§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £8,895,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912, namely:—
|Board of Agriculture and Fisheries||30,000|
|Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||20,000|
|Houses of Parliament Buildings||8,000|
|Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain||13,000|
|Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain||15,000|
|Diplomatic and Consular Buildings||15,000|
|Labour Exchange Buildings, Great Britain||20,000|
|Public Buildings, Great Britain||100,000|
|Surveys of the United Kingdom||25,000|
|Harbours under the Board of Trade||10,000|
|Rates on Government Property||200,000|
§ Mr. EDWARD STRAUSS
I beg to move, "That Item, Class II., Vote 11 (Board of Agriculture and Fisheries), be reduced by £100."
In referring to the administration and working of the Small Holdings Act, I must of necessity traverse familiar ground which has been surveyed in this House on many previous occasions. I would say at once that I believe that the large majority of Members of this Parliament, just as were the large majority of the Members of the 1906 Parliament, are in favour of small holdings. At the same time we cannot, and we must not, close our eyes to the fact that there is a very powerful opposition in certain quarters to the proper-working and administration of that measure. The matter which I particularly- 1531 wish to bring to the notice of the hon. Baronet, who represents the Board of Agriculture here, is in reference to the administration of that Act in North Berkshire, in a constituency that I had the honour to represent in the 1906 Parliament. Anyone who is not intimately acquainted with that particular part of the country would really believe that the Berkshire County Council are anxious and willing to further the small holdings movement, because shortly after the passing of the Act in 1907 that county council made a great splash, and purchased two farms, comprising about 1,000 acres. They found they had some difficulty in letting these two farms for small holdings.
In fact, that had to go to the extent of advertising for small holders. On purchasing these two farms they promptly turned out the two tenants that had been in possession for many, many years. I need hardly point out to the Committee that this proceeding on the part of the county council engendered a good deal of bad feeling, which local partisans used for political purposes. They directed that feeling against the Liberal Government and against the then sitting Member. If I mistake not, the hon. Baronet the senior Member for Oxford, rushed into print to expose the thing as one of the results of bad Liberal legislation. It was pointed out that these two farmers had been sacrificed owing to the working of the Liberal Small Holdings Act. I have reason to suppose that if those two farmers had been approached by the county council—at the time I went so far as to inform the members of the county council—I am not sure whether I did not write to the county council—they would have been quite willing to have surrendered sufficient land to have satisfied the local demand for small holdings, and they could have been on their farms at the present time. They had to clear out, and that caused a good deal of feeling. There is a great deal of truth in the fact that there was great difficulty in finding small holders for so much land. At the present time, I believe, only seven or eight of the eighteen small holders who rent direct from the county council are local men; the others come from considerable distances.
The point to which I wish particularly to draw the hon. Baronet's attention is how the Berkshire County Council have treated the North Berkshire Small Holdings Society, of which I happen to be 1532 chairman, and which is affiliated to the Agricultural Organisation Society. This society applied for 2,000 acres of land. Before the application of this society was even entertained the Berkshire County Council insisted upon a guarantee, with the result that this society had to pay something like £6,000, which was the equivalent of about two or three years' rent. This £6,000 was held by trustees for something like twelve months, and after protracted negotiations with the county council, the North Berkshire Society succeeded in getting something like 500 acres for small holdings, but only upon the condition that they deposited that sum equivalent to two years' rent which was placed in the hands of trustees. I am very glad to say that other landlords in North. Berkshire did not treat this Small Holdings Committee in the same way; we succeeded in getting another 500 acres from two private landlords in that county, and they did not ask for such guarantee, and the tenants are doing well and pay their rents regularly, with the exception of one, who does not pay, not because he cannot pay, but because he thinks he has not got the right sort of land. The reason I point out these matters to the committee is that I was under the impression the Small Holdings Act was framed upon the principle that no difficulties should be placed in the way of a society endeavouring to help in establishing small holdings.
There is just one other matter in connection with this society which I wish to mention, namely, that but for the fact that it had given its financial backing to the applicants it would have been impossible for them to have secured the land which they are farming now for two or three years past. There is another public body holding land in North Berkshire, and that is the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Some time ago the Commissioners wrote to me asking whether our society were interested in a farm in the Ashbury district. Negotiations were opened; rent was suggested considerably higher than the old tenants were paying, but still we were prepared to pay it. I offered to settle the question of the rent with the applicants, and it was settled quite satisfactorily; and I was all the more surprised and disappointed when I was informed by the agent of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners afterwards that the Commissioners did not intend to let us have the farm. I then approached the county council because I was told the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would only let the farm through the local 1533 authority. After various negotiations with the Berkshire County Council they also refused to let us have this farm. I did not think there could be any particular reason for this refusal. I approached the President of the Board of Agriculture and I was informed that the Board had sent down a Commissioner to North Berkshire to inspect the farm and that this Commissioner had reported that the farm was not very suitable for small holdings. I should say in this connection that I think the Commissioner would have done well if he had interviewed the land steward of our society and interviewed some of the applicants before he drew up his report; because the land steward of our society has farmed in that locality and has managed various farms, and the applicants would have been able to inform the Commissioner what they thought of the land for farming purposes.
He did not think it worth his while to interview either the land steward or the applicants; that was why I approached the President of the Board of Agriculture, and I am glad to say the President received me very sympathetically and he expressed his great indignation that this farm was refused to us. And I arranged an interview for some of the applicants to see him. We had the interview with the President of the Board of Agriculture and he promised to take the necessary steps to give us this farm. But things have since drifted and we do not seem to he any nearer getting the farm. Afterwards I put a question here in this House as to what steps the President of the Board of Agriculture was taking to secure this farm for us and the reply of the hon. Baronet, the secretary to the Board, was something to the effect that there were some local difficulties, and that if the farm was let for small holdings a number of cottages would be displaced and that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had determined to give us some other land instead. I inspected that other land and I and our land steward and other members of our society were of opinion that that land was quite unsuitable for small holdings and the applicants would not have it at any price.
We again approached the President of the Board of Agriculture, and he made a suggestion that I should communicate with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and I did. I then informed the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that our society was prepared to compensate these cottagers and to give them a year's rent in advance and 1534 to give guarantees for the proper farming of the land. Despite this we could not get the farm from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Various communications passed between the Board of Agriculture and the county council and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and I have come across a letter which appeared in the minutes of the Berkshire County Council dated the 29th of December, 1910, and signed by the assistant secretary of the Board of Agriculture. It is rather long but I should like to read it:—I am directed by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries to advert to your letter of the 16th instant and previous communications with reference to the question of acquiring the Idstone Rectory Farm, Ashbury, for the purposes of small holdings for the Shrivenham and District Small Holdings Association, and I am to say that, while the report of the Small Holdings Commissioner does not support the view that the farm is suitable for small holdings, the Board are informed by Mr. E. A. Strauss, M.P., and by the Secretary of the Association, that the applicant members who know the land are satisfied that the farm is suitable and are willing to pay rents which may be expected to cover all outgoings. Moreover, Mr. Strauss states that he is prepared to enter into any reasonable financial arrangement under which the fulfilment of the terms of the lease to the Association would be guaranteed by him. The terms of the guarantee have not been discussed with Mr. Strauss, but assuming that it would adequately protect the council from risk of loss on the scheme, the Board do not think that the council would be justified in refusing to proceed with the acquisition of the farm from fear that the anticipations of the applicants might not be realised. The Board would suggest, therefore, that a definite option of taking the land at a specified rent for a specified term should be obtained from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and placed before Mr. Strauss and the Association.I am sorry to say the Berkshire County Council would not recede from the position they had taken up. They would not take the option of this farm or purchase it. I need hardly say that this action on the part of the county council and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners has caused a great deal of bad feeling. I have here in my hand the resolution passed by the parish council condemning the action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and also a resolution passed by some of the applicants for this farm expressing their indignation at the way they were treated. I should like to refer to a speech made by the most reverend Primate in 1907, when the Small Holdings Bill was discussed in another place. In supporting the Small Holdings Bill the most reverend Primate stated that—of 250,000 acres held by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, 1,750 acres were let in allotments, and the remainder comprised 3,000 holdings, of which two-thirds, or some 2,000 holdings, were under fifty acres, and the one-third were holdings all under 100 acres.I am afraid the most reverend Primate was not correctly informed, because I find that some of the tenants of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners rent farming land to 1535 the extent of 750 acres, 1,000 acres, and 942 acres, all of them tenants in the Ashbury district. I understand that the new tenant of the Idstone Farm is the son of a neighbouring farmer, who already farms 1,000 acres in that district. The father of this new tenant farms himself something like 750 acres in that particular district, which he rents from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. In the four parishes of Ashbury, Bishopstone, Kingston, and Idstone, the combined area of which exceeds 8,000 acres, there are only five small holders in that area, and three out of the five have their holdings sublet to them by large farmers at very high rents. I think this proves that there is a great demand for small holdings in that district. I understand that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are approaching some of the tenants of our society, trying to induce them to take less land than they originally applied for. They are indignant because the son of a neighbouring farmer has got this farm and they are left out in the cold, notwithstanding the promise made to them by the President of the Board of Agriculture.
When we find cases like the one which I have brought before the Committee it looks as though all this sympathy for small holdings, about which we hear so much, is nothing more nor less than hypocrisy. I know that the Board of Agriculture has no statutory powers over the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, but they are not like private landlords. They are a public body administering property belonging to the Church of the whole nation, and therefore I am surprised that, a body like that should thwart and frustrate the legitimate aspirations of the poorer class of workers in the rural villages, who, after all, only want to earn little more than a bare living. If the President of the Board of Agriculture would exercise the power which he possesses over the three gentlemen who represent the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—I understand that of the three gentlemen who are all-powerful, two are appointed by the Crown and one by the Archbishop of Canterbury—he could soon get them into line and bring them to their senses and get them to carry out what is the desire of the President of the Board of Agriculture. Even if he fails in this, he has compulsory powers. The letter which I have already read to the Committee shows that the President of the Board of Agriculture does not possess sufficient courage to attack reactionary bodies. I 1536 hope the hon. Baronet who represents the Board of Agriculture will do his best and use his influence with the President of the Board of Agriculture to see that he carries out the promise which he made to the applicants for Idstone Farm in the interview he had with them.
§ Mr. GARDNER
Before the hon Baronet decides upon the merits or demerits of the action of the Berkshire County Council, I hope he will apply to the fountain head for information in considering the case which has been brought forward by the hon. Member opposite. An attack has been made upon the County Council of Berkshire as well as upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners are very well able to defend themselves, I am a member of the Berkshire County Council, and consequently I feel that they have only a feeble defender in myself. I had not the least idea that an attack of this kind was going to be made upon the county council. I do not know whether it is usual to give notice of an attack of this kind. If it is not usual I think it wouuld be well in future to do so, in order that the real facts might be brought before the House.
§ Mr. E. STRAUSS
The President of the Board of Agriculture has had no end of communications with the Berkshire County Council, and he is very desirous that we should have the farm.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. GARDNER
There is not another county council less open to attack on this question of small holdings than the Berkshire County Council. I am a Berkshire County Councillor, and I know the council bought a large area of land which was not altogether in accordance with the judgment of some people, but they dealt with the matter honestly. They bought a large area of land to supply the wants of those who might require small holdings. They have done their best to rent land in various parts of the county, and if they did not rent this particular farm about which the hon. Member has attacked both the Berkshire County Council and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, it should be borne in mind that the report made to the county council by an expert was that it was not a suitable farm for division into small holdings. County councillors are mostly professional men, tradesmen, and retired officers, and they are not supposed to be experts upon matters of this kind, but they acted upon the report of an expert. Under these cir- 1537 cumstances, after they had been advised that this land was not suitable for the purpose, the county council would have been much more worthy of condemnation if they had taken it instead of refusing to do so. The hon. Member has attacked the county council in. regard to its proceedings in reference to the Charnley property. At that time I was a member of the committee, and I remember well all the negotiations affecting the dealings of the county council of Berkshire and the Small Holding Society. The hon. Member, to his credit—I wish to say that sincerely—did the best he could for the parties from his point; of view, but he forgot he was dealing with a public authority, and, although I suppose there is not a man inside or outside this House who would not be only too pleased to take the personal guarantee of the hon. Member, he would not understand that a personal guarantee was no use to a public authority. That was the whole stumbling block between the North Berks Small Holdings Society and the Berkshire County Council. We tried to meet these people in every possible way, and we could not do it, because those who represented the society wanted to treat us, not as a public authority, but as private individuals. The hon. Member has attacked us in connection with our dealings with two farms at Charnley. How on earth can they get small holdings without turning out somebody? They forget that in getting small holdings for small holders they do an injustice to men who have been on farms for a long time. The Berkshire County Council have tried to avoid that difficulty, but they could only avoid it in one way. They could only avoid it by buying up farms when they came on the market. That, of course, does not obviate the difficulty that the tenant has to go when the farm is sold over his head; but it is not the county council who does it in that case but the person who sells the farm. The county council therefore could not helping turning people out when they—
§ Mr. E. STRAUSS
Two tenants were quite willing to give up sufficient land for small holdings, and they would have remained on if the county council had allowed them.
§ Mr. GARDNER
As I understand the hon. Member, two tenants were willing to give up sufficient land to provide small holders with holdings in the neighbourhood. If that is so, where comes in the 1538 complaint that you had not land? If there was land enough for small holdings there, why do you want more land? The thing contradicts itself.
§ Mr. E. STRAUSS
The farm I was speaking about just now is many miles away from the Charnley property.
§ Mr. GARDNER
That is just another mistake gentlemen who advocate small holdings make. They forget you cannot move land from place to place. If you want a small holding for a small holder, a small holder must go to the holding. You cannot bring the holding to the man. A small holder, in the view of the hon. Member, ought to have any particular plot of land wherever he wants it. That is the mistake he makes. He forgets that would put the small holder into a position altogether different from that in which a tenant farmer has been for generations. If a tenant farmer leaves the farm, he cannot go to the one next door. He perhaps has to go into another county or many miles away. So with the small holder. He must take his small holding where he can get it. The county council of Berkshire has done its best from start to now to find small holdings with the least possible injustice to other people, but it is impossible for small holders to come and demand at any moment that any land they may want shall be given up to them. The county council has realised that, but it is meeting the case as far as it can. The hon. Member said there is a good deal of hypocrisy about this. I do not know where it conies in, but, at any rate, it does not come in with the county council if there is any proof in the fact that they are willing to spend money in advancing this Act. Only the other day I helped to vote some county money for the purpose of administering the Act, notwithstanding I agree with it so little. I say the county council of Berkshire has not only attempted, but has, I believe, succeeded in administering this Act justly and fairly to the small holders, fairly to those it has had to turn out, and, at any rate, it has not spared the ratepayers. It has made some charges on the county rates for the purpose of administering the Act.
