not compel undue consideration of that expenditure, because it is always possible to argue that it was reasonable at the time but that it has no particular relevance to the present. The acceptance of these words would not weaken the case at all. I feel that it would be a great deal stronger in some instances and a great deal fairer.

I follow the motives behind the Amendment, but I must advise the House that the fears expressed are not well founded. If I can summarise them, it is feared that the word "is" is too narrow. It was argued that it would shut out anything that had gone before and anything that came after, and would involve simply looking at me actual state of affairs at the moment by reference to which one is judging. The advice I give to the House is that the word "is" in this context permits and indeed requires a general circumspective view. It requires the consideration of a trend: not only the state of fact at the moment. If the words which are sought to be introduced, "has been and," were in the Clause, the position would be very much more difficult and it might be unfair to the landowner.

Suppose there was a case of a landowner who in the past had done very little in the way of good estate management. There may have been a great deal of complaint and it may be that latterly he had entirely changed the position and put in a good deal of work, greatly improving the position of the holding. The result of introducinc, the words of the Amendment would introducing that in a case of that sort one would not only have to say to oneself, "At present the estate management on this farm is excellent," but one would have to discount that by reference to the fact that by looking back two or three or five or six years, one found that under the management of the same landowner the farm was in a very bad state. It would be very bad luck for the landowner if he had done a great deal to improve the farm and had brought it up to the requisite standard, that one should have to say, "Because in the past you have neglected this estate, we shall write you down and we shall, condemn you for your past record. We shall not allow you to gain the credit of having effaced that, and having brought your estate up to a very good pitch of management." That would be the effect of these words.

As the Clause stands, anybody considering the position must look at it generally and consider what has gone before, what exists at present and what is likely to be the trend in future, to see whether it can fairly be said to be in a state of good management. One is not tied down to discounting a good present record by a bad past record. If one were tied down to that—and one would be if the Amendment was accepted—it would be very bad luck on a landowner in some cases, and in others it might advantage him. It would impose an entirely unnecessary and unfortunate restriction. It would work very unfairly in many cases. The Clause is sufficiently widely worded to enable a general view to be taken, making due allowance for all the relevant considerations which one would consider in asking whether an estate is properly managed.

I do not think that the Solicitor-General's argument is satisfactory. If the landowner in the past has not been doing well, there is no reason why that fact should not come out. If he is now doing the work in a proper manner, it shows that he has improved and is getting on with the job. There is no reason why his past record should not be known. If it happens that a man has had a good past record, the words, "is providing," do not mean that one can consider that past. There are many great estates in this country where the work cannot be done in one year or two years. What has been done on farm A last year, is done this year on farm B, and perhaps next year on farm C, before it is done again on farm A. That cannot be taken into account under the words "is providing." "Is" denotes the present; "has been" the past. If a man did work two years ago and he intends to do it again in the cycle, that can be considered under the words "has been" It will be very hard on the man who has done good work if it is not recognised because the word "is" is in the Subsection.

6.0 p.m.

The argument put forward by the Solicitor-General was quite extraordinary. He said that if these words were accepted it would be bad luck on the landowner. It would be bad luck only on the man who is a bad landowner. There is the case of the man who had ignored his land for years, and I think that the Solicitor-General or the Minister should give a rather better explanation than that to which we have listened. My hon. Friend pointed out that it has been impossible for the last few years to do these repairs, had the landlord wished to do so, and, therefore, landowners who spent large sums of money in keeping their holdings up to date before the war are not going to get any benefit at all when their cases are considered. I hope we shall have a more helpful explanation in answer to the arguments put by my hon. Friends.

I would like to ask whether hon. Members of the Opposition are really urging that the legislation which we are now framing should be made retrospective.

The term "is providing" cannot possibly be strictly interpreted as meaning what the landlord provided before the war. That is seven years ago, and, grammatically, it does not seem to me that, if a landlord provided certain improvements seven years ago, we can say that he is providing them now. That was seven years ago, and the term "is providing" cannot mean what was done seven years ago.

