These are the papers from the Lloyd George Society Week End School held at the Commodore Hotel, Llandrindod Wells on the weekend of 16/17 February 2008. Unfortunately, due to technical problems, we were unable to save all the talks. However, we are including a paper by Bill Barritt on 'The Land' which acts as something of a complement to John Campbell's contribution 'Who Owns Britain?'
Lord Kenneth Morgan
Lloyd George and the French and the Germans
It is a great pleasure to speak to the society for the second time.
Lloyd George's statue, many of us were there at the unveiling in Westminster Parliament Square last October, Winston Churchill's statue has been there for very many years, just as the statue of Clemenceau the French war leader has been in the Chans Elise since 1932. Churchill was there first and I think it perhaps indicates the popular standing there still is of these two great war leaders. I think it's partly because of popular estimation of the wars that Churchill has this prior position, the legend of the Second World War is central to the British people's sense of their own identity. No Christmas would be complete without seeing a film, after the Queen's speech, with our boys knocking the hell out of the Germans would it!
The First World War is of course associated with trenches and with bloodshed and with horror struck by the fact that when there were floods in the West Midlands in the summer, people talked of the Dunkirk spirit. In terms of character Churchill saw to embody fine qualities, honour, patriotism, a man as the book says 'in command of history'. Lloyd George skewered forever by Keynes's famous or notorious essay on him 'a chameleon rooted in nothing' which I think Keynes said he wasn't rooted in Cambridge. A man who promised a land fit for heroes and failed to deliver. So there is need for constant revision and prospective, I take it that is the primary purpose of this admirable society.
I want to have a go at part of it today by looking at Lloyd George's view on international matters. At home he was a very baffling and kaleidoscopic politician, at various times he seemed radical and also at other times an advocate and practitioner of the coalition with the Conservatives. There are plenty of paradoxes in foreign affairs too, which I shall try to show. I also think that there is a rather more obvious consistency and continuity which have to be taken on board when estimating Lloyd George. I want to focus particularly on his views and attitudes towards the French and the Germans, these were central to Lloyd George's career. Relations with the French and the Germans, not with the United States, which were Britain's special relationships as far as Lloyd George was concerned, now he saw himself as a very pro-French politician. He admired Napoleon, he read quite a lot of 'Les Miserable' which kindled his social awareness, he liked French culture, French cities and I hardly dare add French women who he frequently encountered on the Promenade de Anglais in Nice!
Like many on the left from Charles James Fox to Michael Foot, his view of world history was shaped by the French Revolution. France appealed to the radical in Lloyd George, democratic, republican and anti-feudal, anti-clerical. It was on these grounds, ideological grounds which Lloyd George supported and very much the entente cordiale with France in 1904. He thought France was the kind of country Britain should be allied to. One rather exciting thing that happened in France at just about the time the Liberal government took office at the end of 1905, was the disestablishment of the Church in France which speeded on Lloyd George and his many speeches in this very town where we are now located, it speeded him on to work at the disestablishment of the Church in Wales. He particularly admired Clemenceau and actually met him early on in 1910, a meeting arranged by an Irish MP. It didn't actually seem to have gone terribly well at that time, which was rather characteristic of these meetings Lloyd George thought the talk lasted a long time; Clemenceau thought it lasted less than 10 minutes so they didn't altogether hit it off! Nonetheless it was symptomatic of things I want to discuss later.
He was also very sympathetic towards Germany an enterprising, modernising and above all Protestant Germany. The Welsh in Lloyd George's era had a very high regard for Germany, the homeland of Martin Luther, the Land that produced great oratorios of Bache and of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, a land of great universities. There's quite an attractive little book a visit to Germany by Owen M. Edwards. He was full of adoration for the humane and musical face of Germany. Lloyd George also admired a more modern Germany, a Germany with its un- secretarion, comprehensive educational system. He honoured as others did the Prussian schoolmaster who would modernise the country. His early hero was Joseph Chamberlain and Chamberlain in his later career was a strong advocate of an entente between Britain and Germany.
A very important episode which I think historians still have quite a lot to write about is Lloyd Georges period as president of the Board of Trade between the end of 1905 and April of 1908. Here Lloyd George shows his awareness and fascination with German commercial enterprise, technical expertise, underpinned by a strong system of social welfare and this awareness of post-Bismarckian Germany and its social and economic strength was running like a theme of Lloyd George from now on. He used a man whose name is not so well known now; WH Dawson, he was a man who wrote more than 30 books on aspects of German history, you could look up 'Who's Who', he was a very big expert on Germany and Lloyd George used him at the Board of Trade and he was a very important conduit in getting Lloyd George to translate German ideas about social, economic and financial matters into British policy. In my view France and Germany appeal to different aspects, different facets of Lloyd George; his outlook and perhaps his personality. France, I believe appealed to the old Liberal, anticlerical, populist Democrat, a man sympathetic to Republican values, this is the Lloyd George of Welsh politics.
Germany attracted the new Liberal; the Liberal of national efficiency and social welfare. There was this dualism in him and this is very evident in his debates throughout his career. This aspect of Germany certainly appealed to him and although Lloyd George is a legendary Celt, I also feel he is a northern European and I am tempted to say he was a kind of honorary Anglo-Saxon! With growing affinity with German values and French values perhaps, it was reinforced by a very famous meeting he undertook with Germany in the summer of August 1908. These two very important 'poles' as it were of Lloyd George's career the visits to Germany in 1908 and in 1936. The only account I know of is a brief one but very interesting one, in a pretty obscure book, but does give an account of Lloyd George's visit to Germany which came at a time when he and Winston Churchill were very much engaged in re-energising the Liberal government, Lloyd George at the Treasury Churchill at the Board of Trade discussing comprehensive social insurance, old age and invalidity pensions, health matters, education and labour exchanges.
So it came at a very important time and he travelled to Germany via Bavaria and Munich and made his way up to Hamburg. He travelled by car which was fairly innovatory in those days, the car was actually loaned to him by another Liberal MP Sir Charles Henry, but I'm bound to say actually that he not only loaned his car, he also loaned his wife, he was a man of great generosity! Lloyd George was inspired by what he saw in Germany, this picture of industrial enterprise and social confusion; he saw it as the embodiment of national efficiency. He was very impressed by the Bismarckian welfare structure and that he believed it was possible not to undermine voluntary effort as well and perhaps build it into the system, maybe more effectively than the Germans had done. Somebody else who visited Germany around this time though rather briefly was actually a great hero of Lloyd George; Theodor Roosevelt who was the then president of the United States and his new nationalism as it emerged in 1912 was very much affected by Lloyd George's style of social radicalism.
So what happened in Britain afterwards bears a very strong German stamp, particularly the National Insurance act of 1911. An act of most immense importance and extraordinary achievement and heavily influenced, though not a duplicate, by the German system, though Lloyd George argued that nine pence or four pence as he put it (which was the way that the contributions would be balanced) was actually a better deal for the British worker than it was for the German worker. A very important measure and Lloyd George went on to national health insurance but some people had had enough of this, but when you consider the question of health, he and his lieutenants Dr Addison who later wrote a book, were talking about something rather similar to a National Health Service in the summer of 1914.
This visit pushed Lloyd George in a strongly pro-German direction, but the mood had changed when he considered overseas affairs. He met the German Vice Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg later on in command of the war and he felt here, and I think it was quite genuine, that this was a different Germany. This was not of the Germany of technical prowess, this was not the Germany of Heidelberg, this was a Germany with echoes of the Prussian class and of military cost. One consequence also less regarded sometimes was a much heightened awareness of the threat from Germany and in my opinion there was never much doubt actually that Lloyd George would support the war in 1914 given what had happened in the interim, he was on the committee of imperial defence he knew the situation regarding legal rivalry and so on. But it was still a very positive visit in many ways, this German visit of 1908. I think it's a visit that you should also always bear in mind when considering Lloyd George's later career.
In the First World War when Lloyd George eventually became Prime Minister, he claimed that it was a war fought for Liberal values, for nationality and justice. He of course worked very closely with the French. There are many differences. The French were given, not surprisingly being where their country was located, the phrase Westerners. They wanted the war to be concentrated primarily on the Western front. Lloyd George was broadly an Easterner, for much of the time he wanted a more peripheral strategy, but you do see a great coming together of Lloyd George's approach and the French in the early part of the First World War, with the result that after his time as Minister of munitions 1915/16 Lloyd George was really becoming a kind of hero in many circles in France. He made a very powerful speech at Verdun in September 1916, the French people evidently found some difficulty understanding in his welsh accent but they felt it was a great speech and that he was a great man.
The main feature that I want to say little bit about because I find it so interesting is his relationship with Clemenceau. Clemenceau became Prime Minister in November 1917 and of course he and Lloyd George were deeply involved with each other over the next two years. They had much in common; Clemenceau was a man steeped in English liberalism; John Stuart Mill, Spencer. He visited the United States not long after the end of the Civil War in 1865 and actually married, but rather disastrously so, to an American and spoke English pretty well. He was often attacked in France as being a pro English politician and pursued by hecklers as a man who was dangerously anglicised. He and Lloyd George had Republican values, they were left-wing social reformers, Lloyd George in my view retained that impulse, while Clemenceau became really anti-Labour in his first premiership and less attached to the unions, whereas Lloyd George was a great patron of the trade unions and played a major part in making them politically effective. He and Clemenceau were both free spirits, both very image conscious, Lloyd George with his long hair and his Inverness cloak, Clemenceau with his cape, his boots and his cane all faithfully depicted in the statue on the Champs Elysees. Both of them keenly aware of the press in promoting their image, Clemenceau also actually ran his own newspaper 'La Justice'. Lloyd George was deeply involved with newspapers from the Boar War on and indeed later on actually meditated rather astonishingly for a Prime Minister on becoming editor of the Times and actually the owner of The Times, which was certainly a first in British political history.
Both of them were fairly casual in money matters, Clemenceau had the Panama scandal, Lloyd George the Marconi affair. Both of them had rather strange friends, a common friend appears to be, though some people have disputed it, a strange man called sir Basil Zaharoff who was an arms manufacturer of a fairly unscrupulous kind who had, not to his credit, shares in the University of Oxford. Clemenceau and Lloyd George were to a degree womanisers, Clemenceau when he was 80, so it was said, saw a pretty girl in the Champs Elysees and observed 'oh to be 70 again'!
Most important, both were political outsiders. Clemenceau effectively excluded himself from orthodox parties after his first premiership ending in 1909. In the First World War Lloyd George emerged out of the division of his party. So you can reasonably say that both Clemenceau and Lloyd George where Prime Ministers without a party in 1918. Clemenceau was an intellectual, he wrote a novel more or less, his critics said that a novel was all he needs and to be successful as a novelist is to find something to say! He was a close friend of Monet, he was genuinely a valuable ally of Monet and rebuilt his career in his later years, and it was Clemenceau who arranged for Monet to have a famous contract for the Orangery which is in Paris. In retirement Clemenceau wrote a book about Monet, Lord Lloyd George's approach was not intellectual, it was intuitive. Lloyd George's temperament was beguiling Keyne's saw him as a kind of femme fatale. People wrote that Lloyd George was able to charm a bird off the bough.
Clemenceau by contrast was aggressive, confrontational, he inspired fear. He fought several duels including a famous duel with Deschanel, one of his critics in the French Assembly, Clemenceau was a very good fencer and Deschanel was not, so he rapidly retreated from the field with Clemenceau shouting at Deschanel but Deschanel had the last word because he prevented Clemenceau from becoming president of France so that was pretty good comeback I think!