This Act, in my opinion—I speak after long experience of small holdings—is based altogether upon wrong lines. It is based upon compulsion in one direction and upon official management in another, and if you get official management and compulsion together you are bound to get into difficulties. It may seem an extra 1539 ordinarily fantastic statement, but I will make it even at the risk of some ridicule. I sincerely believe you would get cheaper small holdings in far greater numbers, administered in a far more satisfactory way and at a great deal less cost to the public at large, if you carried this matter out voluntarily in this way. If, instead of having all this official management, costing goodness knows what, you simply provided that any land let for small holdings on leases at rents and on terms and conditions approved of by the Board of Agriculture should be free from Estate Duty, you would get far more small holdings at less rents and far better administered than you get under present conditions, and you would get them at a cheaper rate. It is inconceivable to suppose that small holdings would be extended in any one year to the extent of £1,000,000 worth, and it is also inconceivable that on land of that kind you would pay more than 5 per cent. of Estate Duty. That amounts to £50,000 a year. This Act is not going to be administered for £50,000. There will be more than 150,000 thrown away, to say nothing of all the bother and trouble which has resulted. We should not then have all the dissatisfaction raging which there is now. I really rose to defend the Berkshire County Council, to which I belong. I believe this is a very unfair attack upon it, and it is so direct an attack that I think the hon. Member should have given some intimation to someone whom he knew belonged to the county council that he intended to make it, because, if the necessary materials could have been found, I think a very adequate defence could have been made.
§ Sir HARRY VERNEY
The House perhaps will forgive me if I do not follow the domestic quarrel between a member and an ex-member of the Berkshire County Council. I think everyone is grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out how difficult it is in places where there is determined opposition to the Small Holdings Act to get anything done. I will only trouble the House with one obvious platitude. The success of agriculture depends upon the landlord, the farmer, and the agricultural labourer. The landlords, as a class, are at any rate not unrepresented in this House or in another place. The Small Holdings Act is an Act for the labourer and not for the farmers or the landlords. Almost all landlords are against it, and almost every farmer is opposed to it. It is an Act for the labourers, and naturally, 1540 therefore, those in sympathy with labourers should have a large share in the administration of it. It is for this reason we on this side of the House welcome, as we do cordially welcome the latest move of the President of the Board of Agriculture in appointing as Small Holdings Commissioners not, as I think many hon. Members opposite had hoped, merely land agents and those in the pay of landlords, but men who, whatever their politics—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] Hon. Members opposite may know more about their politics than I do, but, looking through the list, it would strike an impartial judge that those men, whatever their politics, are men who have studied agriculture, and who do sympathise with the labourers' point of view. For this reason we on this side of the House do welcome these appointments. There is another point of view which to us is especially important. I think in all quarters of the House people are apt to say and feel that agriculture is in a bad way. Various remedies are proposed, and different means are suggested, of restoring agriculture to its former place. We think agriculture suffers from the lack of co-operation among those engaged in the industry. No industry, agriculture or any other, can hope to prosper if those engaged in it buy all their things at retail prices and sell them at wholesale prices. No other industry prospers in that way. No other men would attempt to buy at retail prices and sell at wholesale prices, as the farmer does, and we think that only by co-operation and reorganisation can agriculture regain its former place in the country. We believe in our hearts that the way to restore agriculture is to begin with those labourers who will co-operate, and who will become, as small farmers, the backbone again of agriculture. We believe if, instead of the way the hereditary farmer manages his land, we can get a body of labourers together to become small farmers, and they are ready to co-operate in matters of buying and selling, they will put agriculture again on its legs, and for this reason we are determined to do what we can to back the Small Holdings Act, and to see to it that more small holders are placed on the land of England.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I do not desire to pursue the subject which has occupied the last few speakers, but I should just like to say I cannot agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down that all landlords are entirely adverse to the Small Holdings Act.
§ Mr. HARDY
"Most, and all tenant farmers." The whole contention of the hon. Member was to assume that landlords and tenant farmers are entirely adverse to it. I believe much the more lasting small holdings have been created by cooperation with the landlords, and probably after a few years they will be the ones found to survive. I wanted to allude to other agricultural questions and especially to those which deal with one particular Department in the Board of Agriculture, namely, that concerning fruit. I think it is very much to be regretted—I do not know who is responsible—that for the second time we should have this discussion on agriculture on a Vote on Account, because it is impossible to centralise the discussion on any particular question. In reference to the fruit industry, I congratulate the hon. Baronet on the book that we have now dealing with it but I cannot congratulate the Board on the promptness with which they bring out their figures. The Destructive Insects Act and the Board of Agriculture Act were the subject of a Report by the Board's representatives on the 28th October. It dealt with the year which ended at the end of March, 1910, and we only received the Report in this House some considerable time after the beginning of the Session, 1911, quite a year after the statistics were given. In dealing with these matters, in dealing with the statistics in reference to gooseberry mildew and other diseases, it is very important the country should have the information at a very much earlier date than it now does. I cannot see why the delay has occurred. Very elaborate maps have been prepared, and they might be of considerable importance as showing where the disease exists, but it is of no use giving such information when it is really out of date. I hope the hon. Baronet will urge his Department to give us these statistics at a very much earlier date than they do at the present time.
We have had instances during this year showing the desirability of the Board pushing these matters forward very much more quickly than they have done in the past. I was myself identified with bringing forward in this House the question of the 1542 gooseberry mildew, and this brought a certain amount of ridicule upon myself for putting such an absurd thing before the House of Commons. ["No, no."] At any rate, I was made the subject of caricature in a leading journal, and was labelled "Gooseberry Mildew," a sort of thing which one should never bring to the notice of the House of Commons. Nevertheless, the Board now devote the greater portion of their intelligence report to this particular disease, and it is admitted that the neglect in dealing with it in its first stages has resulted in very great expense both to the country and to county councils. We have had practically the same thing in connection with bee diseases. The Board are at last taking an active interest in this question. In their Report they state that during the year 1909 an event occurred which had been feared for some years, and which was of great importance to beekeepers, namely, the spread of the Isle of Wight bee disease to the mainland of England. The Board admit that they were warned of this danger in 1909, but, it was not really until this year that they took any measures whatsoever to deal with the question. That is not the way in which public departments should deal with matters of this sort; they cannot say they had no information, because they were informed of the existence of this peculiar disease in the Isle of Wight. They took no real measures to deal with it, they did not make the researches which they are now making, and the result is that the disease spread through practically the South of England and has caused great anxiety this year in regard to the bee industry in this country. This, I think, is proof that the Board are not active enough in dealing with the first stages of diseases like this. I think they want some different methods of dealing with these questions. I will only again suggest that they cannot, do better I ban look at the recommendations made to them by the Fruit Industry Committee, a few years ago, to the effect that there should be a special department, to deal with these matters.
There is another question, in connection with one of the most prominent industries associated with agriculture, which I wish to raise. As I have said, it is quite time we had a special department to deal with certain industries in order that they may be helped in fighting such diseases as I have named in their very early stages. We have to discuss this matter on a Vote on Account, and we are, therefore, somewhat 1543 limited in our opportunities for raising questions connected with the Board of Agriculture. But I do hope the hon. Baronet will be able to inform us what real progress has been made in connection with the Development Grant as affecting agriculture. We do not know what has become of the sum of £400,000 which was to be largely administered through the Board of Agriculture. We had no opportunity of raising this question on the Estimates; we could only do so in an indirect way, and I will, therefore, ask the hon. Baronet to give us a good deal more information in reference to this very large sum of money. Many of us believe that great delay has taken place in making use of this money. Obviously, the best method of using it would be the encouragement of research, and we say that this has been very much delayed in its operation, even if it had been carried out to any large extent at all. Cannot the hon. Baronet see his way to arrange that the Board shall proceed on rather newer lines than it has adopted in the past. This Development Grant might well be used to encourage industries in this country which, at the present moment, require more encouragement than they can get from individual effort. One industry which obviously might thus be encouraged is the sugar beet industry, and I think that now that we have a grant of this sort, the Board which has the administration of it might well use it for the support and encouragement of an industry like that. It is difficult to do this by private enterprise, and there is much the Government might do in connection with this matter. It is certainly a question to which they might well turn their attention when they are deciding on the allocation of this Development Grant.
There is another industry in which I am interested and one which is very materially connected with the fruit industry—I mean the encouragement of the growth of tobacco in this country—there have been experiments made lately with a view to proving that it is possible to grow a form of tobacco in this country suitable, not for smoking, but for use in insecticides and sheep dips. The question was brought up on the Revenue Bill this year, and a deputation also discussed it with the Treasury a week or two ago. The fruit growers are practically unanimous in the opinion that tobacco thus grown provides one of the best insecticides possible. They find it extremely difficult at this time to get 1544 insecticides, except at a prohibitive price, owing to the tremendously strict regulations which must hold whenever the tax on tobacco is so high as it is at the present moment. We want, if we can, to find some means by which growers may be able to grow their own tobacco for this particular purpose, under, of course, Government regulations. Still, that they should be able to grow it so that they may use it for sprays or sheep dips. This is a matter to which some attention has been given, and it is clear it would be a great help to them if the Board would take the matter in hand and give us some encouragement, both by way of Government sanction for the scheme, and also by making experiments to carry it out with the aid of the Development Grant. I hope the hon. Baronet will carefully consider this matter with a view to using some of this money for the purpose, as it would be undoubtedly a great advantage to the agriculturists of this country.
There is another familiar subject as to which I desire to put a question, and that is as to what the Government are doing or intend doing in connection with hops. We have not heard so much about hops this Session; but I would ask the Government still to consider whether it would not be better for them to turn back to the report of their own Committee on this question, and endeavour to do something on the lines that Committee recommended. I know I am approaching rather near legislation when I allude to this matter, but still I submit that even by administration the Board could give considerable help. At this time of the year, especially, the Government could largely help both fruit and hop growers by acquiring accurate statistics as to fruit and hop crops in foreign countries—in the United States and on the Continent—so that our growers may have information as to the competition which they are likely to be called upon to face.
§ Mr. HARDY
That may be so, but it does not affect the argument which I was endeavouring to develop; if the fact be as the hon. Member stated it would be a great advantage to our growers to have information as to markets to which they might send their hops with a prospect of getting a much better price than they can at home. That is the very kind of information we desire, and the hon. Gentleman's interruption entirely corroborates 1545 my appeal to the Board of Agriculture to collect the statistics and to supply them to our growers. Fruit growers in the County of Kent are constantly raising this question. They ask, "Why cannot the Board give us the information of this sort as regards foreign competition and to some extent home competition as well?" The Intelligence Department ought certainly to do it; they could collect the information and send it to the districts. There are many large associations in connection with fruit growing, and it would be perfectly easy to supply them with the information and for them to disseminate it at the earliest possible moment. By administration the Board might do a good deal in connection with this matter. There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer. I was rather glad, in reading the last report of the Board a few days ago to see that a good many prosecutions had been undertaken under the Fertilizers Act, and that they have succeeded in obtaining a conviction in the majority of cases. But I would remind the hon. Baronet there is still great dissatisfaction in connection with this Act. Those interested are satisfied neither with its provisions nor with the administration of it, and there is a strong feeling that it would be far better if some arrangement could be made by which the veto of the Board could be removed and the county councils left free to undertake prosecutions without the Board sitting in judgment upon them. I hope the hon. Baronet will give his attention to this matter.
§ Mr. LOGAN
I desire to say a few words as the representative of a large number of poor agricultural labourers. When the Act of 1908 was passed, agricultural labourers looked upon it as their charter of liberty. But I am bound to confess that there are a large number of men in the country at the present time who are, I think very rightly, dissatisfied with the administration by the Board of Agriculture of that Act. The agricultural labourer who has got his little bit of land is grateful to the Act; there are a certain number who have got land, but there are a still larger number who are without it, and it is upon their behalf that I desire to say a few words to-day. The Report which the Board of Agriculture published a couple of months ago amply justifies any criticism which I may venture to pass upon their administration of the Act. In that Report they admit that they have had a 1546 total—I am giving it in round figures—of 30,000 applicants for small holdings. The number of acres in round numbers applied for was 500,000. Out of the 30,000 applicants no more than 17,000 have been provisionally approved and the number of acres which those would-be small holders ask for is 256,000. Out of the 256,000 acres which those provisionally approved of applicants applied for less than 100,000 have been given to them, and the number of applicants put upon the land is only 7,500 out of a total of 30,000 who applied. It is satisfactory to us who speak for the agricultural labourers to have got even 7,500 of them put upon the land. The Act of 1908 is a very vast improvement upon the Act of 1902, and for the simple reason that it has compulsion behind it, and it is to ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Board of Agriculture to apply a little more compulsion that I am standing up in my place to-day. Land for 7,500 labourers is no doubt so much to the good, but I want to ask him what is to become of the 22,500 who are still waiting?
The figures in that Report prove conclusively that what is wanted is more compulsion, and I am pleased to know that the Board have recently appointed, owing to the applications that we have made from these benches, six additional Commissioners. But I am here to say that they did not take that step one moment before it was wanted. The proof of that is that during the last year, 1910, there was a falling off of 6,000 acres given to men, as compared with the number of acres given in the previous year, and the Report to which I have alluded gives us the reason, because, it says, that this is only to be accounted for by the increasing difficulties of obtaining Land by agreement. There is no doubt, therefore, what is the cause of the delay and what is the reason that these men cannot get on the land. The hon. Gentleman who represents the Berkshire County Council has, I am sorry to say, gone, because I wanted to tell him what was the real reason for this condition of things. The real reason is want of sympathy on the part of most of our county councils from one end of the land to the other. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I repeat that the real reason is want of sympathy. In the Report to which I have alluded the two Commissioners went out of their way to smear with praise the action of the county councils. This seems to me to be a very undeserved tribute to action on their part which existed simply 1547 and solely in the imagination of the two Commissioners. There can be no greater proof that there is want of sympathy than to listen for a few moments to the hon. Member himself, because he asks that the State should bribe him and his colleagues who speak as land owners to hand over their land to these poor men who are clamouring for something upon which to exercise their labour.
The hon. Gentleman complained of the cost of the administration of the Act being charged upon the rates, but that is not so, because when they let land which they rent the great bulk of them invariably put such a price upon it which the poor agricultural labourer has to pay that they actually make a good thing out of it. Then let us consider the manner in which they deal with land which they buy. I am surprised that any Liberal Government should allow such a provision to appear in an Act of Parliament., but in regard to land which the county councils buy, in letting it to poor men who work for 12s., 14s., 15s., or 16s. a week, the county councils actually put upon the rent which the poor man has to pay sufficient to cover the sinking fund, with the result that at the end of eighty years the poor man will have paid for the land which the county council will own. That does not appear to me as being likely to throw any charge upon the rates owing to the action of administering this Act. The reason I ant asking my hon. Friend who represents the Board of Agriculture to-day to use a little more compulsion is that we are convinced—you may say we are wrong—but we are convinced that the present state of things is due to want of sympathy on the part of the county councils. Let me read what one of the ablest and most sympathetic Pressmen in this House said in reference to this Act dealing with this very report which I have referred to. I use his words because they are not so powerful and not so irritating to hon. Gentlemen opposite as my own would be. He says:—It is clear that a powerful barrier exists in the character of a great number of the county councils and of the committees of squires, land agents, and large farmers through which they act. On no other theory can we explain the fact that the great mass of the acquisitions of land go through a comparatively small group of county councils in Wales and in the Eastern Counties. Five counties together have barely supplied 100 acres between them against thousands of acres which Norfolk and Cambridgeshire have found.That is placing the thing before you in the coolest and calmest language that a man can find, but do we expect squires and land owners and large farmers to be 1548 anxious that the agricultural labourer should obtain land. Personally, I am inclined to say that one reason why we do not get land for the agricultural labourer is because human flesh and blood is too cheap in our English villages. As a proof that it is too cheap I would point out that there are thousands of men to-day who have not a decent habitation to go to tonight and tens of thousands of them who cannot get a decent bit of land in order to enable them to eke out the miserable wages that they are paid. Personally, I do not think that any man should be called upon to go to an allotment and eke out his wages after the day's work which he has done for somebody else. He should be be able to do the same as we do, and that is after a day's work go home and rest himself. Therefore, it is, I say, human flesh and blood is too cheap in our villages, and I say more than that, namely, that the agricultural labourer who expects the land owner or farmer to do anything until there are so few men in our villages that There will not be sufficient labour to till the land, is leaning upon a broken reed.
