§ Again considered in Committee.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'wheat,' stand part of the Clause."
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I would like to clear up one or two points which have been raised before I come to the real substantial one. I have said, and I repeat, that this Bill is based on the Milner Report. May I read two passages from that Report which show what I mean when I say that.We believe that many farmers would be disposed to make efforts to increase the production of wheat, if appealed to in the national interest. But in order to ensure a general movement hi that direction we consider it essential to guarantee a minimum price for home-grown wheat, for a period of several years.That is the principle upon which we proceed in this Bill. That Report then goes on to discuss the amount which should be fixed, and says:The best consideration we have been able to give to the matter lends us to the unanimous conclusion that a guarantee of a minimum price of 15s. a quarter for all marketable home-grown wheat for a period of four years would lead to a very substantial increase in the area of wheat harvested in 1916 and to a further increase in the succeeding year.There is obviously a difference between the two scales of minimum prices. That is entirely due to the enormous rise in the cost of production since July, 1915, and the present year. At the time when we made that Report—I remember the discussion extremely well —we had to consider what the market price at the moment was and to fix our minim urn price at something which would still be an encouragment to farmers when so fixed on that scale. We then go on to say:We recommend that any payment to the farmer under the suggested guarantee should be regulated by the difference between 45s. and the 'Gazette' average price of wheat for the year in which the wheat is harvested, the farmer being left free to dispose of his produce in the open market.That is the principle of the present Bill. Therefore, when I say that it is based on the Milner Report I state what I am sure the right hon. Gentleman opposite never doubted what is the exact truth in my mind.
Of course, I accepted the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and I said so, but what I pointed out was that the safeguards of the Milner Report were entirely omitted from the Government proposals.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
We carefully considered the point whether it would be possible to make any recommendations 1819 and these are our recommendations, which would secure to the State, to use the phrase which has been used, some quid pro quo,some return with increased production for the minimum price guaranteed. We considered one way to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Acland) told us he was originally attached. We discarded that, and we then go on to say this:Another proposal having the same object in view appears to us of a more practical character. It might be possible to give the guarantee in respect of the whole quantity of wheat produced and at the same time to make sure that the country is getting a substantial quid pro quofor the liability undertaken by the Exchequer. One method of doing this would be to confine the guarantee to those farmers who were able to show that they had made a reasonable effort to increase the production of wheat. It is difficult to device a test for that purpose.…We found it so difficult to devise a test that we stated the problem and made no recommendation. There is the fact. We made no recommendation. I distinctly remember the great difficulty that was raised by the suggestion that at least one-fifth of the total acreage under grass and annual crops should actually be under wheat. The point was this, What was to happen to a man who had taken over in his farm a very large area of grass? Could you possibly ask that man to put one-fifth of his area under corn? I do not think you could. I am most willing to meet the right hon. Gentleman in any Way that I can over this point, and from that point of view I am quite prepared to consider very carefully whether there is a test which we could possibly apply so that we can confine the bonus to the man who made an effort to increase production. I could not accept without careful consideration over again the suggestion of the Milner Report, because we who sat on the Milner Committee were not so convinced it was a workable principle as to venture to recommend it to the Government of the day. Therefore I could not, and I hope the House will understand the reason why I could not, here and now say that I would accept that proposition, but I will, I can promise the House, give it my most careful consideration, because I feel now, as I felt when I sat on the Milner Committee, if we could devise a test by which we could take care that nobody got this bonus who was not doing something towards increasing the food supply of the country, we ought to have the test. As I say, I will do my very utmost to devise such a test. At the same time, I should like, further, to let this be under- 1820 stood; that so far as we are concerned we cannot possibly confine the benefit of this allowance to excesses over 1914. We cannot do that on the ground that I have already stated, that before you can increase production you have to maintain it, and if you say that only excess production is to be rewarded you run a grave risk, and to my mind an inevitable risk, that production elsewhere without the offer will drop. What I would say to the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, is that as we meet him on the question of the acreage, as we have promised most carefully to consider whether it will be possible to devise any test by which farmers who claim the benefit shall be bound to show that they are doing something to increase the production of the country, I am afraid I cannot meet him on the point that the benefit should be confined to increased production. I think he will readily understand that that is a position which, from what I said before on the Amendment itself, I feel bound to take up.
The right hon. Gentleman said that you are going to get this wheat or this corn out of the farmer anyhow, that he was already doing it and that he would go on doing it. That entirely begs the question. The question is, will he go on doing it?—and the argument I ventured to address to the House to-day, on the point of the farmer who has to buy his fertiliser in the year 1917 for a crop that he was not going to get any money on until 1919, shows the danger that you are going to run if you base this entirely upon increased production. It must be remembered that this is not merely a question of fertilisers; it means a question of employing labour. The man will not employ the labour required to keep his land clean unless he has this security. He can also always skip one or two of the operations of farming which are necessary to secure the maximum crop and so cheapen his production to the great loss of the nation in this emergency. It is no use relying on continuing to get that production from the large farmer, because? by doing it you bog the whole question, and I do not think that is a safe thing to do. There are various other points raised by the right hon. Gentleman, but if he will forgive me, as I have dealt with the main points, I will not weary the Committee by dealing with the smaller points.
§ Mr. HOUSTON
May I ask what certainty or what security there is that the 1821 benefits that are promised to the farmer and that the pledges given will be carried out? I ask this question because the pledges given to the shipowners, although embodied in an Act of Parliament, were broken.
§ Sir B. STANIER
I am very glad that the President of the Board of Agriculture has taken up the point that was made on the other side of the House, that wheat will be grown anyhow. I do not believe that wheat will be grown anyhow unless something is done on the lines of the Milner Report and this Bill which is now before us. I have noticed that those who have spoken this time in the Committee this afternoon have been chiefly lawyers who have not had to do with the actual and practical growing of the wheat itself. I happened to farm in 1904 and 1905, and we grew at that time a large quantity of wheat. I know to my cost that I did it at the loss of about £1 a quarter. That means to a young farmer, as I was in those days, a very serious loss, and it is those losses made with growing wheat that for ever stick in the minds of the farmers and will never be forgotten. There are Members on the other side who throw that on one side, but I should like to remind those who do that that the Prime Minister, speaking in this House on the 23rd of February, put the very point that we here to-day are advocating. He said:There is no memory as tenacious as that of the tiller of the soil, and the furrows are still in the agricultural mind. Those years have given the British fanner a fright of the plough, and it is no use arguing with him. You must give him confidence, otherwise he will refuse to go between the shafts. Now the pin ugh is our hope. You must cure the farmer of his plough fright, otherwise you will not get crops. What does he say? The farmer thinks in rotations; he is not thinking merely of what will happen this year. When he is cutting up his pasture he has got to think of years ahead. otherwise he is a loser,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February 1917. col. 1600, Vol. XC]That is exactly it; and the reason why we are asking for a higher rate during these years is that, not like other trades, you cannot put that arable land back again into turf. I will ask those lawyers who made those speeches in the House: this afternoon whether they have ever put arable land back again into turf? Do they know what it costs to do it? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, and do they know what time it takes to do it? I have had one or two friends who have told me that you can always put this arable land back into turf, and when I told them what it costs to do it they 1822 were dumbfounded and said, "Absolute rot! "It is not rot al all, and I do beg those who think on those lines to go into that question, especially at the present time, when permanent seeds are practically impossible to get, and must be for many years to come. The truth of what I say has been very clearly demonstrated in the last year or two. When first war broke out, in 1914 and 1915, farmers in this country were asked to plough up more land and plant more wheat. They did it, and fairly did it. Why did they do it? They did it because they knew that the price would rise to a certain height that would make it pay. But there was more than that. They used up the best quality of the wheat lands, those easily ploughed tip, and those that were suitable to their fanning to be ploughed up.
In the following year, 1916, there was practically no rise in the amount of land that was sown with wheat. An hon. Member opposite said that the great reason of that was labour. No; it was not altogether labour. Labour was one of the points made, but undoubtedly there wore other reasons, and that was the reason that the farmer has not any more confidence in going further into this great question. Then came the Prime Minister's speech of the 23rd February. Again he told this House and the country that confidence must be put hack again into the farmer. Confidence from that speech was given to the Farmer, and this year morn land again has been broken up. If you do not treat the farmer with confidence, however, you will not get it in the future, and if you do net get it in the future the whole of your great scheme will break down. There is a line of thought that I should like some of the Gentlemen, who I regret are not hero in the House at the moment, who have been making those speeches to have heard. There was another point that they made, that there is no maximum price for wheat in this Bill. Do not they know that there is a maximum price for wheat at the present moment, and that if wheat had been at the price now that it reached before the Food Controller put it down it would be 90s. today at least? The Food Controller put it down to 75s., and therefore the price of wheat is controlled. I think that is a point that can easily be remembered and maintained in the future, if it is so required. In that way you will see that 1823 while the person who grows wheat is safeguarded by the Bill, so also in the same way is the consumer who eats the bread. There is another question that I should like to put before the Committee, and that is, that this Bill is here for one purpose and one purpose only.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir B. STANIER
It is all very well to say no, but that is the truth. The Bill is absolutely for production. At the Central Chamber of Agriculture to-day this Bill came up, and the practical farmers who were at that chamber of agriculture condemned this new idea of making the payment according to acreage and not according to quantity. There was a very full meeting, and there were only two dissenting voices in the whole of that meeting. I believe myself that that meeting was right, and that the practical agriculturists are right and the theorists, whether they may hold themselves practical or scientific in this House of Commons, are wrong when they say that farmers ought to be paid according to acreage and not according to quantity. I believe that if you pay for this wheat according to acreage you will help bad farming. You will do more than that, you will make bad cultivation, and you will also in many case? use the land for the wrong purpose. The whole idea of bringing back again the payment on the quarter or the bushel on the acreage is, in my opinion, a deep retrograde movement. If I may say so, with all sincerity, I believe that this is a most unpatriotic movement, and one that will be-deeply deplored if it is ever taken up in the future. What will happen? The farmer will come along and he will not care about the far future in some cases. He will plough up a lot of land, but he will not work it properly, and if you do not work it properly you will not get a proper crop. He will scratch that land, put in a few seeds, some of which may not even be good seeds, and then he will reap the same reward as the man who has worked his land, put in proper seeds, and grown a good crop.