They came, Lord Lloyd George and Clemenceau close together in 1918. We see the year 1918 as the high point in the chequered history of the Entente Cordiale. They had their differences of approach and outlook; they did work well together, certainly much better than Churchill and de Gaulle during the Second World War. They had for some of the time in 1918, a common enemy; the generals, not the German generals but the British generals and they worked together to secure a unity of command with the joint armies under the supreme command of martial Foch. The purpose in Lloyd George's case was very much to prevent Field Marshall Haigh becoming the head of the combined forces. They did work closely together on many issues, perhaps more scrupulously so in 1918 in working towards a peace settlement in dividing the spoils in relation to the Middle East, in having I think a joint wariness at what seemed to them the utopianism of President Woodrow Wilson. Lloyd George, actually it's not generally known, produced a version of the 14 points just 24 hours or so before Wilson did and Clemenceau and the French. Of course Lloyd George thought that Lloyd George's were far superior because they were based far more on realism and on the actual facts as they were on the ground.
In the peace conference Lloyd George appeared at first to be strongly anti-German. In the coupon election there had been much talk, though not from Lloyd George I may say, about hanging the Kaiser, squeezing Germany until it squeaked. But this, I think, is exaggerated along with the many ways in which Keynes's brilliant book is really not correct and certainly not fair towards Lloyd George. The emphasis in his speeches and certainly in his approach towards the peace conference was for reconstruction. I think it was well thought out by Lloyd George's great fan Margaret McMillan the head of St Antony's College in Oxford in her book 'The Peacemakers' because Lloyd George clearly was very alienated by the tone of the peace talks and, if you like, by the way that Clemenceau was taking them over. He had always drawn the distinction during the war between the German leaders; Kaiser who should at all costs be defeated and the German people. He never elaborated anything like the break up plan of the Second World War where it was seriously proposed and Churchill was very good at dismissing it! I think he did propose to reduce Germany to a pastoral economy and try to destroy it as a modern country.
Lloyd George did not take that view at all about Germany in 1919. Both as it were in itself but also because he felt that if destructive chauvinist measures were taken against Germany then Germany might go Red, it might be captured by the advancing tide of bolshevism about which all Western politicians were very anxious. He produced in March 1919, a very famous document which I think tells you a lot about it; the Fontainebleau memorandum, produced evidently in a place in the forest near that French town. It is the major landmark perhaps of Lloyd George's awareness of and sympathy for Germany. There were two points in this very personal document, the first was that it was very important to ensure that German-speaking peoples should not be placed under alien rule, above all not in the Polish Corridor in the East, he was very worried about that. He showed incidentally no sympathy with the Czech claim for the Sudetenland to be put into the new Czechoslovakia and is very critical on his approach towards Munich later on, where he was critical of Eduard Benes in as he thought fraudulently pleading in the Czech case 1919. So don't place German-speaking peoples under alien rule and secondly, although this comes later, reparations; that there should be a flexible approach to all reparations to make sure that Germany is not destroyed. It was vital he thought for Britain and for Europe that Germany should be maintained as a great manufacturing trading nation. He was a bit ambivalent about reparations, he added to the total in some way, he put widows and orphans pensions into the kitty which almost doubled the sum and he also handed it over to a commission with the purpose of kicking it in to the long grass and to a degree that did actually happened. That in effect the decision was so protracted over reparations that Germany far from being crushed, as claims reasonably predicted, it was not in fact very much damaged at all.
From that time on the main purpose of Lloyd George's foreign policy was a revision of the peace treaties particularly in these two areas; German-speaking populations and reparations. It's well worth remembering that of course Lloyd George was the only one of the peacemakers who actually had a long tenure of power. Wilson was in any case a weakened president, politically he'd lost the term elections but in addition he had a stroke during the peace conference or at the end of it and was really a negligible figure thereafter.
Clemenceau was as I said defeated by Deschanel. He was evicted in the sabre duel and Lloyd George was left as he saw it to clear up the mess. He did try and I think he deserved credit for this; he did try to reconcile the French need for territorial security which he understood; there had been two attacks on France 1870 and 1914 with the need for a settlement, a reasonable settlement with Germany. He proposed initially a military pact for France, a territorial guarantee for France one of the most interesting features of that is that he elaborated in 1919 the possibility of a channel tunnel which has given us an idea for a long time, he brought it a little bit further to the forefront as a way of facilitating Britain's assistance to defend and assist France but he didn't get too far.
After Clemenceau had gone he had another go which seemed to be going very well in 1921 with another French Prime Minister, Aristide Briand, who came from Brittany. Lloyd George had a particular affinity between these two Celtic heads of government and they had serious talks about a treaty of guarantee which indeed would have taken the alliance between Britain and France to a stage not hitherto managed or even conceived. At the conference in Cannes in January 1922 it did actually look as if this long term commitment had been achieved, it would have been very remarkable, it would have been a first such commitment from Britain since the end of the war in Spain in the time of the Napoleonic war, the first time since 1813. The thing went terribly wrong they had as you perhaps know a disastrous game of golf; it did not go terribly well. Generally during that period the French national assembly turned against Briand, he was overthrown, relations with the French became increasingly sour, indeed the next French prime minister was to be Raymond Poincaré who came from the recently occupied Lorraine so that did not guarantee a warm feeling towards German friends and neighbours.
Relations between Lloyd George and Clemenceau, now in retirement, plunged rapidly. In 1921 Clemenceau came to Oxford to receive an honours degree and he called on Lloyd George in the House of Commons and it was a fairly disastrous meeting. Clemenceau said 'ever since the armistice I have found you to be the enemy of France'. Lloyd George unfortunately burst into laughter and said 'oh well this is not our conditional policy'. It didn't go terribly well with Clemenceau who later on took long walks in his native west of France and he said that he did so partly because of the forest; there he would not see Lloyd George, he'd only see squirrels!
Things generally between Lloyd George and France went badly at the end of the coalition period September 1922. Britain was attacking France as unduly aggressive and the French attacked Lloyd George as a war monger in Turkey. Poincaré shouted angrily at the British foreign secretary, sensitive soul, George Curzon who retaliated by bursting into tears! When Lloyd George was thrown out of office in October 1922 the French rejoiced and of course he never returned.
Thereafter Lloyd George was seen as consistently pro-German. He felt that the French were taking a hard view of the peace settlement, a particularly hard view over reparation. He took a much milder view of Germany's policy in the thirties than for example Churchill did, his criticism of the reoccupation of the Rhineland by Germany in 1936 was relatively modest. His advisers were distinctly more pro-German and indeed in one or two places I think pro-Hitler.in his garden suburbs he had private advisors people like Philip Kerr who were very global and were very sympathetic to Germany's claims and feeling they had been hard done by in the peace treaty.
Most cataclysmic of all and I think frankly the most disastrous episode of Lloyd George's career; he visited Hitler in Berchtesgaden in September 1936. This is the second pole of the 1908 social reform and in 1936 another parameter to his career; he went to the top literally, to the eagles nest way up above Berchtesgaden. Lloyd George went with Thomas Jones and his daughter Megan, who didn't like him at all and son Bryn who I don't think minded too much! Why did he go? Why did Lloyd George go to see Hitler? Was it perhaps because the government in Britain was being so negative towards him? Maybe he thought it was a real chance to grapple again with the failures of the peace settlement, failures to deal with Germany's legitimate vanity. He was an old man and vanity was fanned by Hitler, he felt perhaps in this last saving of his career he could again become the great reconciler. Well he looked at public works, he met Hitler, they flattered each other, they gave each other signed photographs and he came back saying that Britain's foreign policy should change in Beaverbrook's Daily Express he called for a path of neutral guarantee between Britain and Germany. He talked of the new spirit of gayety and truthfulness with Germany; 'Hitler' he said 'is a born leader of men of magnetic dynamic personality with a single minded purpose and resolute will and a dauntless heart. He is a George Washington of Germany'.
This never the less shows you quite a lot I think of how far Lloyd George was prepared to go in accommodating Germany at this time. He was I think a late convert though a very important one to the need to confront Hitler. He did vote against the Munich settlement. In 1939 he was a strong supporter of a guarantee to Poland, though he pointed out quite correctly that without an alliance with the Soviet Union, it really didn't mean perhaps a great deal.
Once the war broke out, Lloyd George was again calling for negotiations with the Germans. He said that the great failing was the failure to revise the peace treaty to implement the policy which he had called himself between 1919 and 1922. It was he thought unnatural for Britain and Germany to be at war. He helped to make Churchill the prime minister, he was very famous for a speech during the debate, but at the same time he was thought of really as a somewhat defeatist figure by 1940. He was offered as well probably the ambassadorship to the United States at the end of 1940 and somewhat to the relief of Roosevelt, who remembered Lloyd George's visit to Hitler, he turned it down, he condemned the policy of unconditional surrender, the very policy that he himself had championed in 1917.
In the end perhaps you might say he identified again France, but the wrong France. Churchill perhaps unfairly condemned some of his speeches with a reference to 'old papa'. There were rumours of that the German out there perhaps saw Lloyd George as presiding over Wales during the period of German occupation.
In many aspects of the foreign policy, Lloyd George I believe was more consistent than most on Franco German relations. He was the champion of the entente cordiale ; he brought it to its peak as an affective alliance in 1918 and also in seeing Germany as a natural ally which was particularly important for Britain to have a proper relationship. He did try to reconcile the French needs for security with a need to satisfy the territorial and economic aspirations of a great country like Germany. He failed and all the others continued but it was perhaps a valiant effort. But he did fail and the world of European reconciliation is really the work of a later generation of de Gaulle and Adenauer after 1945. Ours is not the world that Lloyd George made.
But finally, perhaps it is, in the last 20 years British government has found its major problems in three countries; Northern Ireland, Palestine and the tragedy and crime of Iraq. They have one thing in common; in all things wise and wonderful Lloyd George made them all.
Who Owns Britain
By John Cambell
I'll make something of an apology straightaway because there will be quite a bit of this, I am going to have to read, that's partly because I am stepping sort of way outside my own comfort zone. I'm quite used to talking to a room of full of vets and so forth, on scientific subjects and bio science and so forth but this is something completely different and although I've known about Ultimus haeres and Bona vacantia and a little about the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall and one or two other odds and sods, I'd never really crystallised all this with a few thoughts as to why it matters and whether we should do something about it or not and if so what to do about it.
So who owns Britain is exactly what it says on the tin, it's about land ownership of Britain, in fact the United Kingdom really and possibly the pre 1922 United Kingdom, as it was then, and I'll touch on this bit here which is the Republic of Ireland.
Who owns Britain? Well we all do and in this present company I will almost hesitate to embark on this because 'education' as Pearl said this morning 'is of absolute key importance to the upcoming generation' and indeed every generation and Mick Bates is quite right to concentrate this morning on the needs of people because when people talk about Green issues (said he going off at a tangent) and this talk about saving the planet, they are absolutely wrong about that, the planet is quite capable of looking after itself, so that 20 thousand years after we have all gone and mankind is wiped off the face of the earth, the planet will sort itself out and whatever sort of diurnal rhythm it was pursuing before the Industrial Revolution, it will carry on doing it completely uninterrupted. What we are talking about is saving mankind.
This may seem something of a side step, but those of you who were here in 2004 will have recalled Mr. David Gladstone's excellent presentation on the Royal Prerogative and it was actually reading this (and I did phone you up David and have a little conversation about it, I haven't got round to publishing bits of it yet but I may very well, again with your permission) it was reading this that made me research some of the huge anomalies that you outlined in your presentation and indeed there are echoes of them in this and the two sort of sit together.