We certainly cannot say that a landlord "is improving" if the last improvement which he carried out on his land was done before the war, and it seems to me to be very hard indeed that somebody who is interpreting this Bill strictly at a later date may be able to argue that these improvements which were carried out before the war should not be taken into account. Very little was done during the war, and it is exceedingly difficult to do anything now. I suggest that there is another form of words which might appeal to the Minister, and it is this: "The extent to which the owner provides, improves, maintains and repairs fixed equipment on the land." I think that would convey the sense which we all intend to be conveyed, and that is that, over a period, the owner does provide these things, and not that he provided them seven years ago and is not providing them now, or that he is not providing them now when he did so seven years ago. It would convey, generally speaking, that he does provide what is required for the working of the farm.

It would be very unfortunate if the idea got abroad that the past record of an owner may not be taken into account. The learned Solicitor-General, I think, gave a very cogent and clear explanation. It is perfectly clear from the language of the Clause that the past record is to be taken into account. What this Clause does is to say that, without prejudice to the generality of the provisions in Subsection (1), nevertheless, in order to get a balanced view of the contributions which the owner has made in the way of maintaining and repairing machinery and so forth, we are to take account of what is being done at the moment. That seems to me to be very sensible and fair. Supposing the' owner's previous record has not been so good, but that he is trying to make up for past faults by doing more at the present time. It is provided that all that shall be taken into account, in order to give him an opportunity to satisfy the test whether there is an attempt at good management or not. That does not mean that the past is to be cut out. Supposing, on the other hand, his past record has been good. That will be taken into account with what he is doing now. His general record will be taken into account, and this Clause is intended to be the means of getting a balanced view of the whole situation. It takes the past completely into account with the present in order to get that balanced view, and, in my submission, the argument of the Opposition on this point is misconceived.

I think the syntax of this Clause is perfectly good, and that what Opposition hon. Members are seeking to do is to make the Clause very much worse for themselves than it is now. If we say that a farmer is providing certain things, it must be, by and large, everything on the farm in the way of buildings and so on. He is providing and continuing to provide them at the time. If a barn was built 100 years ago, and it is still in use, the owner is still providing it, and, in. fact, everything which is provided and which is continuing to be used he is providing at the moment. If the owner knocks down that barn, or it is destroyed and he does not put it up again, he would not be providing it, but, if it is still there, he is providing it. Hon. Members opposite are trying to make the Minister look back into the past, when he will find out something which I think will make this an infinitely worse Clause from their point of view.

I think it is obvious that this Clause requires reconsideration. The hon. and learned Solicitor-General, the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) and the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) have all spoken of this Clause in three different senses. Surely, there must be some very good reason for this confusion? The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester said that the Solicitor-General gave a cogent and fair answer. It may have been cogent, but it was not fair, according to the hon. and learned Member, because the two arguments were entirely contradictory one with the other. The learned Solicitor-General argues that it would be extremely bad luck if the past record is taken into account. The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester says that the past record would be taken into account, and if it is bad luck that the past record should be taken into account, and, at the same time, it will be taken into account by this Clause, then, surely, it follows that there must be something wrong with the Clause? The hon. Member for Epping says that if a farm building was built 100 years ago and is still being used, the owner is providing it. No doubt, that is true, but what we are concerned with at the moment is the fact that where, owing to an act of God, an act of the Government, or an act of somebody else, the barn or fence has fallen down, in present circumstances it is not possible to carry out repairs, not for any lack of good will on the part of the person concerned, but because one cannot get repairs done. I agree with the argument of the hon. Lady that, when the building is not usable, then we cannot say that the owner is providing it. That is a very cogent argument, but it surely follows that this Amendment should be accepted and not rejected, or, at least, if the Amendment is not accepted, that the Clause should be looked at again and redrafted. I would appeal to hon. Members opposite to recognise that they have demonstrated the cogency of this Amendment even more convincingly than have my hon. Friends on this side of the House.

