HC Deb 21 April 1903 vol 121 cc43-70

12. Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding£48,288, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Agriculture, and for Kew Botanic and Pleasure Gardens, including certain Grant-in-Aid."—

MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)

said he should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture on having made arrangements for the introduction into this country of live cattle from Argentina. He knew that that would be a great boon to the great body of the working population of this country. It was quite evident that an increase in the number of live cattle introduced into this country would tend to lower the price of a food which was necessary for the health and the growth of the working community; but it had two additional advantages. By the arrangement made with the Argentine Government it had been possible for the latter to remove the restrictions which existed as to the export of high-class breeding cattle from this country to the Argentine, and the sale and transport of cattle from the Argentine to this country had improved the commercial relations of the two countries, because the more cattle were exported from the Argentine to Great Britain the more iron and cotton goods would be taken from this country to the Argentine. Every good thing, however, had its evil side, and in bringing cattle from the Argentine to Great Britain it was perfectly obvious that a certain amount of suffering on the part of the cattle must take place. He wished the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture would tell the Committee what power he had to prevent unnecessary cruelty in the conduct of the cattle traffic to this country. Some lines, he believed, had steamers expressly built for the trade, and the cattle were protected by shade decks and provided with a constant flow of water. Some of them even had the electric light fitted up. But that protection of the cattle did not exist in all vessels. What means had the right hon. Gentleman for the examination of the ships and the inspection of the cattle on arrival in this country? Then it might also be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the question of the transport of cattle from Irish to British ports. He was given to understand by those who have seen it that there were no means whatever for protecting cattle shipped from Belfast to Fleetwood, and from other Irish to English ports; and they could imagine what must have happened during the last three or four months when the decks of the steamers were swept with seas on account of the strong head winds. He was told that large numbers of the cattle had been found huddled together, many injured and others trampled to death. A check should be put to that. He was perfectly willing to see the number of cattle sent over here from Ireland multiplied, but they were bound to take every precaution which humanity could suggest to secure that the sufferings of the cattle should be as small as possible.

MR. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molten)

said he thought it would be well to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture to the change in the education of the children of the country, especially in the rural districts, in connection with the Education Act of last year. An opportunity now occurred for the right hon. Gentleman to direct agricultural education into grooves which had not been followed for many years past. There was no doubt that existing agricultural education was in an extremely unsatisfactory condition. They had a hard and fast Code which applied to town and country alike. They should differentiate education in the rural villages and in the towns. In Devonshire, which he represented, a great deal of fruit was grown, and he should like to see taught in the schools fruit-growing, the care of fruit trees, and how to get rid of the insects which injured the fruit trees. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would do a great service to agriculture if he would direct the attention of the County Councils, who had now the duty of carrying out the Education Act, into the groove he had suggested. He had been reading only a few days ago the extremely interesting work by Mr. Rider Haggard on "Rural England," in which that author quoted the opinion of a reverend gentleman in Devonshire on this subject. "There was nothing" it was said, "taught in a village school which would impress on a child that agriculture, horticulture, orchard and fruit culture are full of interest and delight, and both require, and are worthy of, the best work of their heads and hands." He was certain that the right hon. Gentleman could do something to make the village school more attractive to those living in the villages, and the means of imparting knowledge which would be of use to the children in after life; and if he did so it would redound to his lasting credit. The children were taught geography three hours a week, but nothing of how to erect a stack or to feed cattle. It was often said that an agricultural labourer was a very unskilled person, but he should like to traverse that statement absolutely, because anyone without a considerable amount of past experience who tried to do the work of an agricultural labourer would find it difficult. Even the putting up a fence, or ploughing and sowing, required a good deal of technical skill and knowledge, and some of that knowledge might be imparted in the night-schools which he hoped would be established all over the country districts.

This was an important subject, because the rural population was crowding into the towns, where men were tramping about the streets because they could not get work, while in the country there was a scarcity of labour. He attached a great deal of importance to giving children a real practical education in the village schools, rather than an education such as they would get in London or any other large city. With reference to wages, he read during the Woolwich contest that wages at Woolwich were about 21s. per week, and that rents were 8s. a week. If that were true, it seemed to him that the agricultural labourer was much better paid than a Woolwich labourer who had to pay 8s. a week rent; and he could not understand why such a number of people in the rural districts crowded into the towns. The Technical Education Committees all desired to do something to improve agricultural education, but they did not know how to go about it. He suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should form some body in his Department which would send out to County Councils what might well be termed an agricultural code of education. The County Councils wanted to do this work, but they did not know how to do it. The right hon. Gentleman could carry out the ideas of the County Councils in this matter, which he was certain had his sympathy. The right hon. Gentleman had also been very sympathetic on the question of railway rates; but said that farmers indulged in a great deal of general grumbling. He himself agreed with that; but it was difficult for them to do anything else, when they saw railway rates unfairly differentiated between themselves and their foreign competitors. Railway rates were full of difficulties to an ordinary man.