So who does own Britain? Well we all do, don't we? Well actually 'yes and no' is the correct answer, or maybe it isn't but why the ambiguity? Well there's another point as well, for those of you who own properties, the freehold of properties, then we'll go into the definition of exactly what 'freehold' means because it does not mean that you are the absolute owner. If you hold a freehold you have something completely different to what you might imagine if you think you are the absolute owner, because you're not, that includes myself.
So there we are, now these are the areas I want to cover and not just the title; Land use a very broad brush. Land ownership: again very broad brush. We will go into the definition of these things plus rentals and tenancies and so forth then just briefly touch on the major landowners, both the institutions (such as the railways and so forth) and individuals and how they hold those landholdings. I now want to talk about something that you actually can't find these days, it was called 'The Return of the Owners of Land in Britain 1872-1874' the information was gathered in the five years running up to 1872 and published in four volumes in 1874 and I'll go into the reasons as to why you cannot any longer get hold of these although thousands of copies were actually produced.
We'll talk briefly about the duchies, about Bona vacantia and Ultimus haeres (good names aren't they!) The Republic of Ireland briefly pre 1922 and post 1922 and then we'll just have a quick look at why it matters, why it might matter and should we do anything if so what?
So land use, Britain, this country the United Kingdom, has around 60 million acres. Using GPS (geographical positions systems) modern technology, we know the exact acreage of Britain and on it live around 60 million people. The area taken up for the holdings that those people live in is less than 10% of the land, so that would be less than 6 million acres but it's more probably around 4.4 million acres. Now why do I say more probably? Because the plain fact of the matter is we don't actually know. Again we could use GPS technology and pick out the various bits of land, distinguishing industrial from domestic might be a bit of a problem but it is do-able but really speaking we should have other methodologies considering that the Land Registry Act was actually passed in 1925 and of course Wales has somewhere between 5 and 6% of the population and about 8% of the land. It's actually impossible to do anything other than estimate these figures as there are no accurate figures for most of the UK, whilst in Northern Ireland there aren't any records whatsoever of residential acreage. Not only that but its interesting to note that most of the figures I'm quoting today actually relate back to 2001 so things may have altered a little but there's one thing I do know if there's 60 million acres in 2001 there's pretty much the same now. We may have lost a bit of Scarborough but its been deposited somewhere near Harlech I'm told! What I'm saying is that England and Wales are gradually creeping towards Ireland and Ireland is gradually creeping towards the continental shelf but it will never get to America it will just disappear into the Atlantic but I think we are a way off from that yet.
There are 2.6million acres of England alone that are completely unaccounted for, also there's a 1.2million acre gap between the total that UK government thinks is farmed and what Europe thinks is farmed. 1.2million acres is a fair old patch I'm not sure what the size of the average county is but its got to be around somewhere like 1.2million acres.
Despite these discrepancies that still leave around 55.6million acres that are not covered by bricks and mortar that we live in. Of the 55.6million acres between 12 and 14.5million acres are mountain, forest, moorland, waterway, motorways, roads and industrial land and what is beautifully called in some of the records and returns 'waste land'. So this leaves around 40million acres of countryside mostly productive in some way and frequently beautiful to behold. These 40million acres are owned by just 189,000 families, that's all. So that's the countryside, 189,000 families the rest, almost 60 million people are the ones left over.
Now among the land holdings of these 189,000 families are 4,778 estates of over 741 acres in size valued at the end of 1999 at just under £4million each. This is more than one quarter of the entire agricultural estate which makes this group of owners worth a total of £1.8billion. This is not a lot different from the figures to be found in 'The Return of Owners of Land 1872' for this document for this size of estate, as there were nearly 5500 estates of over 1000 acres.
To give perspective to the range of size of some of these big estates, the average of which is 1290 acres, consider that the largest estate that of the Duke of Buccleuch that ranges over parts of England and Scotland is 270,700 acres and at the other end of the scale that of lord Camoys of Stonor just outside Henley-on-Thames, is somewhere between 700 and 900 acres and as I've said before or implied before you cannot go to the Land Registry and look up Lord Camoys estate at Stonor and find out how much he owns. We can find out how much he' s bought because if you buy something then that is bound to go into the land registry. Whatever it was before that's a complete mystery, so something between 700 and 900 acres but it is not possible to know the size of the whole estate.
Now the vast majority of these estates are owned by three classes of people; the aristocrats who in 1999 in November sat in the House of Lords, second: the baronet's and third: the residual landed gentry once defined by their appearance in Burke's 'Landed Gentry'. Between them these three groups of people packed parliament through three centuries and provided the Captains of the militia, offices of the armed forces, the bishops and the clergy, the judges for the courts and at the same time as they did that they kept everyone else out of these critical elements of the power structure in the UK. (Maybe this tie is a political statement after all, I could have put the blue one on or even the orange one but there we go!) Of course everyone else was expected to know their place and that place had very little money, power or influence but served those that had.
As I mentioned before four years ago at the Lloyd George weekend school there was a presentation by David Gladstone that touched on these matters from a different angle. The report was prepared for 1988. The multitude of anomalies that he uncovered as a result of his investigations and some of these have a deal to do with power and influence and so forth and he expressed his views amongst other things on the role of parliament, the influence of monarchy, sovereignty and the continuing failure to settle the relationship between the executive and the legislator that lies at the heart of our unwritten constitution. I wasn't able to come to that particular School but Bill of course kindly forwarded us a copy and that is what triggered this.
I'd like to start briefly just a little bit earlier than the 1066 which is given as the starting point for the basis of our Constitution. The Celts through the Kind system and the Anglo-Saxons appear to have had more monarchs. They were led by their first among equals and the tribe or planning chief held the land on behalf of all and that's true of most primitive cultures in the past and those primitive cultures that are still in existence today. The accumulation of vast tracks of land by a small number of individuals is clearly a social injustice especially if the law of the land is encouraged to allow the status quo to persist. Those with power accumulate the land and property and tend to favour adopting legislation that allows it to retain it down the generations and this is indeed what happened. A modern radical political party may take the view that some redistribution of land and wealth is a good thing and the real challenge is how to do it. A government should not only provide, for the defence of the Realm, a safety net for the unfortunate individuals but also a defence against the worst excesses of capitalism which may be interpreted as greed.
So again to go back 2000 years the Romans invaded and everything in Britain belonged to the Emperor Drusus. Modern English, later British history really starts as David rightly pointed out with the invasion of William the Bastard or William the Conqueror as we call him, in 1066 William I. After 1066 land ownership was based on the feudal systems all occupants held their land and premises as tenants of the King who was deemed to hold the land from God. It was a divine right. Tenants were bound to do something for their law, to provide a service, to work on the land for a proportion of the week, turnout to fight bear arms etc... This gradually evolved into a financial arrangement where the tenants, sub tenants, tenants in chief etc., paid a fee as a substitute for doing this service.
Once a class of Freemen was established the notion of holding land that was free of title obligation, was born. This evolved into Freehold. In the full word (and you can look this up on the Internet) to the Land Registration Act of 2001, the Lord Chancellor states that the only owner of land in the United Kingdom was the Crown. By land we mean anything that's built on it as well. This is where we come to this legal definition of Freeholds. The Act, Land Registration Act 2001, created two forms of land tenure Freehold and Leasehold. Freehold is defined as 'an interest in an estate in land in fee simple in possession absolute', now this form of words was used to retain ultimate ownership by the Crown. That's what I meant you see, you may think you are the owners of your own house, in actual fact you do but its only sort of, it is not absolute. Only possession is absolute, that does not mean ownership. Possession means you use it, ownership is something different.
The Act refers the definition of an interest in land back to mediaeval times when the Crown did own all the land. The Lord Chancellor at that time indicated that it was a ridiculous anomaly and will be reformed in a later bill. I think then there was a silence which effectively meant do not hold your breath!
Leasehold is defined as a contract to occupy a property for a specified period of time and usually carries an annual payment of lease to the owner who may also be leaseholder. The contract usually refers to the terms of the upkeep of the property and there may be restrictive covenants on what you can or can't do with it. Eventually of course one leaseholder leases from another leaseholder until get to the Freehold.
Slightly different in Scotland, no one owns land absolutely in Scotland but each person holds a Subsidiary Title, subject to certain conditions which again may include restrictions on the use or increasing rarely, obligations to make or receive 'feu duty' or ground rent annually. Common rights and interests may be recognised by law in relation to commonality of interest in land and buildings and owners may be jointly entitled. Tenancy or rental is a simple arrangement whereby buildings or land are occupied for a period of time with fixed rent subject to certain conditions. Registration of title, The Land Registry was established in 1925 'guarantees title to and records ownership of interests in registered land'.
There we come across an operative word 'registered land' in that not all land is registered. In fact in 2001 it was acknowledged that somewhere between 30 and 50% of the acreage of England and Wales is unregistered, which is quite a bit of land that accounts for 2 million land titles not registered at all. If they were owned prior to 1925 and they haven't acquired anything since, there is no record of them in the land registry. Now the land Registry has a target to fully register everything by 2012 but they have recently restricted access electronically for some of the data, to guard against a certain amount of fraud and there has been some fraud. So already it's sort of closing the door and you can apply, it will cost you each time you apply, but some of the facility of the electronic viewing of this data is already in jeopardy.
I'll just go back to this, between 30 and 50% of England and Wales is not registered. Now in Scotland land registration was enforced from the 13th century. Modern land Registry is replacing the General Register of 'Sasines', now this word probably derives from the Celtic for English and presumably refers to the ownership of Scotland by the English as well as Wales and I'm sure that many in this audience will recognise the world sasines, in the Welsh form sisener or the Irish Scots version sassini.
That brings me to another factual equation here again this is somewhat drawn from David's last presentation in 2004, 'The Crown'. The Crown as the owner of everything even the freehold if you are a freeholder. We all know what the Crown is, it least we think we do but in fact the term has no real meaning and the classical example of two constitutional lawyers with three differing opinions between them. In fact it's contextual phrase meaning different things when used in different ways in any one context. Sometimes it means the monarch at other times the government. The Crown land is not owned by the monarch neither does the monarch employ Crown servants. The Crown immunity of course is what many public bodies duck behind to escape scrutiny in prosecution.
On the continent it's slightly different. When I refer to the continent I mean Europe, a bit like that headline in the paper in 1946 ' fog in the Channel Europe isolated!' On the continent the inherently primitive and unjust ownership of excessive individual lands is recognised in law and stringent limits are set upon the acreage that a person can hold. In Denmark for example, no one person can hold more than two farms, the second to be no more than 15 km from where the owner lives. There is an upper limit of 185 acres on amalgamations. In France it's much more complex, they control the state size through local organisations effectively local cooperatives that can intervene in land transactions and buy in blocks of land so the plots of land can be sold on to especially young families starting off in agriculture. In Holland, the tenant always has first refusal on the sale. In Germany the land settlement society has the power to intervene in transactions. So it's clear these transactions are about farmland and that they actually contravene EU law. They are however all locally based.
The basis of this activity is probably due to the revolutions in Europe which swept away many of the estates of the aristocracy and also to the aftermath of two world wars. With the former Eastern Bloc countries there have been attempts by the former Landowners and Aristocrats to regain their old lands. Most have been unsuccessful and financial compensation has been offered rather than to disturb the pattern of private ownership that is emerging following the dissolution of the communists' collectives. It's unfortunate that many of the new governments are being advised by officials from one of the most reactionary countries in relation to land ownership in Europe.