I am here to say that the instinct of the farmer compels him to wish to keep the labourer off the land. I do not say he does it purposely, he cannot help himself, but he does desire to see the labourer dependent and not independent, and God knows that dependent he is. The agricultural labourers are slaves to-day. Half of them work for 15s. a week, or as an hon. Friend told me last night, in one county for 12s. a week. They live in cottages out of which they are liable to be turned at the end of a week. What is that man but a slave? He is neither more nor less. He earns 15s. a week, is liable to be turned out of his cottage in a week, and then to become a miserable dependent upon charity and beg a bit of bread to keep body and soul together. Who are these men? They are not foreigners or aliens, but they are descendants of the men who have worked generation after generation for long ages past upon the same land. To-day you will find the great grandson of the man who worked on the same plot of land and how much is he paid? At the very outside 18s. and the average is, I think, a great deal nearer to 16s. 6d. My hon. Friend who spoke just now, tried, as I am afraid is becoming the habit of landlords, to draw a miserable picture of the condition of agriculture. That condition is not perhaps as flourishing as it ought to be in this little island of ours, but if there is one thing it 1549 suffers from more than another it is from the want of labour.
If you had more labour on your land you would get better results, but as it is I donot think agriculture is doing so very badly. At any rate, it is not doing sufficiently badly to justify the owners of land paying the men the miserable wages that they are paying to-day; and, after all, it is the owners who are responsible, because we know that in most cases the farmer in this country is the landowner's bailiff, working piecework. It is, therefore, the landowner who is answerable, and not the farmer, for the miserable wage which is paid to the agricultural labourer. I say that the condition of agriculture does not justify the payment of any such wage, and if I were thirty years younger I should feel inclined to go about the country and see if I could not get the agricultural labourers to combine and join in a union. I may tell the Labour party that they should realise that it is the depopulation of the country village which sends the overflow population into our towns and keeps down the wages of those whom they represent. Until, therefore, you keep the men at home on the land hon. Members will never get the wages in the towns up. But is the state of agriculture as bad as they say it is? A few months ago "The Times," which takes endless pains and trouble in gathering information, sent a man round the country on what they called a pilgrimage of British farmers. What is their report?The industry of agriculture as a whole is in a prosperous condition, and has healthily and steadily recovered from the greatest depression which lay upon it as recently as fifteen years ago. Farms are very rarely to be let, good farms are always bespoken long before they are vacant, and rents are rising. We have heard over and over again of reletting at an increased figure, especially when the farms were put up to competition.That does not justify my hon. Friend in saying that the condition of agriculture is not prosperous, and I do not think anyone, on that side of the House at least, will charge "The Times" with putting too rosy a view upon the condition of agriculture. I am here to plead the cause of the agricultural labourer, one of the worst paid white men in the world. As the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) said in his younger days, he is the most pathetic picture in our whole social system, a man who is condemned to a life of unremitting toil with nothing before him but the workhouse. Now, thanks to a Liberal Government, he has the munificent provision of 5s. made for him, but in bringing that about I am sorry 1550 to say, in the opinion of Lord Lansdowne, our Front Bench have demoralised themselves and demoralised the poor man. Hope springs eternal in man, and our agricultural labourers are still looking for the Small Holdings Act to do them good, and I implore my hon. Friend to use his influence at the Board and to ask the President to see to it that the compulsory powers of this Act are put into force and to ask him to remember what "The Times" said in its better days, that whatever the charges and encumbrances upon land the first charge must always be the maintenance of the people reared and trained upon its bosom. Our society exists on that tacit understanding that the superfluity of the few shall not be enjoyed until provision has been made for the existence of the many. I implore my hon. Friend to use his best sympathies and to do what he can to see that I he blessed word compulsion is taken full advantage of.
§ Mr. ORDE-POWLETT
The agricultural labourers in my Constituency would greatly resent the statements made about them by the hon. Member. He spoke a great deal about compulsion with regard to county councils. I belong to the County Council of the North Riding of Yorkshire, which has had a certain amount of compulsion put upon it. File Board of Agriculture has sent down a Commissioner to inquire into their action in the matter of small holdings, and the result was simply that, I think, only about half the number of men who applied to the council applied to the Commissioner, and I think his visit did not result in one single acre of land being found. What is compulsion? Is it to be on the landlord or the county council or the farmer? I have every sympathy with this small holdings movement, but the only possible ways of getting more land are first of all by creating the land, which I do not think even hon. Gentlemen opposite can do, or by turning men off the land who are at present in possession of it. As far as the North Riding County Council is concerned, we are determined not to turn out men who are in possession of the land, because we think it is perfectly right that they should remain in possession. Hon. Gentlemen opposite sometimes think that if a man farms, say, 300 acres of land he can easily give up fifty or sixty acres for small holdings, and, at the same time work the rest of his holding economically. That is perfectly impossible, and I think everyone who has any knowledge, at any rate of 1551 north-country farming, will agree that when 250 acres, say, is moorland and highland it is absolutely necessary that the farmer must have so many acres of lowland so as to treat the high land economically. The only land that a small holder could possibly put to economic use is that good land which he must have for the economic use of his other land.
I rose, however, to draw attention to another question and to beg the Board of Agriculture to use their best endeavours to overcome the difficulties which the dairy farmers in the North-Eastern part of England are met with at present owing to the milk regulations. Under the present regulations the farmer, more particularly in the North-Eastern districts, has to contend with a presumptive milk standard of 3 per cent. of butter fat, and in face of prosecution he has also to contend with the possibility, and in many cases the probability, that the magistrates will turn this presumptive standard into an absolute standard. At the same time he has to contend with the irregularity of the quality of his milk. The farmers in the North-Eastern district are not asking the Board of Agriculture in any way to protect the dishonest man. There is every difference between dishonest adulteration of milk and inequality of the quality of the milk owing to circumstances over which the, farmer has no control, and it has been proved many a time that the very best farmers and the most honest men, the men with the best herds, feeding their cattle under the best possible conditions, have had milk which has been of a quality which has not passed this 3 per cent. standard. It is impossible for these farmers to have any guarantee that this milk can always be up to that quality. Experiments have been made at the Durham County Council Farm, and at the experimental farm of the Yorkshire County Councils, and the experience of nearly every practical farmer in these districts who has had his milk analysed regularly has been that for some reason the milk cannot be guaranteed at every time to return a 3 per cent. standard of milk fat. The North-Eastern district farmers do not ask the Board of Agriculture to do away or to lower the 3 per cent. standard, but they ask for an inquiry in this district without delay as to what are the reasons for the deterioration in the quality of the milk. Experiments have proved that it goes down, no matter how the cows are fed and no matter what is done, and the 1552 farmers would like a full inquiry into the cause of deterioration at certain times of the year, in order to discover how in the future they can feed their herds that the milk may be up to the standard of quality at which everyone wishes to see it.
There is an ever-increasing demand amongst the farmers in my Constituency for some amendment of the Fertilisers and Feeding Stuffs Act. I believe there is at present a Bill before a Committee in another place, and I can only hope that the Board of Agriculture will induce the Government to afford facilities for its early passage into law. I believe that Bill would to a great extent enable the farmers to obtain the value for which they pay, and I believe it would go a long way to prevent the adulteration of the stuffs that they buy, and I hope the Board of Agriculture, with a view of getting rid of the limits of adulteration, will give every facility for the passage of the Bill into law.
§ 5.0 P. m.
§ Mr. CHARLES NICHOLSON
I wish to refer to the action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in regard to a farm in Berkshire which they have refused to be let for small holdings. They have been accused of unwillingness to help on this question of small holdings. That is by no means the case. For many years past they have done a very great deal, and their custom is, whenever a farm which is suitable for small holdings falls in, to make an offer of it to the county council. That was done so that they might see if it was suitable for small holdings being made under the Small Holdings Act. That has been done in every case where application has been made to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. At that time we were informed that the county council of Berkshire had no applications which would justify them in entering into negotiations for the farm in question. Subsequent to that we began dealing with the Small Holdings Society direct. But before doing that it was necessary that the Commissioners should find land actually suitable for small holdings. We sent one of our own agents down to inquire into the circumstances connected with the farm, and his report was that it was certainly not suitable for small holdings. There is what seems to me to be a very good and sound reason for that view. It is a long farm, with a certain amount of the land at a higher level than the rest. There is a gradual rising up of the land, and one of the principal difficulties was that it is impossible to get any water at the top. That 1553 being so, it is very difficult to see how men could carry on small holdings when there was no available water supply at their command.
§ Mr. CHARLES NICHOLSON
It was all one farm, and that makes a difference. In addition to that, the Commissioners have already let land for grazing. It is not exactly in the same district, but the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are very glad to get tenants wherever we can. We have let certain land out for grazing, and it would be impossible therefore to cut up this farm into small holdings. If it was done it would have to be after the expiry of the present tenancy of twenty-one years. A difficulty arose as to turning out people who have been residents in the district for a great number of years. There were old people employed on the farm, and they and their predecessors had been there for generations. The Commissioners could not really consent to these people being turned off unless some proper arrangements were made to accommodate them. I have said that this is a very long farm, and I wish to add that there is practically very little fencing between it and the neighbouring farm, which is also part of the estate of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. If we gave up the farm for the purpose of small holdings that would necessitate a great deal of fencing. The extent of the fencing would be about 4½miles, and the estimated cost of that is £600 or £700. That would be a serious item added to the cost of the farm if it had to be sold for the purpose of making small holdings. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners came to the conclusion that this farm is really not suitable for that purpose. They went further than this. They opened negotiations with the County Council of Berkshire. The county Council sent down their own land steward to inspect the farm, and the Board of Agriculture also sent a representative to do likewise. I am given to understand that both of these gentlemen reported to the Berkshire County Council that the farm was unsuitable for the purpose of small holdings. I think under these circumstances, and in view of the fact that the agent of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and also the official of the Board of Agriculture have reported against it, it must be pretty clear to any impartial man that this is not a farm suitable for small holdings.
1554 It is suggested that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have shown themselves rather in opposition to small holdings. I would like to point out that since 1907 they have increased the provision for small holdings to the extent of nearly 5,000 acres, besides selling to the county council 900 acres, making a total provision of something like 6,000 acres. Under these circumstances, I think the accusation which has been made against the Ecclesiastical Commissioners is really a baseless one. We have always shown ourselves willing to provide land for small holdings, if it can be done on a good sound business basis. We are the trustees for a very large portion of land, and it would be exceedingly wrong if we were to deal with this matter merely from the charitable point of view. The Commissioners must attend to it from the business point of view. We consider that the charge which has been made against us with respect to this particular farm is not justified.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I feel after the somewhat temperate and restrained speech of the hon. Member for the Harborough Division of Leicestershire (Mr. Logan) it is presumption on my part as a landlord to get up and speak before the Committee. I must ask their indulgence. I recognise that, being a landlord, one is no fit company for certain other Members of this House. I am not really going to attempt to answer the hon. Gentleman's attack on the Board of Agriculture. I am not here to defend the Board, and I am certainly not here to defend the Radical Small Holdings Bill. In his criticism I think the hon. Member might have been a little fairer, and might have mentioned some other places where there are no small holdings. He talked a great deal about the county councils and about the landlords, but he might have talked about the land of the Duchy of Lancaster, where I understand there are no small holdings. That is one of the places which apparently missed his attention.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Joseph Pease)
It is quite incorrect to say that there are no small holdings there. There is a very large number of small holdings on the Duchy of Lancaster estate.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I think the right hon. Gentleman will remember a discussion which took place some time ago, in which he explained to, us that a great many acres had been 1555 offered for small holdings in the Duchy of Lancaster. When he was asked how many were accepted I think he said "None."
§ Mr. J. PEASE
That referred to the particular instance in respect to which the question was framed.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Yes, but I think that the right hon. Member understood that I referred only to the time in which he was in charge of the Duchy and to new holdings under the Bill only. At any rate, I do not wish to enter into the discussion of that point. It is not the point I really wish to raise to-day. I do think that if a great many of the hon. Members who sit near the dividing line on the opposite side are really interested in dealing with small holders, and with promoting the prosperity of the people who have to get a living on the land, instead of abusing landlords and pulling them by the ears they would do a great deal better if they brought those concerned in the land closer together, in order to see each other's interests, and to see things from each other's point of view. If, instead of trying to drive people apart, and to make all the mischief they possibly can, they were to do as I have suggested they would be better employed. The hon. Member was returned no doubt by an agricultural constituency, and because of that he has got it into his head that he is serving the interests of agriculturists by making the speech we have heard from him to-day. I was also returned by an agricultural constituency which not so very long ago was a Radical one. In that part of the country we manage to carry on very well with the people who are connected with the land, and we shall continue to do so as long as there is not too much Government interference in future. I come from a part of the country where there is a large number of small holdings by consent, but the moment compulsion comes in there will be considerably fewer small holdings made. I would point out also that if hon. Members opposite want small holdings to succeed, there is no use planting men on the land without any market. There is a great deal more to do than the mere putting men on the land, because it is admitted that one of the things you have to do is to secure a market for them, and to try to protect them in the market of their own country.
1556 The question to which I wish to direct the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Laurence Hardy), namely, the question of bee disease. The hon. Gentleman has already taken much interest in the subject, and he states that he has done what he can in the matter. I think the Board of Agriculture might have done rather more for those interested in the bee industry in this country than they have already done. I know that when I have asked questions here and spoken to the hon. Gentleman on the subject he has always been most receptive and kind, and anxious to do what he can. But with all deference I would say without any disrespect that there is not much use in expressing sympathy unless he can speak for his Board. I wish that the Board would back him up and do something, or allow him to do something more than express his sympathy. The Board so far has done nothing to help us. I am speaking especially for those in my own part of the country, and I hope that I shall have the support of Scottish Members. This is a very great industry in my part of Scotland, though it is not an organised one. It is a common practice for a small holder to have his skep of bees, and it is really one of those industries which can be worked with very little labour indeed. It can be worked at, very little cost, and it brings in a very good return. No doubt I shall have the sympathy of some hon. Members when I state that the bee is one of the few things that the landlord is not anxious to interfere with, or to turn off his land, or to prosecute for trespass. It is an industry which can be carried on with considerable impunity by small holders. It is one which ought to be encouraged by those who wish to benefit the small holder. The poorer the land the better the honey is likely to be. The bee brings in a great deal of wealth to those people—quite sufficient to pay the rent and more—and it would be a thousand pities to do harm to it, but if you do not try to stop this disease, it very probably and almost certainly is going to stop the industry. I do not wish to dogmatise in the matter or to go into the history of the disease, but I would remind hon. Members that the first instance we had in this country so far as I know—I do not pretend to be an expert in bee diseases, though I keep bees—was when the disease appeared in the Isle of Wight in 1904. By 1907 the island was infected practically all over. 1557 The people there requested the Board of Agriculture to send down an expert to examine into the matter. By 1908, out of the immense number of bees kept in the Isle of Wight, there were only two of the original stocks living. That shows how extensive the disease was all over the island.
