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New Clause—(Application Of Part Iv Of Act To Councils Of County Boroughs)

Volume 438: debated on Wednesday 4 June 1947

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(1) The Minister may, on the application of the council of a county borough, direct that the provisions of Part IV of this Act, other than this Section, shall apply in relation to the council as they apply in relation to the council of a county, being a smallholdings authority.

(2) The Minister may, whether on the application of the council of the county borough concerned or otherwise, revoke any direction for the time being in force under this section.

(3) Where no direction under this Section is in force in relation to the council of, any county borough, but land is held by the council for the purposes of smallholdings (whether in consequence of a previous direction under this Section or of the exercise of powers conferred by the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts, 2908 to 1930, then subject to the provisions of the next following Subsection the provisions Of Part IV of this Act, other than this Section, shall as respects that land apply in relation to the council as they apply in relation to the council of a county, being a smallholdings authority.

(4) Where the said provisions of Part IV of this Act apply by virtue of the last foregoing Subsection, then—

  • (a) so much of the said provisions as imposes a duty to provide smallholdings shall apply as if it conferred a power so to do;
  • (b) the council shall not have power to acquire or appropriate land for the purposes of smallholdings, whether by virtue of the said provisions or otherwise:
  • Provided that as respects land held by the council for smallholdings purposes by virtue of the grant of a tenancy or the compulsory hiring of the land, nothing in paragraph ( b) of this Subsection shall prevent the extension or renewal of the tenancy or the compulsory purchase of the land.

    (5) Where by virtue of this Section the provisions of Section fifty-nine of this Act apply to the council of a county borough—

  • (a) nothing in Subsection (3) of that Section shall prevent the council referring thereunder to the smallholdings committee any matters relating to the exercise of the council's functions in connection with allotments, so however that those matters shall not be referred to the smallholdings committee unless a sub-committee of the smallholdings committee is constituted in accordance with the provisions of Section fourteen of the Allotments Act, 5922, and the matters are referred by the smallholdings committee to that sub-committee;
  • (b) reference of the said matters to the smallholdings committee under the said section fifty-nine shall be sufficient compliance with the requirements of the said Section fourteen as to reference to an allotments committee.—[Mr. T. Williams.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

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

    In Committee there was a good deal of criticism of the inclusion of county boroughs as smallholding authorities under Clause 45. It was pointed out that many county boroughs, although primarily urban, had really no agricultural land within their boundaries, and following the discussion at that time I promised to look into the matter between then and the Report stage. The purpose of this new Clause is to deal with that point. Its effect will be that county boroughs will not automatically become smallholding authorities for the purposes of Part IV of this Bill. Any county borough will, however, be able to apply to the Minister to become a smallholding authority, and the Minister will have power on such application to direct that a county borough council shall become a smallholding authority for the purposes of Part IV. When such a direction is given, the county borough council will have exactly the same powers as any county council under the terms of the Bill. The Minister can also revoke such a direction, either on his own initiative or on that of the county borough council concerned.

    In view of this change it is clearly necessary to deal with the case of county borough councils which already hold land for smallholding purposes, or which be-tome smallholding authorities and acquire land, and subsequently, as the result of a revocation of a direction, cease to be a smallholding authority. Arrangements must be made to meet that situation. The effect of Subsections (3) and (4) of the new Clause is that where a county borough council hold land for smallholding purposes they will continue to have all the necessary functions, powers and duties under Part IV of the Bill in relation to that particular land. They will not, however, have power to acquire additional land except after a direction made by the Minister. This new Clause, I repeat, is intended to meet the point raised by hon. Members in Committee. Also for their satisfaction I would say that it has been discussed and agreed by the Association of Municipal Corporations and the County Councils Association. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will accept it.

    I think the Minister has gone a long way towards meeting the objections we raised from this side, but the point we made in Committee, and which should be made again here, is that the amount of land available in the whole country is limited, and that any allocation of smallholdings in county areas will cause a good deal of trouble. If the allocation is in any way overweighted by the demands of borough councils to whom the Minister gives permission, that will inevitably take away from the total area available in those parts of the country where agricultural workers are far more numerous. I want to enter that caveat because I feel that large-scale demands will upset the balance of the whole scheme, making land available for agricultural workers in county areas and, to that extent, making fewer smallholdings available for agricultural workers outside the county boroughs.

    I am certain that hon. Members on this side of the Committee will be grateful to the Minister for having introduced this new Clause because we do not want to upset any existing arrangement where the county councils have smallholdings. On the other hand we do not wait to enforce them to provide them where that is impracticable. There are some words in Subsection (5, a) which I do not quite understand, and I should be grateful if the Minister will explain them. It is quite obvious today that allotments are a very important factor in producing food, and allotment holders are crying out for security of tenure. They also need loans to help produce the food, and protection against the Town and Country Planning Bill. Subsection (5, a) says that agricultural matters may be referred to the Smallholdings Committee. It goes on to say that in connection with allotments:

    "those matters shall not be referred to the smallholdings committee unless a sub-committee of the smallholdings committee is constituted."
    It appears to me, therefore, that matters concerning allotments may not be referred to this sub-committee unless there is a special sub-committee of the sub-committee itself to deal with allotments. Surely, allotment problems must come under discussion from time to time by county councils, and it seems that they should be allowed to put their problems before the sub-committee irrespective of whether or not there is a special subcommittee to deal with allotments. I would ask the Minister for some explanation on this point.

    4.45 p.m.

    As I read Subsection (5) of the new Clause it in no way alters the existing conditions, I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that allotment holders are calling aloud for security of tenure, but I am afraid we cannot deal with allotments in this particular Bill.

    Allotments are being dealt with in this Bill, and the new Clause says that nothing can be done about them unless a sub-committee of the smallholdings committee is constituted. This seems to rule out any question of matters connected with allotments being dealt with under this subsection.

    Question put, and agreed to.

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

    Bill reported with Amendments; as amended (in the Standing Committee and on re-committal) considered.