A big survey was done by a chap called Anthony Sampson in 1962 with regard to the major institutional holders of land and at that time the Forestry Commission had 2,470,000 acres, which is a fair old farm when you think about it. The MOD had 1.1 million, the Local Authorities 993,500, the National Trust 400,000, The Crown estate had 470,000 but this actually excludes 23 million acres of seabed. As Mick said you have to apply to the Crown estate for permission to set up a wind farm. The National Coal Board had 320,000 the water utilities 300,000 British Rail 250,000 the Duke of Buccleuch 270,700 and the Wills family 263,000 acres. The Church at that time had 200,000 acres. Now of course we all know that under Margaret Thatcher and so forth, between 1985 and 1997, up to 1 million acres of public land was transferred through privatisation, much of it not properly accounted for or evaluated at the time.
In 1990, the Forestry Commission owned by the government on behalf of the public, had an estate to the extent of 2,816,013 acres. According to their accounting report at the time and in the year 2000 it owned about 200,000 acres less. Most of that was sold off towards the end of the Major era and only about 23,500 was sold off since 1997 under the current administration. However the government has consistently refused to disclose who the buyers of these 200,000 acres were, as it is said to be commercially confidential. The Commission sold off many acres of its first acquisition, the Forest of Dean as a result lands that were once open to the public now no longer are. In 1997 the Forestry Commission accounts rightly published a sale of £5 million worth of timber to private companies owned by two of the commissioners of the Forestry Commission; but there is no indication in the accounts, that the commission as a body, was trading with companies to which it was making grants or subsidies. The accounts were actually signed off by a person whose name you'll probably recognise immediately, one Sir John Vaughan.
In 2001 the major institutional land holders were the Forestry Commission 2,400,000 acres, the M.O.D. there's pension funds in here with 500,000, Utilities- that's water, electricity, railways and so forth another 500,000. The Crown estate was 384,000 as opposed to 370,000 in 1962, so they gained 14,000 acres and again that is excluding the 23.4 million acres of the seabed. The Royal Society for the protection of birds, in 2001, owned 283,000 acres, the Duchy of Cornwall 141,000 acres, the Duchy of Lancaster 66,000 acres.
The Duchy of Lancaster is a very large landed estate and the Queen as the Duke of Lancaster receives the revenue tax free. It was created in 1351; it comprises 47,220 acres mostly in the North and ironically the Duchy of Lancaster owns more land in Yorkshire than it does in Lancashire. It does actually however own more of the village next to the village where I was born, the village of Manchester. But those 47,220 acres don't take account of estuary waters and riverbeds so you can add another 125,000 acres, plus according to the accounts at the turn of the last century, there's £66 million in stock market investments and £5 million in cash on which there is no tax paid at all. The duchy pays £5.7 million to the Queen on which she does pay some tax, so it's voluntary. It's not easy to know the figure because the amount deducted for expenses before the liabilities to taxes is done isn't stated. The 1997 annual accounts for the Duchy of Lancaster states 'the duchy is a body incorporated by charter in 1461, which is both an owner of property and the medium through which the remainder of certain palatinate rights and responsibilities are exercised in greater Manchester Lancashire and Merseyside.' Its origins lay in the grant of lands to Edmund the first, the Earl of Lancaster in 1265 and the elevation of Lancaster to a county palatine 1351.
So who owns the Duchy of Lancaster? The Queen owns the income but who actually owns the Duchy itself? Well, nobody. It appears to own itself. There's a lot of people who owned the three separate estates of the Duchy of Lancaster, these are common people mostly who attended Eton and so forth and are large landowners themselves, common directors and so forth and I don't actually have time to go into it all, but it's actually very interesting and again rather like the other thing that I mentioned, the Government's legal advisers are intending to look into it. But then there appeared some time ago, a headline in the paper that said that a hole has appeared in the high Street in Cardiff and the police are looking into it!
The current government has made a start to try and rationalise the estate by publishing the accounts and greater clarity may emerge when the legal basis has been clarified, but again I don't know if it's going to happen any time soon. The Duchy of Cornwall is another Landed estate stretching across 22 counties, there's 141,000 acres of land just 230 miles of the Cornish foreshore, which probably accounts for another 100,000 acres, plus 14,000 acres of estuary riverbeds and that totals about 255,000 acres. Again, a fair old stretch. It was created in 1337 as a Dukedom. Charles pays little tax and the Duchy itself pays no corporation tax and there do appear to have been many accounting anomalies, which is the kind way that our accountant had put it. The accounting anomalies are those between the moneys that Charles has as a sort of public servant and his private and the public monies and the Duchy. A lot of this happened around about the time that Camilla Parker Bowles happened and the Inland Revenue have declined to investigate any of these anomalies. Now I'll tell you what, if that were you or I they'd be straight there knocking at the door! Maybe there is something wrong so maybe we should do something about it the question is what?
I've mentioned the Duke of Buccleuch with his 270,700 acres, in actual fact there's another duke that owns a lot more than Lancaster, Cornwall or Buccleuch, and that's the Duke of Westminster and excluding the Grosvenor estates, he has 129,300 acres in the UK, 55,000acres of the richest Land in England, including but abroad he's probably got at least 400,000 acres. He used to have a lot more than that 200 years ago but of course the American Revolution came to confiscate that whack of land. Now when a lot of the landed Gentry thought there was going to be a revolution in this country they went abroad and bought land big time. So the Duke of Westminster owns as well, a significant chunk of the Iberian Peninsula, bits of Spain and Portugal and quite a lot of land in Toronto and Vancouver in Canada. .
The Republic of Ireland (I'll come back again to the Return of Owners of Land, you're really looking forward to that bit aren't you I can tell!) In 1845 the native Irish owned less than half a percent of their land and five years later a quarter of them were dead due to the potato famine and another quarter had fled, mostly to the United States, so half of the population in Ireland had gone. By the time of the 1872 Return over 98% of the Irish population actually owned nothing at all, there was a bit owned by the landed gentry and aristocrats and so forth. The 26 counties of course were created in 1926 and then became a full Republic in 1949 and the boundaries now are pretty much identical to those that were there in 1872. However there were two major differences to the land in the UK, firstly, there's an almost total lack of estates that are over 500 acres in size, there are one or two but not many. Secondly, the effect of the potato famine and the depopulation by at least 50% of many of the areas was very patchy so there's a lot more people gone in some counties. There are huge but fertile under populated areas like Mayo, Sligo, Donegal and these were the areas that had suffered that terrible potato famine a quarter of a century prior to the 1872 publication.
Now just to get back to this thing here because to some extent, it's a sort of key to the whole thing. This is the historic Land Registration and it was called The Return of Owners of Land. In 1872 it was completed and it was published in 1874 it came in four volumes and of course it was very easy to do. There was a parish clerk everywhere, the Church held detailed records of patches, matches and dispatches, births marriages and deaths. They knew who had got what because they collected the tithes. It was in their own interest, not only to get everybody but also to get it right. So the government said 'right get thee out into the shires, go and talk to the parish clerks, get all the information for about four or five years, it's compulsory.' Not only was it compulsory but everybody must comply. Now you would think that landowners owners would think 'my God I don't want any of this' but in fact they would comply as well, because my view is that they thought that they were heading to a revolution in this country. The plain fact of the matter was that they had come in for so much criticism in Parliament and people were, in their view anyway, exaggerating the amount of land they owned so they thought 'okay let's get the record straight' and everybody else said 'yes good idea' so that's what they did. However you try and find a copy of this now. They've all disappeared. There isn't one complete set of these things in known existence. It's my view that a lot of them are still in existence but they're tucked away. Again my view is that it is not in the interests of the Landed Gentry to let them out into the public. So what do we do about it if anything? I'll come to that in a minute.
Bona vacantia and Ultimus haeres, now they sound like pair of Roman funeral directors from a sixties carry on film! In actual fact it could more accurately be described as 'a very nice little earner' not only for the Crown but also for the duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall the Queen and Prince Charles respectively. The Latin term Bona vacantia literally means vacant goods or empty property. In the UK, legal context is goods without an owner. It is used to describe what happens to chiefly three roots of assets; Treasure trove found items is one, secondly the assets of those who die intestate without a will or surviving relatives and three, the assets of companies that become bankrupt or wound up for which no ownership can be found. Now in English law titled property must belong to or be invested in an identifiable person or body for probate to be granted. No property or goods are ownerless; if legal ownership cannot be established by anyone else it falls to the Crown to deal with the assets concerned. Most of them in England and Wales are in the Treasury's solicitors hands, in such cases and in the case of the two duchies, the administration is dealt with by a firm of solicitors Parrot and co. Treasure trove finders of gold and silver objects which are more than 300 hundred years old are legally obliged to report such items under the treasure act of 1996. Prehistoric base metals, assemblages, found after 1 January 2003 now also qualify as treasure trove. It must be reported to the Coroner for the district in which they are found within 14 days of the discovery. The Coroner will direct the finder to deliver the find to a reporting centre, within which experts will decide whether or not this is a find. The current practice is that objects that are declared treasure are offered in the first instance, by the Secretary of State to the National Museum and that if the National Museum does wish to assign the object to the offices of further museums there may be a reward. Not very often but maybe. The act states that when Treasure is found it vests subject to prior interests and rights in the franchise, even if there is one, otherwise in the Crown. The franchise interim in treasure is a person who was immediately before the commencement of section 4 (that's going to drive everyone to sleep isn't it!) However if it's the duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall then it goes to that estate rather than the Crown. The assets of people who die intestate and companies that effectively die intestate to which no legal owner can be found go to the Crown estate or either of the duchies.
When the Allied Steel and Wire pensioners were demonstrating and trying to catch the eye of Prince Charles and the Queen, when they were opening the national assembly building, to make a plea for help in trying to get their pensions, some of the pensions of other companies have just been acquired by the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall and I found that truly ironic. Anybody visiting the Duchy of Cornwall website to look at the accounts for the year 2005-6 does not fully understand the small section headed Bona vacantia and their extremely brief explanation of the term 'thus if the estate of the person who dies in Cornwall with no known surviving relatives passes to the Duchy.' Many people are aware of this fact with regard to the estate 'dying intestate' but not many people are aware of the other sources of money, treasure trove in the assets of companies. Now I don't suppose there have been that many assets or excess assets of pension funds recently, but there certainly used to be and there are figures for the amount of moneys that were acquired within the published accounts. I think it was a year last October, the Duchy of Lancaster was the beneficiary of an empty house in Manchester, a terraced house and they sold it on straightaway for £36,000!
What is interesting is that the administration of Bona vacantia. Ultimus haeres incidentally, is what happens in Scotland, why they call it something different. I'm not quite sure why the administration of Bona vacantia in the Duchy of Lancaster should take just over one third of the total income of about £140,000, is rather beyond me. I've been a civil servant for 22 years so I know quite a bit about administration and the costs there too. The administration of just £141,000 costing 35% of that absolutely baffles me, but there we go. It's in the accounts so it must be right.
What to do about it, it's clear that a few public bodies and a relatively small number of people own a significant proportion of the UK, and a lot of people identify with their land, in a sort of way that they define themselves as being British, it's the land, it's the countryside and that's one of the reasons why it's important. The very fact that all the copies of the 1872 return have by and large disappeared, there are just one or two copies of one or two volumes.