To all intents and purposes in 1908 the disease was confined to the Isle of Wight. That was the opportunity for the Board of Agriculture to do something. Instead of that they did nothing, save that a certain amount of advice was given and various experts were sent down. One quite realises that it would have been impossible at that time to have really suggested any remedy, but they might have done a great deal by legislation to stop the spread of the disease over other parts of the country. You cannot blame them for the disease coming in, but you can blame them for taking no steps to prevent the disease spreading over the whole country. In 1909 it had spread to Hampshire, Dorset, Sussex and Surrey; and to show the amount of harm that was done, I may mention one case of a man who, I was informed, was making his whole income, something like £240, out of a bee farm. In June of that year he had 160 hives, but in October there were only 30 left, and those were all in a diseased state. I think he has probably got none now. The disease, so far as I know, has come over from Bavaria, where practically the same disease destroyed the whole of the bees. I think there is no doubt that if the Board of Agriculture had realised this they could have done something to stop the spread of the disease, especially when they had the example of, for instance, the silkworm disease in France, where in one year damage to the extent of something like £3,000,000 was done by en analogous disease.
Speaking for Scotland, I know for a fact that the disease has got into the Highlands, where the keeping of bees is a very useful industry. In one village close to my own house one individual anxious to improve his bees, brought three years ago a hive from Surrey. The result of that was that every single beehive in the district got infected, and there are no bees there at all at the present day of those that were in existence at that time. The only assistance that the Board of Agriculture gave was to offer to send an expert up to examine the matter. That is all very well in its way, but what we do want 1558 is some measure of the compulsion which hon. Members are so fond of applying, which will be of some use in order to give the county councils a certain amount of control in the matter and enable them to bring out orders with regard to the importation and exportation of bees from diseased areas to prevent these stray bees from coming in; diseased areas ought to be scheduled, and no bees should be allowed to be exported from them until they are declared clear. They must also be allowed to destroy these hives, because there is no use in doctoring a hive; it has got to be destroyed by fire, and this has got to be done in time, or the disease will spread to another, so that you must have compulsory powers, and I would go further and say that where the bees belong to a man of below a certain income, to what I would call a working man, he should be compensated within reason for the destruction of the hives, because it is a very big matter to some of these poor people.
I cannot see why the Board should not pass a measure dealing with the matter; it would secure the consent of all parties in this House, because really it is necessary. I suppose the reason why they have done nothing is that there may be some persons with big interests in bees who are afraid of being taken in hand if they have got diseased bees on their farms. I do not see why any party, especially a Liberal party, should be frightened by these, what I may call, bee monopolists in this country, or why these particular people with large farms should be able to prevent action from being taken. If compensation were given, I am perfectly certain that they would be very glad to fall in. I know that the small crofters in my part of the country have asked me to speak here about it. They depend upon it for a great part of their living, and they are perfectly willing to have a measure of compulsion brought in for their protection. Last year, when they found that the Board were powerless 10 act, and that the Secretary for Scotland could not act, and probably would not if he could, they formed a committee and destroyed all their own hives so as to stop the spread of disease. I wish to remind hon. Members that probably this disease is inherited, and that it is absolutely necessary to take away the diseased stock or the disease will spread over the whole country. I hope that the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture will give me some satisfactory answer, although I doubt it, because if he wished to do so I should have had it long 1559 ago in answer to questions, but if the Board are going to do nothing they will again be responsible for all the loss that will take place in this country.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
The Noble Lord (Marquess of Tullibardine), in his opening observations, made some reference to my hon. Friend the Member for Market Harborough's (Mr. Logan) observations. The Noble Lord suggested that the best thing to do would be to bring the respective parties together in order amicably to adjust this desire for land on the part of the small holders. I presume that everybody will agree that where it is possible to work amicably we should do so, but I feel it right to point out that the landlord and the farmer, prior to the passage of the particular Act in question, had ample opportunity for coming together with a view to satisfying the undoubted demand for land that exists on the part of the labouring classes.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
May I point out that what I meant is you do not necessarily make a man love you by abusing him.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
You do not necessarily create a love of the landlord class by declining to accede to reasonable demands for access to the land. My hon. Friend the Member for Market Harborough delivered a very forcible speech, and pointed out in plain language the condition of a large section of agricultural labourers in the country. Some people might have thought that that language was somewhat immoderate or exaggerated. For my own part I am prepared to aver from my personal knowledge that the hon. Member did not in any way go beyond the confines of actual truth. In the part of the country whence I hail there are agricultural labourers working for 11s., 12s., 13s., or 14s. a week. I remember once being contradicted in this House because I stated that there were some working for 11s. a week. I am prepared to testify to this fact. There are relatives of my own working in Norfolk for rates as low as that, and the condition of affairs thus pictured by the hon. Member for Market Harborough cannot be designated other than that of actual slavery, because large sections of these men are afraid to agitate owing to the fact that as soon as they are remarked they are given notice to leave their particular cottages, and there are no other houses available. Therefore they 1560 are compelled by sheer stress of economic circumstances to acquiesce in conditions which I feel are truthfully referred to as little removed from actual slavery.
My hon. Friend suggested that the Members of the Labour party would do well to go about the rural districts with a view to organising the agricultural labourers and inspiring them with a desire for better conditions. I am able to tell my hon. Friend that such week-ends as I am able to give I devote to that particular branch of the work. This last week-end I spent as much time as I possibly could among the agricultural labourers in Norfolk with a view to inspiring them with a little discontent with the degrading conditions under which they are living, and I hope that the work on which I am engaged may secure the hearty co-operation of the landlords and the farmers in that particular part of the district, because I can assure my Noble Friend and every landlord and farmer really desirous of promoting the welfare of agricultural labourers there is ample ground for us to work upon together. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend the Member for Market Harborough was perfectly true. I do not charge landlords or farmers with being unsympathetic, but I do say that his charge was substantially correct, that the economic life of the farmer does very largely rest upon keeping the agricultural labourer in a dependent condition.
The agricultural labourer has looked to a comprehensive and sympathetic administration of the Small Holdings Act with a view to extending his personal liberty. If he can get access to land on reasonable terms necessarily it makes him less dependent upon his farmer employers. It is an unfortunate fact that we have to direct any charge in this House against any class of people in the country, and to say that undoubtedly the unsympathetic administration of this Act by the county councils has been due very largely to the interpretation by landlords and farmers of their economic interests. Nobody will charge me with ever indulging in an exaggerated charge against any other section of the community. Rather I am hopeful we might be able to consolidate these various interests. But, nevertheless, I am here as the representative particularly of the working classes. I come from an agricultural family myself; I have already stated that I have to-day relatives working on the land for the miserable pittance of or 12s. a week. I have seen them bring up families as respectably as they possibly 1561 can. They have contributed units both to our Army and our Navy, and I say that those who have rendered such useful service to the State are entitled to fuller consideration and to a higher standard of living than they are able to get at the present time, and if legislation is passed, which in my opinion is helpful in that direction, and that that legislation is being frustrated by an unsympathetic administration of county councils, I say we are perfectly justified in asking the Department to exert itself in order that the hope and inspiration of these workers may not be destroyed through the action of the county council.
I am pleased to observe that a slight change for the better is coming over the Department. Lord Carrington himself a few days since admitted that in his extreme desire to establish a reputation for fairness on the part of the Department, he had refrained from applying the power that he undoubtedly possessed under this Act. That sentence alone is an ample justification for the criticism that certain Members have passed upon the administration of this Act by the Department in this House. Previously I have joined in criticism of the Department, and I still feel that there is much that ought to be done. Nevertheless so long as I see any inclination to essay an improvement I am never prepared to withhold a tribute and a hope that that may succeed. New Commissioners are to be appointed. So far so good. But that step even by itself is not quite sufficient. An hon. Gentleman who preceded me in this Debate pointed out there are other things required, even beyond placing people on the land. You have got to organise the methods of acquiring the things that are necessary for the cultivation of that land. You have also got to make organised provision in order to insure that the produce may be carried to market, and be realised under the best possible conditions. This is all work we have contemplated that the Department ought previously to have taken in hand.
I am pleased to be able to give expression to my appreciation of the new spirit which seems during recent weeks to have animated the Board of Agriculture, and my pleasure has reference not so much to what they have done as to those things which the President has foreshadowed in his recent speeches. I am hopeful that his promised Bill for establishing credit banks may secure a speedy passage through this House, for I am prepared to bear testimony to the fact that the hope 1562 which has inspired the agricultural labourer—at least I am able to speak for my own part of the country—is being very largely dissipated owing to the extreme difficulty which is experienced in getting suitable and appropriate land under this Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Market Harborough pointed out that the Commissioners in a recent report made a great display of the fact that under this Act in three years we have put something like 9,000 persons into small holdings. So far so good; but, in my opinion, 30,000 might easily have been placed upon the land in small holdings had the full powers which the Act conferred been utilised by the county council and by the Department itself. After all, it is not sufficient to blame the county council alone. It must, be remembered that the Board itself has powers of initiative under this Act, and we are hoping that what has recently transpired may prove an earnest of the Board's intention to take full advantage of the powers which it undoubtedly possesses. I desire to direct the attention of my hon. Friend representing the Department to a particular point which has been brought under my notice by a number of tenant farmers in the county of Norfolk. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Laurence Hardy), in his interesting observations, rather resented the fact that he had been caricatured because of the representations he had made here about gooseberry mildew in the country.
I apprehend there are many public men who would hail with satisfaction being made the subject of the caricaturist's skill, because when an hon. Member once reaches the stage at which he is caricatured at any rate he may be assured that he is notorious, if not exactly famous. The point I desire to refer to may excite ridicule, just as much as the question of gooseberry mildew. Representations have been made to me by certain tenant farmers in Norfolk that the cats they keep for the purpose of killing rats are destroyed by gamekeepers. We have recently heard a great deal of what is almost approaching a rat plague in certain parts of the eastern counties, and my informants very largely attribute this to the practice of gamekeepers destroying cats. I suppose the gamekeeper's first consideration is to protect the game of which he has charge; nevertheless, I think there are other ways in which they could perform their duty, and that they ought not to be allowed to destroy cats, which are kept for the very useful purpose of keeping 1563 down rats, of which we have heard so many complaints of late. I would ask the hon. Baronet whether similar representations have been made to him, and whether it is possible for the Department to make any provision in regard to the matter through administrative action. The hon. Baronet representing the Department delivered a speech in the eastern counties a few days since, when he took part in laying the foundation-stone of a new bacon factory near Bury St. Edmunds. Perhaps he has come to the conclusion that the Department has some scope for its activity in this direction. Encouragement given to the co-operative movement in establishing bacon factories would in an indirect fashion very largely serve the purposes of the small holding movement under this Act. Mr. Rider Haggard has done service to the small holdings movement by the inquiry which he has recently conducted, and by which he is thoroughly convinced that the success of dairy farming is very largely, if not entirely, due to the use made of co-operative principles.
There are co-operative movements for all forms of produce, and we know that in Denmark they are enabled to supply us with a very large amount of produce which we might just as well raise from our own land by the adoption of scientific methods of cultivation. If we reared pigs in the same way as they do in Denmark we should have a stock on the land of 8,700,000 instead of 2,600,000, as at the present time. I am one of those who believe that pig rearing is one of the great possibilities of the small holdings movement. I do not claim to be an expert on pigs; nevertheless, having been brought up in an agricultural district, and seeing that I have relatives who are still there, I feel that pig rearing is a great possibility. I trust that encouragement will be afforded to the establishment of bacon factories, as I am glad to think the hon. Baronet has recently done, because I believe it will give a stimulus to small holdings and at the same time meet a great demand in our own country, which is now very largely supplied by a foreign although a friendly nation. Although Denmark has been engaged for a comparatively short time in this particular form of production, yet it has now most flourishing bacon factories. There are two specific points to which I wish to call the attention of the hon. Baronet. One is, in connection with small holdings, the lack of proper housing accommodation. That 1564 is one of the most crying evils in our rural districts. Many of us are familiar with the little rose-bowered cottage, which looks very fair from without and inspires many an artist. But when we go inside such cottages we find them to be veritable death traps, because of lack of accommodation and their unsuitability as dwellings. I spent part of my holiday in examining the conditions of certain Norfolk villages, and I was astounded to find the insufficiency of sleeping accommodation. Though I had been reared in these conditions, I was amazed to think how it was possible that agricultural labourers and their families could continue in health, let alone decency, in such conditions as those under which they now live. I think we do right in directing the attention of the Department to this particular evil and that we are justified in asking it to stimulate the local authorities in order to improve housing accommodation, which I feel sure, irrespective of party, every Member desires to see effected in our rural districts.
A specific point which I wish to bring to the notice of my hon. Friend is one arising out of the principles of valuation. The hon. Baronet will remember that some week or two since I put a question to him in the House arising out of two cases from Erith and Cheshire which had been brought to my notice. The landlords and the tenant's interests of course are rightly safeguarded in anything we do. It is very often alleged that we who sit on these Benches are quite regardless of any vested interest in the country. Perhaps we are not so sympathetically disposed as those who happen to be personally concerned in those vested interests; nevertheless, from the ordinary point of view of justice, we are all desirous that interests shall be properly safeguarded in anything that we do, whether legislatively or administratively. But the landlord's interest can very easily be settled when it is a question of land acquisition. Land can be easily valued, despite the statements to the contrary. The land is being valued at the present time, and the State valuation might form a very fair basis when we are acquiring land. Then we come to the question of tenant rights, and I presume we have to admit that the tenant is entitled to compensation for crops, tillage, and so forth, and that these matters have to be taken into consideration when we negotiate for the acquisition of land. Some of these things, of course, are likely to be a benefit to the incoming tenant, and 1565 it would be very easy to settle the matter, because the county council could pay for them in the price of the land, and then charge the amount to the new tenant of the farm by increasing the rent. In the two particular cases to which I made reference, large demands have been made for prospective profits. That is the particular point to which I would desire the hon. Baronet to give his attention. What is the principle recognised by the Department in such a case as this? In the Erith case negotiations were opened up for the acquisition of some land. I am not going through the whole of the negotiations, but I will simply say that the time arrived when the council decided that powers had to be taken to compulsorily acquire some fourteen acres of land. The land owner claimed £3 per acre.
While negotiations were proceeding the tenant negotiated for a further lease of nine years. The unexpired portion of his lease was five years; therefore he was seeking to get possession of the land for another fourteen years. I would point out that four-and-a-half years of his lease were unexpired at the time the negotiations were undertaken; therefore, it is four-and-a-half years that we have to take into account. It seemed to me an extraordinary claim that, £928 should be asked for prospective profits. Of course, if that is to be the principle recognised under this Act it is going to allow prohibitive charges to be made, and it will certainly diminish the possibility of anybody being able to get on to the land under such conditions. The county council employed a valuer who agreed that £928 was extortionate, and submitted that the claim should be £600. I wish to know to what extent does the Board recognise it to be desirable that compensation for prospective profits is to be taken into account. I can quite see that it will be a very profitable thing for a tenant to claim a lump sum as compensation for profits that he might not make in the years that are to come. I have been told that profit-making in agriculture is very doubtful; but, when we want to acquire land, we find that the profits are very substantial. If they can get those profits out of the land well and good. I am not arguing that compensation for prospective profits is wrong; all I desire to know is to what extent and on what principle does the Board recognise it to be right that this element should be taken into consideration when proposals for the acquisition of land are brought before it. The landowner, as 1566 I have remarked, simply asked £3 per acre, but the council valuer granted him £3 10s. per acre, or 10s. over and above what he asked. My hon. Friend may say that that is one piece of evidence of the good that can be effected by conciliatory action between the two parties. I am not going to say I support that, but I feel that there is a substantial point as to this question of compensation for prospective profits. I say that I quite agree that there might be a very reasonable element of claim in the matter, but the demand made by the tenant in this particular case was admitted to be exorbitant. Nevertheless, even then the, amount granted by the council valuer in my opinion made the land so costly that the price asked of the small holder was so prohibitive that the scheme had ultimately to be abandoned.