This afternoon, several speakers have told us that you cannot grow a good crop of corn during the first year on old turf. I have done it many times in my life, and I am doing it at the present moment. I 1824 am growing corn crops at the present time on land which this time last year was absolutely old turf. How was it done? It was not done by merely a rough ploughing and a little scratching. It was done by cultivation last autumn, by breaking up the land and leaving it to the frost to kill the wireworm and grubs, and other abominations; then by ploughing again with lime; and then by working the land in a thorough manner. I should not mind or be ashamed. I should be delighted, to show any hon. Member of the House those crops, and I do not think he could find better crops anywhere in the Midlands. Yes, but the reason is that the land has been properly worked. If you pay according to acreage, and not according to the bushel, you will be asking the farmers, and you will be enabling bad farmers—who are the people against whom we must guard—to scratch that land and put the seed in, and to claim the same as a man who has made a thorough cultivation of his land. If my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture takes this question up and advocates acreage and not quantity—that is, the quarter or the bushel—I shall denounce him up and down the country as unpatriotic—[An HON. MEMBER: "No!"]—in a friendly manner. I believe that if we can, we ought to take this absolutely on quantify and not on acreage.
I must answer the hon. Member who said that nothing was being done for wages in this Bill. Whoever makes a statement like that is totally ignorant of the Bill. There are Clauses to enable the wages to be brought up to the level of a living wage—and quite rightly—and I think such a statement as was made in this House this afternoon was most erroneous. There was another statement made, I think, by our friend the late President of the Board of Agriculture, who told us that excess profits had been made by the farmer. He went on and, I think, used the word "tremendous" excess profits, or a word equivalent to that. I believe he is farming himself, and I am very glad to hear it, if it is a fact, that he has made these excessive profits that he claims, for, what with shipping and farming, I think he is doing very well. I do not know what are those profits that he has made, but he is evidently judging the whole of the country by himself. I believe I should be right in saying that in many parts of 1825 England these tremendously excessive profits will not be made this year. The reason I say that is because farming, taken as a whole, is one long gamble. You cannot have the weather absolutely to fit the crops, and we also have the great difficulty of labour, to say nothing of the high wages for that labour. With all due respect, also, I would say the farmer does pay Income Tax
§ Sir B. STANIER
I did not say profits, but he has to pay Income Tax, and it was thrown across this House that he does not pay Income Tax.
§ Sir B. STANIER
I know perfectly well what he pays, because I had to pay on two farms, and I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend—
§ The CHAIRMAN
We really cannot go into that; it really is hardly relevant. I would remind the Committee again that, for the purpose of this Amendment, we are assuming that a guarantee is to be given, and the only matter open here is the nature of the guarantee and the basis on which it is to be reckoned.
§ Sir B. STANIER
I do beg of the promoters of this measure that they will stick to the Bill as it is and not give way to those new-fangled ideas, and I say that, as we are out to-day for quantity, and for quantity only, that the surest way of getting it is by giving these sums of money for the crop as it is put on the market and not for the acreage which is being grown.
§ Commander WEDGWOOD
I think this is a most admirable Amendment, because it brings out exactly the true inwardness of the Bill before the House. The Amendment limits the bonus to be given to what is described as the agricultural interest to any additional production that it may be induced to make by reason of the War. It would possibly increase the production of food supplies in this country, and it can be defended as a war measure. I will not say that I myself would be in favour even of that, because I am one of those people with an old-fashioned prejudice in favour of allowing people to do as they think best for themselves. I am inclined to think that what 1826 is best for the farmer is probably best for the community as a whole, and that any State direction as to the Hue on which his production should be developed will probably be misdirected direction. But, at any rate, there is something to be said for a plan which does definitely give a bonus to those people who increase their food production. That is a position which it is possible to defend, not only in country districts but also in our big manufacturing towns. They might be getting some of the increased supplies at cheaper rates. On the other hand, you have the Government attitude; the support they give to a scheme which may not increase by a single bushel our wheat supply, but which nevertheless guarantees the farmer against loss, and guarantees him a certain fixed price. That is not a war measure, that is a definite desire—a desire which has been frankly admitted to-day—to safeguard the farmer by ensuring him against loss. When I hear right hon. Members on the Front Bench supporting a measure in time of war because it guarantees one particular set of individuals against loss my mind goes back to my own Constituency, where the people are not guaranteed against loss, to the people whose one-man businesses have been broken up without any guarantee against loss, and to the men who have lost jobs which they can never get back again, and who have gone out, not merely taking smaller profits than they used to before the War, but sacrificing their lives at the front. There was no guarantee for them, and my Constituency will know, and will hear frequently, and I think those of other hon. Gentlemen will hear it too, the tale how this House guaranteed the farmers against loss and forgot the one-man businesses and the men who have actually gone to the front and sacrificed their lives.
Emphatically, this is not a time to bolster up the farming industry at the expense of the community. It might be the time to accept the Bill with this Amendment in it, but without the Amendment I say it is a most ill-advised and ill-timed measure. The people of the towns know perfectly well the prices which they are paying for food at the present time, and they know who are getting the benefit of these high prices. It is no use for hon. Members representing agricultural constituencies and interested in land to say that the farmers are not making profits at the present time. Everyone with any 1827 intelligence in his head can see that they must be making the profits, because the price of agricultural land is rising, even though the value of money is rising so tremendously at the present time. Profits are being made, and these profits are being paid by the working classes in the towns, and now is the time when you come forward and say to the working classes in the towns, ''It is true we cannot guarantee you against any of the disasters that war brings on mankind, but we are asking you to guarantee the men who are making money out of those disasters." So outrageous a demand has never been made on the taxpayers of this country. It is not even as though the farmer had played up to now a patriotic park in this War—
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is really a speech on the Second Reading, or, at any rate, on the Clause standing part of the Bill. I have already indicated to the Committee that, on this Amendment, we must assume, for the purpose of this discussion that the guarantee is to Vie given, and we are only dealing with a limitation and the nature of the guarantee.
§ Commander WEDGWOOD
I noticed that the speaker who preceded me in the Debate touched upon every subject with which I have been dealing, and I am merely replying to him.
§ Commander WEDGWOOD
Then I will pass to the question of whether it will be particularly popular to give this Grant to farmers at the present time. I will refer to the real reason why the Government cannot accept this Amendment. The Government do not accept this Amendment because, if they accepted it, the measure would be only of temporary and partial benefit, and would not give to the farmers as a whole, but only to those who increased food production; it would not do what the measure is intended to do, benefit the whole agricultural industry of this country, and do something to mitigate, as the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture pointed out in his Second Reading speech, the enormous falling of rent that has taken place during the last thirty years. He drew a terrible picture of the sufferings of the agricultural industry because rents had gone down in that thirty years. This measure was held 1828 out to us, forsooth, as some mitigation of that. It was a restoration in part of the old position that the agriculural industry—it is always described as the agricultural "industry"—was prosperous because rents were high. That, as it seems to me, is conclusive reason why the present Government cannot accept this Amendment. I noticed, however, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Horncastle in his speech added strength to the position of the Government. He said that not only is this measure in the interests of the agricultural industry, not only will it stop the lamentable falling of rent, but, he said, we had for it the clearest possible support from Prince Bismarck in relation to Prussion agriculture. Prince Bismarck, he said, knew what he was about in relation to agricultural interest. No doubt he did. Prince Bismarck laid down the admirable rule—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is going against my ruling. This is not the Second Reading of the Bill. We must remember that we are in Committee, and we must deal with the Amendments as they arise.
§ Commander WEDGWOOD
I am endeavouring to deal with the arguments-used by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Horncastle.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon, and gallant Gentleman is making a Second Reading speech, and I appeal to him not to follow a bad example, but to follow a good one.
§ Commander WEDGWOOD
I intend to answer the arguments of the hon. and gallant Member. You can rule me out of order if you like or you can turn me out of the House. It is simply because I happen to be a Radical and not a Tory landlord.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I trust the hon. and gallant Member will not proceed on that line of making allegations against the Chair. If I made a mistake and it was allowed to pass the hon. and gallant Member is entitled to answer the argu- 1829 ments put forward. But I would ask him, first of all, to withdraw what he said a moment ago.
§ Commander WEDGWOOD
Yes; I will withdraw what I said, Mr. Whitley. I am very sorry I was carried away with a feeling of injustice which was perhaps not apparent to other hon. Members. The hon. and gallant Member pointed out that Prince Bismarck showed clearly—he read the extract—that if prices fell below a certain point the agricultural industry would suffer, and anarchy would be the natural result. If prices fell too much, according to Prince Bismarck and the Junker doctrines—which have now been imported into this country—there would be anarchy. But I warn the Government that if prices do not fall too much, if they keep at their present height, there will be anarchy, which will be a different kind of disaster from that looked forward to by those who are with Prince Bismarck. The idea that you can come forward at this time and say that agricultural prices must be kept up in the interests of the country lest terrible things should happen seems to me an argument which can only be brought forward by a man who was absolutely out of touch with the feelings of the country, and absolutely out of touch with his own constituents.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
I did not think that ever by a single word did I say—I certainly did not intend to say—that you would have to keep prices up, or land up, in order to maintain order in the country. All I did wish to say, in answer to an hon. Member, was that the real reason for all this, for this Amendment to the Bill, was that unless you had agricultural prosperity you would not have national economic security.
§ Commander WEDGWOOD
The hon. and gallant Member read the extract from Prince Bismarck perfectly clearly, and an argument which he was prepared to use, and that came into it. All I can say is that that sort of argument will not go down in this country in 1917. Further than that, I would say that to bring forward a measure in 1917 which is intended to benefit the agricultural industry, which, as everybody here knows, inevitably translates itself into increased rentals, into increased money in the pockets of the Junker class, is one of the most unpopular things that could have 1830 been brought forward in the best interests of the good government of this country. We know perfectly well that that is the real reason why the Government cannot accept, this Amendment. The agricultural interest does not mean the labourer, not even, generally speaking, the farmer, but the landlord interest. The agricultural interest rushed the Prime Minister at the beginning of this year. They rushed him by holding the potential starvation of the country like a pistol at his head. They made him give that pledge. But that pledge by no means binds any single Member of this House. What it comes to is this: that that pledge is read so as to prevent any single Amendment to the Bill. It is read so that that Amendment is brought forward, not by people like me, who are apt to treat any piece of Government interference as a crime, but by reasonable, sensible, legal, gallant Members of this House with some experience of political economy. They bring forward a scheme which no one in this. House can deny from the point of view of a war measure which is infinitely superior to the plan of the Government, an Amendment which deliberately says: We will only give a bonus to those of the farming class who do increase their production; we will not otherwise sanction giving a bonus to a single member of the farming class. When we see an Amendment like that turned down and thrown over by a Government which, if the House wore free to vote as hon. Members like, would be thrown out to-morrow—[An HON.MEMBER "To-night! "]—when we see that sort of thing done, we realise that times-have changed with this House. We realise that free public opinion has abdicated its position in this country. We realise that we are now under an autocracy, which it will be the first business of the country to upset as soon as they get a possible chance, in order to put in office people who do not represent one interest in this country, and one interest only, and that the Junker class of Tory landlords.