Philip Hall produced the rich list in 1992 published in the Times. Preceding this there was Antony Sampson in the 1960s; there were several people who did returns of land in Scotland earlier than that. All found the same thing; it's very difficult if not impossible to get the information. It is a bit easier now, but if you were to send a request to any of these big estates then you'll get a very polite letter back saying that the figure that you have quoted is inaccurate. There is no further illumination beyond the negation of what you suggest they might own, so if you write to them it's a good thing to suggest' I hear that you have got an estate worth 245,016 ½ acres, what have you got to say about that?' they'd say that figure is inaccurate, but they don't actually tell you what they have got. It's not in their interest to I guess. Maybe they don't know. The only way to prove it would be go back to their title deeds which they must have had at some point in time, whether they've still got it or not I don't know. This is the problem, we don't know and if you don't know who owns your land my view is that it's a bad job. There is a Japanese managerial saying that if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. So there's that aspect of it as well. As I've said before, there is a huge disparity between what the EU thinks were farming and what the government believes were farming and there's probably a third fact as well which is what is actually farmed. This is probably completely different to the first two. So maybe we should know. The information is probably there and certainly for grants and subsidies and so forth the information is there because of the forms that farmers have to fill in. Copious paperwork, but we are not talking about family farms we are talking about the big estates because these big estates are huge, they can afford to employ people just to do the paperwork, people who are good at paperwork do the paperwork, but it must be a nightmare for the small family farms. Its one thing being outside doing the work but when you come inside do you really want to do a lot of paperwork? I don't think so.
Something should be done about it; A) we should speed up legislation B) we should make it accurate and C) most of these things are handed down the generations, most of these big landed estates are handed down generations by means of trust law, in other words Lord somebody or other, part of the landed gentry and aristocracy, doesn't actually own anything. What he owns is the right to be a sort of tenant on this estate because it's a separate legal entity and that separate legal entity has definite benefits when it comes to paying inheritance tax or rather not paying inheritance tax so maybe those are to be looked at. My view is also with regard to the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall these need to be completely transparent because we contribute a lot of money to them and make no secret of the fact now the Republican inside would do something completely different and would get rid of them altogether. They were taken by the sword, I am not suggesting we take them back by the sword but at least they could shunt them back into public ownership.
I think at that point I'll wind up because it's got to be about five o'clock. Thank you for your time.
Mick Bates A.M.
The Energy Crisis and The Severn Barrage
What a great pleasure to be here again on such a beautiful day, there's only one problem that I have to tell you, as I begin, that Montgomeryshire is more beautiful than Powys. Fighting talk and that's going to be the theme this morning. The greatest thing that Lloyd George ever did for me, he made me liberal, because once I was lucky enough to read nine words; 'The finest eloquence is that which gets things done.' Halleluiah!
Failing evangelist, as some of you will know, because I do not believe in that despair that so many people live in today, there are things which fill my heart with joy every day when I awake. But when I look at the political scene I am saddened by the fact that popularism has become the tone of today rather than leadership and sound argument.
As I present my paper this morning on the 'Energy Crisis and The Severn Barrage' I hope it will stimulate debate but also will make you think about the role we as politicians have to play because obviously everyone's role is pretty committed to the political process. So over the past decade one thing has become very prominent and it is these two words 'Climate Change.' It is become big news all round the world, in Westminster and in Wales and it's with good reason, we use a lot of energy. Most of the energy that we use today is actually produced, as many of you will understand, from what we term fossil fuels, that is, energy from the sun which has been trapped in the form of coal, gas or oil.
Our energy crisis presents two challenges the first is to tackle climate change through reduction of carbon dioxide emissions (a subject I'll take up later) and the second is to secure a clean green affordable energy supply for the future and of course that's not to forget the role that energy saving has to play in our reduction of energy use. For example, today if all you kind people in this audience gave me £12 million I will guarantee I would save 1% of all carbon emissions in Wales and that would simply be done by putting 12 million energy-saving light bulbs out in Wales. So energy-saving, I believe, is a big factor which people have tended to overlook.
There are serious concerns that within the next decade Britain could be facing a major shortfall in energy supply. Our leading research indicates that by 2015 we could be facing a shortfall of anything up to 16 gigawatts. A gigawatt is a very big bit of energy, in our homes we have a 60 watt light bulb that provides common light for most normal rooms, so when we're talking in terms of 16 Gigowatts we're talking about 60 trillion light bulbs so it is quite a lot of energy (just to put it in context). This analysis doesn't even take into account the fact that globally energy demand is likely to increase by 53% by 2015 this is the current estimate and 2015 is just round the corner.
Currently the main suppliers of our energy are by far gas and coal they supply approximately 60 % of our total energy supply, nuclear comes in at 19%, (that's where our energy crisis assure me it comes from) oil is about 1 ½ % and other fuels are very tiny. In talk of renewable energy we are hovering around 3%, so not a significant player as yet. Industry, domestic and the service industry, the three of them in Britain take about equal amounts of that energy. Industry, which one would think is by far and away the biggest user, is not,
Why will there be an energy crisis and where do people get these figures? Well, because of things like this, remember nuclear is 18% these power stations here have got massive capacity because nuclear is a pretty efficient way of producing energy. These stations are due to close; 2006- Sizewell and, Dungeness A- closed, Oldbury- 2008, Wylfa in Wales -closure day 2010, they produce a massive amount of energy and as we go down the list we find Dungeness B is due to close in 2008, could be 2011. These places are producing 18% of our energy and since energy demand is going up and the plants that are making energy are closing down there's a gap, so that is the background to my lecture this morning.
We've got to fill this gap somehow. How are we going to do it? Well just to give you an idea in 2006 it has been forecasted that by 2020 over 50 gigawatts of new or refurbished generation capacity will be required which represents two thirds of our current capacity, the equivalent of either 55 new gas turbines, 30 nuclear power stations, or 95,000 onshore or 40,000 offshore wind turbines. That is the energy crisis. So as future generations wake up going through the next 10 years, the lights might not come on. That is the serious nature of this whole debate.
What are we doing to tackle it at the moment? Actually Europe is leading the way. Europe is actually putting many, many issues which are helping to reduce energy use and save us money at the same time. Those of you who have fridges or white goods in your homes will know you get a rating on it. In European homes those ratings make them more and more energy-efficient, one of the critical ones coming up is the energy performance of buildings so that we can make our buildings more energy-efficient (we've got a heater in here pumping out heat like Billio! I expect it's about a kilowatt of energy being used to pay for the hire of the room this morning!) People are becoming more conscious that if you can live in Canada or Scandinavia the average temperature may be around minus 40 degrees and the house is really nice and warm, why can't we live in Wales where the average temperature is around 9 degrees without wasting all that energy? So there are some critical issues about how we can resolve this crisis. Just let me give you an example; in terms of white goods, by next year all boilers will have new recommended ratings, so the boilers that we use in our homes will become more and more energy efficient.
So what are we doing here in the UK about this energy crisis, what's happening? Well in the UK the government has set a target of producing 20% of Britain's energy from renewable sources by 2020. We are currently on 3%, the clock is ticking pretty fast. It aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2010, not so bad actually- not far off that one. With the current drive to combat climate change, the UK is reviewing its plan of action and it wants to contribute fully to the global challenge. I think those last words were very 'Blair on', lovely words, 'wants to contribute fully' I always love those terms! I sat and listened by the way to the wonderful lady speaking before about the Reynolds reports and I just thought that it's kind of a Blair like type of thing 'let's get this report done and remove that unsure person from one level to the other' it's wonderful!
The UK government, what's its big strategy? Well in a nutshell it is to get rid of democracy through the Planning Bill based on what we know in the Climate Change Bill and what we know in the Energy Bill. So currently in Parliament there are a list of Great Trilogy bills going through in Westminster, the Planning Bill basically says 'you know, I'm getting tired of all these nagging old people who complain about turbines or power stations, so what are we going to do? We are going to invent a thing called the independent planning commission!' now this is not a joke this is real! What I shall do (because I would like to be Prime Minister and dictator by the way) is invite a few of my cronies along and call them 'experts' and put them on my independent planning commission and say 'hey! I want to build a Severn Barrage but I don't want to go through all that hassle of local planning authorities, Good God no, that will mean years of argument and debate!' You know that Democratic stuff! So what I want you to do is to say we've got to have this because our Climate Change Bill says we are going to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2015 and as things are going and it looks like we are going to reduce it by 80%. The faster you talk is easier to forget the figures by the way!
So the energy bill, well we will do a few good things in there, but we've got a problem with the energy bill because there's going to be this energy gap that I have been talking about. Actually we've got to build not only the Severn Barrage, we've got to build 30 new nuclear power stations and did you know we are getting short of water? We had better flood a few more valleys in Wales! Now in order to do that, we can't let democracy work, so we'll have an Independent Planning Commission totally undemocratic and I'll tell you what, we will give it a little bit more credibility, by writing a National Strategic Plan. Welcome back Chairman Mao! What we're going to do is to build, build, build all these things.
There is a serious question about the Planning Bill which is currently going through Westminster, there is an amendment down to exclude Wales from it, I am fortunate enough to chair one of our select committees here in Wales, the committee which has the Portfolio for Sustainability and I've already written back to Westminster to say that under no circumstances can an Independent Planning Commission override the democratic processes that are established here in Wales and I've made as many people that I can aware of this throughout Britain through the Lib Dems to make sure that other people look at the rationale behind it and the loss of the Democratic Planning process (sorry that was a little bit of, as you can see, a hobbyhorse of mine).
If the Energy Bill goes through and as I say there's a lot of good things in the energy bill (this is the document here it's only that thick. I always wonder with great awe about the number of papers that have been produced like this over the years, because this one was 2007 and there is another one just like it in 2003). If the Energy Bill goes through (I'll explain in a minute, there are some pretty good things in it) there are three overriding factors that we have to consider in this energy crisis. One is actual energy security because if you are a politician it isn't very good if people come knocking at your door and they haven't got electricity. So energy security is a big issue. Worldwide it's even more of a sensitive issue. There used to be a guy who I used to love called 'shake yer money' as I used to call him. His real name is Sheikh Yamani do you remember him? I called him 'shake yer money' because he basically along with his colleagues, and of course the Middle East still has 60% of all World oil reserves, they basically blackmail us on the basis of every second to make sure we pay the highest possible price for our energy. Energy security of course is so delicate. Of course Mr Bush's advisers were quite right to say 'get in the Middle East boys because you know there is a lot of energy there and we don't want to lose it.' They understand that their economy is actually based on oil,therefore we have to keep getting it. (Sorry drifting a bit there, getting back to the energy bill now.) The Government have projected where we can save the carbon by the way, these are the key places to save the carbon 'zero carbon homes.
The Liberal Democrats still retain some vision and this document 'Zero-Carbon Britain' was launched at the centre for alternative technology.
Those that know it, know that the few aged hippies from the 60s who gave us cannabis in their tepees are still there and long may they live there too! but it has become much more engaged in real politics and this document has been very influential when it was launched in Westminster the Lib Dems in their wisdom saw that this was one way of achieving some of our goals to meet the climate change demand to reduce energy and at the same time create a new economy so that here in Wales we could have a new green economy.
The Energy Bill says that we can save quite a lot from building homes as I said like the Canadian homes or Scandinavian ones which save energy. But of course energy production is also a great part of this and of course there are many many renewable sources of energy and if I just look at a few there is heat technologies, using the heat that is in the earth already so there are things called heat pumps. The new assembly building has water that goes down into the ground and basically brings the heat backup, simple as that.