I feel sure that everybody in the House will agree that it is desirable that we should get the people on to the land. We are constantly having statistics showing how the agricultural population are drifting away to the Dominions across the sea. Nobody offers objection to the agricultural labourer or anybody else emigrating, but it is eminently desirable that we should keep as much of the agricultural population at home as is possible, because it is the very foundation of our nation. We have got to offer them as good inducements as are offered to them in the Dominions. I feel that in this Act there is certainly one, inducement to them which buoys them up with great hope. We claim: that, unfortunately, unsympathetic administration to which the Act has been subjected has prevented it realising the full fruits which we contemplated would flow from it. I venture to hope that the now spirit which seems to be animating the Board of Agriculture may not be merely mere platitudes in the President's utterances, but may ultimately prove that the Board is convinced that it has got to avail iself to the full of the power it undoubtedly possesses. I hope that the ultimate result will be not 9,000 placed on the land in three years, but that the whole of the applicants shall have it made easy for them to apply, and shall have facilities to get on the land, and that the next three years will prove that the agitation which has been conducted in this House and the country has borne a great deal of fruit, and that the agricultural labourer, wherever he may be, who is desirous of having possession of a small plot of land shall have it made easy for him to acquire it under the beneficent provisions of the Act.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir Edward Strachey)
I intervene at this stage not with any desire that the Debate should not go on, but as I think this is a suitable opportunity to deal with those questions which have been raised as regards bee disease, small holdings, and also questions affecting the action of the Commissioners and the President of the Board of Agriculture. First of all, let me deal with what was said by my hon. Friend (Mr. Edward Strauss) in moving to reduce the Vote. He began by saying that the Berkshire County Council were greatly to be found fault with because, after buying land for the provision of small holdings they had not allowed two tenant farmers on that land to remain in occupation. I would remind the hon. Member that I imagine the Berkshire County Council, when they bought the land bought it under the ordinary conditions that the tenants of those holdings had notice given by the landlord. My hon. Friend went further, and said that the county council did not require the whole of this particular land, and that they ought to allow the farmers to remain there and only take a portion. I would point out to him that county councils are only enabled to buy land for the purpose of the provision of small holdings, and not for the purpose of keeping large farms and having tenants on them. My hon. Friend passed on from that to the question of the Berkshire County Council having been applied to for some 2,000 acres of land by the North Berkshire Small Holdings Society, for which he has done so much. I should like to say that the Board fully recognise the public-spirited way in which my hon. Friend has dealt with this question of small holdings in Berkshire, and how he has enabled a large number of men to be put on the land. I give him every credit for the labour he has devoted and the money which he has been ready to risk in furtherance of this question. I would remind him that under the rules and regulations of the Board of Agriculture it is absolutely necessary that a county council in letting land to a Small Holdings Association shall ask either the rent to be paid in advance or a certain amount paid up equal to so much rent, in order that there shall be full and adequate protection, that there shall be no chance of any charge falling upon the local rates in consequence of any failure of any such society.
§ Mr. E. STRAUSS
But not equal to two or three years' rent. Before they entertained our application they wanted nearly three years' rent in advance.
§ Sir E. STRACHEY
I did not know my hon. Friend was going to raise this point. Some years ago this question was before me, and, speaking from memory, that is not the usual procedure at all, but only whatever is necessary to guarantee the county council against loss. I think they are perfectly justified in asking that so long as it is not unreasonable. My hon. Friend further on complained of the action of the Board of Agriculture and also found fault with the action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. As far as I gathered, my hon. Friend complained that the President of the Board has not done all that he might have done as regards using his compulsory powers as to land which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Berkshire County Council refused to allow to be used for small holdings. My hon. Friend knows that I personally am not acquainted with all the details of this case. He was good enough, with his usual courtesy, to give me full and adequate notice that he proposed to raise this question in the House to-day, and therefore I had the opportunity of seeing Lord Carrington in this matter. He told me exactly how the situation was. The view of Lord Carrington is this, that he promised to do what he could for the Small Holdings Association and that he has carried out his promise. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners asserted that land could not be profitably worked for small holdings, and declined to let it even though they were offered a guarantee that would protect them from any loss if the experiment turned out a failure, as they anticipated it would. The applicants for whom the association applied required in all 105 acres, and six applicants for larger holdings required 535 acres. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners state that they are taking steps to satisfy the local demand for small holdings, and it is quite clear that the Board could not enforce the compulsory acquisition of the farms.
If the President of the Board has information that the local demand for small holdings is not satisfied according to arrangements he will instruct one of the new Commissioners at once to bring the case to the attention of the county council with the view to the acquisition of the necessary land, and if the county council fail to satisfy the demand of the Board, he, the President, will at once do so in default of 1569 the council. Any ground that my hon. Friend may have of complaint is due to the action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and for that the President of the Board of Agriculture is not responsible. I have informed my hon. Friend of the view of the President of the Board in this matter, I would hope I have been able to satisfy him that there is rather a misunderstanding on this question, and that the President of the Board is quite ready, if need be, to take very stringent measures to see that the small holders, in whom my hon. Friend takes so much interest in Berkshire, shall get their small holdings within a reasonable time and have them provided with them in some way or other. As regards what has been said on the subject of co-operation by the hon. Member for the Wokingham Division of Berkshire (Kr. E. Gardner) as to small holdings increasing the rates, that was a very alarming statement to make, but as far as I am aware both as county councillor and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture, I have heard of no alarming increase in the rates. To begin with, the increase in rate is limited to ld. in the £, and as far as I am aware no county council has yet had to raise that. It is not at all likely to happen when we know of the sum of money that was voted by Parliament for the purpose of paying the expenditure on the acquisition of land. In fact, almost every possible expenditure the county council can make for small holdings is provided for out of the grant of £100,000 which, as the House very well knows, was more than was required. The whole object of that was to secure that there should be no charge on the local rates for the acquisition of land for small holdings. A much more likely tendency would be to increase the county assessments and therefore have the tendency rather to diminish the county rate than to increase it. As a matter of fact in this matter there is not the slightest fear that the local rates are to be increased.
The Member for North Bucks (Sir Harry Verney) spoke about the question of cooperation and seemed to thank that the Board of Agriculture were not alive to the keen necessity for co-operation. I am afraid my hon. Friend was not present at the luncheon given to the President of the Board of Agriculture some little while ago. I myself was not present at it, but I think I read in the papers that he was reported to have stated that one of the objects of the new Commissioners and in having an 1570 assistant secretary and a new land branch was that the assistant secretary should have more time for dealing with this very question of co-operation amongst other matters. I had not the opportunity of hearing my noble Friend on that occasion, because, curiously enough, on that particular day I was speaking in the County of Suffolk on the subject of co-operation amongst the large tenant farmers near Bury St. Edmunds, over 400 of whom have lately come together with a view to setting up a factory on the lines which have been so very profitable in the interests of agriculture in Denmark. Therefore, my hon. Friend may rest assured that both the President and myself are doing everything in our power to encourage co-operation amongst farmers, large and small, in order that they may get the legitimate profits which at present they do not always obtain. The hon. Member for the Ashford Division of Kent (Mr. L. Hardy) asked why the vote for the Board of Agriculture had been placed first in the Vote on Account. He being an old Member of the House, should know that the vote to be put first is selected not by Members on this Bench, but by the Front Opposition Bench, and if he has any complaint to make he should make it to his leaders and not suggest that the fault is ours.
The hon. Member complained that there had been great delay in the preparation of statistics, and that the Report lately presented to the House, had only been made after an interval of more than a year. Some of the delay arose from the fact that a General Election intervened, making it impossible to lay the paper on the table and proceed with the printing of it. It should be remembered, however, that that report, unlike other reports, is rather a record of the work of the year. The procedure of the Board as regards giving immediate information is to issue leaflets and to publish notices in their monthly journal. If the matter is more urgent, and it is necessary that the information should be given as speedily as possible to agriculturists, it is supplied by means of Press notices, so that farmers may read it in their daily or weekly papers. If hon. Members can show us what more we can do to bring information quickly to the notice of farmers we shall be glad to receive their suggestions. The hon. Member also complained that in connection with hops, farmers did not, receive speedy information as to prices. 1571 We give to the Press as early as we can the information that we get from official sources, but the hon. Member is aware that official reports from abroad are frequently received at a later period than the information obtained by the societies themselves. Complaint was also made of delay on the part of the Board in dealing with pests and diseases. I think the hon. Member was rather unreasonable. If we had attempted to introduce a Bill enabling us to deal with pests and diseases before those pests and diseases had obtained some magnitude, it would have been said that we were unnecessarily applying compulsion, and farmers, like other people, dislike compulsion unless it is absolutely necessary.
As regards a fruit branch of the Board of Agriculture, I can assure the hon. Member the question has not been lost sight of. Steps are being taken by the Board to get money if possible either from the Development Fund or from the Treasury, to set up the special fruit farms which the hon. Member desires to see established. The Board are most anxious to establish this branch, and if they can get the funds they will certainly do so. Hon. Members have referred to the existence of bee disease, and have complained that the Board of Agriculture have only taken the matter up lately, and then in a rather casual manner. That is not the case. As long ago as 1907 the Board first began to investigate the question. A great difficulty as regards bee disease is that it has been found impossible to isolate the bacillus or the particular parasite by which the bee is infected. Investigations are going on at the present moment, and our investigators hope to find the parasite responsible. But many difficulties exist. It is easy to say that the Board have not done all that they ought to have done in the matter, but before you can provide a remedy for a disease it is necessary to find out exactly what the disease is, and whether it is infectious or can be carried. The Noble Lord opposite (Marquess of Tullibardine) suggested that we had done nothing as regards isolation, control, or destruction. Control or isolation is very difficult. It is difficult to prevent the exportation or importation of bees on their own initiative.
§ Sir E. STRACHEY
If the Noble Lord says that the remedy he proposes is destruction that is another matter. I understood him to propose control and restriction, and I was pointing out that it was somewhat difficult to control and restrict the movement of bees. The Noble Lord, however, may have some plan. I cannot deal with the question of legislation except incidentally. I brought the matter before the President of the Board of Agriculture, together with the view which has been expressed that such legislation would be uncontroversial. The feeling of the President is that legislation is not desirable until we have ascertained exactly what the disease is, whether it is infectious, and whether the proper remedy is destruction, in which case there would have to be compensation. I cannot say more than that investigations are being made, and that if the President is satisfied that legislation is desirable, he will be ready at some future time to bring forward legislation dealing with the control and destruction of bees affected with what is known as the Isle of Wight disease.
The Board have been strongly, but I do not think very fairly, attacked for remissness in the matter of making applications to the Development Commissioners in the interests of agriculture. I believe that no Department has been so active as the Board in making applications for grants. Agriculturists also have made applications to the Board, and those applications have been sent on to the Development Commissioners. Not only is it the duty of the Board of Agriculture to make applications, but it is also the duty of agriculturists themselves who desire grants for the development of agriculture to send applications to the Board in order that they may be sent on to the Commissioners if the Board think them deserving of consideration. What has happened up to the present? The Development Commissioners have already made a grant of £40,000 a year for the development of horse breeding. They have also made an extra grant of £9,700 to certain institutions and agricultural colleges. That money is in addition to the sums received by those institutions in other years directly from the Board of Agriculture. The grant has been made for the year 1911–12 for the specific object of investigation and research in agriculture.
Further, the Board of Agriculture are discussing with the Commissioners a great scheme of agricultural research and investigation, which I believe will be of the 1573 greatest advantage to agriculture in the future. The Development Commissioners have provisionally agreed to grant £40,000 a year for that purpose to the Board of Agriculture, subject to the sanction of the Treasury, whose approval has to be obtained. That will be a very useful grant indeed. For the first time in our history we shall have in this country money provided by the Government to the extent of £40,000 for investigation and research by skilled and properly paid men, devoting their whole attention to the work, as they do in other countries, with a view to finding out new ways of benefiting agriculture. This is a matter which has been too much neglected up to the present in this country, both from want of funds and from lack of proper machinery. Other applications have been made to the Commissioners and are at present under their consideration. If further applications are sent in by agricultural bodies they will be forwarded in due course to the Commissioners. It is a complete mistake to suppose that the Board have been at all lax in this matter. On the contrary, they have acted very expeditiously, and, as I have pointed out, have already obtained or have been provisionally promised for the assistance of agriculture, very large sums of money, amounting to nearly £100,000 a year, an amount which I hope may be still further increased. I can only assure the House that I myself will not be in any way satisfied until we have a great deal more money than that applied to the purposes of education, research, and investigation on behalf of the agriculture of this country, which, as we all know, has been so neglected up to the present. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire gave us one of his usual animated and brilliant speeches—he always keeps so much to the point, and speaks from the heart, and he has laboured earnestly on behalf of the working classes of this country£but I think he is a little mistaken in thinking that 30,000 approved applicants remain unsatisfied.
§ Sir E. STRACHEY
My hon. Friend asks what became of those applicants who apparently had not been satisfied? The answer to that is that we found a large number of them to be unsuitable or to be not qualified. My hon. Friend will 1574 agree with me when I say that after due investigation—and I speak myself as a member of a county council and of the Small Holdings Committee of that, council—and after carefully investigating and sifting the applications, we are not only acting in the interests of the county council, but also in the interests of the applicants themselves, if we reject those who do not fulfil the conditions. The worst service we could do to a man is to put him on land where he Would lose the little money he has got. I would also remind my hon. Friend, too, that there were a large number of men who made applications for land, and who afterwards withdrew their applications, because they had changed their mind, and had lost their desire for a small holding, or because they desired to make application in another part of the country. These, of course, would swell the list of applications. My hon. Friend said that 7,000 applications had been satisfied. The last, figures I saw showed there were nearly 10,000 applicants who had been satisfied with small holdings. That is not only counting those who have been directly satisfied by the action of the county councils themselves, but is taking into consideration the large number of men who have got small holdings indirectly. I myself have been approached and asked whether I would let some particular land for small holdings. Upon my saying that I was ready to let it, either directly or through the county council. I was told by the applicants that they would prefer taking it from myself.
It was urged that owing to the difficulty and slowness of getting land, more compulsory purchase was needed. The hon. Gentleman who raised that point knows perfectly well that I am one of those who never for one moment has flinched from putting into force the compulsory powers of the Act. In fact I am rather inclined to go further than some hon. Members desire. At the same time I would like to point out to my hon. Friend and to other hon. Members who think that we are going too slowly in this matter, that there are some objections to compulsory purchase from several points of view. It takes longer actually to get possession of the land by the county council; also when you have to obtain it by compulsory purchase, for one reason or another you generally find you have to pay more for it than if you bought in the open market, or by agreement. There is the case of leases in which large compensation may have to be paid if the lease has a long 1575 time to run and you desire to get immediate possession. And it is no use taking land by compulsion if you are not going to use it at once. I do not for one moment shrink from putting compulsory powers into operation where necessary, but I think it is one of those matters to be dealt with with great caution in the interests of small holders themselves. Where a man is able to pay a living rent, it is well. It is no good letting land to a man which he may have to pay a rent for that will not enable him to make a living out of it. There is the danger if the land is taken by compulsion.