I do not think that that is a matter which is connected with the administration of the Board of Agriculture. Railway rates are connected with the Board of Trade.


said he only wished to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should appoint a competent staff in his Department to examine into the question of railway rates. It was impossible for an individual farmer to examine railway rates, as they were very complicated and full of details; and no man who was not skilled in the matter of railway charges would be able to ascertain exactly whether his charges were accurate or not. In Ireland, rich men came forward patriotically to carry out great transport ideas; but in England they had no rich men, or else they were not patriotic. He also thought that the Treasury ought to devote more money to the Agricultural Department. At present, the Department was the most poverty-stricken in the world, considering the large industry it had to direct and advise. Mr. W. P. Reeves, Agent-General for New Zealand, some time ago compiled a table showing the amount spent on agricultural advice in various countries in the world. In New Zealand the amount was 2s. per head, in Queensland, 1s. 11d., in France, 11d., in Denmark, which was a very severe competitor with the British agriculturist, 1s. 6d., whereas, in the United Kingdom only ½d. per head was spent. He therefore, thought that more money should be given to the Agricultural Department to carry out necessary work such as he had suggested. The right hon. Gentleman was reported to have said that it was to gain markets that they made wars, spent millions of money, and the life blood of the bravest of the brave. He did not want that; but he thought, considering they had a very large home market, that, instead of looking so much to foreign markets, they should try and preserve it for the British agriculturist. If the British farmer had to meet foreign competition, he should be put in a position to meet it; and one of the chief remedies for foreign competition was better and more practical education. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would make representations to the Treasury in order to get more money for a purpose which was very vital to the agricultural industry.

He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions. He understood that swine fever at the present time showed a very large decrease. He congratulated the Department on that; but he wished to know if there was going to be any finality as regarded the restrictions for suppressing swine fever. Had the right hon. Gentleman any idea as to when they might anticipate that swine fever would be stamped out altogether? That would be a very great boon, if it could be achieved. He thought also that the right hon. Gentleman might supply information more frequently with reference to the course of agricultural events in foreign countries. He read in The Economist a few days ago that the Argentine herds had increased only about 6 per cent. during the last three years, whereas, the normal increase was from 20 per cent to 30 per cent. That showed that from the Argentine, at all events, they would not get so much competition in the near future as might have been expected. He read also that cattle in America showed a decrease of six millions. These were things about which the Agricultural Board ought to be able to supply information. Then, there was the question of the drought in Australia. How was that going to affect the price of wool and mutton? In agriculture they could not change the system of production as quickly as it could be changed in other industries, and all these matters were of importance. He also wished to know what prospect there was of sending stock to South Africa. Two years ago, they were told that there were great latent possibilities in sending British stock to improve the native breeds in South Africa. He himself was rather dubious as to whether there would be a market for that class of stock; but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give the Committee some information on the matter.

MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR (Essex, Romford)

said he wished to bring one or two points to the attention of his right hon. friend. One was the question of putting the law into force with reference to glanders. At present, no notification of glanders was necessary, and a farmer was able to put a horse suffering from glanders into a sale with other horses. He was informed some years ago that the law was strong enough to cope with such outrages; and he hoped it would be enforced. Then as to drinking troughs, they were not under the control of the local authority, and were frequently insanitary, and even when carmen were provided with buckets they were compelled to dip them into the troughs because there were no taps. He desired to identify himself with what the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had said on the question of railway rates; and he would welcome a Department of the Board of Agriculture that would inform farmers what rates they ought to pay. The railway companies were at present infringing Acts of Parliament by imposing rates which they were not empowered to impose. By Act of Parliament, the maximum price of manures from Petersfield to Nine Elms was 9s., but the railway company charged 12s. 6d. The maximum charge for potatoes from Three Bridges was 3s. 8d., but the railway company charged 10s. 10d.


These matters are not under the control of the Board of Agriculture. The Board of Agriculture has no right to interfere with railway companies in respect of rates. It is a matter for the law if the railway companies are charging illegal rates.


said he appreciated that point, and would only urge on his right hon. friend to have a Department under his control where farmers could be informed what rates they ought to pay. At present, they were absolutely ignorant on the matter, in consequence of the Board of Agriculture not supplying them with the information with which it ought to have supplied them. He was sure his right hon. friend had great sympathy with farmers in the matter, and that he intended to do his best to remedy the evil. The result of all these preferential rates on food supplies amounted to no less than a bounty to foreigners of 5s. a ton on grain, and of from 10s. to 30s. a ton in regard to fruit and other produce. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture would have in his office in the future a Department for remedying all these defects.

MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)

said everybody appreciated the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman to protect our herds from foreign disease, and recognised that he had done well in that direction, but there were other matters with regard to which the people were not so satisfied. They felt aggrieved that foreign produce was carried cheaper than English produce, and thought that something might be done to alleviate that grievance. The argument of the railway companies that they were enabled to take foreign produce cheaper because of the bulk they carried was a sound one, but could not the right hon. Gentleman make some arrangement with the railway companies whereby small consignments, if accumulated in bulk, should be charged the rates which were charged for foreign produce? Another matter to which he wished to draw attention—and he admitted the difficulty of dealing with it—was that the variety of weights and measures by which produce was sold resulted in great confusion and prevented a free interchange of these commodities. He urged the desirability of evolving a uniform system of weights and measures, which would greatly relieve the farmers of the difficulties under which they now suffered. They should also have greater facilities for analysing manures and feeding stuffs, and he suggested that the Board of Agriculture should be able to supply a simpler process by which the farmer could be assured as to whether the goods he bought were of money value or not. He further suggested the desirability of inspecting stallions and preventing the use of diseased or unsound animals. He was of opinion that all stallions used for stud purposes should have a certificate of soundness and facilities should be given for breeding good sound horses such as they heard were required for the Army. Agriculturists did not want to be pampered, but they wanted facilities given to them to carry on their industry, not only for the benefit of themselves and the rural community but in the interest of the community at large and for the promotion of the food supply and the commonwealth of the country.

MR. MANSFIELD (Lincolnshire, Spalding)

said he moved the Amendment standing in his name, not because he was not in agreement with the hon. Member who had just sat down, but because, although the farmers were delighted with the way the President of the Board travelled the country and inquired into their grievances, they did not seem to appreciate that in the Board of Agriculture they had a live Department. As compared with what similar Departments abroad did, we were leagues behind. And the farmers could not help remembering that the right hon. Gentleman sometimes made promises which he did not carry out. With regard to sheep-worrying, for instance, in February of last year the President stated he was going to deal with the question; in March he was considering it; in May he hoped to deal with it before the session came to an end. And it was not dealt with yet. Then there was the question of breeding horses for the Army. On April 10th last year the right hon. Gentleman was most eager to afford farmers every opportunity of supplying the demands of the War Office; on the 17th of the same month he was in communication with the War Office on the subject; on May 27th he thought, although the kind of horses wanted for the Army was not the kind to pay a farmer to breed, still the first opportunity ought to be given to the farmers of the United Kingdom; two months after the President stated that a circular would shortly be issued giving every information, and in the following December, on being pressed to give the information promised, the right hon. Gentleman stated that 2,500 horses were required, of which 1,000 would come from Ireland and the remainder from the United Kingdom, but he thought this matter had lost a great deal of its interest for the British farmer. Why did this matter lose its interest? It suddenly lost its interest when they pressed the right hon. Gentleman to perform his promise. The farmers felt they had not been treated fairly in the matter; they had had a definite promise that a circular should be issued, which it was true might not have altered the horse-breeding arrangements of this country, but which might have enabled many a man who had a horse suitable for the Army to save his horse and get a better price for it. The horse breeders of this country should have such help given to them as was given by Continental Governments to their subjects, and they certainly felt that the Board of Agriculture should do something in order to insure that there should be some inspection of stallions; and the farmers felt that some help should be given to them in order that they might get their entire horses cheaper. In reference to preferential rates on railways the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the farmers had a grievance, and in Committee of Supply, last year, promised to use his influence with the Board of Trade in the matter. How far had the influence of the right hon. Gentleman furthered the question? The Department existed for the help of the farmers; but it had not helped them to obtain justice from the railway companies. The question was so large that it was hopeless to attempt to deal with it unless the Board of Agriculture took the matter up and obtained an inquiry: the efforts of individual farmers or associations were almost useless He desired to ask also whether the President would take steps to trace the source of the new disease "phoma," which had arisen in connection with turnips in Lincolnshire, and place the result of his researches at the service of farmers, so that they could fight the disease. He hoped also that he would use his influence with the Local Government Board so that more houses might be provided in rural districts and the population be kept upon the land. In order to secure a reply he begged to move.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A be reduced by£100, in respect of the salary of the President of the Board of Agriculture."—(Mr. Mansfield.)

MR. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthenshire, W.)

asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he was now in a position to state the general outlines of the scheme he had frequently referred to for bringing the farmers in various parts of the country into closer contact with the Board of Agriculture. The proposal was a very important one and, if carried out in a practical way, might do much good. He further asked when it was proposed to revoke the muzzling order in Carmarthenshire. The order had been revoked in the larger portion of the county, but it was still in force in certain petty sessional divisions, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would say the time was near at hand when the order would be entirely removed. He entirely agreed with the remarks which had been made as to the injury suffered by farmers from unsound horses travelling the country. The injury arose from the fact that so many farmers had no way of finding out whether or not the horses were unsound, and if the right hon. Gentleman would do something in the direction which had been suggested he would confer on the farmers a substantial benefit.

MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the satisfactory results of the administration of the Board in stamping out foot-and-mouth disease and causing a diminution in swine fever. He wished to congratulate him still more on the suggestive and useful speeches which he had addressed to large bodies of agriculturists all over the country. The advantage to agriculturists of those meetings could hardly be exaggerated. Those speeches seemed to point to a new era of usefulness on the part of the Board of Agriculture, and to indicate lines of work which that Department had not hitherto attempted. No doubt, in the hints he had thrown out, the right hon. Gentleman had had in view the remarkable success of the work done by the organisation of societies stimulated and encouraged by the State which in twenty or thirty years had made Denmark one of the most successful agricultural countries in the world. Many agriculturists were stubbornly opposed to those ideas of co-operation which had effected such wonders in Ireland, and which, if the right hon. Gentleman had his way, would probably work similar results in England. But what he did hope was that the right hon. Gentleman would give an assurance that he was prepared to throw the ideas he had sketched out into a practical form and to lay before the Treasury a scheme for the wider application of the administrative powers of the Board in the direction of stimulating and organising the different branches of agriculture. With regard to the depopulation of the rural districts, the whole of that question really depended on making agriculture profitable in the rural districts to the smaller agriculturists. That was the real key of the position. People in this country only needed to go to Denmark to see how that had been done largely by State administration stimulating the action of agricultural societies. In this country they had great agricultural societies doing splendid work in certain directions, but not in the special direction in which such wonderful work had been done in Denmark. The record laid before the recent French Exhibition by the Danish section, in which it was indicated how the Danes had obtained control of the egg market in England, showed that 200,000,000 or 300,000,000 eggs were now being sent to this country, and this was largely due to the thorough organisation of the egg industry by the societies so as to guarantee quality and uniformity. The members of these societies were fined if they did not accurately date every egg before they were collected and sorted. These were the ways in which agriculture had been made a success and a lucrative occupation in Denmark. It was the same in regard to butter and poultry and other products. If in this country things were carried out as in Denmark, he ventured to say that they would not find the failure of the smaller agriculturists dwelt upon so often. He did not wish to go into this question further than to assure the right hon. Gentleman that there were Members on the Opposition as well as the Government Benches who would support the general ideas he had been laying before the country in his speeches, and they welcomed most heartily the efforts he was making to bring about a profitable reorganisation of the different branches of agriculture in this country—a reorganisation which had been so successfully carried out by Mr. Horace Plunkett in Ireland, and which had been such a conspicuous success in Denmark.

MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somersetshire, E.)

said that most agricultural Members would agree with his hon. friend who had just sat down in his generous appreciation of the zeal and energy shown by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture since he took office. They only regretted that the resources of his Department were inadequate to fulfil all his aspirations. But no doubt a great deal might be done even by small resources, and the scheme the right hon. Gentleman had foreshadowed for bringing into closer contact the large organised bodies of farmers in different parts of the country might be productive of great good. They must not, however, expect too much from the Government Department connected with agriculture, because he did not think it was possible to organise the agricultural interests of this country like it was done in comparatively small countries such as Denmark and Ireland. He hoped the agriculturist would put self-help first, and State-help second. There was, however, a great deal which an Agricultural Department could do, and he wished to say a few words upon one branch which he knew his right hon. friend was desirous of improving, namely, agricultural education. They all knew what a small sum of money was devoted to that object by this country as compared with the amount provided by the Governments of other countries. No doubt his right hon. friend's answer would be much the same as that given by his predecessors in office, namely, that there were very large sums at the disposal of the local authorities which could, if necessary, be devoted to agricultural education. That was perfectly true, and no doubt the local bodies would do a great deal under the new system. Nevertheless, there were subjects under the head of experiment and research which could often be better dealt with by a central Government Department than by a large number of local bodies acting without any co-operation between themselves. He did not think his right hon. friend could do better than pursue the course he had taken up in regard to the cider-making industry, for by this means he brought the different authorities into co-operation, thus preventing them wasting their resources and efforts by overlapping each other in their experimental work. There was another direction in which he hoped his right hon. friend would also work, and that was co-operating with the Board of Education. Last year he got a Joint Committee appointed, which drew up an excellent syllabus of scientific agriculture. He hoped there would be a standing Joint Committee of the two Boards to consider all these educational topics. A great deal of this work ought to be directed by agricultural experts as well as educationists, and until the Board of Education contained an agricultural element practically acquainted with the needs of agriculture, he thought it was necessary for the Board of Agriculture to supply that deficiency, and help them to get a more practical and useful scheme of agricultural education.


emphasised the complaint which had been made on behalf of scientific men in the country that the scientific research carried on by the Agricultural Department was not sufficient for the needs of a country like England. He desired to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture whether it was the case that a large quantity of the plates, figures, and other information which he was now in the habit of giving to the farmers of this country were derived mainly from German and American sources, and not from English sources. If so, it was not befitting the dignity of this country. This country ought to be able to employ its own experts and make it worth their while, for they should not be entirely dependent upon outsiders for information which was so vital to the agricultural interests of this country.