There are then other ways of trapping the heat of the sun so we've got solar energy, that solar energy is trapped in plants and we can burn plants so we call that Biomass Energy. These are all considered renewable resources because they do not release more carbon into the atmosphere and that's a critical part about it. Biomass sometimes is little bit iffy if you stop planting trees then it loses its rationale.
Then we have other really quite important technologies which are well developed; 'photovoltaics', one which is produced right here in Wales, Sharp in Wrexham are the biggest producers of photovoltaics and yet where does it all go? It goes to Germany and the German government many many years ago decided to meet the challenge of climate change reducing carbon by saying 'we will put 100,000 photovoltaic roofs on houses', wonderful, very unobtrusive!
Wind power, the most controversial form here in mid Wales of energy production, a technology which I'm sure there will be quite different views about, it is well proven and does provide a fairly sound 15% efficiency. In terms of efficiency, by the way, nuclear power is at this end with 80% efficiency more or less (when I use the term efficiency I mean what you get in terms of energy from what you put in. The trouble with nuclear power as we all know is that it is very difficult to deal with what's left. The difference, of course, is as you go through the whole selection of these things it is the cost of making them and the cost of the fuel you actually put in to make it and of course there is water powered hydro power- it is there and it's free.
The other solutions that are coming through big time are combined heat and power where you have a cooling pond for example, they make a lot of electricity but they waste all the heat, it goes to warm the sea up and that heat could be used to heat houses or anything you want, it's very easy to do. So the government moved on and they commissioned Sir Nicholas Stern to look at climate change those people who have met Nicholas Stern will know he's an extremely serious person and that's why his report is one of great gravity because it suggests that unless we spent 1% of our GDP on overcoming this energy crisis, which in turn combats climate change, then we are going to have to spend 4%, because unless we deal with the problem now, it becomes ever increasingly expensive to deal with in the future.
So what about Wales where do we stand here in Wales? In Wales the government set itself a target in producing minimal energy in a planning document, a spatial kind of document which said that we would produce 4 terawatts of renewable energy by 2010, that roughly translates to 1500 MW, and at the minute we have produced 600 that's a little bit generous so we've got quite a long way to meet that target and I doubt it will be met.
The second target is 7 terawatts by 2020 and it's a reasonable thing, no photovoltaics, no geothermal and no biomass targets. They are actually extremely favourable to communities because most of these other systems produce energy locally, I think somebody over there mentioned localisation and our policies in the Lib Dems are very much in favour of local production.
So what about this great thing called the Severn Barrage? What does it offer? Now in this final part of the lecture we going to look at Severn barrage, we are going to try to be very objective about it which is very hard for me! There have been numerous studies and proposed projects for a Severn barrage. In 1849 for example Thomas Fulljames said that we can do it, we can build a barrage which will actually improve transport (stop a lot of flooding as well by the way, is also mentioned there). More recently the Severn Tidal Power group produced a study in 1989 which cost 4.2 million to produce. Excellent study and its was born from the fact that one day a gentlemen, now Sir John Houghton, walked into Margaret Thatcher and said 'look gal you got a big energy crisis on your hands you've seen what happened with the oil crisis, energy security is a key factor' Sir John Houghton was the chairman of the International panel on climate change and only recently died, lived down the road in Tywyn, a great man, he actually left that meeting being very impressed by Margaret Thatcher because her grasp on strategic issues was absolutely massive and she said 'right, I can see the point; energy, is going to get more expensive lets produce it at home' which answered the question raised which was security. Climate change was a secondary issue, although for John Houghton it remained and was then, the main drive.
Then we get to the twenty first century and the government again is in energy crisis after two Iraq wars, a world where terrorism could destroy pipelines at any time. So they commissioned the Sustainable Development Commission to write this report 'Turning the Tide, Tidal Power in the United Kingdom'. It proposed that there would be a barrage because basically we all know where it's meant to be it's between Cardiff and Weston, near to Brean Down in Somerset. The barrage they are looking at would be a 60 million ton structure and would cover about 185 square miles of the estuary and would include a road and a railway and around 200 turbines.
In the war, those of you who learnt to ride bikes with dynamos on the back have got the best vision of how all this works! When you used to be pedaling, when it was getting dark and you were frightened of the local bobby coming to say 'I've got ya!' you could turn round to the back wheel and flick on your dynamo! Only one or two of you remember this, you are so young! You have forgotten what it was like to produce your own energy via your own muscular power! So in a Severn Barrage are zillions of people getting out of breath! The Tide of course is the energy you have provided to turn the wheel of the bike and the dynamo is what I just refer to as the turbine, so basically the motion of the sea is transferred into energy which we could make electricity from.
Now how does it work? Well quite simply you collect the Tide. As a very enthusiastic person for tidal power in the 80s I took my two little children and my family to see the only Tidal barrage in existence at La Rance in Brittany, I don't know if anybody's ever been to see it, a really wonderful place and when I was there in about 1983 I suppose it was, there was a lovely old guy on his bike who used to bike up and down on that road looking at all the turbines at the side of the barrage or the dam or whatever you would call it. I was quite taken with him and still am actually. Unfortunately the French decided it was not the answer and of course during that period they had already developed their concept that nuclear power would be their particular answer to their energy crisis.
What does this report then tell us about the Severn Barrage? It was released last year October 1st and it concludes this (and this is the first major conclusion of this report) that the tidal resources around the UK are pretty significant. I'm sorry about this small picture, if you want to look afterwards it's easy enough. This map has various coloured keys, when you get to the yellow you've got the highest tidal power. For those of you with eyes that can actually see, the Severn is obviously one place, then we've got Lancashire we've got a point down here by Kent and of course you've got a little bit of the Wash, but by far and away the report concluded that the Severn is one of the best places and the reason it was the best is that in terms of resource you could get 17 times more power than you could if you use the Mersey and the Lancashire one. So it looks good, they've concluded that you can produce 5% of all the electricity in Britain from this 10 mile barrage.
The other 5% they've concluded could be produced by two other technologies, basically tidal stream which involves building wind turbines under the sea, so we can have some mechanism that turns like the turbine. These have been developed at the Swansea University they are extremely successful and they are trying to commercialise their work, they are called Swan turbines. They are working now in Scotland because the marine renewable centre is in the Orkney's and the tidal stream work is being done there. There are many developments that will be quite useful.
Of course many of you will remember the ducts of the70s, they were metal ducts called Salter. They moved up and down in the sea but unfortunately they were never commercialised to the extent that we hoped they would be at that time. The other recommendation was that we look at things called Tidal Lagoons. These are compounds of various areas suggested by an American, who came up with them some years ago (well he potterized the concept), called Peter Oldham with a company called Tidal Electro. His original suggestion was for Rhyl with a tidal impoundment of the some 600 square miles a really massive thing on the Rhyl flats. I met him many times and helped to get some money to write a study and we ended up in Swansea Bay where they were talking about a 60 MW Tidal Barrage. This is simply a dam which encloses the tide and the advantage of it can work both ways, so if you reverse the turbine, as the tide comes in to fill the compound it produces electricity and then when you let the tide out of the compound, again it produces electricity. Unfortunately no one has ever built one so it is a little bit of a problem to know exactly how it's going to work because there are various technical issues about it.
So you could produce 5% of all our energy from the Barrage and it's all zero carbon. It would also include transport links that would improve the economy of the region, not only creating jobs and the estimate currently is that it would create 40,000 jobs but it would open up access to very large areas. The suggestion also that there be a massive impact for tourism, I mean massive impact. There would also be the advantage it may be able to assist with flood control.
I'll put to you one the great faults that I've always had if there were to be a barrage, if there's a deluge in the catchment area of the Severn estuary all you do is shut the door and you don't let the sea in at all so that the runner going into the Severn River without the influence of all the pressure of the Tide, so we've got a very attractive argument in this day and age. So that is something I feel is great about it.
Okay it all sounds pretty good. What's wrong with it? What's wrong with it is that since 1849 when we had the first suggestion for a barrage, there have been a great deal of environmentalists and I expect many of you in the audience today will be members of (for example) the RSPB. The RSPB have an excess of one million members who are all well-organised, so when it comes to building a barrage, one of the consequences is (those of you who have been to La Rance will understand even better) when you destroy large patches of environment which in this particular case some of them are International designations and these International designations will mean that the RSPB, The World Wildlife Fund and many other groups will lobby very strongly to oppose the loss of these habitats and that produces a major hurdle to the barrage. Only if it's in the national interest will all these designations for these habitats be actually overcome and that takes me back to the Planning Bill where, if the Independent Planning Commission is actually implemented, we will build it without any recourse to a thing called democracy.
Now Friends of the Earth will also oppose it because they think that the environmental impact will be too great and they consider the environmental impact of their lagoons to be less intrusive and will produce more energy. There is also finally, the environmental cost of the construction, if you look at the amount material we will need its 60,000,000 tonnes that's equivalent to flattening the Mendips or if you want to move on a bit further you could take Snowdon. In reality people would employee the region engineers to make big blocks of rock across the North Sea and round the Severn barrage. There is another and growing attractive alternative to using aggregate, it is from the earth, it is waste material which is processed to a neutral level and then put in rock encasements that then would come into the sea to build the barrage or part of it and these lagoons. (I have just forgotten the name for these alternatives, it's recyclable material that forms a very very strong barrage).
These construction costs are quite high of course and the current estimate on the record is £15 billion. When people start to look at this they say 'what's the alternative to a long barrage?' Well the alternative obviously is to have a shorter barrage! This is known as the Shoots barrage which is more or less where the old bridge is. That barrage actually fits in very well and did gain popularity in the 80s because one day the tunnel has got to be replaced and the Shoots barrage actually offered a very cost-effective alternative to the railway crossing and of course power generation is of a factor of about 25 times less, so alternative cost-effectiveness is not really a tremendous proposal.
So the report says that we could in fact look seriously at this barrage, the long 10 mile barrage from Cardiff to Western. The arguments clearly are basically environmental, the carbon footprint versus the needs of a nation to release carbon and to have a secure energy supply. So what is the government doing now? Well last year they announced they would be undertaking a full feasibility study, they would consider the whole range of tidal technologies; barrage, lagoons and tidal stream. Then they could propose a lot of sites for any one of those technologies. John Hutton who made an announcement said 'A country of change must be prepared to invest in tomorrow's energy sources. The Severn barrage is truly a visionary project unparalleled anywhere in the world in scale. Now I'd like to see the barrage and its development double its supply of renewable energy.'
So this study which will take 6 to 12 months will consider all the options for tidal power development in estuaries and collect information about base line environmental issues. Stage 2 will run until the end of 2009, in other words will go into more detail on this.
So what's my opinion of all this? My opinion is quite clear; we visited the Severn barrage on numerous occasions. This is not party policy I want to make that quite clear. Party policy by the way, along with the other parties is sitting on the fence a bit. The Tories and the Labour Party have moved very strongly towards nuclear power. We always have tended to strongly move towards decentralisation of power so that the local energy sources are utilised and if possible owned by the community. But my opinion is this; that this is yet again is an attempt to deflect from the underlying issues that the government needs to act. Energy saving is a critical factor in this.