A great thing to do and to encourage—and I have always urged it on my own county council—is to buy land in the open market. My experience has been that where you buy land in the open market, you very often are actually able to reduce the rent of the tenant when he comes in as a small holder. Owing to the fact that county councils have been able to buy land when other people do not want to buy, and when there is not so much competition, they have been able to buy as I have indicated. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Board is fully alive to the necessity of seeing people do get holdings within a reasonable time. That is one of the reasons that, as hon. Members are aware, the President of the Board of Agriculture has only very lately appointed six—I should say seven—additional small holdings commissioners, in order that county councils may be assisted in acquiring the land they need. It was only called to my notice the other day that an old Member of this House, who took the chair at a meeting of the County Councils Association, said that he welcomes the appointment of these new commissioners because he believed they would be a very great assistance to the county council in endeavouring to deal with the difficulty of getting land for the provision of small holdings.
There was a question raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Richmond Division of Yorkshire, the very important question of the milk standard. This I know has been agitating, and is agitating agriculturists at the present moment, especially those in the north-east of England, in Yorkshire, and in Durham. It is rather curious how people forget the origin of these milk regulations. To judge from a report of a great meeting like that lately held at Darlington, where it was said 1576 there were 400 farmers present, it might be supposed that the Board of Agriculture had issued these regulations on their own initiative. It was owing to an agitation on the part of the agriculturists in the country when there were no regulations, that the Board of Agriculture issued the new milk regulations to protect the good, honest milk-seller. If I remember rightly the farmers and agriculturists themselves recommended a higher standard of milk, and a larger percentage of fat than the Board of Agriculture desired for a moment to put forward. Now we are asked either to reduce that standard or to make other regulations for particular areas. It is perfectly impossible to treat one part of the country different to another, or to differentiate between different parts of the country. This is only a presumptive standard. I remember very well soon after these regulations came into force that Mr. Hanbury, who was then President of the Board of Agriculture, issued a circular pointing out to the local authorities—and I believe also to the benches of magistrates—that this was only a presumptive standard and that local authorities should not prosecute a farmer on the first occasion, but should rather wait the result of two or three sales of milk, and note the changed conditions under which the milk was obtained. I am afraid the local authorities—certainly in some cases—have not acted upon that circular. I think also that benches of magistrates have been inclined to take too narrow a view of the object and meaning of these regulations. I believe one of the great difficulties in this matter has been the question of cream. What happens? When a milk-seller is prosecuted for selling milk below the standard he immediately produces a guarantee which he had got from the farmer, and in the present state of the law the farmer is summoned on account of the milk because he gives a warranty that it is pure when it leaves his farm. The remedy, it seems to me, is that the liability for the purity of milk ought to cease when the farmer has ceased to have any control of that milk; that in common fairness and justice no man should be made responsible, no warranty or guarantee ought to be allowed to make him responsible, for any milk that has passed out of his hands, and which he has no control over. It is quite clear however honest a farmer may be he has no power to prevent that milk being adulterated by a dishonest dealer after it has left his possession. It makes a great deal of dif- 1577 ference whether milk is that of the same morning or the evening. You may have the one milk with a 4.10 percentage of fat and the other as low as 2.5.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Norwich spoke of cats being destroyed by gamekeepers, which is the only other point I wish to deal with. I will remind the hon. Member that the Board have no power over this matter, nor of the housing question, which belongs to the Local Government Board. I quite agree with him though that the housing conditions in many parts of the country need improvement. And in parts of the country the accommodation is wholly insufficient. I think we ought to take heed of the need for more housing and better accommodation. Then my hon. Friend raised the question of the excessive valuation of land. Of course that is a question entirely outside the province of the Board of Agriculture. All the Board of Agriculture does is to appoint a valuer, and when the decision of the valuer is taken there is no appeal either on the part of the county council or the landlord, or the tenant against the decision of the valuer. I think the hon. Gentleman will see that if the land is let upon lease for a term of years it is right and proper that the value should be reckoned having regard to these conditions, but we have no power over that, and the question is entirely in the hands of the valuer, who settles the rate of compensation. It is for the county council to say whether that is too high and whether they will accept it or not. We know that it has been the case that many county councils have thought the rate too high. I think I have dealt with all the points raised, and, as I said at the beginning, if there are any points that I have not covered I shall be glad to deal with them later on.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
With regard to the question of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, I cannot quite leave the matter where the hon. Baronet has left it. I think he has unconsciously reflected injuriously upon the Commissioners, and perhaps I might also claim the indulgence of the Committee, because of the magnitude of the Commissioners' estates and the consequent importance of their relation to this question of small holdings. First, let me say, that the hon. Baronet could not have left the matter as he did, if my hon. Friend and colleague had not left unsaid certain things which would have made it impos- 1578 sible for the hon. Baronet to leave the case as he did. First of all let me take the question of the Commissioners' general attitude towards small holdings, and I go back before 1907 to show that the action of the Commissioners was not compelled by the force or fear of public opinion. Before the Act of 1907 passed, of the agricultural holdings held by the Commissioners, 75 per cent. were under a hundred acres and 66 per cent. were under fifty acres. That shows that there could not be any unsympathetic feeling to the idea of farms being held in small quantities of land. After 1907 the Commissioners have by lettings to county councils no less than 5,000 acres in small holdings, and by sales nearly 1,000 acres more. The Committee will naturally want to know what is now the general policy of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with regard to small holdings. It is this, that whenever a termination of tenancy takes place, except where it is merely a technical termination, then as a matter of course the instructions of the Commissioners are positive, that all suitable farms and possibly some that are unsuitable, as in the case of this farm, are to be offered to the county council, and that the county council should have the option of taking them for small holdings whether suitable or not.
What I rose to protest against was the idea that the only thing that prevented the hon. Member for Southwark getting this farm for his list of applicants was the particular reason he gave. He did not say that there was another reason which was in operation long before the hon. Member made his application and before the Commissioner's agent advised that it was unsuitable and before the advisers of the Board of Agriculture settled that it was an unsuitable farm for small holdings. Anyone who knows Berkshire farming will appreciate the reason, and that is that it stood self-condemned from the beginning as suitable for planting small holdings upon it. The land is high above the sea and far removed from a water supply, and was in fact only suitable for sheep farming. For these reasons, I think it is only right that the case of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should he put properly before the Committee. And that makes me say something else. That while the hon. Member for Southwark asked for twelve small holdings we have on this and the adjoining farm created six. We have created six small holdings, with an average of thirty-four or thirty-five acres, and we are able to say that if we have not 1579 satisfied all the applicants we have at least satisfied the local applicants. Many applications came from a distance, and some of them for holdings of from eighty to two hundred acres. We have satisfied all the small applicants and the local applicants, and there remains of the land nothing more than is necessary to conduct a sheep farm in the only way in which such a farm can be run. The hon. Baronet, in his speech, admitted that at any public inquiry, with a view to compulsory action, it would be shown that this farm was mostly high down land with no water supply and that compulsory acquisition for small holdings could not result from such inquiry.
§ Mr. STANIER
I am not going to follow hon. Gentlemen opposite into their excursions as to why they cannot get land and as to why intending small holders are at present without land, but if they would read the report of the Board of Agriculture they would find out there was a very important reason other than that which has been stated as the action on the part of the landlords, and that is the enormous growth of the urban authorities in this country. In the report of the Board of Agriculture they will find that in the last eighteen years 22,000 small holdings have been submerged by the growth of the urban authorities of this country, and that at the present moment I believe I am correct in stating there are less small holdings than when this Government came into office and brought forward their Small Holdings Bill. Now that is one of the great reasons, and I do not think that the whole of the blame ought to be thrown upon the landlord class.
Turning to the Vote we are going to give to the agriculture of this country; it is a small vote which comes to about £30,000, and that comes out of a total of £194,000. We, as agriculturists, expect a great deal more and we are entitled to a great deal more. The hon. Baronet told us one or two things that he would do if he had the funds to do them. I contend that the present Government ought no longer to complain that the agriculture of this country has been neglected; they have had plenty of time since they came into power to put it on a very much better footing and if all has not been done that could have been done they are to blame. They appointed a very small and select advisory committee not long ago; we do not know what they have done or whether they have sat or how often they have sat, and what is more I 1580 believe they are only a name. But to return to the Vote. What is the agricultural budget of this country? Those who have taken an interest in the budget of this country often ask for information with regard to the budget of other countries. The question has been often asked of the Board of Agriculture, but they have always declined to give the information. A question was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer declined to give the information. Possibly the Government are absolutely ashamed to say what they vote for the agriculture of this country. If you analyse this Vote for £194,000, you can cut it up in rather a nice way. You first of all have to slice off an item for the Botanical Gardens. You cannot call that agriculture. Then there is the cost of the collection of statistics for the fishing industry. That cannot be called agriculture. And then there is the North Sea Fisheries. If you take the £33,000 which go to these funds, you really only leave about £161,000 for agriculture for Great Britain, and that comes to about ld. per head to the population of this country.
Are the Government pleased or are they ashamed of it? If they are ashamed of it, why cannot they follow the example of other countries? I have some friends who live in Ireland. One cannot complain of the amount of money they receive, but it is out of all proportion. There you will find that the Board of Agriculture receive £426,000 a year, making per head of the population a sum of 2s., as against ld. Per head of this country. There, must be some reason—is the reason political, or that they shout the louder? If they shout it behoves the Opposition to shout at the Government and ask why they are not treating us in a better manner. Hon. Members opposite are quite ready to speak for any of their particular fads. The fad of the Government of the clay is small holdings, and we have had ample evidence to-day to show that that fad can be carried through the ramifications of the Board of Agriculture to suit their own ends when other subjects are forgotten and left behind. I can point to the case brought forward to-day of the reports issued by the Board of Agriculture which are so collated that they are practically not worth the paper they are printed on. I have brought this question forward for the last four years ever since I became a Member of the House, and during that time we have had these reports issued when they are 1581 nineteen months old. On the other hand, the reports relating to small holdings are produced at the earliest possible moment, because they suit the particular views of the Government in power. I do not complain of this, but it shows that those reports can be brought out earlier if the Board chooses to do so.
The point I was making was with regard to the Budgets of other countries. Although we are denied in this House the information we ask for from the Government Department we can easily gather information from other sources if we take the trouble. I have taken the trouble, and I find that the expenditure is in about the same ratio as Great Britain is to Ireland in foreign countries as compared with this country. Take the United States of America. Probably you will tell me that there are 90,000,000 people there wholly de pendent on agriculture. That I deny, because there are large numbers who have got their works, and they are rapidly increasing. There they give £3,000,000 to agriculture besides grants for educational purposes. A little country like Denmark, with 3,000,000 inhabitants, has been held up to us very highly for its great co-operative work. Yes, but in Denmark the Government give as much as they do in this country for agricultural work, and yet we have 37,000,000 people and they have only about 3,000,000. That is the extraordinary way in which we do things. I think it is most laughable when the hon. Baronet, representing the Board of Agriculture, gets up in this House, as he did this afternoon, and says he would have done so and so if he had had the funds. Agriculture has long been neglected, and the Board of Agriculture certainly ought not to make such an excuse. It has been said that the elections in the winter delayed the work of the Board. I cannot see how that can be a fair excuse, because the elections are not connected with the officers of the Board.
§ Mr. STANIER
The hon. Baronet mentioned the election. Perhaps it is the Dissolution that he means, but that can only affect two heads of the Department, the President and the representative of the Board in this House. During the election the rest of the officials ought to be at their work, and if they were not they ought to have been.
§ Sir E. STRACHEY
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. I said that the 1582 difficulty arose when Parliament dissolved because there is no House to present reports to, and they cannot be presented until the House meets again.
§ Mr. STANIER
If that is so, how is it that you laid on the Table the Diseases of Animals Report in dummy on the 29th March this year, and when I asked a question on the 29th May, you said it would he issued in a few weeks? How can you put those two things side by side? The report I referred to was laid in dummy on the Table on the 29th March, and still we are told it will be issued in a few weeks time. I have here the last report issued which is for the year 1909, and it was issued on the 20th July last year. I asked a question about the report, and I was told it was only a coincidence, and it would not occur again. I verily believe that we shall be nearer the 20th July before that report is issued. I wish to put the question of small holdings in another light to that in which it has been put before the House this afternoon. We have been told that it is very hard indeed to get small holdings on large farms and large estates. I agree that it may be hard, but even if it is this is absolutely the wrong way to go about it. If you want to make a success of small holdings you must make them in proportion. You must have small holdings growing up from the size of cottage holdings to the size of the farm itself. I studied this question long before I ever thought of going into politics, not only as a farmer but also as an agent, and a landlord. My father before me also worked out this problem, and we have some very elaborate details upon the subject, and every day they are growing in strength and they are a very fair basis to work on.
The amount of land which a small holder requires is according to the value of the land. The value of the land, for the sake of argument, may be taken, if it is fairly rented, by the rent itself. If you take the rent of agricultural land at 25s. an acre you will find that you can get a most suitable cottage holding of about six acres, which is most useful to the cottager. Then you should take the next basis as 13 acres and put a man who has certain members of his family who can work on it. You can then allow a man to climb from the 6 acre holding to the 13 acre holding, and afterwards you will get that man to climb from a 13 acre holding to a 33 acre farm, which is the size that must be given if you want 1583 a man to give his whole work to that farm. Then you will find you can work up from 33 acres to 120 acres, and even to a larger farm than that. In this way you can allow the man who goes on his cottage holding to climb the ladder of life and bring him to the larger and better farms. If you want proof of this I can mention cases where this has actually been done. If you divide the whole of a district into small holdings or into large farms you destroy farming in both directions. First of all you make too many small holdings. If you have not the larger farms for the men to work on during the time that they have not got work on their own holdings, then they will not make their own holdings pay.
Often the big farmer wants the man on the small holding to help him when he requires extra labour which he does not employ permanently the whole year round. If you can work this question economically and get a proper proportion of small holdings, middle sized farms and bigger farms, you will find that you are working more for the good of the country than by cutting off the big farms and making too many small holdings. The question of swine fever has been raised by the hon. Member for Rye. The agriculturists of this country are grateful that the Departmental Committee have reported, and that their report has been put before this House and the county in a comparatively small time. I want to impress upon the Board of Agriculture the fact that since that report has been issued swine fever has increased in the most alarming manner. During the week ending 27th May this year there were eighty-three outbreaks of swine fever and 756 animals were slaughtered. In the corresponding week of last year there were only twenty-eight outbreaks and 180 pigs slaughtered—an increase of nearly three times the amount of swine fever in this country. On 3rd June the case was a little better, but it is still alarming to a degree. If it is still so alarming I should like to ask the representative of the Board of Agriculture what he intends to do to carry out some of the recommendations of this report. I would like to know if those recommendations will be issued as soon as possible in order to prevent this disease increasing in the way it has done recently. There are one or two recommendations which are excellent in themselves, but which I do not 1584 think are quite fair to the local communities. One of those recommendations is that which refers to the local inspection of markets. The report says that this inspection ought to be done by the local veterinary officers. I contend that it is absolutely wrong. The local veterinary officers are the local veterinary surgeons, of the district, and they therefore have to look at and perhaps have to condemn pigs belonging to their customers. You are asking a man to condemn his own bread-and-butter, and I am absolutely certain you will never get the thing to work until you have put on the veterinary surgeons of the Board of Agriculture, who do not have private practice, who are above suspicion, and who have a perfect knowledge of the disease. That is a deep flaw in the Report, and I hope the Board of Agriculture will take note of it. There is on the other side the, question of the registration of castrating surgeons. We have in my own county tried that for some time, and it has been an undoubted help in tracing the disease, and I am absolutely certain if you would carry it out throughout the country you would gain very great help.
