HC Deb 19 May 1899 vol 71 cc1039-40

As regards the observations of the honour able, Member for East Northamptonshire, he has passed a sevens criticism upon the Government for not having brought in, in the course of the present session, the Agricultural Holdings Act. I could not quite gather from his speech whether the honourable Member objected on the ground that the Bill was not brought in and passed, or whether he objected because he only wanted the Hill to be brought ill in order that he might have an opportunity of discussing it all the winter in the various Chambers of Agriculture and in his own constituency. Whichever was the honourable Member's complaint, it appears to me to be somewhat unreasonable. It was perfectly true that at the last General Election not only I, but I think most Members of Parliament, declared their intention of doing all that was possible to aid the agricultural interest. Will anybody, looking back for the last few years, say that these pledges have not been fulfilled? The honourable Gentleman objected to the Agricultural Rating Act. I will not now go into the merits of that Act, but I am confident that if the honourable Member will put before the farmers in his constituency the Agricultural Rating Act on the one side, and the possible measure for tenants; improvements in regard to agricultural holdings on the other, I think they would elect for the measure which the honourable Gentleman opposite opposed. I think a somewhat similar observation might be made in regard to another piece of legislation which the Government are bringing forward this session in relief of agriculture—I mean the Bill in charge of my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, the Sale of Food and Drugs Bill. Again, I say that if the farmers of this country were given the choice whether they would have the Food and Drugs Bill or the Bill which the honourable Gentleman this afternoon advocates, I believe they would prefer the Food and Drugs Bill. We have passed one great measure and are in process of passing another great measure for the direct benefit of the agricultural interest among others. I confess, looking forward as far as I can into the present session, that I do not see much prospect of the Agricultural Holdings Act being dealt with, but I trust that we have several sessions before us, and therefore the honourable Gentleman need not despair of seeing his pet scheme caried to a successful issue.