said the reason he rose to discuss this question was that he thought the time had now come when the farmers had had enough talking to, and it was time something should be really done for them. He thought the right hon. Gentleman opposite had quite decided and found out for himself that something must be done, and so he had started this advisory committee, which was going to put him in touch with the various agricultural societies in the different counties of the country. These advisory committees he was going to have formed from the various farmers' clubs and associations, and he was going to have the power of co-opting from them certain members. He thought that in order to get more into touch with the agriculturists they ought to go to the County Councils and ask them to form committees, which they might call Agricultural Committees, and they should have the power of co-opting members in the same way as the Education Committees did at the present time. In this way they would get a committee to watch over every county of this country, and they would deal with all the local questions which came up, and so a great deal of time would be saved, and a lot of good, practical work would be done. This question of co-operation should be gone into, for in certain counties co-operation would be very useful, whilst in others it would be impossible. In such matters as the buying of food stuffs, manure, and seeds, they might be obtained wholesale and sold at reduced prices to the farmer, They ought to publish a small gazette every week or every fortnight, so that the farmers would know what was going on. In this way the farmers would know where to buy or where to sell. An employer who wanted a man would then be able to get him through this gazette. This would be doing something practical, and would be of great service to the farmer, and give him a little bit of hope for the future. At the present time the tenant farmer was thinking of nothing but the Irish Land Bill, but they would not get a Land Bill in this country just yet, and something would have to be done for the English farmers before they were able to extend the Irish Land Bill to England. He took this opportunity of bringing his scheme before the right hon. Gentleman who had shown so much enthusiasm in the agriculture of this country.

MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire, Cleveland)

said he wished to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman contemplated taking any step to carry out the proposals contained in the Report of the Departmental Committee which he appointed upon Afforestation. The second question he wished to ask related to the subject of restrictions in regard to swine fever. Those restrictions pressed somewhat hardly upon the farmer, and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would do all in his power to make them as light as possible. In order to move pigs within the area to which the restriction applied, it was necessary to go to the superintendent of the district to get an order to do so. Farmers had complained to him that sometimes they had to go twelve miles to get an order to move swine a few hundred yards Would it not be possible to allow a farmer to make a declaration before the nearest magistrate, to send it by post to the superintendent, and to receive the order by post from him?


said the discussion had ranged over a wide field not limited to his own Department; but he accepted the view that the influence of the Board of Agriculture ought so far as possible to be brought to bear on other Departments in matters which connected those Departments even indirectly with agricultural interests. The old practice of regarding different Departments as if they were so many foreign countries, and of conducting business with them by an enormous amount of correspondence, which wasted the time of the officials and caused expense to the Stationery Department, ought to cease; and he would endeavour as far as possible to promote by verbal communication harmonious working between Departments for the common cause. He would not omit the Treasury. He fully agreed with what had been said as to the somewhat starved condition of the Board of Agriculture. He could not shut his eyes to the fact that a great deal was being done in other countries on behalf of agriculturists who were keen competitors with agriculturists here, to whom no similar service could be rendered by the Board of Agriculture in this country. He did not limit himself to foreign or colonial countries, but might refer to Ireland itself. The British agriculturist had the same claim upon the State to assist the prosperity of his particular industry as had the Irish farmer. He would constantly, as occasion arose, press strongly upon the Treasury the necessity of seeing that the Board of Agriculture in Great Britain was put upon such a financial footing as to enable it to do more justice to the British farmers, who were competing with men in foreign countries and in the colonies whose Boards of Agriculture rendered them a vast amount of assistance.

He would deal with the questions which had been addressed to him seriatim. He thanked the hon. Member for North Manchester for what he said with regard to his action in opening the ports to Argentine cattle. The long delay in opening the ports to Argentine cattle had been justified by the result. He was quite sure that it was in the interests of the consumer as much as those of the farmer, considering what a large proportion of the food supply of this country was home grown. He thought it was something like 60 per cent. He was glad to say that the Argentine Government had now adopted our own regulations, and a great trade would be put on a steady, permanent basis. The trade between the Argentine and this country was going to be, perhaps, the most lasting trade in live cattle. Owing to the profitable use that could be made of the offal in Chicago, it paid the Americans better to send dead meat than to send live stock to this country. But the live cattle trade with the Argentine would always be a large one. In view of the length of the voyage—about sixty days—he was bound to take every precaution to see that this trade was carried on under humane conditions. He was afraid that in a good many tramp ships the trade was not carried on in as humane a manner as it ought to be, and his full statutory powers would be exercised religiously and firmly with a view to ensuring that the animals experienced no undue suffering during their long voyage.