You must slaughter animals that are exposed to contagion. If you do not I believe all the money you are spending trying to eradicate this disease might as well be thrown into a brook. There are at the present time any number of pigs that have been exposed to contagion that have not been slaughtered, and that have been allowed to remain on the premises till they have either got well or the farmer has either killed or disposed of them. In my humble opinion the pigstyes have a great deal to do with the disease. Many of them are far from sanitary, and many of them have been condemned by the sanitary authorities and the inspectors of the Board. Yet they have never been put in proper order, and the pigs have been allowed to go back into them. There is no shadow of doubt that the pigstyes ought to be closed and kept closed till the alterations are completed and done according to the order of the authorities. I should like there to be uniform procedure throughout the country, and much more rapid action by the authorities. I know very often there is unavoidable delay, but I firmly believe more rapid action could easily be taken if there were more uniform procedure throughout the country. There are different ways of doing things in different areas, and that has a great deal to do with the delay. There are several other points, 1585 but at this late hour of the evening, and as the hon. Baronet has replied, I suppose on behalf of the Board, I feel it is very difficult to go on asking questions when we shall have no reply.
§ Mr. STANIER
The last time I was accused of bringing forward agricultural matters without having given notice, notice was not given because there were grave reasons why it could not be given. I was very pleased to hear one speaker ask what is going to be done about the milk in this country. I am one of those deeply disappointed that the Government has not thought fit to bring in a Milk Bill. I know that is no part of the duty of the Board of Agriculture, but there is something that is the duty of the Board of Agriculture, and that is the Tuberculosis Order. Agriculturists have passed resolutions and made requests that that Order should be brought forward. There is a great deal of fear in the agricultural world. It is thought that not only the consumer of milk, but also the herds of this country should be protected. It is an undoubted fact that foreign buyers of stock in this country are beginning to wonder why nothing is done to prevent this scourge among cattle, but that is nothing compared with the consumer, who ought to be protected from this virulent disease. There are at present many orders given at different times. Not long ago three different orders were given by three different authorities with regard to a farm I have. It was an absolute physical impossibility to comply with them all. The first man said the windows must be made to open, and there must be more air in the cow-house, although it was of ample dimensions. The next man who came along did not think anything about the windows opening, but said "we must have perfect light for the cows." I do not know whether it was in order that the cows might read the newspapers early in the morning or what it was, but he wanted perfect light The third man who came along did not care a bit about the windows being opened or about there being perfect light; he wanted the manure yard which was in the centre of the fold taken 150 yards away. The three towns are Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham. They receive the milk from the same farm. Liverpool receives it weekdays in the morning, and Manchester at night, and because the trains do not suit either of those towns the milk goes to Bir- 1586 mingham on Sunday. Therefore the three authorities came and made three different sets of regulations for this one farm. How can that be for the good of the country or for the good of the farmer, or for the good of the milk itself? It shows the time is long past when we ought to have had a Milk Bill in order to protect the farmer, who is subject to having these extraordinary orders made upon him. I also want to touch upon the reports that have been made to this House on the subject of tuberculosis. It is extraordinary how little notice is ever taken of those reports. The other day I was reading one issued in 1888, and on page 25, paragraph 79, we find this statement:—Since all authorities are agreed that the disease is hereditary, we think it highly desirable farmers should in their own as well as in the public interest discontinue breeding from tuberculous stock.One member of the Committee, who still ranks among the leading surgeons of this country, felt so strongly on the matter that he went on to say:—Tuberculosis is notorious even among the laity as a disease which is transmitted by the parent to the off-spring.If those are the facts, how is it you cannot bring forward the Tuberculosis Order and pass it without the Milk Bill, which you will say belongs to another department. Why should the two go together? Why cannot the Board of Agriculture bring for ward their Order and put it into force. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes a complaint about it, could you not refer him to some of the facts I stated at the opening of my speech and show him how the agriculturists of this country are treated compared with other countries. He is bringing forward Sanatorium Clauses in a Bill which is of great importance and which now is before the country, and, if you are going to attack the disease, it will be no good doing it by half measures. You must absolutely eradicate it, and the only way to eradicate it from the animals of the country is on the basis of the order made at the time the last Milk Bill was before the country. It is grossly unfair on the urban authorities to put off this Milk Bill. I have been one of those who have blocked Bills belonging to urban authorities for the last two or three years. I helped to destroy the milk clauses in the London County Council Bill, and I did it on the understanding there was to be a Milk Bill brought forward in this country so that there would be uniform action throughout the country. If the Bill is to, he put off, I shall not myself block the milk clauses—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lyell)
The hon. Member is in order in referring to the administration by the Board of Agriculture.
§ Mr. STANIER
The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme does not see the seriousness of the case. If he had thought a little more about it, I do not think he would have made the remark he has clone. I should like to know what is being done by the Board of Agriculture to attack anthrax disease in this country. At the present moment anthrax is, perhaps, not as severe as it has been, but still it is far too prevalent, and when one comes to think of the number of human beings who are attacked by anthrax in consequence of corning into contact with the disease in the animal, I think it behoves the Board to see if they cannot do something more to find out whence the disease comes. There are several ways in which it may come here; it may be imported through the feeding stuffs used by the farmers themselves, but the more critical point arises from the manner in which hides are brought into this country in ships, and afterwards the vessels are used for the conveyance of feeding stuffs. I cannot see myself why ships that have been loaded with hides and reloaded with feeding stuffs cannot be reported to the Board of Agriculture.
I ask also that something should be done to help forward the Fertilisers and Feeding Stuffs Amendment Acts that are now before the House. We have had no word from the Board of Agriculture as to what their attitude is to be regarding these Bills. The Member for Oswestry has a most excellent little Bill on that subject, and I think the Board of Agriculture might well help it forward, especially if it is, as it certainly ought to be, a non-contentious measure. It is one that will be to the advantage, at any rate, of the farming community. Perhaps I am treading on ground that may call for another interruption from the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, but I will ask the hon. Baronet if he really cannot think seriously, if he cannot do something to 1588 help the agriculturists of this country? He has often made promises at meetings to do various things, but I have never yet heard him denouncing his own Board. I think before long we ought to hear him do that, especially if he brings forward excuses such as he has advanced to-day. I earnestly thank the House for having allowed me to ventilate some of my grievances.
§ Mr. BECK
I do not think the hon. Member who has just sat down can be blamed by his Constituency for not thoroughly covering the agricultural field. I am only thankful, as one who is also desirous to occupy the time of the House for a few minutes, that the question of bee disease in the Isle of Wight had been mentioned before the hon. Member approached it. He made a rather curious speech in regard to small holdings. He first accused the Board of Agriculture of adopting small holdings as a kind of hobby. He apparently suggested that it had, nothing whatever to do with the Board of Agriculture to advocate a small holdings policy, but in another part of his speech he told us that the solution of the agricultural problem was to be found in an agricultural ladder, starting with the small cottage garden and going step by step up to big holdings. It is an absolute figment of the imagination to state that any man ever suggested that all big farms should he cut up into small holdings. But what we complain of is that in large tracts of country, in county after county, the lower rung of the agricultural ladder has been knocked away entirely, and it is impossible for an agricultural labourer to get even a rood of agricultural land.
We are glad to congratulate the President of the Board on having appointed six additional commissioners; our complaint is however that that Board—the one authority which should have had full faith in small holdings, the authority which we so warmly supported in passing the Small Holdings Act, has not administered it in either a courageous or efficient manner. For my part, I do not complain either of the county councils, the landowners, or the big farmers. None of these particular bodies, with few exceptions ever suggested that they had any particular faith in a Liberal Small Holdings Act. But we did believe that the President of the Board of Agriculture had great faith in that Act, and what we do complain of is that that faith has not been shown by the works of his Board. The difficulty has been this, 1589 instead of the Board of Agriculture spurring the movement on, it has proved to be a delaying authority. Those of us who were responsible for the 1907 Act have on our consciences the 8,000 applicants whose claims are still unsatisfied, whose applications have been submitted to every test in regard to efficiency and respectability, and who still are unable to obtain a foot of ground. It is for that reason we are thankful for the appointment of more Small Holdings Commissioners. But we do want to be shown at the Board of Agriculture real faith in our small holdings policy. Hon. Members opposite are perfectly entitled to sneer at our Small Holdings Bill; if it does not work better than at present it must be deemed to be a failure. But we believe the fault does not he with the Bill: the fault is in the administration of it. I do not for a moment suggest that you can get a small holding with the same ease that you can buy a pound of sugar over the village shop counter. The acquiring of land must be a long and difficult process, and you can never build up a satisfactory small holding system in any country on a basis of injustice. You must do justice to the man in possession of the land. But there are opportunities in every district in England for forming small holdings. Land is constantly coming into the market, and advantage should be taken of that. I believe no more satisfactory way of acquiring land for small holdings could be devised, and any excess land thus purchased could, I am sure, be disposed of without material loss. With regard to the new Commissioners, I think we all wish them God-speed; their course will be one of considerable difficulty; some have very large areas to administer. I cannot say that the division into areas is entirely satisfactory. In parts of the country I know it seems that some of the most progressive county councils have been given very active Commissioners who have jurisdiction over very small areas; whereas, in some of the most unprogressive counties, you have eight, nine, and even twelve counties lumped together under one Commissioner. I do not wish to pre-judge them; I can only say that we earnestly hope that the Board of Agriculture is at last going to tackle this question earnestly and sincerely.
I should also like to join in inviting the Board to do its utmost for co-operation. It was my privilege on the occasion mentioned by my hon. Friend to hear him 1590 speak some very weighty words of wisdom to co-operators near Bury St. Edmunds. We do not accuse my hon. Friend of any want of sympathy with agriculture. I think, indeed, he has proved that the cause of agriculture is very near his heart, but we do hope that the sympathy which he feels will be communicated more rapidly and in a more galvanic manner to the Board over which he presides. I do not think it would be right for me to plead with the Board of Agriculture for any relaxation of tire swine fever regulations, but I do trust they will keep this matter earnestly before them. My Constituency suffers greatly because its pigs are not allowed to be imported into Scotland. Scottish farmers may buy Welsh pigs, but they do not find them so satisfactory as the Essex pigs. I add my voice in all modesty and sincerity to those which have been raised in asking the Board of Agriculture to leave no stone unturned to deal wit h this very serious hindrance to one of the great industries—pig breeding and pig feeding—in this country.
Those of us who have taken an interest in small holdings are not ungrateful to the Board for meeting us in the way they have done. Any criticism we may indulge in is not made in an unsympathetic or hostile spirit, but we do feel there is a grand opportunity for doing something to stop that constant draining away of the best of our men from the agricultural districts. It is easy to laugh at men whose feelings carry them away and induce them to exalt, the agricultural labourer into a sort of angel, and to suggest that he suffers great torture, but it is indeed a terrible spectacle to see a countryside denuded of the best part of its population. For the ordinary man with brain and enterprise the English village is not a suitable home; it is only those who are content to go on without hope of advancement or without hope of a rise in their circumstances who can continue to live in the villages. I believe that every hon. Member, in whatever part of the House he sits, is anxious to see this problem solved, and to give a greater inducement to men to remain on the land. Therefore we do trust that the Board of Agriculture will leave no stone unturned to work to the very utmost of its capacity the Act for which we are so largely responsible—the Small Holdings Act of 1907.
§ Mr. SPEAR
I rise to ask if the hon. Baronet can give us any further report on the researches of the Departmental Committee on the question of epizootic abor- 1591 tion in this country. Agriculturists are looking with great anxiety and are hoping that, as a result of their researches, some preventive or some remedy may be found for this disease, which has devastated our herds and which, I venture to say, is menacing our milk supply. We are very much in the dark on the whole question. We do not know whether the disease is infectious or contagious, or how it is caused, and if the Departmental Committee could settle these questions so that we could deal with it they would confer upon agriculture the greatest possible service. I know how anxious the hon. Baronet is to rind a remedy for this disease, and I can assure him that if, through this Departmental Committee, he can find a preventative or a remedy he would render a great service to agriculture.
I am aware that the Departmental Committee have made certain suggestions and the Devon County Council and the Devon Farmers' Union are moving in this matter. I hope and believe the hon. Baronet will endeavour to co-operate with them in doing something to deal with this difficulty. The Departmental Committee have given some interim advice suggesting that there should be compulsory notification of suspected cases of disease—a most valuable suggestion—and that there should be veterinary inquiries to establish the existence of disease on any particular premises and temporary isolation and restriction on the movement of any animal that has recently been imported. If the hon. Gentleman could induce the Board to put into operation some, if not all, of these suggestions, I think he would be travelling in the right direction. I know the Parliamentary Secretary thinks that some county should first make an experiment in applying these suggestions of the Departmental Committee, but I venture to submit that there should be uniform action throughout the country, and then we might hope to do something to exterminate this disease. I believe, moreover, that the hon. Baronet suggests that the cost of carrying out these suggestions of the Departmental Committee should fail upon the rates, but I venture to say that this is a question of national concern, and the expense of dealing with it should be paid from the Imperial Exchequer rather than from local rates. There are a great many ratepayers who are not directly interested in this question, and who, I feel sure, would so object to the rates being 1592 used for this purpose that such a policy would prevent local bodies from co-operating with the hon. Baronet in the direction desired.
We were reminded just now of the small amount of money expended from the Imperial Exchequer in this country in promoting the interests of agriculture, and we were told, and correctly so, that last year the total amount was £194,000, and £33,000 of that was used for other purposes than promoting agriculture, fisheries, and matters of that kind. Then we were reminded further of the amount of money expended by the United States and also by Denmark. I venture to give, in. addition, the amount expended by France; which annually devotes £2,500,000 to the promotion of agriculture. That is 12½ times more than is expended in furthering the interests of agriculture in this country. Belgium, moreover, also spends 2½ times more money in promoting agricultural interests than is expended in this country. Therefore, I venture to hope that the hon. Baronet will persevere and utilise the labours of the Departmental Committee in order to deal with this great evil, which is a greater evil, and I think a much greater hindrance to agricultural prosperity than any other matter, certainly than any other disease existing in the country. I feel that we have a right to expect that the cost of any such remedial proposals such as have been suggested by the Departmental Committee should be paid from the Imperial Exchequer rather than front the local rates seeing that we expend in this country such a small sum in furtherance of the interests of agriculture as compared with other countries. I think it is reasonable under those circumstances that we should press this expense should be paid from the Imperial Exchequer.
With reference to small holdings, we on this side of the House are as anxious as hon. Members opposite to see more people living on the land, and t he only way to do that, as I have ventured to say before, is to make it better worth while for people to stay there, and the removal of any unjust burden resting upon the agricultural community will operate in that direction. The hon. Member below the Gangway opposite, I have no doubt with perfect sincerity, pleaded the cause of the agricultural labourer, but I venture to say that the land policy which is supported from that side of the House is doing, and will do, more to depress the rural classes and reduce the rural population than any other movement that is taking place. On this 1593 side of the House our object is with due regard to the rights of other sections of the community to deal fairly with the rural classes of all sorts, but if you menace capital as applied to the development of the land you curtail labour, you reduce the nett food supply and deplete the rural population. We appeal to the hon. Gentleman to help us, and I know his heart is with the rural classes. We ask him to give such just encouragement to the agricultural classes as shall induce more people to live in the rural districts, and result, as we hope, in better pay and circumstances for the agricultural labourer.