I would like to lend my plea to the eloquent effort of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown). We have heard three different explanations of the Government attitude towards this Amendment. We heard the hon. and learned Solicitor-General, the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) who, on the Agricultural Committee, we described as the "legal conscience of the Socialist Party," and, may I say—I hope in Order and in parenthesis—there was a moment when we feared we might be losing his services—that some service outside might take him away—but we were glad to hear that there was unlikely to be a by-election—

I have very great difficulty in finding anything in the Amendment related to that matter.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for letting me get so far. Then we heard from the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) what appeared to be the only logical and commonsense defence of the Government's point of view. If her reading of the present position is that what grandfather provided should be maintained for the use by a tenant, then there would be reason to think that there was some sense in it. But even on that reading, owing to the difficulty of maintaining in proper repair what grandfather provided, one might well find oneself legally compelled not to provide something which one is only too anxious to provide. Taking all these things together, surely, in fairness to the Committee and to the House, the Government should withdraw this Clause and think again.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 7, line 20, at the end, to insert:

"and to the rental value of the land having regard to the economic condition of that section of the agricultural industry which comprises produce of the kind produced by the occupier of that land."
The object of this Amendment is to protect the landlord, which I know is something not very popular in this country at the present time. But landlords are a long-suffering race, and, therefore, I think it is our duty to be reasonable towards them. The Amendments seeks to protect the owner of a farm from having to erect or provide some fixed equipment for which the farm is not suitable. As far as I can see, there is nothing in this Clause to protect the landlord by way of appeal if the executive officer or the sub-committee appointed decide whether fixed equipment shall be provided or not. As an instance of what might happen, I would point out that, at the present time, grass drying is a very popular job and plants for this purpose are being erected at considerable expense all over the country. It may well be that the executive officer for a district is a grass-drying maniac and that there may be some tenant in the area who is also a grass-drying maniac. He may decide that the landlord should erect grass-drying equipment which might be wholly unsuitable for the land on which it is erected. I know it may be argued that if such equipment is erected, the landlord can get a re-assessment for rent, and that he is protected in that way. But that is no protection at all, because the tenant, after carrying on for one or two years, may find that grass drying on that particular farm is not an economic proposition, and may then give notice to quit, and the landlord would then be left with the uneconomic equipment, which may have cost him several thousands of pounds to provide, and which another tenant may not be willing to take over. I feel that there should be some protection for the landlord from anything which is not fair, and, therefore, I would ask the Minister to accept this Amendment, or to insert some words on the lines of this Amendment.

6.15 p.m.

I beg to second the Amendment.

I endorse all that my hon. friend has said. It is most important that we should not force a landlord to erect some equipment which is uneconomical and expensive, and which is only likely to be used by one particular man.

In considering this Clause, we must remember the background of the whole Bill, which is intended to give stability to the agricultural industry by means of guaranteed prices and assured markets. In return for this guarantee of stability, the State very reasonably imposes certain requirements of good management which are set out in the Bill. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) and the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown) seem to fear that, somehow, the Bill is going to be 'administered by maniacs. I agree, of course, that if the Bill is so administered it will not work. It may be, of course, that in the neighbourhood of their own constituencies there are some maniacs in the employ of county agricultural committees. I can see that my right hon. Friend will have to look into that possibility, but, as regards the rest of the country, there is no reason to fear on that score. I feel that to suggest that the criteria of good management as set out in this Bill, which are criteria of the equipment and the provision of adequate facilities on estates, should be extended to include monetary gains which may be made, is quite unacceptable. Therefore, we could not agree to this Amendment. It is perhaps remarkable that the mover and seconder of this Amendment have not suggested that any similar provision should be inserted in the rules of good husbandy. They are seeking to differentiate between the owner and the occupier, a differentiation which we have been careful to exclude from the Bill. For these reasons, I must ask the House to reject the Amendment.