With regard to the Irish cattle trade, he must say that what the hon. Member had mentioned was somewhat new to him. He should rather think that the hon. Member had exaggerated the case, but if he would supply details as to special ships or cargoes he would take care that full inquiry was made. As to agricultural education, although funds were limited, he recognised that as new agricultural colleges arose it would be the interest of the Department to see that they should be more or less assisted out of the public funds. These colleges were doing a great work. There was an additional advantage in being able to make grants to these colleges, in so far as they were connected with County Councils, because opportunity was given for striking bargains with the County Councils as to their use of their local taxation money for the purposes of agricultural education. Without co-operation between the Board of Agriculture and the County Councils the latter had a tendency to repeat experiments already tried, and money was sometimes wasted. But the County Councils had shown great willingness to co-operate with the Board of Agriculture, with the result that information as to what was being done elsewhere was available, co-ordination was promoted, and the local taxation money was put to its most advantageous use. With regard to elementary education in the village schools, he was entirely in accord with what the hon. Member for Devonshire had said, though there again his hands were somewhat tied. The Joint Committee of the Boards of Agriculture and of Education ought to be made permanent. He was quite sure that a good deal might then be done to put agricultural education in the elementary schools on a much more sound basis than hitherto. The County Councils would now have a great opportunity, because they could create a new Code and adapt education to local requirements. But the Code, under the hands of his right hon. friend the late Vice-President of the Council, was by no means so inelastic as many were inclined to suppose. A great deal had been done under it by certain managers. It was quite possible to give, as nature study, in the elementary schools a great deal of the teaching desired by the hon. Member. Where such teaching was wanting it was the fault not so much of the Code as of the managers themselves, who were either not sufficiently aware of the elastic nature of the new Code, or did not take sufficient interest in the subject. He should lose no opportunity to point out to the County Councils that the Code as it stood afforded facilities for giving the children in rural schools a more practical training—a training more suitable to their circumstances—than they had received in the past, and for differentiating the teaching in the village schools from that in the town schools. The two things were quite different, and he hoped under the new Act and the new powers given to the County Councils they would find a great improvement in rural education in the future.

In regard to railway rates he was on more dangerous ground. He had already, perhaps, stretched the powers of his Department in regard to this question as far as it was right and reasonable. He was quite ready to admit that the Board of Trade had more to do with railway rates than the Board of Agriculture; but at the same time he was the adviser and friend of the farmers, and he was anxious to assist them and prevent undue railway charges being levied upon them. An hon. Member had stated that the staff of the Department of the Minister of Agriculture should be fully competent to deal with this question of railway rates. Such a staff had already been formed consisting of very able men whose time was largely given to this subject; and he appealed to County Councils, and individual farmers not to hesitate in bringing forward any cases of undue railway charges to the notice of the Board of Agriculture. If that were done the matter would at once be inquired into. It had already been done in some parts of the country, in Scotland and Yorkshire, and he only wished that other parts of the country would do the same. It was only on facts that he could take action, but if nobody complained to him he could not take action. Certain alleged grievances had been mentioned to the Committee by an hon. Member, but if that Gentleman would bring these definitely before the Board of Agriculture they would be inquired into. If anybody complained that he was slow in moving, he could only reply that he was not furnished by the farmers with the necessary information. If he found any case in which a railway was overcharging farmers for the carriage of agricultural produce, it would be his duty to see that that was put a stop to, and also that restitution was made by the railway companies for overcharges in the past. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member who spoke of the great importance of encouraging our home markets. He did not think the residents in towns sufficiently recognised that while no doubt it was a good thing to have large foreign colonial markets, it was, after all, to the support of the home markets that the dwindling rural population looked for their maintenance.

He was glad to say that the Board of Agriculture had been reasonably successful in their fight against disease. The-foot-and-mouth disease had been stamped out, and there had been a considerable diminution in swine fever. A right hon. Member had asked him if he could tell how long it would be before that disease was stamped out altogether. That was a question extremely difficult for him to answer, but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he should continue to use vigorously all the powers of the Department in stamping it out. He was bound to say that he congratulated himself on the willingness and readiness with which the farmers throughout the country had, at great inconvenience to themselves, borne the restrictions and regulations, which were of benefit to themselves in the end, and a great safeguard to the rest of the country. He was in communication with the Board of Agriculture in Ireland as to one difficulty which had arisen in regard to swine fever. It was very often the case that when swine fever had been stamped out in the west coast of England, it was re-introduced by animals imported from Ireland. It was not fair to English farmers that that should be the case, and he was in communication with the Board of Agriculture in Ireland to see whether the regulations could not be made as stringent in Ireland as in this country. He was sure that he would be supported in taking every step that was possible in the battle he was waging against swine fever and the importation of disease either from Ireland or any other country. He had been asked what opportunities there were for the exportation of stock to South Africa. At the present moment the Department had a Commissioner in South Africa inquiring what opportunities there might be for trade between this country and South Africa in stock. He was afraid, however, that for some time to come the great work of re stocking the farms in South Africa would be with much inferior cattle than we could send out from this to that country; but when that process was at an end the time would come for the use of an improved breed of stock, and he should then give to British farmers the fullest information of the opportunities which existed for the exportation of pedigree stock to South Africa. His hon. friend the Member for Devonshire had raised a comparatively new question, viz., the uniformity of weights and measures throughout the country. He agreed with the hon. Member as to the necessity of some change. In these days when farmers did not trust so much to mere local markets, but to markets very often at a very great distance, the necessity for a more uniform system of weights and measures was constantly felt. Local weights and measures might have had their advantage in the old days, but now that trade had vastly extended farmers were heavily handicapped by the great variety of weights and measures. Unfortunately this was one of the matters on which he did not think the Government ought to go too far ahead of public opinion. Farmers would require to be educated on the subject. He recollected that a Bill dealing with the subject was introduced six or seven years ago, but so strong was the feeling amongst farmers throughout the country against any enforced uniformity of weights and measures, that the Bill was defeated by a very large majority. He was sure that hon. Members who had influence with farmers would do a good work in putting the agricultural industry throughout the country on a sound footing if they used that influence to induce farmers to realise the importance and the benefit to themselves of abolishing the interminable system of local weights and measures.