There is a critical factor in this; if it is possible to attract £15 billion in investment to build a dam across the estuary, it is not beyond the realms of a government to get the major energy supply companies to make sure that all our homes are at least energy-efficient to a level that meets the Scandinavian principle. So that's the first thing. The second point to me is that by encouraging building our green economy, when we build a barrage the NSD commission said that the barrage should be built by the public sector. Of course the government realises that an investment of £15 billion will increase the national debt it could pay for the Olympics. So they said 'okay let's get the private sector to take the risk.' Fine, but what strikes me about the private sector is the scale of changes that can occur. To some people those changes will be good, others may regret it. The scale of changes by the way, are the planning rules which will allow massive industrial development and you have to look at the economic values but it does not build a new green economy to me. My green economy if you want a commitment is where I can produce locally goods and services which impact and benefit the local community.
Severn barrage is big scale and affects one area alone. Although the party is in favour of renewable energy it seems to me we've got to have a big debate. So what am I doing about it? We have organised in two weeks time, a meeting of all Liberal Democrat politicians from both sides of the Estuary so that we can start to form an opinion politically as a party, we have previously said this quite clearly supporting the concept of the Severn barrage. There are lots of ways to look at it but we need to get back together as a party.
I believe in this thought; that if we had a proven technology which can help local communities apart from those who are disabled, I would prefer to use it. If we can raise the money it seems to me that offshore wind is proven technology. Onshore wind is extremely controversial, but the wind is a proven technology. If we build another 40,000 turbines out at sea we could produce that 5% of energy. I am of the view that government is using this as an excuse to look at a major project which we'll all love, so that some future Prime Minister can have his name carved on the barrage so it will not influence the overall development of the strong economy in Wales or in the West Country of England. I think there are serious questions to be answered. All I know is there is a clear choice and as I remind people so often 'our future is not a gift but it's a reward for what we do now.' Lloyd George I want you back to tell us what we are going to do about this barrage!
Thank you very much.
The Land Lords
Land monopoly is not the only monopoly, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies -it is a perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly.
-- Winston Churchill
The law locks up the man or woman who steals the goose from the common.
But the greater villain the law lets loose, who steals the common from the goose.
-- 17th century protest against English enclosure
In 1066 William the Conquer acquired England and eventually Wales by conquest, and distributed the land as booty to his supporters.
He also introduced the Feudal system under which landowners in payment for the right to the ownership of the Land had to contribute fighting men as required to the King.
The English were not altogether happy with the changes William introduced which may well underlie our traditional antipathy to France.
Robin Hood was seen as an English hero trying to defend the ordinary people from the excessive taxation of the Norman Crown under the Regency of King John and the Sherriff of Nottingham. It is quaintly English, that they thought that justice would be restored by the return of their lawful King Richard of the Lion Heart who hardly ever set foot in England during his reign except to raise the taxes on his subjects to pay for his Crusades and his ransom money.
It was King John who was brought to book by his Barons at Runnymede. The purpose of Magna Carta was to bring the King within the Law for the benefit of the Barons who held their lands in the King's gift. It consolidated the land rights of the Norman Barons the descendants of William's supporters against arbitrary acts of the King. It did very little to redress the wrongs inflicted on the indigenous English by their Norman conquerors.
The right to a fair trial by ones Peers gave some protection to the Freemen a very small proportion of the population but none to the villiens the vast majority of the population who were still subject to the whims and fancies of their local Lordly landowner.
Henry the Eighth confiscated the Monastic and Church Lands and granted them to his nobles as a bribe for their support in creating the Church of England which was not given an endowment anything like as generous as that of their Roman Catholic predecessors.
Cromwell and his Commonwealth sold off much of the Crown and Church lands to finance the Army. Though the Commonwealth abolished the House of Peers the noble families retained much of their lands and with the restoration of the Monarchy those Royalists who had their land confiscated were able to recover much of their losses.
The Peers restored the Monarchy with conditions attached amongst which was a ban on the Crown acquiring Land. No longer would the King using the Royal Prerogative be able to do much as he pleased, Parliament i.e. The Peers took over most of the power of the Crown and did their best to ensure that in future the King would be a mere figurehead.
The Crown lands were much reduced and it was Queen Victoria who set about replenishing the Royal Estates to ensure that she would no longer be a poor relation amongst the Peers and Barons of her country. Her earlier purchases were made in the name of Albert or her children to get round the law, which was changed in 1862 to allow the sovereign to own land in her own right
It was the Peerage that had destroyed and then restored the Monarchy. King William was only appointed to replace the disgraced Stuarts on condition that he would respect Parliament, a Parliament controlled by the Peerage.
Victoria wary that they could always strike again sought to build up the Royal power and fortune so that she would become more powerful than her Peers. She realised that power went with land ownership. So do the Windsor's who have continued to bolster the Crown Lands, with the competitive advantage of their income being largely tax free.
In the late eighteen hundreds following the agitation for the repeal of the Corn Laws and the activities of the Chartists and the Land League in Ireland there was great concern among the landowners that there would be demands for Land Reform in England, Wales and Scotland.
Reform was conceded to the Irish against their mainly English Landowners but at the expense of the British Exchequer which financed the purchase of the land by the Irish tenants. A reform that has never been implemented in the Home Countries of the Union.
John Bright and other reformers campaigned on the inequity that most of the Land in the Kingdom was owned by some 36,000 families largely as the accident of birth. The Landowners i.e. The House of Lords became worried about the effect of these campaigns and set out to try and refute the argument. Parliament decided to produce a new "Doomsday Book" in which all land holdings would be listed. This resulted in the Return of the Ownership of Land 1872 which the Landowners tried to spin as showing that there were many more than 36,000 landowners as the return included people who owned only a house and garden in town, but in fact confirmed that a small group of people owned the vast majority of the land.
This document appears to have been suppressed as no copies now exist and the information that it contained is no longer available. This was probably because it provided useful ammunition for the reformers and as a basis for any proposed Land tax. It should be remembered that Parliament, both Lords and Commons, was dominated by Landowners.
It was about this time that Lloyd George was getting his political grounding. In 1896 he opposed the partial de-rating of agricultural land on the grounds that it would do nothing for the poor tenant farmer but allow the Land owners including members of the Government to maintain their rents.
In his famous 1909 budget Lloyd George aided by Churchill tried to introduce Land Taxes but the difficulties of producing the necessary valuations delayed the project which then was overtaken by the World War. After the war the need for the coalition Government to have Conservative support killed any idea of it being revived.
It appears therefore to be the case that the Land in Britain is still largely owned by the descendants of William's friends at the time of the Conquest. In France and most of Europe land ownership was reformed by bloody revolution and in many countries individuals are prevented from amassing large acreages by law. In Ireland after the famine angry tenants were enabled by the British taxpayer to buy out their anglophile landlords. Only in Britain it seems did the noble Lords not only keep their heads but also their land.
The failure to build a proper Land registry out of the 1872 return, and the feeble support given by successive governments to the efforts of the Land Registry to produce a meaningful Land Register, means that we know less now than we did in 1872 about who owns Britain.
As ever in this country we talk things through in a thoroughly reasonable manner and
avoid the difficult choices, and move on to something less controversial.
As a result we still have "The Establishment". A powerful mysterious amalgam of the great families of the state, and of the Crown.
As Andy Wightman pointed out in a recent article in Bella Caledonia, private land ownership in Scotland remains a small, interrelated and privileged club which is proud to have the Queen as a member. But with Land reform an important part of the Scottish Government's public policy, what message does it send out when the Queen continues to play the role of a Highland Laird.
Similarly in England the Queen's personal staff and advisers are picked from the families of the rich and the good. Remember the fuss made about Prince Charles stooping to marry a commoner in Princess Diana. Hardly a commoner, but she made the feathers fly
by opening up some of what goes on in the privileged world of the nobility.
Not only have they managed to hold on to the land, they have managed to take over the Public Schools originally endowed as charities, often by Royalty, for the free education of poor scholars. The term Public School for schools that have become the preserve of the very rich is a very English turn of phrase.
"Public schools" are so called because this is what they once were. Eton was founded in 1442 exclusively for the children of paupers: no one whose father had an income of more than five marks could study there. Harrow, Winchester, Rugby and Westminster were also established as free schools for the poor. But they and their endowments were seized by the nobility, often by devious means, and the paupers were largely booted out.
In this way we still have a privileged "Elite" born to own land, attend the Public Schools,
before being welcomed in to one of the great professions, banking, the law, the army and, if not very bright, politics or the church. Welcomed in by those who had gone through the same initiation and who came from the same small circle of families.
This not a criticism of these people, as such, except in so far as they have continued to support the manipulation of the system to perpetuate the status quo. It is not their fault they were borne into privilege any more than it is the fault of a child of a drug addict to be born into poverty.
Many would argue that they use their power for the benefit of their tenants and communities, but when the chips are really down as with the Highland clearances, the Irish potato famine, the enclosures, or the Corn Laws the record does not look very good.
"The law locks up the man or woman who steals the goose from the common.
But the greater villain the law lets loose, who steals the common from the goose."
Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice would have been most unlikely to stoop to marry the likes of Miss Elizabeth Bennett. As he intimated it was degrading to his position in society to even consider such a union, a betrayal of his family and of his class.
After the First World War it became more difficult to maintain the life style of the big country houses and many have been given up to the National Trust but that did not mean that the land was given up. According to an article in the Times written by John Snow one third of the land is till owned by the Gentry. The transfer of the houses to bodies like the National Trust being in many cases the means to relieve the Estate of the cost of maintenance while allowing the family to continue in residence.
And the Gentry refuse to give details of their Land ownership. The Duke of Wellington
owned 15,800 acres according to the 1872 return, the Land Registry has no record of his holding and when John Snow asked him how much he owned he refused to answer.
The DVLR at Swansea can tell who owns every motor vehicle registered in the United Kingdom even though the numbers are increasing and changing every year. It would seem a relatively simple task by comparison to keep an up to date Land Registry.
Adrian Sanders the Liberal Democrat M.P. for Torbay suggested in 2001 that those who do not register their Land should not be in receipt of subsidies and grants from the Government. and that disposals of land by non residents should be subject to a flat rate tax.. The Government minister answered at the time that the suggestions had merit and would be considered. Presumably they are still being considered.
I did ask Adrian Sanders to come to this School to speak on the subject but he declined.
I hope not because of pressure from the establishment.
The planning laws were originally intended to ensure that houses were built with proper sanitary arrangements and a minimum amount of living space, developers in most cases built to the minimum specification resulting in the back to back streets and the long terraces of identical houses that make up so much our industrial towns and cities.
In more recent times concern has been at the spread of the towns into the countryside and the supposed need to restrict development particularly ribbon development. Green belts have been set aside around the Cities to try to restrain their growth.
With the decline of agriculture and the growth of population and of new industries this
has created a dangerous imbalance between supply and demand. Land worth a few thousand pound an acre becomes worth a million by being granted planning permission.
This is a recipe for corruption; it inflates the price of houses and other developments and benefits no one other than the Landowners. Attempts have been made by past Labour Governments to tax this profit, they introduced the Development Land Tax but this was difficult to apply and the Conservatives soon got rid of it on the grounds that Land owners would not release land because of the "excessive" tax burden it created.
The Labour Party would see this as a chance to increase taxes, it would be better to tackle it by reducing the imbalance and reducing the price of development land.
The Land Owners are only too happy with the present state of affairs they merely have to wait until the pressure for development builds up. In the meantime collecting their rents, and subsidies, the income may not be very great but their land unlike that of the townspeople is tax free...
The system has resulted in there being insufficient and heavily taxed land space for the 90% who live in the towns; new houses are as a result too expensive, too small, built too close together with tiny gardens. Much of the flash flooding which causes such distress can be attributed to the density of buildings and concreted areas with no open land to absorb heavy rain. The lack of decent living space may well account for much family breakdown and stress.