§ Sir W. NUGENT
As one who has got some interest in agriculture, I should like to say a very few words. My hon. Friend the Member for Dublin stated, in his opinion, that if the Amendment were carried the Bill would be of very little use to increase production either in this country or in Ireland. With that I entirely agree. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Bench seemed 1831 to have the impression that there were enormous profits made out of farming. But every man who knows anything about farming knows that no farmer ever makes any profit. The only difference that this Bill, if it passes, will make will be that the farmer will lose a little, less than he did before. Some hon. Members seem to be obsessed with the one extraordinary idea that the farmers are trying to rob the country. One hon Member said they pay no taxes. I speak as an Irish farmer, and I certainly have to pay mine. I think there is no class in the community so heavily pressed in the way of taxes as landowners and farmers. Once the suggestion is thrown out about anything being the thin end of the wedge of Protection, then people, who on all other subjects are perfectly sane, go stark, staring mad. Any suggestion of Protection in the most roundabout way seems to cause a large number of men who describe themselves as Free Traders to lose their heads. When I heard some of the speeches to-day I felt sorry for those who made them. I would like to urge upon the Committee the desirability of looking at this Bill in a broad and generous spirit, and not to regard the farmer as a robber, trying to do the State. The farmer's life is not at the best of times a bed of roses, and I am sure no class in the community is more anxious to increase the food supply of the country than are the farmers. The Irish farmers have shown that they will do their part; I think they have done already more than the farmers of this country. I do ask the Committee to consider whether, if the Amendment is accepted, the Bill will be worth having either for this country or Ireland. For farmers it would be absurd and ridiculous. There is an Amendment lower down which suggests a more generous treatment based on the principle which the Minister of Agriculture said he would accept; and which is one which would be probably accepted not only by farmers in this country but in Ireland, but to suggest that no bonus should be paid except for surplus produce over the last three years would mean practically nothing. They have to buy seed at a very high price, and it is almost impossible to get fertilisers, and you must guarantee that in the next two or three years farmers will at least have some prospect of being reimbursed for their outlay. I hope, therefore, this Amendment will be rejected.
§ Sir JOHN AINSWORTH
I would just like for a moment to carry the Committee back to the time when this movement for extra food production was started in the country. The whole question brought before the country was extra food production, and therefore every class of useful food produced by agriculture ought to be included in the Bill. I would like to tell the Committee what has been done in Scotland. There was at first a large number of public meetings, and other means were taken to bring the whole matter before the attention of the country. The Committee generally perhaps is not aware that the whole system of local government in Scotland is infinitely superior to anything in England. Every county in Scotland is divided into districts, every one of which is a sensible, practical unit presided over by its own committee. Every district in Scotland immediately appointed a food production committee. The result was that, as soon as this was done, the Secretary for Scotland was able to communicate by the next morning's post with every portion of Scotland. You can therefore understand that the whole idea of food production was started at once over the whole country. I have the honour to be associated with a committee of that kind. One of, the things which the Scottish committees began upon at once—and this is a point which seems to have escaped the notice of people here who talk about food production—was the provision of feeding stuffs and fertilisers not only in reasonable quantity but at a reasonable price. They also arranged, in order to get additional agricultural labour, with the body dealing with National Service. They immediately applied to them to find farm labour, and in a great many cases, I am glad to tell the Committee, unsuccessful as they have been in other places, they were able very largely to find agricultural labour wherever it was wanted by the food committees.
It seems to me that if we try to do something to help on this kind of thing, we shall be doing good, and if it has been done in Scotland why cannot it be done in England? In Scotland we have broken up, or shall break up, 50,000 acres, but that is a small matter to what my right hon. Friend opposite (Sir T. Russell) and his Board of Agriculture in Ireland are able to do. They are breaking up, or will break up, 750,000 acres. These things have been going on for six 1833 months, and yet we hear people arguing to-day in this House whether it is desirable to break up grazing land without serious loss. Though it is being done in. Scotland to the extent of 50,000 acres and in Ireland to the extent of 750,000 acres, yet we, as the Imperial Parliament dealing with the question of the food supply of the United Kingdom, are actually told to-day that it is no good breaking up grass land. That is what the English Board of Agriculture said in the House to-day. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] That is what I certainly understood some- on to say. The Board of Agriculture in Ireland is the only Board with a representative constitution in the United Kingdom. It is composed of two Members sent by every county—
§ Sir THOMAS RUSSELL (Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture, Ireland)
The Council of Agriculture.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
I thought we were here to deal with the production of food. However, I will only say that I sincerely trust that the Board of Agriculture for England and for Scotland will try to put themselves on the same footing as the Council of Agriculture for Ireland. What is the position now? I do not hold the same view as right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have no doubt from childhood been brought up to believe that a fixed duty on corn is a sure step towards prosperity. We are now in the middle of a great war, and everybody on this side desires to keep the present Government in power—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—because we do not want a change and consequently we have to submit to a good deal in agreeing with the measures proposed. We are anxious to keep all these controversial questions in abeyance in order to help on the War. The Chief Secretary for Ireland some months ago, when the question of payment of Members was brought up, made a speech in which he said, "Why throw the bone, the stinking bone of political controversy, on the floor of the House of Commons?"
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
The question for us to consider is whether we can put the 1834 present Bill in such a form that we can conscientiously accept it, believing that it will do something for the country in the way of the extra production of food. Let it include all articles of food. I sincerely trust that hon. Members on the Front Bench will be able, by giving a little earnest attention to the matter, to put this Bill into such a shape that the House of Commons will be able to accept it. It is only a few days ago since the Government came into contest with the House of Commons and had to give way, and I think they ought to give way here. I sincerely suggest; to the Government that they should try to come to a settlement on a question of this kind, and assist us an coming to a reasonable decision. If they do that, we shall see what we all want to see, an increase in the food supply of the country, and surely that object can be achieved without raising obsolete political questions which do no good but harm, and which prevent us from giving our whole attention to the prosecution of the War.
§ Mr. ARCHDALE
I am not in accord with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and I agree with what has been said by hon. Members from Ireland in opposing this Amendment. I myself know a good deal about farming, and I consider that this measure will be a very great benefit to the farmers. This Amendment would do a great deal of harm in Ireland, more especially to the quality of the stuff produced. We want to produce wheat and oats which is fit for food and not for feeding fowls. One hon. Member said the people of Scotland are brought up on oatmeal, and if they do not produce good food they will not produce good men. Since the year 1870, according to the Selborne Report, 4,000,000 acres of land have gone out of cultivation, and yet it has been stated that farmers have been making money all their lives. I have farmed for the last thirty or forty years, and I know that during all that time there was mortal little money made to pay Income Tax on. The Selborne Report recommended payment by the quarter on the whole production, and that is what we want in Ireland. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin said the small farmers in Ireland produced food for their own cattle and did not sell so much of their produce, and really that is helping the country, because it does not necessitate buying Indian meal and feeding stuffs from abroad, which only increase the profits of the shipowning gentlemen.
1835 The Selborne Report wanted a bonus paid on the whole production of the farmer whether he sold it or not. The hon. Member for the Tradeston Division (Mr. Dundas White) said that this is going to be a rent production Bill, but may I point out that Clause 6 prevents the raising of rent, and there is no rent production about it. It is entirely corn production. Some hon. Members talked about paying a bonus for nothing. It must be remembered that you are practically making a man to cultivate his land in a certain way in order to increase the food supply of the people, and is that paying a bonus for nothing? Then this measure fixes a minimum wage. The hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division (Mr. Anderson) is a great man about the minimum wage for working people, and I think the minimum wage provision in this Bill is one of the greatest benefits the working people have had for many years. We want a living wage, and at the same time we want the farmer to have a reasonable profit. I am strongly in favour of the Government proposal, and I am against the Amendment
§ Mr. MORRELL
The Debate on this, Amendment has been very interesting, but it has illustrated the fundamental and radical defect of this Bill, that it is going to guarantee public money, and very likely pay public money, without any security whatever that we lire going to get good value for the money so guaranteed or paid. It has been clearly shown that under the Bill you may have a farmer not only who does not increase his corn production, but is actually every year diminishing the amount of corn he produces and allowing his land to deteriorate and who is not applying fertilisers and is not working it in a proper way, and who is producing less corn than he was before the War, and yet he will, if lie produces any corn whatever, get a bounty under this Bill. That is a gross and scandalous waste of public money. This Amendment, as I understand it, would at least prevent that abuse. The main and important part of the Amendment is that it does limit the guarantee so that it will only be paid in respect of the extra corn that is produced since the War. That, roughly speaking, is what the Amendment amounts to. A man will only receive a bounty in respect of the increased corn which he has contrived to produce. If this is really a war emergency measure and if its only object is to secure an increased production of 1836 corn for the duration of the War, then the arguments in favour of this Amendment are unanswerable, and they have never been met. There is one argument against it. It is that although the Amendment might encourage one farmer to increase his production it would not do anything to see that another farmer kept up his production. You might have one farmer increasing his production and laying himself out, so to speak, in order to secure the bounty, and you might have another farmer who knew that he could not increase his production of corn and who was so little moved by patriotic motives that he actually allowed his production of corn to be decreased during the War. That argument really will not bear looking into. It is quite inconceivable that any farmer who is worthy, while the War lasts and while high prices rule, will allow his production of corn to be seriously diminished. The production of corn will be maintained by itself. The only question is whether the production will be increased, and I say that for the purpose of increasing the production of corn during the War as a war emergency measure the limited guarantee proposed by this Amendment ought to be sufficient, and will be sufficient, if the guaranteeing of prices is of any purpose at all.
The fact is that hon. Members who support the Bill as it stands do so by arguments which really apply to making a permanent change in our agricultural policy. Every argument which has been used since I have been present in favour of the Bill as it stands and against this Amendment is an argument which might perfectly well have been used in favour of the Corn Laws of fifty years ago. People say that corn production does not pay and that the farmer will net undertake it unless he has security and stability, and that therefore a in ere limited guarantee such as is proposed by this Amendment would never induce him to undertake extra production from his land. I know something of farmers, and I doubt whether any real security or guaranteeing of prices in any event is going to do much to increase corn production. I am certain if a man farms badly—and there are a good many bad farmers in this country—if a man is lazy or unenterprising, if he has got old at his job—and there are many farms held by men who are unfit for their jobs—then the mere knowledge that he is going to be guaranteed his price whether he cultivates his land well or ill 1837 is going to do nothing to make him farm better than he did before. That is what the Bill as it stands suggests. We have heard a great deal about the necessity of breaking up grass land. If a guaranteed price is going to do anything to assist the breaking up of grass land and to increase tillage, then the guaranteed price as limited by the Amendment will be sufficient for the purpose.