I was unable to follow the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite. If I understood him aright, he said it would be wrong to take into consideration the economic position of the farm, the money which can be made out of it, when telling the landlord to provide certain equipment. If that is what the hon. Gentleman meant, it is quite wrong, and this Amendment should be accepted. In order to illustrate his point, my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) gave what was obviously an extreme illustration. But the fact that an extreme illustration was made, should not make it possible to say that there is a much narower margin between what can be provided on a farm and what cannot be provided. It is obvious that on a small farm a certain amount of profitability can be taken out; it is equally true that if a certain amount of equipment is put in and capital spent on it, the output and the consequent profitability of the farm is increased. But there comes a moment when any more equipment that is put on the farm becomes an uneconomic proposition, and, as my lion. Friend the Member for Leominster said, it is no good increasing the rent, because if the point is reached where the tenant cannot pay the rent, it is obviously unsatisfactory for everybody.

The object of this Amendment is to give a direction as to what equipment can be put on a farm, and to guide people so that the economic position and the increased profitability of a farm should be assessed in conjunction with the equipment that is put on it. If the case of the Government is that such matters should be taken into consideration, I do not quarrel very much with the Minister, but, if I understood the Paymaster-General aright, he said that the question of how much money is made on a farm should not be taken into account, and if he means that, I for one am prepared to support the Amendment in the Lobby.

Everybody sympathises with and appreciates the difficulties of the Paymaster-General in assisting the Minister of Agriculture in this Debate because, through no fault of his own, he was not a member of the Standing Committee. Nevertheless, I was surprised that he advanced the argument that the economic aspect of a farm in relation to repairs and fixed equipment should not be taken into consideration. Does he follow the logical implication of that argument? Supposing a landowner is ultimately dispossessed for being unwilling or unable to provide fixed equipment, the Land Commission will take over. Will the Land Commission carry out to the farm buildings improvements which, owing to the nature of the farm, are entirely uneconomic? If so, the uneconomic expenditure will be at the expense of the taxpayer. I was surprised that the Paymaster-General should argue that there was no need to protect a landowner from being asked to provide fixed equipment for a farm which he knew to be uneconomic, because the farm in question was unable to carry the extra rent which that capital expenditure would involve.

I was surprised at the speech of the Paymaster-General. He began by pleading amateur status, and I think he gave us a demonstration of the little connection he has had with the practical side of agricultural management when he asked the House to reject this Amendment. He said, quite rightly, that stability is one of the things we want in agriculture, and then he discounted instability which resulted from over-capitalisation. He then apparently forgot that the history of agriculture, which is repeating itself today, is a history of the advice of faddists; and if one reads books of the 17th and 18th centuries one finds an immense amount of advice put forward by faddists, much of which has been forgotten and only about 5 or 10 per cent. of which is bound up with our agricultural progress. Therefore, it is as well to bear in mind that in a few years' time, something between 5 and 10 per cent. of present advice will have passed the test of time. Another point is that at the moment in this country there is a great dearth of professional men whom one can call consultants in farm buildings. I know the right hon. Gentleman is hoping to appoint a certain number of people to such positions, but the professions as such have among their ranks very few architects or surveyors with a specialist knowledge of agriculture and of farm buildings. I do not refer to people who can put up buildings, because anyone can do that. I refer to people with the knowledge to advise in a consultative capacity in relation to what is right and wrong.

The hon. Gentleman said he was surprised that we had not tried to insert similar words affecting the farm tenant. I do not think the situation is exactly parallel, but if it were, I for one, and, no doubt, my hon. Friends, would immediately accept any form of words which would put the farm tenant in the same position. The illustration of my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) was ridiculed on the grounds that it was exaggerated. No one can say it is, exaggerated when one remembers that in this country there are at least a million acres of marginal land, and that every day a great number of occupiers of that land suggest to land agents, owners and others how much better it would be if this, that or the other could be done on their farms, but that when it is explained that the economic return for such an improvement will add so much to the rent they think again and say it is not worth while. That is because Part I of the Bill, which is intended to be so strong, has a number of inherent weaknesses. So long as we have limitations on the production from marginal and other land, so long will those weaknesses remain when one tries to expend capital in a big way economically on marginal land. Therefore, the House would be right in rejecting the argument of the Paymaster-General and in accepting this Amendment.