The hon. Member had also raised the question of the analysis of feeding stuffs, and questioned whether the Act had been carried out as fully as those who introduced it thought would be the case. That was due to the fact that small farmers did not care to pay the fees for the analysis of their small purchases. Moreover, these small farmers were more or less under the influence of the merchants, who naturally did not like their names to be brought forward in connection with Acts of Parliament, or to disclose the names of manufacturers. He had put himself in communication with several County Councils, Devonshire amongst the others, on the subject, and it had been arranged that in future they would act through the chief constable and inspectors of police, who would take the samples, so that the small farmers would have nothing to pay for the analysis, and no name would be disclosed. By that means the Act would be a great deal more efficiently worked. With respect to unsound stallions he was not at all sure that it would be necessary to have legislation to increase the powers of the Department on this subject. He doubted even whether public opinion would support such legislation. Many farmers did not know whether the horses were sound or not; very often they were inclined to take the cheapest and nearest. He thought that the Board of Agriculture could, without legislation, carry out a scheme by which guarantees would be issued that such and such stallions were sound. The hon. Member said that he had given a promise to introduce a Bill on the subject of sheep worrying. He had given a pledge to farmers in Scotland to introduce such legislation; but on reconsideration he had come to the conclusion that instead of confining the measure to Scotland, it should deal with the whole of Great Britain. He had now such a Bill ready, and he hoped to be able to introduce it in the course of the next two or three days. As to the question of remounts, the hon. Gentleman seemed to think that his interest in the matter had somewhat, abated. That was not the case by any means, because he felt as strongly as ever that by far the greater proportion of horses that might be bought for the Army ought to be bought from farmers in our own country. They ought to have the first chance in this matter. But he confessed that the only abatement in his interest in the matter had been on account of the small number of horses which he found the War Office required. Having regard to the large number of our cavalry, he did suppose that the number of horses required by the War office would be considerably greater than it was; but it was only about 1,500 a year, and that was not a great matter to the farmers one way or the other. However, he perfectly agreed with the hon. Gentleman that even if the number were only 1,500, the farmers ought to have every information on the subject. A leaflet was now being prepared, giving the latest information which he had received from the War Office, and that leaflet would be issued without delay. At the same time, he wanted to show that the farmers should not place too great expectations on the matter; and he wished to bring out clearly the fact that the number of horses required was limited to 1,500.

Then, with reference to the new disease which had broken out in Lincolnshire, the hon. Gentleman asked him if it had been brought to the notice of the technical experts in his Department. No doubt it had; but it had not been brought personally before him. He would, however, see that the matter was inquired into, because it was undoubtedly the duty of his Department, when a disease of that kind broke out, to take every step to find out what its history was, and what were the best means of coping with it. If inspectors had not been sent down to deal with the matter already, he could promise the hon. Gentleman that that course would be taken at once, and that no time would be lost in trying to find a remedy for what the hon. Gentleman represented to be a very serious disease. Then, as to the question of afforestation, he was asked how far he was prepared to carry out there commendations of the Departmental Committee which he appointed a year or eighteen months ago. As the hon. Gentleman was aware, the report only of that Committee had yet been published. He had not yet received the evidence, and therefore it would be premature for him to express an opinion upon the matter. But he was glad to say that primâ facie, so far as he had read the report, and so far as he could form an opinion without the evidence, there were, at any rate, certain recommendations which he thought he could say offhand would be given effect to. The Commissioners of Woods and Forests were perfectly willing to set apart a certain district in the Forest of Dean for an experimental demonstration area as was suggested by the Committee; and he had no doubt that when he read the evidence there would be other portions of the report to which also he should be able to give effect, because he felt that the question of afforestation was one of serious interest to this country. When he saw the price of timber going up all over the world, and when he saw, in these days of depressed agriculture, large districts which would pay better under timber than under any other form of agriculture, he thought afforestation was a matter of very great importance, not only in Great Britain but, if he might say so, also in Ireland. He should do his utmost to impress on the Treasury the necessity of carrying out, as far as they might be supported by the evidence, the recommendations of the Departmental Committee, which he believed had rendered a great public service, and they were all very much indebted to the hon. Gentleman who presided over it.