My own experience is that the great difficulties which farmers have with regard to the breaking up of grass land is that they cannot get either the labour or the machinery to do it. I am a farmer of some 300 acres, and I went the other day to our local agricultural committee and said to the secretary there, "I am anxious to 'break up some twenty acres of grass land immediately, and some more later on. I have absolutely no labour. My horses have been taken, and my neighbours' horses are being taken now. What can you do to help me What about a motor tractor and some extra labour?" His reply to me was: "As regards motor tractors, I am sorry to say that they have been an entire disappointment, and I can not promise you at present any motor tractor. With regard to extra labour, all I can promise is that you can have a soldier by applying at the barracks." Then I made inquiries as to what had been done in that respect, and I found that some of my neighbouring farmers had had soldiers from the barracks of such a quality that they had had to send them away immediately. In fact, a farmer of my acquaintance told me of two brave soldiers who came to him and who ran away at the sight of a small calf. They had never seen a calf before. They came out of the town, and they were absolutely useless for any agricultural work. I only give that as an instance to show that the Government is not helping us as they might to break up grass land and to carry out that policy of increased food production which we all want to see.
It would be out of order for me to go at any length into the question of what policy ought to have been adopted in order to enable us to grow more corn in this country. It has been indicated in various Reports. Very briefly, one may say that if the Government had taken advantage, as they might have done, of the present demand which is everywhere being made for increased fertilisers and increased machinery, all the difficulty, or most of it, 1838 would have been got over. It might have been perfectly possible to have invented a scheme to have allowed fanners to have had fertilisers provided for them at the public credit and for the amount to have been repaid afterwards out of the increased crops which those fertilisers would have given. I am certain that guaranteed prices alone are not going to largely increase our production. There can certainly be no greater waste of public money than the guarantee which is proposed by this Bill unless it is limited by this Amendment. I am opposed entirely to the scheme of the Bill. I say that frankly. I believe it is an unnecessary Bill. I believe it is a corrupting Bill. I believe it is going to have a reactionary effect upon British agriculture. I believe it is going to have a disastrous effect upon British agriculture. So far as the Bill can be improved, it would be improved by this Amendment, and, for that reason, if we go to a Division, as no doubt we shall, I shall certainly support it.
§ Mr. TURTON
I should not have expected to hear very much in favour of this Bill from the last speaker, but one would hardly have expected that he would use such phrases asA corrupt Bill.and thatit is a gross and scandalous waste of public money.He went on to suggest that the State would get no value by supporting this Clause.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I did not say the State would get no value by supporting this Clause. I said it would get no value from the guarantee unless it was limited by this Amendment.
§ Mr. TURTON
Precisely! I submit that we are going to get the best value possible because we are going to get sufficient food for the people of this country and render ourselves immune, I hope, from any submarine peril we may have to face. That may be a matter of small importance to the hon. Member, but I hardly think the majority of the people of this country will agree with him when he says that we are going to get no value when, in fact, in view of the deadly submarine peril, we are doing everything we possibly can to safeguard, the people of this country by securing for them a proper allowance of food. May I say one word with regard to Ireland? Everyone must have heard with great pleasure the speeches of the 1839 hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) and the hon. Member for South Westmeath (Sir W. Nugent). We have—and it is greatly to our credit in Ireland—ploughed up something like 750,000 extra acres. All those people in Ireland who have ploughed up that extra quantity of tillage are going to be taken into account and also those who have tilled the land in the past. A large quantity of the land is used for small holdings, the produce of which is never sold because it does not go into the market. It would be intolerable to suggest that they should have to go through the farce of asking a neighbour to give a certain price for the corn grown on land that had previously been tilled, because another man who might be selling in the market is going to get a high price for his corn. It is only fair that there should be some uniformity of treatment in this matter, and that all should be treated on exactly the same footing. Therefore this guarantee should apply to all, whether the land is to be ploughed up this year or whether the land has been under tillage in the past.
The last speaker recounted his difficulties with regard to the county war agricultural committees and the question of labour. I will not follow him into that, because I take it that it would be entirely out of order. I quite agree that at the present time we have to put up with many difficulties as to labour. Men are being taken away, and farmers are carrying on their work under the greatest possible difficulty. You are generally told by the county committee that if you are in trouble at all you had better have a woman, and that she will get you through all the trouble and make up for the deficiency of labour. To come back to the Amendment, I do not hesitate to say that with it the Bill will not be worth having. It would be very unfair indeed. Speaking as a representative of an agricultural county, I say we will not touch this Bill at any price, and we will ask you to leave us alone, unless you apply it to everyone who tills the land, whether the land has been tilled for generations past or whether it has been ploughed since the year 1913 or 1914. I am glad that we shall have the support of our Friends from Ireland, who are in sympathy with us in this matter. As to the hon. Member who spoke last and those who generally act with him on this question, we know what their attitude is 1840 in regard to it. They say they are looking forward to a permanent change in out-agricultural policy. So am I, because I do not want this country ever again to De put in the same deadly peril in which it has been in the past. This exceptional legislation is necessary at the present time because they have been so against us in the past. They have done all they can to hinder the agricultural interest, and have always suggested that it was the landlords who stood in the way.
§ Mr. TURTON
Speaking as a Member for an agricultural constituency, I tell the President of the Board of Agriculture that if he gives way on this point we who represent agricultural constituencies will tell him quite frankly and openly that he can take the Bill away, because it will not be worth having and we will not give twopence for it.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I can quite understand the views expressed by the last speaker. We are living to-day under a Tory administration in effect and this is a Tory landlord's Bill. Therefore, it is quite appropriate that an hon. and gallant Member representing an agricultural constituency should have quoted Prince Bismarck, the chief of the Junker party of Germany. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman introducing this Bill I said to an hon. Member sitting by me: "He reminds me of a German professor speaking before an agrarian union, explaining to the Junkers how German culture could only be based upon high prices for food and high rents for landlords." That is the whole basis of this Bill. It is to extend the dole system for landlords.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
Do they? The hon. Member knows very little about the German system. If he knew something of it he would know that the high prices which have been secured in Germany for the great grain growers have been the destruction of the peasantry of Germany, and have limited the number of peasants on the soil of Germany because—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I would ask the hon. Member not to be drawn away from the Amendment by these interruptions.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I am only going to make one reference to a statement made by one of the Irish representatives, I think it was the hon. Baronet the Member for South Westmeath (Sir W. Nugent). He submitted two grievances of a somewhat contradictory nature. In the first place, he pointed out that he was an agriculturist himself, that a farmer persistently and always made a loss, and that all that this Bill would do would be to lessen the annual and everlasting loss. His next grievance was the high Income Tax he had to pay upon the profits he made in pursuit of farming. The arguments seem to be somewhat contradictory. Both he and the hon. Member for North Fermanagh (Mr. Archdale) expressed the hope that this Amendment would be defeated. This is a new development in the views on the land question expressed by Irish Members. It is somewhat significant and worthy of notice. They are out to get the largest possible amount of plunder from the Treasury. This Amendment will limit the amount of plunder to be got. They have no regard whatsoever for the general interests of the people or for the great industrial communities of this country who, in the end, will bear the burden of taxation that such a measure as this will inflict. I noticed the other day a different expression of opinion as regards the land question in Ireland. There is a very much published speech I read with which I have more sympathy. It was the statement of a politician, I believe a Sinn Feiner. expressing the hope that the day would come when they would have a republic in Ireland and then they would put the landlords up against the wall. That seemed to me to be more a genuine expression of Irish opinion than the expressions which have come from these benches this afternoon, which only evince a desire to plunder the people of this country for the benefit of landlordism. The hon. Member opposite, who rather scorned the view of my hon. Friend (Mr. Dundas White) that this was a measure which would ultimately find expression in a rise in rents, takes a very short-sighted view when he opposes that aspect of the question because he says there was provision made in the Bill for that, but there is no adequate provision. There is nothing to prevent in the end a rise of rents.
But I particularly wish to emphasise this point: that the object of the Amendment, as much as the Bill itself, is to secure the increase in production that is required. 1842 At the same time it will limit the amount that the Treasury has to pay by way of bonus to the producer of corn. I know for the moment that is not a consideration of any weight or moment whatsoever in this House. When we are spending money on War at the rate of some £8,000,000 a day, when all sections of the community who had anything to sell are out to plunder the people and make as much as they can during this arduous time of war, to plead for economy in any respect is to plead to deaf ears indeed. All Members representing agricultural constituencies or farming interests have said they desire this Bill because it will give security to the farmer. If you do not accept this Amendment, if you allow the Bill to stand as it is, so much the worse for security to the farmer. The conditions of to-day are not going to last, I trust they are not going to last very much longer. Then there is coming a day of retribution, there is coming a clay of reparation, of restitution and of indemnity as regards those who, during war-time, have been engaged in plundering the people. The class to whom public attention will most of all be directed will be the; landed interest, the farming interest, the people who during war-time have made great profits out of the high prices of the food of the people during this time of distress, and whilst as regards other profiteers their extortionate profits will cease after peace, the landed interest, calling themselves representatives of the farmers' interest to-day—
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I was desiring to point out that there is no security to the farmer in a measure which inflicts a great injury upon the community at a time when it will not be able, through economic circumstances, to bear that injury, and that the Amendment, by limiting the amount of plunder got by the landed interest, is really giving greater security to those farmers, to whom alone we desire to give security, who increase production and give some benefit to the State. From my own point of view I desire to see great changes in the conditions of landholding in this country. Desiring to see a great fundamental and revolutionary change, I welcome this Bill because I know it will enable us to secure it. We know it will bring about a hatred of the landed interest in this country such as has never been 1843 seen before, when year by year people see paid out of the Treasury this vast plunder secured by the landed interest in time of war. You may have your Bill, but there will be a day of retribution for the landed interest in this country.
§ Sir THOMAS ESMONDE
I hope after the eloquent speech he has made the hon. Member will vote in favour of the Bill, which he thinks is going to do wonderful things for his particular agrarian programme. I do not know whether it will or not, but as far as that agrarian programme is concerned he will find very little support in Ireland. In that country we believe in private ownership of the land and we have fought a great many years to obtain it. We do not believe in dual ownership or in State ownership. Whether this Bill is going to bring about State ownership in England I very much doubt, and as far as Ireland is concerned that aspect of the question does not trouble us in the least. The hon. Member used some very strong language. He told us that the agricultural interest in these Islands was out to plunder the country. If the agricultural interest is doing its best-under considerable difficulties to come to the country's rescue and provide it in a great emergency with a proper and adequate food supply, I do not think that can be justifiably termed trading on the necessities of the nation. As far as profiteering is concerned, I am certainly with him. I should strongly oppose the farmer profiteering just as I should strongly oppose the shipowner. Profiteering in lime of war is a most indecent proceeding, and all right-minded people would set their faces against it. But I do not at all understand how this Clause is going to enable profiteering on the part of the farmers or anyone else. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Runciman) made a very clever speech, such as we are accustomed to hear from him. If anything it might be a little more clever than usual. But I have a very vivid recollection of the speech he made on the Second Reading, which I am afraid was not altogether friendly to the measure. I saw in it the appearance of the cloven hoof, which I imagine came from somewhere near Manchester. I should have thought that ancient questions would be put on one side just now, and that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to debate an urgent war measure from quite a different standpoint from 1844 that of ancient views and differences. Apparently there is an idea in certain quarters of bringing us back to pre-war times. We cannot afford to go back to pre-war times just yet. It will be quite time to go back to them when the War is over. At present what is really needed is something to enable the people of this country to be properly supplied with a larger measure of home-grown food. We are all trying to relieve ourselves from the gigantic danger and difficulty under which we have been for the last three years through relying for the great part of our food supply on foreign sources. Now that the German submarines have so infested the Atlantic that is not as easy as it was-for our shipowners to bring food supplies to this country, it is obviously a sensible and practical thing for the people of these Islands to try, by the easiest and the quickest methods they can command, to increase their home-grown supplies.