I intervene in this Debate with diffidence. I do a little farming myself, but I had not the advantage of being on the Committee. I fail to understand the arguments which have been put forward, particularly those put forward by the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane). This Subsection specifies one consideration that is to be borne in mind, but it follows a Subsection which contains the main points which have to be considered. Those main points are:

"the character and situation of the land and other relevant circumstances."
I find it impossible to see how anybody, having looked at those points, should omit to consider the marginal character of the land or, having to consider other circumstances, should fail to consider the rental value. Therefore, it seems unnecessary to add the proposed words to Subsection (2). Moreover, I find the greatest difficulty in understanding what the Amendment means. If it said,
"and to the rental value of the land,"
and stopped there, I should have had some idea, but the remainder of the Amendment seems to me, with all respect to those who moved it, to be bad grammar and extremely bad sense. After the words,
"and to the rental value of the land,"
it goes on to say:
"having regard to the economic condition of that section of the agricultural industry which comprises produce of the kind produced by the occupier of that land."
That, I think, is rather horrible English, anyway. We were given the case of the grass-drying maniac. I assume that a farm would, at any rate, produce grass, since otherwise the maniac would have no room in which to exercise all his frenzied activity. Therefore, we have to look at
"the economic condition of that section of the agricultural industry which comprises produce of the kind produced by the occupier of that land."
What do we have to look at? Mixed farming, grass, arable, or what? I would have thought that the acceptance of this Amendment would produce a state of affairs which the ordinary landlord or farmer would find extraordinarily difficult to understand. I would like hon. Members opposite, since this is their Amendment, to tell us what they suppose it really means, because so far I am quite unable to understand it. Let them give us concrete cases, and. explain the application of these words, for example, to the case of an ordinary mixed farm.

6.30 p.m.

I understand the feelings of those who put down this Amendment. It is simply to ensure that landlords should not be expected to provide more fixed equipment than is economically reasonable. There are always a certain number of tenants who desire to have all kinds of improvements, which may not be economically sound. I understand that point of view. However, I do not think this Amendment achieves the object which they have in mind. I follow the lion and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) in saying that this is covered in Subsection (1). The relevant part of that Subsection is in the last few lines which, paraphrasing them, state that a landlord will be doing his job if he provides the sort of equipment which is necessary to enable a farmer to farm properly. Now, farming properly is not grass-drying. I approve of grass-drying, and do it myself, but it is not the sort of farming which any war agricultural executive committee could expect the landlord to provide.

There are difficult marginal cases. There is no limit to the amount of fixed equipment that the tenant farmer can use. He can always use more hay boxes; he can always use more covered yards. But that, I think, is covered by Subsection (1). I do not think that the war agricultural executive committees, composed of farmers and landlords, will expect a landlord to provide an unreasonable amount of equipment. That is the second safeguard. Therefore, I do not think that this rather complicated addition would add clarity to the definition of the good management of land.

The real danger in this Amendment lies in the fact that it is, so far as one can understand it, a very muddled Amendment. It appears to be designed to ensure that the farmer will not get necessary improvements, or will find it difficult, if not impossible, to get them. Therefore, it is something of which we should be very wary. Surely, the really operative words in Subsection (2) are:

"to enable an occupier of the land reasonably skilled in husbandry to maintain efficient production.…"
If he is to maintain efficient production all the extravagant and extreme cases which have been suggested are quite unnecessary. I am sure hon. Members opposite would find it impossible to indicate any part of the Bill which would compel landlords to put in the different kinds of equipment such as they have suggested might be found necessary under the Clause as it stands. Marginal land was mentioned, and the new improvements needed to bring it up to a certain state of efficiency. Surely, the point is that husbandry on marginal land must be related to that land, and efficient husbandry on that land must have regard to the condition of the land? I suggest that this Amendment, so far as I can understand it, would be detrimental to the tenant.