With regard to the muzzling order in Carmarthenshire, he hoped that when six months had elapsed from the last proved case of rabies, he would be able to modify, or perhaps withdraw, the regulations altogether. But the hon. Gentleman should recollect that while rabies had been stamped out altogether in other parts of the United Kingdom, it had, for some mysterious reason, lingered in Carmarthenshire longer than anywhere else. During the last twelve months there had been undoubted cases of rabies in that part of the country. He thought it was well, when they had stamped out the disease everywhere else, and when they had limited it to a small area, that they should not be in too great a hurry to remove the restrictions, seeing that it was the last part where rabies lingered in the whole country. They wanted to make the regulations effective, but, at the same time, they wanted them to work with as little friction as possible, and he was sure the hon. Gentleman would do him the justice of saying that that had always been the aim of the Department. As regarded the information supplied to farmers, a great deal of it was no doubt obtained from foreign countries, but they had also obtained a great deal of information from British sources. He was sure the hon. Gentleman would not wish the Department to depend solely on British sources of information, and he himself felt that they ought to pick the brains of their neighbours as well as the brains of their own countrymen. One of the things he had brought about at the Board of Agriculture was that they should constantly and steadily study more than before, all the sources of information supplied by foreign countries. The information issued by Canada and the United States was of an extremely important character, and highly organised departments of agriculture in other countries published information which it would be folly for them to neglect. The Intelligence Department of the Board of Agriculture were now using every means to keep fully abreast of the information supplied by foreign countries, and to circulate it as far as possible among the farmers. He felt strongly that there was no use in merely getting the information if it was not circulated among those whom it most concerned. In many cases the farmers who really most needed information were the small and isolated men; and he felt that no stone ought to be left unturned to bring before them every kind of information which would be of advantage to them in their industry. There was great difficulty often in bringing information of this kind directly under their notice: but he was now establishing a system of distribution of leaflets, especially among the smaller and more isolated men, which it was believed would be of advantage to them as well as to the farmers of the country generally.


said that in view of the sympathetic and comprehensive reply of the right hon. Gentleman, he would ask leave to withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding£381,333, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904, for stationery, printing, paper, binding, and printed books for the public service; to pay the salaries and expenses of the Stationery Office; and for sundry miscellaneous services, including Reports of Parliamentary Debates."


said he wished to call attention to the manner in which the Fair Wages Resolution of the House of Commons had been carried out in connection with contracts given out by the Stationery Department. The debates on the subject had established the fact that the rate of wages to be paid should be the rate of wages obtaining in the particular district concerned. If the contract were given in London, then the rate of wages should be the rate current in London, the case to which he wished to draw attention was that of Messrs. Wyman, who, having works outside London, at Reading, could work there at a lower rate of wages than that which was paid in London, and were thus enabled to compete unfairly with firms who were London firms in the proper sense of the word, and who had no works outside. He did not know whether it was in the recollection of the Committee, but this was a matter which was fully gone into last year, and the then Secretary to the Treasury promised that the matter should be investigated, and that if the complaint was well founded, justice should be done. He had brought forward the matter again, because he had been assured that the great evil of which complaint had been made had not been redressed, and therefore, without further remark, he would move to reduce the Vote by£100. He earnestly hoped the reply from the Secretary to the Treasury would not make it necessary to proceed to a division, but if an assurance could not be given that this evil would be redressed, he should have to carry the matter to a Division.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding£381,233, be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Claude Hay.)


said he desired to support the hon. Member opposite on this matter, on the ground that these people, by removing the work to Reading where labour was cheaper, had been able to compete with London houses who had no works outside. He thought that all London contracts ought to be done by firms having their works in London. He understood that there was another reason why the work had been transferred to Reading, and that was that Messrs. Wyman could not only do the work at a lower rate of wage than the London rate, but that they had been able, as he had been informed, to introduce a large number of women to do the work which he considered should be done by men. He trusted some satisfactory reply would be given by the hon. Gentleman in charge of this Vote to the points now raised.


called attention to the manner in which the Bills and Estimates presented to the House were stitched and the inferior string which was used for this purpose. He had previously complained of the fact that the moment one took one of these papers into their hands they fell to pieces, and the result had been that a better class of string had been used, but the old string seemed again to have taken the place of the superior quality. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would give this small matter his attention.


said he asked the indulgence of the Committee, as he had not had time to become fully acquainted with these Estimates With reference to the last point with regard to the binding of the Bills and Estimates, he would certainly inquire into the reason why the better string used a year or two ago had been discarded for an inferior twine, and would do his best to bring back the better string. As to the remarks of his hon. friend the Member for Shoreditch, he must point out that the Government had no undue preference as to whether the work of the printer was carried out in London or in the country. It was not their business to favour contractors or workmen in any part of the kingdom; and he thought that it would be to lay down a most dangerous doctrine that the Government should inquire and give out tenders on condition that the work should be done where wages were most high. It would be a most unreasonable thing to give preference to the interests of London over the interests of the country at large. His hon. friend had called attention to the Fair Wages Resolution. There was no doubt that every Government contractor was bound to see that fair wages were given. In this case the contractors got the work done in the country, at Reading, and why should they not? He could not agree to the suggestion that the contractors should not get their work done outside of London, and he did not think that a case had been made out. He was perfectly willing to give the same assurance which was given last year by his predecessor—that if there was a case made out of a breach of the Resolution passed by the House, then the Government would be ready, willing, and anxious to inquire into it and put an end to any misconduct of the contractor.

And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again this evening.

Back to