I should not be in order in discussing Bismarck or Stein, and Hardenburg or the German land system, but it is my firm conviction that if we had had the German land system in this country for the last five years we would not be in our present difficulties. There is no doubt whatever about that, and as far as the agriculture of Germany has suffered from the application of the laws of Stein and Hardenburg, through the administration of Prince Bismarck—I know something of German agriculture, I have been many years there —there is no doubt that it is far more pressing than ours. Now perhaps I may be allowed to come to the Amendment. We have discussed so many things that it takes some little time to come to the bedrock of the Amendment I think the Amendment is a very good one, and I would vote for it because it would suit me much better than the proposal of the Bill. This Amendment, as drafted, of course I do not say it is so drafted intentionally, is in the interests of the big farmer and against the small farmer. My hon. Friend below me (Mr. Anderson) ought to look seriously into this matter. If you are going to pay according to acreage, obviously the big man will handle most of the money, and get most of the plunder. The bigger farmer gets most of the plunder. In my country we are concerned mainly with the small farmer, and the small farmer, as well as the big farmer, has been compelled by the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland to cultivate more land. The right hon. Gen- 1845 tleman has coerced us in Ireland. We are living there under martial law, and he has made us plough more land than we would have done. We are mainly small farmers. The average farm is about 25 acres, and these small farmers have had to increase their acreage, and if we pay on an acreage basis they will not get half as much money, relatively, as they would get if you paid them on the basis of the produce of their crops.
Another matter which I commend to my hon. Friends interested in State ownership is that this Amendment is not so conducive to good farming as the Bill, because the good farmer will get the largest return from his land. But according to this proposal, no matter where he tears up his land, starts a motor plough, sows it very badly, puts no manure on it, makes it look like a broken up prairie, according to acreage he will get public money. That is a bad thing in practice, and as I say. if I were concerned only with my own district, I certainly would vote in favour of the Amendment. When we consider that the object is to increase the food supply and do something for the small farmer, as well as for the big Farmer, both in the interests of the food supply and good farming, this Amendment is a very bad one. It is a landlords' Amendment, and it is conceived in the interests of the capitalist and the big farmer, I was amazed at the attitude of lion. Members on these and other Benches, and also of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman), and I hope they will seriously reconsider their position. The Amendment is good for the big farmer, but very bad for the small farmer. It will encourage bad farming, because the man who puts the least into his land puts in bad seed, a less amount of artificial manure, will get the biggest amount of the plunder.
There is one point in connection with this Amendment which affects me very deeply, and on which I have some doubts. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury was most eloquent on the subject of potatoes, and he touched a very tender chord in all our hearts in mentioning potatoes. If I were perfectly certain that this Amendment would include potatoes, I might reconsider my position, although it is still the big man against the small man. I do not at all see why potatoes should not be included in the Bill as it is, and now that 1846 we have some responsible person on the Government Bench, in the Minister of Agriculture, I hope he will consider this point. He is now escaping, with the assistance of the Irish Members, from a dangerous predicament. We would be inclined to vote for the Amendment on the question of potatoes, and we consider that potatoes ought to be somehow or other included in the Bill, because they are a fundamental product in the food of the nation.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
I am much obliged, because that makes me quite determined. I thought they were included.
§ Mr. MORRELL
On a point of Order. May I ask whether it is correct to say that the Amendment has nothing to do with potatoes?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
As far as I can see, the whole of the Debate seems to have run on the question of oats and corn and. matters of that kind. It may be that some reference to other things has been made, but the Debate has run largely on those lines.
On the point of Order. May I point out that one of the grounds on which we support this Amendment is that we hold the view that we should not regard wheat and oats as the only form of tillage for which benefit ought to be given, and in your absence I pointed out to the House that one of the advantages, from the Irish point of view, was that it applied to potatoes as well as to wheat and oats?
§ Mr. PROTHERO
On a point of Order. May I point out that potatoes do not depend on a rotation of six years; and that undo: the existing arrangement potatoes have a minimum price of £6 per ton?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is one of the disadvantages of having what is practically a Second Reading Debate. I am afraid the Committee must also take the disadvantage of having Chairmen who have to have meals. [Air HON. MEMBERS "Potatoes?"] I do not want to take any pedantic view of the situation, but looking at the Amendment on which this Amendment depends, it refers rather distinctly to wheat. I will take no pedantic view of the situation, but I hope the hon. Member will direct his remarks as closely as he 1847 can—I have given him a large amount of latitude—to the particular Amendment before the Committee.
On a point of Order. May I point out that the only reference to wheat in the Amendment is that the wheat scale in Clause 2 of the Bill is to be used as the measure of the benefit which is to be received per acre for the new tillage which is the result of the operation of the Bill.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think that the suggestion which I have thrown out will be observed by the hon. Member. I do not want to take any advantage.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
As I have had an opportunity of making up my mind on the Amendment, I shall vote against it.
§ Mr. HUGH LAW
Hon. Members below seem to imagine that all farmers are great capitalists. They have always posed, quite sincerely, as champions of the under dog. I want to put to them how this Amendment will affect the very smallest farmers in the United Kingdom. I am thinking more particularly of the small holders in the congested districts in Ireland, but I imagine that the same thing probably would apply to the crofting counties in Scotland. The right hon. Member for Dewsbury said that one of the worst things that could be done by Parliament would be to adopt any position which would create a sense of injustice in the minds of any great section of the people, and he suggested that that would be the effect of opposing this Amendment, because large numbers of town dwellers would feel that they were being asked to pay out of the taxes large sums of money to farmers in order to add to the profits which they were already making in the ordinary course of their business, without requiring from them anything in return. When you say that if a farmer does not plough more land you are requiring nothing from him in return, hon. Members forget that by a fundamental provision of this Bill the farmer, whether he is ploughing more land or only the same amount of land, is equally required to pay increased wages to all his labourers, and therefore if you are going to limit the scope of your benefit to those farmers who till a greater acreage you are going to do a very serious injustice to all those farmers who equally will have to bear a very largely increased 1848 burden, I think quite rightly, in the shape of increased wages. It is only the very smallest farmers who do not employ labour, but wherever you are dealing with farmers who pay wages, what I say applies.
I was for the moment dealing with the general case of the farmer who did not increase his tillage, but who was required to pay additional wages. I now come to the case of the small holder in such places as the congested districts in Ireland. Compare the case of two farmers in Ireland itself under this Bill. Take in the first place a man with a holding of, say, 500 acres, which he has had for years past wholly or almost wholly in grass. That man has been doing nothing for the State all these years. He has given practically no employment; he has allowed his land to run down. He has been a byword and a. scandal to the whole neighbourhood. Now what happens? The Board of Agriculture in Ireland require that man to till a minimum of 10 per cent. He tills 50 acres, not willingly but compulsorily, but, because he is compelled to do so, with a minimum of labour, under the proposal of this Amendment equally as under the Bill itself, he is to receive the benefits which the Bill promises him. Contrast that with the case of the people in the mountains, where you have, say, 500 men on poor land, who have got little holdings of from 3 to 10 acres each. Just imagine the position of those, men under your Amendment They look down upon this large grazier. They see him obtaining benefit from the State for action which he has taken under compulsion of the State, and 'hey who all these years have been producing the very maximum that their holdings will allow, because in those cases I know of my own knowledge—and the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, who knows the class of men of whom I speak, will bear me out—they cultivate every foot of land which can possibly be cutivated; and, if I may use what is called an Irish bull, they are tilling more than all the arable land. They are tilling a great deal of land which in no other country in the world would be regarded as arable. Therefore, those who are suporting this Amendment must have forgotten what the effect of this Amendment would be, or I cannot believe, holding the principles which they do, they could agree to a course the effect of which would be to benefit the large man at the expense of the small.
§ Sir WALTER ESSEX
I recognise very clearly the difficult questions raised by hon. Members in reference to which you have pointed out that the Chair has been good enough to consider that some more than ordinary latitude might be allowed in the discussion of this and its cognate Amendment, in order that the ground might be cleared, and that in subsequent discussion some closer adhesion might be made by speakers to the details of the Bill, and as I do not want to transgress the ruling of the Chair upon this matter in any way, I propose to make a few comments upon the speech made by the President of the Board of Agriculture and the two representatives from Ireland who have preceded me in this Debate. With regard to the latter, I would like as an English Member and a Member for an urban constituency to point out one or two facts which seem to me to answer their contentions. For instance, the hon. Baronet said that we have to increase our food supply, and that that is the object which this Bill seeks to secure. I take it that, if the problem before us in this proposal could be narrowed down clearly to that one issue, could be established upon that basis, nobody would have a word to say against it, and cur Debate would not have lasted so long, and everybody in this House would have been glad to let it go through without a Division and by general consent. But this Bill does not set out to do that. It was stated in Debate, and I am not sure that it was not inferentially stated by the President of the Board of Agriculture himself, that it was conceivable that in certain cases the bonus would be paid to men who actually next year produced less corn on their holding than they produced this year. If that be so, the Bill seems to be established on a fraudulent basis. This country has been told that this is a Bill to stimulate corn production, yet the stimulus of hard cash and other advantages are to come out of the taxpayers' pocket without any increased production being ensured. The object of the Amendment is that increased production shall be ensured, and that if it is not ensured no bonus shall be payable. I take it that even the stiffest Free Trader in this House, if any such remain, would not at all object, in these strenuous times, to waiving for awhile his previous convictions in favour of the expedient of giving a substantial benefit to anybody who will make two 1850 ears of corn grow where only one grew before. And that is the point upon which we base all our arguments.
