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letter is full of the characteristic reservations of which its writer is such a master. It is true also, I believe, that Mr. Bonar Law and Mr. Austen Chamberlain have included in their platform speeches references to the need for land reform on a basis of ownership. From Lord Lansdowne, on the other hand, we have had not so much a declaration of what the official Unionist policy is, as what it is not, when he replied to me in the House of Lords that in his opinion it would be a great misfortune to the country to substitute for the present system of land tenure some vast system of land purchase under which every occupant of a farm might be converted into a small landlord.
But, after all, in spite of the traditional cold water which the official leaders of the Tory party always think it their duty to pour upon the projects of their more enthusiastic followers, I suppose it may be accepted that the Unionist party do propose, if and when they are responsible for the government of the country, to initiate a scheme of State-aid occupying ownership. Certainly the average voter is justified in his belief that the Unionist party believes in occupying ownership, while the Liberal party, which in this instance at least is the more truly conservative, believes that tenancy is the system best suited to the needs of agriculture in this country. In every rural constituency the emissaries of the Rural League and the rank and file of Tory speakers are hard at work promising the electors that, if they will return them to power, the same facilities as the State has given to Irish farmers will be extended to their English brethren, and that they are to be enabled to become their own landlords by annual payments which will be little, if at all, larger than their present rents. Farmers' clubs and Chambers of Agriculture all over the country are encouraged to pass resolutions in favour of Mr. Jesse Collings' Bill, and the small holders are told that, instead of being the tenants of a harsh and exacting landlord in the shape of the County Council, they are all to be converted into freeholders, enjoying the magic of property' under their own vine and their own fig-tree. Now all this is an extremely plausible and attractive picture, and it is worth while to consider whether there is any possibility of its realisation, and whether the basis of ownership on which it is to be created is really a sound foundation for agriculture in this country, or a desirable end, either from the point of view of the State or from that of the individual farmer or small holder.
THE IRISH ANALOGY In the first place, it is necessary to say a few words about the alleged Irish analogy. It may be an effective rhetorical point for the platform to ask why the State should not assist English farmers to purchase their holdings on the same terms as are given to Irish farmers, but such a question ignores entirely the fundamental differences in the conditions of the two countries. In Ireland, owing to the fact that it was the practice for the tenants to do all the improvements, permanent as well as temporary, on their farms, a' system had grown up, partly by custom and partly as a result of legislative enactments, under which the tenant acquired an interest in his holding far in excess of what was due to him for his improvements. Under the system of Free Sale, he obtained a saleable property in the right to the occupancy of his farm, which often amounted to as much as 51. an acre, apart from ordinary tenant-right, as it is understood in England. The result was that incoming tenants were hopelessly burdened, landlords were reduced to mere rent-chargers with no responsibilities or obligations, and a perfect tangle of dual ownership grew up, which became so intolerable that the only solution was to buy out one of the parties. Accordingly the State came to the rescue, and by the gift of a sum of 12,000,0001. and a loan which will probably amount to 180,000,0001. the knot was cut, and the tenants are becoming the absolute owners of their holdings by payments extending over a period of sixty-eight and a half years.
The position in this country is exactly the opposite. Almost all the permanent improvements on agricultural land are made by the landlords. The system of tenancy has not broken down, the worst evils of dual ownership have been avoided, and there has been practically no demand for Free Sale. It is surely an extreme instance of the irony of fate that a policy, which has been largely the outcome of legislation consistently denounced by the Tory party for twenty years, should now be proposed to be applied to a country where the exceptional circumstances which were the only possible justification for its adoption in Ireland are conspicuous by their absence. If further evidence were needed of the
. false analogy of the Irish case, I would refer Mr. Collings and his friends to Lord Lansdowne, who is himself an Irish landlord intimately acquainted with the whole history of the question. Speaking in the House of Lords on the 7th of March last, he said: 'I quite agree that the Irish analogy is not one which can be pressed when you are talking of the system of land tenure in this country. As we all know, we have had in Ireland to pass through something like an agrarian revolution. We had to find a way out.
Our legislation was, as I conceive, not very well devised in its earlier days; we had to find a way out, and we found one by resorting to State-aid land purchase. In Ireland. however, the agricultural system had broken down, while in this country it has not only not broken down, but it has been wonderfully successful, and it has been one which has tided landlord and
tenant over an extremely anxious and difficult time. I for one should infinitely regret to see that system disappear entirely.'
In the face of the radical difference in the conditions of the two countries, it is surely nothing short of dishonest to delude English farmers into thinking that any Government is the least likely to propose to apply the Irish Land Purchase Acts to England. And yet we find Mr. J. L. Green, the Secretary of Mr. Jesse Collings' Rural League, asserting before Lord Haversham's Committee that 'whatever is good enough for the Government of the day to do for Ireland, the farmers of this country ought to have the same privileges.' Is it any wonder that as a result of this unscrupulous propaganda the Central Chamber of Agriculture, the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, the Farmers' Club, and no fewer than 168 other Chambers of Agriculture and Farmers' Associations have passed resolutions in favour of Mr. Jesse Collings' Bill? I do not blame them, but it is difficult to speak with sufficient restraint of those who are deluding them with vain hopes. It is high time that English farmers were told definitely by the responsible leaders of the Unionist party that they have no intention of adopting Mr. Collings' Bill, if they wish to absolve themselves from complicity in the charge of obtaining votes under false pretences.
FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES But even if the position in this country was at all analogous to that in Ireland, financial considerations alone would present an impassable obstacle to any proposals for land purchase in England on similar lines to those adopted in Ireland. We have recently been told by Lord St. Aldwyn that there never was a piece of more unsound finance than the Irish Land Act of 1903. When that Act was discussed, we were told that the problem to be dealt with would represent a capital of something like 100,000,0001. This has proved to be a serious underestimate, and it is now agreed that not much less than 180,000,0001. will be required, and, further, it has been necessary to raise the annual instalment for principal and interest from 31 per cent. to 33 per cent., while the bonus, which was to have amounted to 12,000,0001., will probably reach 20,000,0001. The obligations under the Irish Act are already as much as, if not more than, the State can finance, and if a similar policy were initiated for this country, the amount involved would be increased sixfold. It is obvious that if the purchase instalments are not to exceed considerably the rents at present paid, the State would have to provide a bonus of at least 120,000,0001. for English landlords, for there is no reason to believe that the Tory party will induce the landlords to accept terms less favourable than those granted to their Irish confrères ; and the total amount of the loan for land purchase would not be less than 1,000,000,0001. It is the merest midsummer madness to dream that any responsible Government could adopt a policy which would mean not only a State grant of 120,000,0001, to a particular class, but also would hopelessly disorganise the money market for generations.
MR. JESSE COLLINGS' BILL It may be said that Mr. Jesse Collings' Bill only provides for the issue of 10,000,0001. for the purchase of their holdings by sitting tenants, but it must be remembered that in this matter it is the first step that counts. If the Government once embarked upon a policy of State-aided land purchase, it would be impossible to draw the line at 10,000,0001. and to refuse to the great majority of sitting tenants the facilities which had been afforded to a favoured few. Moreover, the advocates of the Bill do not pretend that it can be so limited. What they want is to get the principle accepted, and they display a touching innocence when the question of ways and means comes to be considered. Mr. Green told Lord Haversham's Committee that the Bill leaves it to the Government of the day to find the money, and under crossexamination he first suggested that the money should come from the same source as the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets money for old-age pensions from-namely, taxation-and then withdrew that answer in favour of a suggestion that a guaranteed land stock bearing interest at 3 or 37 per cent. might be issued. The whole of Mr. Green's evidence before the Committee is extremely instructive as an illustration of the 'sloppy 'finance on which the Bill is founded.
LORD DUNMORE's BILL In addition to Mr. Jesse Collings' Bill, another proposal has been put forward, for which I understand Sir Gilbert Parker is largely responsible. I refer to Lord Dunmore's Small Ownership and National Land Bank Bill, which was introduced into the House of Lords last year. This Bill proposes to set up a National Land Bank with a nominal capital of 5,000,0001., and with power to issue debentures to the extent of 25,000,0001. bearing interest at 3} per cent. guaranteed by the Government. The Bank is to lend 80 per cent. of the value of the land to be purchased, charging 4 per cent. interest, to include sinking fund, and the County Councils are to be compelled to advance the remaining 20 per cent. on the security of a second mortgage. This Bill was pulverised by Lord Belper, speaking on behalf of the County Councils' Association, and by Lord Faber, on behalf of the bankers, and though it received the barren compliment of a second reading, nothing more has been heard of it.
CASH DEPOSITS Before leaving this subject, there is one further point to which reference should be made, and that is the question of a cash deposit. It appears to be an essential part of the Unionist policy of land reform that the whole of the purchase money shall be advanced, and that no deposit should be required from the purchaser. It is true that this only follows the Irish precedent, but here again it is necessary to point out that the example of Ireland is irrelevant. What the State advances in Ireland is the value of the landlord's interest, which is very far from being the full value of the land. The value of the tenant's interest in Ireland is very much greater than is ever the case in England. It is probably never less than one-fourth of the value of the land, and in many cases it is as much as one-half, so that, although the purchasing tenant is not required to make any cash payment, the value of his interest in the land affords a good margin of security for the advance from the State of the whole of the value of the landlord's interest. In England the position is quite different, and it is very doubtful if any Government would feel justified in advancing the whole of the purchase price of a holding to the sitting tenant. The question has been considered by many Committees, including Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's Select Committee on Small Holdings in 1889, Lord Onslow's Departmental Committee on Small Holdings in 1906, and Lord Haversham's Departmental Committee this year, and they have all agreed with practical unanimity that it is essential in the interests of the State to require some cash payment from a purchaser. If this is fully realised by the farmers and small holders, I am confident that we shall hear little more of the burning desire for ownership which we are told exists at present.
The truth is that the practical financial difficulties in the way of any large scheme of State-aided purchase, which shall be at the same time acceptable to the purchasing tenants and safe for the State, are insuperable. Farmers, quite rightly, will not look at any scheme which would lock up part of their working capital, or which would involve the payment of purchase instalments appreciably larger than their present rents; landowners, quite naturally, are not prepared to accept less than the market value of their property, and would probably object to being paid in bonds rather than in cash; and the State, quite obviously, ought not to be asked to provide out of the pockets of the taxpayers the money necessary to make up the difference between what the farmers will pay and what the landowners will accept.