We are asked to put up with this state of affairs because of the need to keep the green open spaces, the beautiful countryside which we are in danger of losing and for which we pay in subsidies for set aside etc. We have recreated the Corn Laws by being gulled into subsidising our agricultural production the main beneficiary of which is the Landowner who can obtain a higher rent and value for his land if agriculture is prosperous.
We need food and surely if, as we are told, there is a likely to be shortage of food then agriculture should boom without the need for subsidy and the idea of set aside, paying Landowners to take their land out of production, seems criminal.
Surely it is healthier for farmers to compete in the market place like any other business
They should not need protection but if they cannot compete, then, like any other business they will contract and the land can be made available for more profitable use.
People need decent housing, they also need to be fed, we have cheap food so much of it that our farmers have to be subsidised to compete and as a result we have very expensive relatively poor and highly taxed housing. The Corn Laws have been overturned in a different guise and all the work of Bright and Cobden brought to naught.
It seems obvious that more land should be released for housing and other developments.
Villages are dying not because of week end cottages but for lack of jobs in the vicinity.
If there is a shortage of suitable affordable accommodation for young families where they want to live, let them have permission to build wherever, the onus being on the planners to give good reason for any refusal.
Land is only worth what you can earn from it, if farmland is only worth £10.000 an acre,
and building land will fetch a million there is obviously something very wrong with the market.
90% of us live on 10% of the land, and we pay through the nose for the privilege.
And the most worrying thing is we seem to think this is how things should be. We have been brainwashed by the Country Landowners and the Countryside Alliance that the land will disappear under concrete with no green spaces left, that England and its rich countryside will be destroyed. Even if it were true who is paying the price for its protection not the Landowner.
I remember hearing some one interviewed on the Today programme about the difficulties first time buyers were having saying "When we were young we had to struggle and now that we have worked all our lives and have a nice comfortable home we should not be expected to make things easier for them." I.e. do not allow new houses to be built near us.
The Nimbyism of the British Public is endemic Windmills, Roads, Railways, Power Stations, Crematoriums, Abattoirs; we must have them all but not near me.
The Politicians seem unable to challenge this view of the World, and many seek to encourage it, they find it easier to support the status quo and the middle class nimby who is more likely to vote. They eschew leadership hiding behind focus groups and passing difficult decisions to commissions of enquiry.
As a result the Landowners continue in power, in spite of the changes made to the House of Lords. Many of the Landowners are also our Bankers and they make a two pronged attack upon the rest of us. High prices for land are only made possible by the connivance of the Banks in providing the finance through mortgages, and it is in the interest of both that prices are high but it is not in the interest of the rest of us.
Not only houses are affected, the cost of all non agricultural buildings is inflated by this preoccupation with control and fear of the spread of development. Only 10% of the Land is developed if we are to have a modern industrialised economy then surely those who work in it should not be handicapped by these artificially created costs that benefit a few privileged families.
We are told that the subsidies are there to benefit the farmers who cannot earn enough from working the land to keep body and soul together. As Lloyd George pointed out in 1896 it was the Landowners who really benefit as it allowed the tenant farmers to keep on paying their rent , which otherwise might have had to be reduced.
Farming would almost certainly be more productive if Farmers owned their own land and able to be innovative in its use. Under the Game Laws he could be transported for the offence of killing a rabbit.
Many Farmers find it difficult to make a good living from the land, basically, because they cannot compete with cheap imports, in much the same way as large parts of manufacturing industry have disappeared. The Common Agricultural policy has been criticised for years for encouraging over production of food. The only way to deal with that situation is to take land out of production - set aside. Surely the case is made; there is no sane argument for stopping sensible development of agricultural land.
Probably in due course the price of food will rise making farming more profitable increasing the real value of unsubsidised land. While the release of land for development will bring down the cost of building land. In theory they should equalise but that is unlikely.
At the same time there is no good reason why the urban dweller should pay Land Taxes which agriculture escapes. By taxing the Land we might eventually manage to break up the Great Estates in a more civilised way than the French though it will take deal longer.
Perhaps we should introduce laws limiting the amount of land any one person can own as has been done in other countries. The Lawyers would enjoy that.
The case was made most eloquently by Winston Churchill speaking in 1909
"Land monopoly is not the only monopoly, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies -- it is a perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly.
Unearned increments in land are not the only form of unearned or undeserved profit, but they are the principal form of unearned increment, and they are derived from processes which are not merely not beneficial, but positively detrimental to the general public.
Land, which is a necessity of human existence, which is the original source of all wealth, which is strictly limited in extent, which is fixed in geographical position -- land, I say, differs from all other forms of property, and the immemorial customs of nearly every modern state have placed the tenure, transfer, and obligations of land in a wholly different category from other classes of property.
Nothing is more amusing than to watch the efforts of land monopolists to claim that other forms of property and increment are similar in all respects to land and the unearned increment on land.
They talk of the increased profits of a doctor or lawyer from the growth of population in the town in which they live. They talk of the profits of a railway, from the growing wealth and activity in the districts through which it runs. They talk of the profits from a rise in stocks and even the profits derived from the sale of works of art.
But see how misleading and false all those analogies are. The windfalls from the sale of a picture -- a Van Dyke or a Holbein -- may be very considerable. But pictures do not get in anybody's way. They do not lay a toll on anybody's labor; they do not touch enterprise and production; they do not affect the creative processes on which the material well-being of millions depends.
If a rise in stocks confers profits on the fortunate holders far beyond what they expected or indeed deserved, nevertheless that profit was not reaped by withholding from the community the land which it needs; on the contrary, it was reaped by supplying industry with the capital without which it could not be carried on.
If a railway makes greater profits it is usually because it carries more goods and more passengers.
If a doctor or a lawyer enjoys a better practice, it is because the doctor attends more patients and more exacting patients, and because the lawyer pleads more suits in the courts and more important suits. At every stage the doctor or the lawyer is giving service in return for his fees.
Fancy comparing these healthy processes with the enrichment which comes to the landlord who happens to own a plot of land on the outskirts of a great city, who watches the busy population around him making the city larger, richer, more convenient, more famous every day, and all the while sits still and does nothing.
Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains -- and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labor and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to the process from which his own enrichment is derived.
While the land is what is called "ripening" for the unearned increment of its owner, the merchant going to his office and the artisan going to his work must detour or pay a fare to avoid it. The people lose their chance of using the land, the city and state lose the taxes which would have accrued if the natural development had taken place, and all the while the land monopolist only has to sit still and watch complacently his property multiplying in value, sometimes many fold, without either effort or contribution on his part!
But let us follow this process a little further. The population of the city grows and grows, the congestion in the poorer quarters becomes acute, rents rise and thousands of families are crowded into tenements. At last the land becomes ripe for sale -- that means that the price is too tempting to be resisted any longer. And then, and not until then, it is sold by the yard or by the inch at 10 times, or 20 times, or even 50 times its agricultural value.
The greater the population around the land, the greater the injury the public has sustained by its protracted denial. And, the more inconvenience caused to everybody; the more serious the loss in economic strength and activity -- the larger will be the profit of the landlord when the sale is finally accomplished. In fact, you may say that the unearned increment on the land is reaped by the land monopolist in exact proportion, not to the service, but to the disservice done. It is monopoly which is the keynote, and where monopoly prevails, the greater the injury to society the greater the reward to the monopolist. This evil process strikes at every form of industrial activity. The municipality, wishing for broader streets, better houses, more healthy, decent, scientifically planned towns, is made to pay more to get them in proportion as is has exerted itself to make past improvements. The more it has improved the town, the more it will have to pay for any land it may now wish to acquire for further improvements.
The manufacturer proposing to start a new industry, proposing to erect a great factory offering employment to thousands of hands, is made to pay such a price for his land that the purchase price hangs around the neck of his whole business, hampering his competitive power in every market, clogging him far more than any foreign tariff in his export competition, and the land price strikes down through the profits of the manufacturer on to the wages of the worker.
No matter where you look or what examples you select, you will see every form of enterprise, every step in material progress, is only undertaken after the land monopolist has skimmed the cream for himself, and everywhere today the man or the public body that wishes to put land to its highest use is forced to pay a preliminary fine in land values to the man who is putting it to an inferior one, and in some cases to no use at all. All comes back to land value, and its owner is able to levy toll upon all other forms of wealth and every form of industry. A portion, in some cases the whole, of every benefit which is laboriously acquired by the community increases the land value and finds its way automatically into the landlord's pocket. If there is a rise in wages, rents are able to move forward, because the workers can afford to pay a little more. If the opening of a new railway or new tramway, or the institution of improved services of a lowering of fares, or of a new invention, or any other public convenience affords a benefit to workers in any particular district, it becomes easier for them to live, and therefore the ground landlord is able to charge them more for the privilege of living there.
Some years ago in London there was a toll bar on a bridge across the Thames, and all the working people who lived on the south side of the river had to pay a daily toll of one penny for going and returning from their work. The spectacle of these poor people thus mulcted of so large a proportion of their earnings offended the public conscience, and agitation was set on foot, municipal authorities were roused, and at the cost of the taxpayers, the bridge was freed and the toll removed. All those people who used the bridge were saved sixpence a week, but within a very short time rents on the south side of the river were found to have risen about sixpence a week, or the amount of the toll which had been remitted!
And a friend of mine was telling me the other day that, in the parish of Southwark, about 350 pounds a year was given away in doles of bread by charitable people in connection with one of the churches. As a consequence of this charity, the competition for small houses and single-room tenements is so great that rents are considerably higher in the parish!
All goes back to the land, and the land owner is able to absorb to himself a share of almost every public and every private benefit, however important or however pitiful those benefits may be.
I hope you will understand that, when I speak of the land monopolist, I am dealing more with the process than with the individual land owner who, in most cases, is a worthy person utterly unconscious of the character of the methods by which he is enriched. I have no wish to hold any class up to public disapprobation. I do not think that the man who makes money by unearned increment in land is morally worse than anyone else who gathers his profit where he finds it in this hard world under the law and according to common usage. It is not the individual I attack; it is the system. It is not the man who is bad; it is the law which is bad. It is not the man who is blameworthy for doing what the law allows and what other men do; it is the State which would be blameworthy if it were not to endeavor to reform the law and correct the practice.
We do not want to punish the landlord. We want to alter the law."
And to Quote Lloyd George
"I went down to a coalfield the other day, and they pointed out to me many collieries there. They said "you see that colliery. The first man who went there spent a quarter of a million in sinking shafts, in driving mains and levels. He never got coal and he lost his quarter of a million. The second man who came spent £100,000 and he failed. The third man came along and he got the coal" What was the Landlord doing all this time. The first man failed the landlord got his Royalty, the Landlord got his dead rent and a very good name for it. The second man failed but the Landlord got his royalty
These Capitalists put their money in, and I asked "When the cash failed what did the Landlord put in? He put the Bailiffs in. The Capitalist risks at any rate all his money, the Engineer put his brains in, the miner puts his life in, and The Landlord puts the bailiffs in.
When the two greatest Prime Ministers of the last century considered the monopoly of land ownership was something that needed to be tackled. It shows the amazing resilience of the Land Owners that very little if any real progress has been made.
Have we a Politician with the courage to take up the cudgels on behalf of the people dispossessed by the Normans in 1066 once again.
As G K Chesterton warns in the Silent People
It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
Our wrath come after Russia's wrath and our wrath be the worst.
It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
God's scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.
I doubt it!