I did not understand clearly what was meant by the right hon. Gentleman's supporting the fallacy—as it seems to me—with which I am contending, when he spoke of diminishing returns. I read some time ago the most startling public paper that it has been my privilege to read for some years past, namely, Mr. Middleton's Report on German agriculture. It was a perfect staggerer to anybody who had watched, as I had, and who had largely cherished the idea that the British agriculturist was the finest agriculturist the world knew. It showed clearly to me, in the words of the hon. Member for Horncastle, that we have failed to combine that I "practice and science," which is the motto of the Royal Society of Agriculture. If we could work on the same lines as Germany, if we could bring our agriculture to something like the success that has been attained in Germany, then there would be something to say for our system. But this Bill is not going to do that. The last speaker (Mr. Hugh Law) was good enough to say something about potatoes. I am fond of potatoes, and I could wish that the right hon. Gentleman had been firm in his advocacy of the humble but necessary tuber. At any rate, when I asked the representative of the Irish Board of Agriculture to facilitate the entry into this country of Irish potatoes, he was unwilling to relax his grip of Irish potatoes. The hon. and learned Member also said that this Bill would enable the farmer to pay higher wages. Does that necessity only now arise? Could not higher wages be paid out of the increased prices which are obtained? Can there be any doubt that there has never been a time in which the agricultural interest has had anything equal to the profits of the last half-dozen years? Indeed, you are making this proposal at the very time the patient is recovering, and it should be recollected that you are not dealing with the state of things that existed thirty years ago. You can now afford to pay higher wages under the natural condition of the market. The townsmen will feel very strongly about the matter if you offer a bonus to farmers to do that which it is obviously already their duty to do, and also their interest to do.
1851 I have one or two questions to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture. He said the proposal is to pay a bonus upon arable land already under cultivation, and to stimulate keeping land clean. Is there any necessity to do that by the means now proposed? He takes powers in Clause 7 to enable him to enter upon a man's land, to find fault with his methods of culture, and to make him, to use the phrase, "come up to the scratch," and conduct his business in a common-sense manner and on sound business lines. In this country agriculture has not for many a long day been conducted on business lines; it has been the handmaid of pleasure, luxury, and a whole lot of other things. Until it is conducted on sound business lines it will not pay adequately those engaged in it, and until farmers deal with cultivation in a manner conducive to their own and the national interest, agriculture will be a sickly creeper, disappointing to everybody concerned. The President of the Board of Agriculture bases his proposal on corn sold, and if a man consumes all his corn he gets nothing. Take two small Irish farmers in Ireland, who meet at the local hotel or at their club, or wherever they may foregather. One may produce 1,000 quarters, and the other 1,000 quarters, or each may produce 100 quarters, and each may consume the whole of what he has produced. In that event, is neither to got the bonus? Irishmen are shrewd, and do you think they will not claim from the Exchequer this reward? Of course they will. Each will sell his crop to the other, and buying anew each will claim the bonus offered on the sale.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
You try to manage ours, and that is our trouble. The President of the Board of Agriculture said 1852 this bonus was given that it might divert-land from the cultivation of chrysanthemums and other flowers which have a market value in this country. Is the method now proposed the better way to do it? Why not issue one of your multifarious orders under the Defence of the Realm Act to cut down the production of these things, and devote the land to the production of food for the people? I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's argument is strong enough to stand alone. He went on further to say that he wished to establish and fortify agriculture. So we all do. We look to him as an expert to see that that comes about. If he could disentangle himself from the embraces of, I almost said, but I do not like to employ too hard a term, so let me say, of a too self-regarding interest, and look it this matter from a national point of view he will see that the steady rise of prices, which will not come down for many years to come, for reasons which I cannot enter upon now, and which are obvious to everybody, and he will find that the working of those laws will do all he needs if the Government will come to see and give us the opportunity of putting agriculture upon a sound basis, and on a basis founded upon an appreciation of economic laws which cannot be lightly disregarded by any Government. If he does so we will have reason to be proud of his work, and succeeding generations will wish to raise a monument to the memory of one who rescued an industry, well-nigh discredited in the eyes of the townsmen of our country, to a high pitch of efficiency, credit and profit.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I must express considerable disappointment that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board has made us no concession whatever. He said that he would make a concession in the matter of acreage, but that is really a concession to his own Department, because he has found that the machinery which he proposed to set up in the Bill was extremely complicated, costly and difficult to work. Therefore, I think I may put aside the concession on the point of acreage entirely because it is no concession in the view of those of us who think that this is an indefensible proposition. The right hon. Gentleman, in paying a well-deserved tribute to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Shaw), finished his compli- 1853 ment with a little sting in the tail. He said he would not choose him for a tenant farmer. That is the spirit in which the whole of this Debate is conducted by some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. It is being treated as purely a question of the tenant farmer. My hon. Friend the Member for Dublin told us charmingly how he lived on the losses. He reminded me of an Irishman I once met in Cork who made a similar statement to me about the smallness of his profits, and entertained me with lavish and most kindly hospitality. I found it quite difficult to credit that remark, and I suppose we ought to take it as a sort of jest, when the hon. Member told us that this would only go some way to mitigate the losses. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board has not softened in any way to meet his opponents, and as a matter of fact his whole career in this matter has been a career of hardening. He is far harder than the Milner Report on which he bases his Bill. If he had not told us, and of course we can believe every word he says that he based himself on the Milner Report, we never would have suspected it. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the Milner Report did attach conditions, and one of them a good condition, and the President of the Board I think accepted those conditions. The Milner Report only proposed 45s. per quarter as the price of wheat and only proposed it for four years. The right hon. Gentleman begins at 60s. and then 55s., and for six years, and other hon. Gentlemen behind him propose to extend it to ten years. The right hon. Gentleman himself says "I should like this if it was for a longer period, I should prefer it for a longer period." This policy of the Government is not a consistent policy. It is not consistent in several respects. In the first place, it was advocated by the Prime Minister and it was advocated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland on the ground that we were to get new land ploughed up, and the country rang with the 3,000,000 acres of uncultivated land and grass land which was to be put under tillage and used to produce wheat and oats for the people. What did the President say to-day? He said that for the harvest of 1918 we must rely on the present arable land.
The right hon. Gentleman says that the matter cannot be dealt with in this way. The hon. Member for Argyllshire (Sir J. Ainsworth), I think, put forward some considerations which are of very great importance, tie pointed out what she Government could do most substantially to help the farmer was to assist him in the matter of labour and with fertilisers. Any proposal of that sort would meet with support from us. We would be prepared to assist it and to spend money in that way. Last Friday the House of Commons showed itself very earnest on the question of finance—very earnest indeed. I could not help thinking of that when the right hon. Gentleman the President taunted my hon. Friend as not being a desirable tenant. It is not only farmers who are interested in this matter. The body of the taxpayers have a very keen and lively interest in this matter, as my right hon. Friend and the Government will find out in a very few years. The town population are just as much interested in this matter as any other part of the population. Look at the inconsistent position of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Food Minister has set to work to reduce the price of food, and how is he going to do it. He is going to examine profits, and to see that nobody gets more than pre-war profits. He is to put down—to use the word the Prime Minister is so fond of using—profiteering. Another Member of the Government is coming forward to see that the profits of another class of the community, notoriously extremely high, are to be secured at a high level for years to come.
The idea that farmers' profits have not been good for the last two or three years is a most extraordinary proposition, and those profits are to be maintained by novel and artificial means. I cannot help regretting that a contentious subject like this should be raised at the present, moment, and that no attempt should be made to meet us by any sort of concession whatever. We are told that you must give an inducement to the farmer who has been producing wheat and oats arid potatoes and living upon that production for a great many years, and who is not producing any more. Surely there is sufficient inducement to the farmer under present and prospective prices to do the best he can with his land which he has already undertaken, and with the high prices, to produce as large a crop as possible. The farmer, when he gets these high prices, as the House appreciates, gets them without any diminution. Unlike the commercial classes, he reaps every penny he gets; he does not have to pay 80 per cent, of it away in taxation; there is no Excess Profits Tax and no Super-tax for him; and he only pays a fraction of the Income Tax which other classes pay. He needs no further inducement in the shape of a bounty.
Does the hon. Gentleman wish the House to understand that he reaps all his income from farming?
§ Sir C. WARNER
No; I think the statement made was that the farmer did not pay Super-tax. That is absolutely incorrect, because the farmer's profits have to go in for Super-tax.
The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that my general statement is perfectly correct. There may be rich people who do a little farming, but they do not pay the Super-tax out of the farming.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I pay it on the money I make in the farming. I have returned money in my return this year, and so have many others, that I have made on farming this year, and we pay Super-tax on it.
I think the House can judge on this that, the farmers' profits neither pay as much Income Tax as the commercial classes nor, as a rule, pay any Super-tax at all—
§ 10.0 P.M.
They do not declare the profits, I know that. Let us look at this proposition. We are offering to do all the Government originally asked for. They said that they wished to increase food production. I do not pretend that I like this bounty system at all. Personally, I do not altogether like my hon. Friend's Amendment because it admits a principle of which I am not very much enamoured, and which, I think, is dangerous. We do, however, recognise the importance of increasing food production. What we do not recognise is the justice of taking large sums of the taxpayers' money, or, at any rate, involving the taxpayer in a huge contingent liability, for the support of people who are making excellent incomes at the present time out of their business. I cannot regard this as a war emergency policy at all. To my mind it is perfectly evident from the desire that has appeared to extend it over ten years, from what the President of the Board of Agriculture has himself said, that we are face to face with a new agrarian policy, which is a new agrarian policy that will benefit the farmer in the first instance and ultimately the owner. This has already been reflected in the value of the land. It cannot tend to cheapen food production. It is bound, by increasing rents, in the long run to heighten the cost of food production. I am not at all sure that this bounty is going to induce people who are already growing wheat and oats at a good profit to exert themselves more than they are doing at the present time. I do not know that experience shows that if you make a man absolutely certain to earn plenty of money without much exertion he finds that an inducement to exert himself unduly. You do not find people who hold monopolies of any kind working very hard. I do not think it is at all a sound argument that you have to do it. They have an induce- 1857 ment in the prices, in the demand for their products, and in the diminution of foreign competition; and we know that these must last for a number of years. I think we have done all we need to do to meet the case. We have offered to compensate the man who breaks up the land and does that service to the community. I think the Amendment is a very generous Amendment, but we must resist attempts to put upon the general body of the taxpayers a burden like this for the benefit of a single class, and must point out the grosss inconsistency of limiting the profits of those dealing with food and then increasing them for one particular and favoured class by the artificial system of bounties. It is not merely a question of large payers of Income Tax. The men who will pay this money will be the working classes as well as the richer classes. They will pay not only in Income Tax, but in duties on tea and tobacco and everything else on which there is taxation. I do not think that the Government will find, if they insist on this extensive programme, which is much more extended than the Milner Report even proposed, that they will meet with unqualified approval from the people of this country who want food to be made more plentiful, it is true, but who also want it to be made cheaper.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has given us perhaps some interesting facts, but the one which appeals probably to agriculturists most is that after all his diatribes against the excess profits of those interested in agriculture, he, at all events, admits that they never make enough profit to come within the Super-tax income.