I regret that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) do not understand the Amendment. I thought the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend about the economic conditions had made it quite clear.

On a point of Order. I hate to intervene between the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) and the House, but, surely, on Report hon. Members can speak only once, unless they have the leave of the House?

The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. When a Bill comes to the House from a Standing Committee the mover of an Amendment is entitled to speak again. That is in Standing Orders. I was just looking it up as the right hon. Gentleman rose. The hon. Member is entitled to speak again.

Having been caught out once this afternoon, I did not intend to be caught out a second time. What we are nervous about is, who will decide the revelant circumstances. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering and the hon. Member for North Cumberland thought the wording of the Clause protected a landlord from having to do something which was not economical. I contend that it does nothing of the sort. The word "maniac" has been used. There are extremists, shall I say, who, as my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) said, have appeared throughout the centuries, who have insisted on a particular line. At one time it is all silage, and the next time all grass drying. There may be an executive officer in the county who is all for one particular form of farming, yet that particular form will not last. The executive officer may force a landlord to put up some building —and I will stick to grass-drying—which will not prove economical to that farm. Who is to decide—and I hope the Minister will think this is sufficiently important to tell us—whether that fixed equipment is necessary, or is an economic proposition?

The Paymaster-General said that I was visualising these executive officers as maniacs. I did not quite mean that, but I will say there are extremists. If he thinks they do not exist I will give him a concrete instance, not from my own county—where he thought we had maniacs—but from an adjacent county. The executive officer for that county was what I call a "ploughing-up maniac." A client of mine had an order to plough up 202 acres of a 240 acre farm; he knew it was not ploughing-up land, and had not been ploughed up during the previous war, and he refused to do it. Consequently, he was dispossessed, and he is still out of that farm today.

We must protect farmers from those executive officers who get a bee in their bonnet, and who compel landlords to do something which is not economical. That is all we are asking. We are not retrograde; we want to see proper equipment put on the farms, but we also want to see that it is proper equipment and not merely something which is not worth while being forced on a landlord. We want to see that the equipment is necessary. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) said they would provide the necessary equipment. But the landlord is not protected; there is nothing to say what is necessary and what is not necessary. We say the landlord should be protected from extremists; that is all.

Could the hon. Member tell us the meaning of the words after "rental value"?

The hon. and learned Member says he is a farmer I wish he got his living at it, because then he would probably have more sympathy with the people on the land. I mentioned grass drying. Would the hon. and learned Member suggest that it is an economical proposition to put a grass drier on an ordinary mixed farm, probably of hilly land, of 150 acres? It is nothing of the sort. There is an economic level at which a grass drier could be put in.

Perhaps I might be allowed to speak again, with the leave of the House. I may have replied a little shortly and cavalierly to the remarks of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin). The arguments which he and his hon. Friend advanced were so thin that I felt they could not mean them sincerely, and I answered in a rather flippant way. I do not wish it to be thought for a moment that we do not attach importance to the general economcis of the situation. I do not wish it to be thought we do not recognise that a reasonable return on capital has to be earned, or that it is possible to over-capitalise. I thought that all these matters were adequately covered in Subsection (1) by the words "other relevant circumstances," and, therefore, I was addressing myself to the Subsection to which the Amendment relates Subsection (2) has to be read in relation to Subsection (1). All that is at issue is whether these Subsections will be reasonably and sensibly administered, and whether there will be regard to economic circumstances. I would point out to the hon. Member for Leominster that the authority to determine these matters will be the county executive committee. They must have regard to the relevant circumstances, and it will not be one of their officers exercising dictatorial powers. As he knows, the county executive committees consist of practical agriculturists.

It does not say that there is any form of appeal to the county executive committee. Is it a fact that the county executive committees have to decide this point?

I am sure that that is so. The officer concerned is only the servant of the committees, and it is certainly possible for the individual owner to approach the committee if he dislikes something their servant has done.

Amendment negatived.