One or two speakers pointed out that we want to give the agricultural labourer a lift up in his position, and all of us on this side of die House put that in the forefront of our proposals for agricultural help. I may say that I have, in a humble position, co-operated with others in Surrey and we have bought land and divided it into small holdings; but I am bound to confess that we only secured one labourer as an occupier of one of these small holdings. I am a member of the county council of Devon and of a local committee, and there our county council has laboured to give the Small Holdings Act a thoroughly fair trial. I see from a Plymouth paper recently that the Devon County Council bought three properties at public auction to divide into small holdings, and therefore I say that we are thoroughly alive to the necessity for this movement. But we must have the right men and place them in the right position, as it is positively cruel to take a man who does not understand the business and place him in a small holding. It will only punish him as long as he lives. I quite agree as to the desirability of the county councils purchasing farms offered in the market, rather than evicting tenants out of part of their holdings in order to secure land for small holdings. I know perfectly well that in the administration of the Small Holdings Act in the county of Devon we have had to take the most painful steps to evict men out of farms which they had taken on principles of supply and demand, they being selected because they were thought to be the best men for the work, and we have had to evict them from part of their holdings and to give the land to small holders, and thus carry out a process of protection. Therefore I say it is the best policy for the county councils to buy farms that are offered in the market and divide them into suitable small holdings.
1594 It is, however, a cause of trouble that the Small Holdings Act of hon. Gentlemen opposite, although it is doing some good, and I hope will do more, has this terrible blemish—that when you buy a farm, divide it into small holdings, place the tenants upon it, such are the conditions of the Bill that they have to pay the sinking fund. If a private landowner were to attach such a condition on the dwellers on the soil of his estate he would be charged with cruel conduct, and we should have the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary going through the country and proclaiming from the hilltops the tyranny of such a landlord. I venture to say that the policy which the Government are responsible for in this particular is really a kind of blackmail. You are causing the tenant to pay into a sinking fund which will pay back the full purchase price of the land, and yet that man who by the sweat of his brow has done that will never be the owner of the land. If you have such a blot as that upon your Small Holdings Bill you will never make it a success, and I hope the time will come when some Government will recognise the justice of trying to secure for the occupiers of the soil a chance of being able to become the owners just as they have become across the Channel in Ireland. This is the only policy which will enable us to place more dwellers upon the land under conditions and circumstances that will afford a reasonable prospect of success, which will be just to themselves and be beneficial in adding to the prosperity of the country and in increasing its food supply.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
Several hon. Members who have spoken have asked questions of the hon. Baronet with regard to cattle diseases, and I am rash enough to mention one cattle disease which has not yet been alluded to so far in this Debate, and that is the foot-and-mouth disease. The question I want to ask, first of all, has reference to whether the hon. Baronet is any further than he was when the Debate took place on 16th March, 1908. During that Debate the hon. Member for St. Pancras West made this remark:—The hon. Member for South Somerset had stated that the Board of Agriculture recognised that there was no vital organism which could be identified as the cause of foot-and-mouth disease and isolating it.I want to ask whether during the three years which have elapsed since March 16th, 1908, the research work of the laboratories has got any further, and whether we know anything more about the cause of foot-and-mouth disease. There have 1595 been two outbreaks in this country during the last year which have attracted a great deal of attention, and we are all anxious to know the origin and if possible to trace the real cause, because the constituency that I represent believes that the importation of live cattle must be one of the causes. In the debate of March, 1908, the Board of Agriculture admitted that they did trace the cause, and this is what the right. hon. Gentleman (Mr. Joseph Pease) said:—The outbreak undoubtedly, in the opinion of the experts of the Board of Agriculture, is attributable to the cargo of hay which was obtained from Holland in November last.That was the outbreak in Edinburgh which took place on February 1st, 1907. The position in this country is getting very serious from one point of view, and that is the extraordinary decline in the imports of live cattle, and so serious is this becoming that the quantity is falling exceedingly short. Since 1905 the weight of the live cattle imported has fallen from 183,000 tons to 70,000 tons, and it is becoming a matter of national interest where we, a nation of beef eaters, are going to get our fresh meat. At present there are only two countries from which it is possible to import live cattle—the United States and Canada. There is a prohibition against the import of live cattle from almost all other countries that I know of that are likely to be shippers of live cattle. The suggestion I want to make is this. Is it not possible for the Board of Agriculture to suggest such stringent measures with regard to Argentine cattle that there could be no possibility of the importation of the disease into this country? Would it not be possible for such a course of action as this to be taken? There are only three or four ports in the Argentine where the shipments are likely to be made and our Board of Agriculture might appoint three permanent officials there, yards might be licensed where cattle coming down from the country could be put in quarantine for the period of incubation of this disease, which I am informed never exceeds seventeen days. If the cattle were in quarantine in certified yards for seventeen days and then shipped on a voyage which never takes less than twenty-eight, and is generally thirty-three days, there is another long quarantine. Then they might be inspected again on arrival by our officers on this side, and the areas where the cattle are landed, and 1596 always slaughtered immediately in landing, could be so enclosed that no possible case of disease might get out, and the Men coming into these yards would work under such restrictions with regard to their boots and clothes that there would be no possibility of their taking any of the germs of the disease out of the area.
The reason I press this is that we in this country are practically admitting that meat and the hides from these cattle in the prescribed area are quite free to come into the country without restriction. The quantity of beef imported from the Argentine in 1908, which I take as an average year was 178,000 tons. This opens a very large question as to the wisdom of the present restriction. While you say no cattle may come into this country from the Argentine, yet you admit 170,000 tons of frozen meat from that area without any inspection. You allow, without any kind of inspection at all, the importation of hides and horns and hoofs and other parts of the beast which might easily carry this contagion, which I admit is a terribly serious one when any large outbreak takes place. But surely it would be a wise and a better plan that the whole of this work should be done under our own inspection than that we should run risks as we are running them to-day. It may be considered as to whether the Board of Agriculture are right in allowing this free importation of frozen meat, and the inquiries I have made on that subject rather show that they are, and that while foot-and-mouth disease attacks an animal in its mouth and feet it remains there, and the flesh does not get affected by the disease, as is the case with some other diseases that attack cattle, and therefore it would seem a wise measure to allow the meat to come into the country in a frozen state. But there again on this question of health there is certainly a query to be put to the Board of Agriculture as to whether they are right from the public health point of view to allow frozen meat to come in which the medical faculty all agree almost prevents examination with regard to the disease in that meat. The very fact that it has been frozen prevents them following the usual line of examination, so that it appears to me that in the matter of public health there is no particular reason for the prohibition of Argentine cattle. It rather comes back to the question of the safety of the herds in this country. I take it the hon. Baronet will agree with me there. If we look upon it from that point of view it be- 1597 comes more an economic question. I estimate roughly that we have 11,750,000 cattle here, and if we only valued them at an average of £10 per head we should have a sum of over £110,000,000.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
The hon. Member is travelling too far into the general question. The importation of cattle is only open on the Board of Agriculture Vote in so far as the Board of Agriculture has power, and exercises the power, to restrict the importation of live cattle. He must connect his remarks more closely with some action of the Board of Agriculture.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
The request I have to make to the Government is that they might take seriously into their consideration the question whether it is not possible so to safeguard the herds here, and the public safety, that they can lay down restrictions with regard to the importation of live cattle. There is another reason why I would urge them to consider this matter very seriously, and that is the danger with regard to the monopoly of the meat supply to the people of this country. There has been a great deal said on the subject of the Meat Trust, and there are now only three refrigerating plants in the River Plate which are not controlled by American interests, and it is most necessary in the interests of our own farmers and our own people that the Board should take some line of action which would rather prevent the strengthening of that monopoly. This course would do it, that if the hon. Baronet could see his way to raise the embargo we would immediately put into the River Plate two buyers. At present there is only one, the buyer for the refrigerating plant. If there were two buyers, one for the party who wished to import live cattle, and the other who wished to slaughter at the port of shipment, there would be a natural competition which would prevent the American interest obtaining a monopoly, and the greater the monopoly the more fear there is of the domination of our retail trade in this country, and it is undoubtedly becoming quite a serious question as to whether the Board of Agriculture can in any way help the business interests in this country to prevent monopolisation of this trade by one set of capitalists. With regard to the Argentine itself we are particularly interested in doing all we can in a friendly way to help their trade, because they are a long way in advance, in my opinion, of any other country in the world of being 1598 the providers of meat for this country in the future. A member of the Chicago cattle trade admitted to me that the Argentine is able to produce cattle in greater numbers, in better condition, and at less cost than the United States, and that, given time, they would be the great beast suppliers of this country.
I recognise that the enormous power of capital in the cattle trade of the United States developing itself in the Argentine is likely to control the whole trade to an extent that it is not pleasant for Englishmen to contemplate, but if we give them opportunities in this country to develop their business along business lines we shall have no one to blame but ourselves if in a few years we find the great Argentine Republic is the great beef provider of this country in the future. I have only to refer again to the enormous falling off in the imports of cattle from the United States. We all know that their population is rapidly increasing so that they are not likely to be exporters of live cattle. There are hundreds of people in this country who object to eating frozen meat if they can possibly get fresh meat. I think it is in the power of our Board of Agriculture to see that there shall be reasonable possibility of the people of this country who desire to eat fresh beef getting it, and the only country in the world I can see that they can get it from at the present time is the Argentine Republic. I know I shall be told that because disease exists in the Argentine, or in some remote corner of that vast Republic, therefore we must continue to prohibit the importation of live cattle. But when we consider the enormous area of the Argentine Republic it might as well be said that if in the neighbourhood of Turin there was foot-and-mouth disease no cattle from Dieppe should he imported. It would be as sensible to say that as to say that because in some parts of the Argentine there have been cases of foot-and-mouth disease recently, therefore the importation of cattle from the whole of that vast territory should be prohibited. I claim that by a reasonable inspection, such as I have suggested, by three or four of our own officers living in the River Plate, for whose salaries and expenses the trade would be made liable, we could so safeguard both the consumers and the farmers in this country that it would be possible under these restrictions for this trade to be carried on. I respectfully submit that any conditions laid down by the Board of Agriculture in this country would 1599 be willingly responded to by the authorities of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and by the authorities at Birkenhead and other great centres of population, where they are eager and anxious to be allowed to import live animals under such conditions as the Board may consider sound and safe. I appeal to the hon. Baronet in the hope that he will see his way to lay down such regulations as will enable us in the near future to recommence this trade.
§ Mr. BOWERMAN
A large number of my Constituents are seriously affected by the refusal of the Board of Agriculture to modify or remove the restrictions on the importation of live cattle from the Argentine. This is not a new subject, but so far it has met with very little sympathy from the representatives of the Board of Agriculture. It may be a gratifying thing that to-day the question is raised from the side of the House whose occupants are supposed to be strongly opposed to the removal of the restrictions. I think it was in 1909 that the Argentine Government made representations to our own Government desiring that these restrictions should be removed, or, at any rate, that the Government should be permitted to export live cattle to this country. A reply was given on the 9th or 10th of October of that year to the effect that the Board of Agriculture was considering the propriety of revising these particular restrictions. Within a short, period of that announcement being made, the representative of the Foreign Office stated that an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease took place in the Argentine Republic. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the different attitude taken up by the Board of Agriculture towards that country as compared with the attitude taken up towards North America. A few months afterwards an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease took place in North America. The Board of Agriculture did not close all the American ports for the exportation of cattle to this country. What the Government allowed them to do was to draw a cordon round the affected districts, and cattle were allowed to be sent from all other parts of North America into this country. When later on the hon. Baronet was asked whether a similar course of conduct could not be adopted so far as the Argentine was concerned, his reply was, "Oh, no." Looking to the wonderful extent of that territory, and even assuming that foot-and-mouth disease might have broken out in, if you 1600 like, half a dozen districts, or, if you like, a dozen districts, I ask the question, why should a distinction have been made in the treatment of North America? Was it because the trust influence in North America is so strong that they are able to resist our restrictions? Had that anything to do with it? At any rate, although I am a layman in a matter of this kind, it appeals to my common sense.
If a safeguard of that kind can be set up as regards North America, surely the same thing could be done when you come to deal with cattle from the Argentine. For some reason which has never been made clear to me or the country, the Board of Agriculture did not see its way to deal with the matter in that fashion, and the result is that the trade, both at Deptford, which I represent, and at Birkenhead, which is represented by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bigland), the trade is very seriously affected. It affects to a large extent the workmen connected with these markets. It affects also to a large extent the health of the poorer people in these districts, because before the restrictions were imposed they were able to get a plentiful supply of fresh meat at reasonable prices. They were able to do so because the cattle were being slaughtered in the immediate districts. The effect on the working people of these restrictions has been extremely bad. A few American firms are ready to send cattle to Deptford, and it may be that they are willing to do the same thing as regards Birkenhead. A few of them are allowed to reship the hides, and the result is that our leather traders are deprived of an advantage which should be theirs by right. The hide market is no longer open to them for these hides which are reshipped. The City Corporation spent a large sum of money—I think it was something like £400,000—in erecting a foreign cattle market at Deptford. The only reason, so far as I know, for doing so was in order that if any disease was detected in live cattle entering London, it could be dealt with by the splendid machinery set up in that market. This magnificent machinery set up for that purpose is practically lying idle, and the market itself is practically lying idle. Anyone who goes down to see the market will find grass growing where there should be life and activity.
I remember speaking to one of the Government officials on this subject. I am not at liberty to mention his name. I asked him as to the means of dealing with disease 1601 in that market, and his reply was that it was practically impossible for disease to leave the market after it had been detected. In reply to a question in this House, the hon. Baronet himself admitted that no case of foot-and-mouth disease had been traced to have emanated from Deptford. It seems to me a serious matter indeed that, in spite of the precautions taken by the City Corporation, all this expenditure on the market should be so much wasted money, that through the obstinacy of the Board of Agriculture a good many people should be deprived of their livelihood, and that thousands of people should be deprived of that which they were able previously to enjoy, namely, freshly killed meat instead of frozen meat. It seems to me that whatever influence is brought to bear on the Board of Agriculture, it is of no avail. The Board has shut itself up in a sort of cooling chamber and has become somewhat frozen. They are deaf to the representations made to them. The City Corporation's Markets Committee took up the matter in conjunction with the various borough councils, and a conference was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel. Representative men attended that conference, and resolutions were passed stating the case in a very respectful manner. A memorial was presented to the Board of Agriculture, and nothing more has been heard of it. I would ask, how can this House make the Board of Agriculture amenable to the representations made by influential bodies outside Is it only by hostile votes in this House that the Board of Agriculture can be moved? When you have at Birkenhead and Deptford all this machinery at hand to cope with any disease found in imported cattle, it does seem to me a sin—I almost said a crime—that men and women at those places should be deprived of this cheap and healthful kind of food. I believe it is common knowledge—it came out in evidence before a Committee on which I had the honour of sitting to inquire into the meat trade—that a trust is making its way into the Argentine and trying to get hold of the meat trade of that country.
And, it being a quarter past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.