Really, that, is a most ridiculous view to take. Has the hon. Member forgotten that a farmer may pay on his rent, and does not need to declare profits at all?
§ Mr. HARDY
I think the House has quite in its recollection what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I will, therefore, leave it in that position. All I wish to maintain is that the farmer, or the agriculturist, is in no way exempted from the 1858 payment of that tax, and if his profits were of this character which have been described he certainly would come within its limits. The right hon. Gentleman admits, however, that they do not come within the limits that bring the farmer up to that amount. The right hon. Gentleman—and I think the hon. Member in the speech which preceded his also—must make some of us connected with agriculture remember some expressions used in this House only some few days ago. We were told, with emphasis and enthusiasm, in reference to another Bill coming before the Committee that really agricultural Members need not hesitate to diminish their numbers, because the town Members were so enthusiastic for agriculture that they would preserve its interests. I cannot say that I think this discussion we have had on agriculture in any way creates the impression that that Eldorado has been reached; and I do think, after the very lengthy Debate we have had, that we-might get back to somewhere near the point where we ought to have started. After all, this is part of a solemn bargain which has been offered by the Government, of this country in a moment of great national stress. The Government has told us that it is absolutely necessary to reconstitute ! our great national interest of agriculture on a sound basis as soon as possible. We have desired, and I believe most fanners would desire to go on on the old free system that was described by the last speaker but one, but I did not hear him say that-to was very anxious that we should be free from minimum prices. I did not hear him say he wished for maximum prices. I do not think he quite realised that if we are left to the free play of market we might, at all events, be very well satisfied with the position. He wished us to avoid the danger of loss, and not to give us the advantage which might come from the other end, the danger of profit. We have been told again and again to-day of our great profits and other things, but do not let the House imagine that this is put forward in any way as a tenants' or owners' question at all. We have been obliged to come to this matter on account of national emergency. This Bill is only part of a general bargain, and without the other things that are connected with it, it is, of course, useless. We have to enter on a new phase at the moment when it is most difficult to do so. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken spoke of the farmer as if he were 1859 leading a lazy, casual, easy life, and making his profits without turning round, whereas everybody knows that the life of a farmer at this moment is one of the most arduous that can be undertaken. He is short of labour, he has to meet enormous prices, and he has very great difficulty in getting the material for the needs of agriculture and is working for the national interest as hard as he can. Yet he has been spoken of in the House of Commons during the whole afternoon as if he were a mere selfish being, thinking of his own interests, leading a lazy life, and profiteering at the expense of the people. I believe he is doing his duty at the present time under the most difficult circumstances. It is almost impossible for him to calculate how he is to take part in this movement which may now come. He has not the time, the labour, the implements, or the material, in many cases, to carry it out. The State has laid it on him, and he says, "If the State will help me and give me due security, I will try and undertake my side of the bargain." Is the State going to do it? If the proposal which is the subject of this Amendment is accepted it will cut at the very root of this Bill, and will make the measure practically useless so far as any progress in this matter is concerned. We are obliged to press the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture on this occasion to stick to his guns in the very firmest way, because the whole Bill, in my opinion, depends upon it. Personally, I think that we have got to a very critical point, and I hope the speeches to which the right hon. Gentleman has been listening will not persuade him to depart from the attitude he took up in his first speech, when he riddled the whole proposal contained in this Amendment. We want to get back to a consistent proposition for agriculture. We heard just now some allusion to Mr. Middleton's paper, which was issued in connection with Germany and England. But I think, perhaps, the speaker forgot the analysis of that paper in the Selborne Report which, after all, was not issued so very long ago, in which, while advising that the country should study Mr. Middleton's paper, they went on to say that—Nothing in agriculture can be done by the wave of a magician's wand. Results can only be produced in the United Kingdom as in Germany by a, constant and consistent policy.… They must be plainly told that the security and welfare of the State demand that the agricultural land of the country must gradually be made to yield its maximum production both in food- 1860 stuffs and timber.… The State must adopt such a policy and formulate it publicly as the future basis of British agriculture, and explain to the nation that it is founded on the highest considerations of the common weal.It is because a consistent policy was followed and agriculture was not abandoned in the bad times, but was helped forward, that we are able now to see that in other countries they have advanced farther than we have in this country. In my opinion, the right hon. Gentleman is endeavouring, by this Bill, to take up now a consistent attitude. I hope he will adhere to it and will not be diverted from his position by the arguments of those who come to this House with the determination, not to help forward this matter of national emergency, but to revive their old attacks against those who are connected with agriculture.
§ Mr. T. RICHARDSON
I desire to make just one or two observations in support of the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. I do not think it is questioned by any hon. Member of this House when I claim that those of us who are opposed to the Government proposal that we, equally with them, recognise the urgency as well as the importance of an increase in the whole food supply of this country. I think it would be well if the Committee would keep that fact before their minds. I think I am entitled to make this further observation, because, from some of the speeches that have been delivered, it has been implied that those of us who are opposed to the Government's proposal are not only not sufficiently interested in the urgency and importance of this question, but that, even in pre-war times, we were indifferent to the importance of agriculture. I am entitled, therefore, to remind the Committee that some of us at least who are opposing the Government's proposal have, for many years, in peacetime, been endeavouring to educate public opinion and to urge upon the attention of statesmen and politicians the great need that there was for fundamental changes in our whole system of agriculture in this country. Although this is not the time to bring before the House some of the proposals which some of us have been advocating for more than twenty years. I think I am right in claiming that if this British House of Commons had taken heed to the appeal, and had regarded the urgent requests that have again and again been made to them, agriculture in this country would not have been 1861 in the degenerate state which we found it on the 4th of August, 1914. It is beyond question or doubt that in agricultural circles there has not been that right and intelligent application of science and intensive culture that there might have been, and I am therefore warranted in saying that if, in pre-war times, we had given due consideration to the importance of scientific and intensive culture we would not have suffered to the extent we have during the perilous days through which we are passing.
There is one other point I desire to bring before the House. The President of the Board of Agriculture, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury, and in endeavouring to rebut his arguments, referred to the type of farmer who, if he were not assisted, would not follow the processes that were imperatively necessary to get out of the land its full value. It is, I respectfully suggest, to the right hon. Gentleman an established economic fact, even in the domain of agriculture, a sound business proposition to put into the land all the acquired knowledge and skill possible. In my own part of the country the farmer frankly says: "What you want out of the land you must put in." That type of farmer, I suggest, who knows the different processes, the need for clearing his land, and so substantially adding to its productivity of his land, is not only doing himself an injury, but is doing an injustice to the State in preventing the land producing what it is capable of by a wise application of labour, acquired knowledge, and scientific cultivation generally. I suggest that one of the very great disabilities from which we suffer at this time, and have suffered for a long time past in agriculture, lies in the fact that we have had too many farmers who were content to put into their land the minimum of effort rather than the maximum. In other words, they have failed to recognise that it is a sound business proposition, even in agriculture, to put the maximum into their efforts for production.
An hon. Member who spoke a little while ago, I think the representative of an Irish constituency, put, as one of his strong arguments in support of the proposal of the Government, that it embodied the principle of the minimum wage to the agricultural labourer. I do not know that need remind the House 1862 that I am, and have been for a very long time, an advocate of the principle of the minimum wage—and something more. The minimum wage is not an act of justice only, but is is a sound economic and business proposition. I would respect fully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill that the farmers should lay hold of the acquired knowledge, not only of their own country, but of agriculture in other countries, and apply it to their own farms, and, in addition, should be willing to pay good wages. Those who have done so are amongst the most prosperous farmers in the country. I refuse to accept as a reason, why, far too long, so many agricultural labourers have been paid a starvation wage—
§ Colonel WEIGALL
On a point of Order, Mr. Whitley. Is not the speech of the hon. Member more appropriate to Clause 4? Is he dealing with the Amendment row before the House?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Debate has perhaps taken a wider turn on the Amendment than I anticipated. It has been very difficult, without constant interference, to keep the matter as close as one would have desired. Perhaps, however, it has not been a bad thing, for we have made more rapid progress than would otherwise have boon the case.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
I will endeavour to keep within the regulations of the Chair. I concluded I was in order in making one or two observations in reply to a point put by an hon. Member opposite who was supporting the Government proposals. I did want to make the observation that it is a matter of common knowledge that those farmers who have cultivated their land with an honest, sincere desire to get out of the land the best results are the very men in agriculture in pre-war times who paid much higher wages than obtained generally in agriculture, and there are some of us who know districts where agricultural labourers in pre-war times received a higher wage than the figure of 25s. that is named in the Bill. Whatever reason is submitted to the House or the country as a justification for this Bill, I do ask the exponents and supporters of this Bill not to trade upon the gullibility of the British public by giving as a substantial reason that it embodies the principle of a minimum wage. Agriculture on its face value would be 1863 able to pay that wage, and I do suggest that, whatever other justification there may be for this Bill, the appeal that has Been made for support of it on the pretext that it embodies the principle of a minimum wage for the agricultural labourer is not a substantial one. But the Committee ought to recognise, as i hope they will, that the Bill embodies proposals that mark a revolution in our agrarian policy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury referred to a speech delivered in Exeter by the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill, and suggested to the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman expressed the hope that the Bill would become something of a permanent nature, and I think that we are entitled to recognise the frankness, at least, of one or two Members who have spoken who have unhesitatingly said in plain speech that they expect this is only the beginning of what is to be a permanent policy on the part of the British Government as affecting agriculture in this country. I personally think that the principles in this Bill are not sound, and that the policy that has been advocated is reactionary, and one which will bring about results which Members of this House will have cause to regret and question the wisdom, if not now, at a later date.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Frederick Smith)
The Committee has listened to a most interesting Debate, and we have been discussing for a long time an Amendment introduced in a most interesting and able speech by a Member whose first contribution to our Debates, or, at any rate, the first to which I have had the privilege of listening, gives great promise in future contributions. I hope it will be recognised in all parts of the House that it has been the desire of the Government to realise, first of all, that we do approach this point in the Bill recognising that a difference based upon real principle has emerged between those who have spoken on the one side and those who have spoken on the other. The second point which I think will be freely admitted is that it is the desire of the Government, realising that this is a point upon which a lengthy discussion might not be inappropriate, that there should be the fullest opportunity for discussion in all parts of the House, and no attempt has been made to prevent the fullest discussion. I think the Government and all sections of the House have 1864 profited by the well-informed and moderate discussion which has taken place. Having spent a whole day on one Amendment, I hope it will not be thought unreasonable if I suggest that the different views which have emerged have really received adequate discussion and that we are at this moment very nearly ripe for a decision. I do not propose to deprive my observations of any value which they otherwise might have by setting n bad example at this late hour, but the House will perhaps allow me to summarise the points of view which I have-formed, rightly or wrongly, because in these days we move in every sphere in which decisions are called for in dark and unexplored parts.
I am one of the few who have attempted to take part in this Debate wholly uncontaminated by any expert knowledge of agriculture, and I am therefore able to say freely that in agriculture, as in almost every great subject which it. has been found necessary for us to deal upon novel lines, nobody can recommend a new departure with that dogmatic confidence with which we used to argue in pre-war days. We may be right or wrong. I have-been much impressed by many of the arguments to show that we are wrong, but all those can do who have responsibilities in the matter is to make the best examination you can of the difficulties, weigh the arguments—very often powerful arguments—used on the one side and the other,, and then arrive at a conclusion between them. After listening to this Debate with great impartiality, I have formed the conclusion that there has been a tendency to ignore the supreme necessity which produced these proposals and which alone afford the slightest justification for them.
With regard to the speech of my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench opposite, a great deal of it was directed, I will not say to an attack upon farmers—I am quite sure he is far too acutely conscious of our obligations to them, which is a matter of history, to make an attack upon them, and I am satisfied that his object was not to make an attack upon farmers—but he discussed these proposals as if they could be discussed upon their merits as making subventions or grants to farmers. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Commander Wedgwood), who spoke with some heat but with a lucidity and a sincerity which we all recognised, said: "Take the case of a constituent of mine who has a one-man busi- 1865 ness. He is receiving no subvention, and I tell you that he will not understand the giving of these subventions to farmers." Those arguments would not only be well founded, but they would be overwhelming in their cogency if anybody had attempted to give these subventions to farmers as a kind of benevolence that was called for by the position in which farmers find themselves to-day. I assure the House that the Government have been guided, rightly or wrongly, by their view of what is the minimum necessary inducement which at this moment will lead the farmers and the agricultural community generally to make the contribution which is imperatively required not for national convenience but for national safety.
I was a Member of the late Government, and I had the honour of being a Member of the Cabinet of the late Government. I accept the fullest responsibility, of course, I am bound to accept the fullest responsibility for everything that was done and for everything that was left undone by the Government, and I am as chargeable for all that was done and for all that was left undone as any other Member of that Government, but I had one special branch of activity with which I was chiefly concerned, and a very exacting one, and I could not pretend, and I do not pretend, to any very exact knowledge of these things or, in general, to any gift of prophecy. Therefore, I did not foresee, as my colleagues did not foresee, the full development of the submarine menace. We did not do so for two reasons: First of all, on the psychological side, and, secondly, on the purely commercial side of the construction of submarines. Certainly, I did not believe, and I was wrong, that the Germans would put the -submarine possibilities to the supreme test which would involve them in a quarrel with the United States of America. I was wrong, and I think others of my colleagues were wrong. Many of our fellow countrymen who had the excuse that they had not so much knowledge as we had were equally wrong on this point. In the second place, I say frankly, knowing the enormous demands made upon the German nation, both for manpower in the field and for the manufacture of submarines and munitions, that I did not believe—and it appears that I was wrong—that they would be able to make such a great effort in the direction of building submarines as would create the menace to our food as has developed in the last 1866 twelve months. Holding these views, as I believe all my colleagues held them, we did not at that time think that a measure of this, kind was demanded by the necessities of the country.
We have all learned since then. Every candid and sensible man who has had the responsibility of Government in any one of the great belligerent countries is not going about saying, ''I have always been right," or ''I have been generally right," "No, if I was right once it is wonderful, because this is a war which has rendered bankrupt and has beggared the experience of all previous wars." Learning this lesson, what have we, I hope, learned in the last few months? We have learned, first of all, that, psychologically, whatever the explanation may be, the German nation has made up its mind to challenge this quarrel and to carry it through. They not only do not care if the United States comes in against them, or if the whole of the neutral world comes in against them—that is the only inference to be drawn, because otherwise their action is completely inexplicable—but they have decided, either that their own interests or that a cool view of their military and naval prospects demand that they should make the effort. Of course, that has revolutionised the whole outlook on affairs of every Minister who has been responsible. I say that the Ministry of which I was then a member, and of which many lion, and right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken to-day were members, if they had known then all that we know to-day, it would have been criminal if they had not taken some such measure as we have taken.
There may be great differences of opinion as to method. This Amendment discloses great differences of opinion on that point. The Amendment before the Committee proposes that we should deal with this matter by providing that the guarantee or subvention shall be given in respect of an excess of production. Anyone who has listened to the whole of the Debate, and who has carefully considered the arguments which have been used, will see that that is a position which no Government with the responsibilities of this Government could possibly take up. What does it really mean? We have spent, as one of my right hon. Friends has pointed out, every effort of which we are capable as a Government and as a nation in the last few months to persuade the persons—farmers and others—in- 1867 terested in agriculture not only to increase the area which can be made useful for arable purposes, but to maintain every acre that is at the present moment in use for arable purposes. Private effort, public effort, the patriotic work of various institutions, which need not be more particularly mentioned, have all been used for this purpose. Is it really to be suggested at this moment, when many persons, relying upon an express statement made by the Prime Minister when he first opened this Bill, not always to their profit, but often demonstrably to their loss, have maintained land under arable cultivation, that we should say to these people, "In spite of what the Prime Minister said, we are only going to grant this guarantee to those who have an excess in future." It would not only be a direct breach of the pledge given by the Prime Minister, from which it is quite evident all the Government are responsible, for which, indeed, we accept the fullest responsibility, but it would be impolitic in the last degree. I cannot see on what ground we should be justified in making such a differentiation.
There is a second ground of very great importance. We are told—indeed, it is obvious—that if such a scheme as is proposed were adopted that a system of inspection on an immense scale would become almost immediately necessary. The Government, I am well aware, has many faults, and our Friends have frequently, and quite rightly, tried to remind us of them. One of the principal faults charged against us is the multiplication of Departments and officials. It may be that that is, in some cases, supported by the facts. Here it is proposed, at a time when you cannot even find men to till the land, that you should find a great army of inspectors to go down and report upon the numbers of people who are to receive assistance.
§ Sir F. SMITH
The answer to that is that the national interests demand the increase, even if you have to find women and children to effect it. Almost the last observation upon this point I would suggest to the Committee is this: Has anyone really put forward a single rational or intelligent ground upon which you can distinguish between wheat and oats? It would be the greatest error in policy to confine your attention to oats and not 1868 think of all those other crops which are at least equally important. We have reached a point upon which obviously a difference of view is entertained in different sections of the Committee. We cannot pretend that we have maintained the absolutely true view. All we can claim is that we have applied the best intelligence of which we are capable to this question and have taken the best advice that is accessible to us, and that we have satisfied ourselves that the course which we recommend will at least secure our object and will relieve this country of great anxieties and perils in the year that lies in front of us. I do not know whether any course can attain that object. It may be that the Amendment would do it. I do not know. But we have satisfied ourselves that the course which we recommend will secure that result. We have charged ourselves with the responsibility of making that recommendation to the House and country, and I would earnestly ask the Committee to consider before it decides that it is unable to support the Government in a view so deliberately formed after consideration of every material factor.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
I think those of us who have listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech and are unable to follow the arguments by which he arrived at his conclusion are justified in putting to the Committee the necessary comment which it seems to us ought to be made upon that speech. The right hon. Gentleman's argument, I think, was this: The country had passed through a period of considerable stress and considerable privation. It was necessary to maintain at the highest productive pitch the supply of wheat and oats, so as to enable the country to face the coming winter and spring with less distress and difficulty than it had done in the past, and it was necessary to give a reward to those occupiers and cultivators of land who, at a loss—and I lay stress upon those words—had maintained the existing production of wheat and oats. I do not think that is an unfair summary.
§ Sir F. SMITH
Unintentionally, it is very unfair. I have seldom made a statement so stupid as that all persons who had maintained the existing cultivation of corn had done so at a loss. I said there were demonstrably some cases in which reliance upon the word of the Prime Minister had had that effect, and I should be pleased to give instances.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
I find myself in this position. I am a representative of a large urban constituency and I am bound to justify my vote on this matter to the people, who themselves, not being producers, but being consumers of corn, have got to contribute their quota to the coat of this experiment.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
If it is a guarantee which may only contingently mature, there is very little value in the concession. But if it does, and it is evidently clear in the minds of most Members that it will, then it will be really of no value.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
Then somebody has to pay the premium, and the persons who pay the premium on the property are the urban residents of this country. I find myself in this position. I am, on the one hand, a producer of wheat and oats, and under the circumstances in which I find myself, not likely to be benefited more by the Amendment than by the original proposal of the Government, and therefore to that extent, I hope I may claim some measure of impartiality in this matter. But I have to justify my vote to my Constituents, who are urban residents, and what I have to justify to them is this: that I have to show that any burden laid on them, and on the general taxpayers of the country, is going' to produce in the future more corn crops than they have enjoyed in the past. That is the whole burden of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that there will be a greater measure of production in the future than in the past. That is precisely what the Amendment says. If you produce an excess crop from an excess acreage, then you will receive in respect of that excess crop, produced on the excess acreage, payment. The Amendment goes much further than that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Excess profits."] I will deal with that. We will leave out of count altogether the question of the multiplication of officials. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (the Attorney-General) made some effective remarks on that point so far as the Debate is concerned, but as a matter of fact there is an army of inspectors under the existing circumstances and there must be an army of inspectors under the Government proposal. There 1870 will not be one single official more required under the Amendment than under the Government Bill. That is not disputed for one moment.
§ Sir F. SMITH
When I said a new army of inspectors would be required I meant a new army. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he informs himself he will find that these further duties will be performed by the inspectors of the Board of Agriculture.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
My right hon. and learned Friend could not have been present when the President of the Board of Agriculture made his statement, for he did allude, specifically, to the new army of officials it would be necessary to bring into being in order to discharge the new duties. There is no dispute about that between us; that part of the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes by the board. The question between us is not a question of landlord and tenant, or a question as to the industry and indolence of the farmer; I do not think any of that sort is in the mind of anybody. I have been brought up amongst the farming class and know them as well as anyone in any part of the House. Many of them are my personal friends and I am acquainted with the industry as well as any Member in this House, and it is absurd to say there is any question here of the industry, or want of industry, on the part of the cultivator of the soil, or any question between us of landlord and tenant. It is a question whether, by one means or another, you are going to produce in this country most easily and most speedily an excess production of corn. That is the whole difference between those who support the Amendment and those who support the Government proposal. Let us get down to bedrock. That is, after all, the real question between us. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has practically agreed to the suggestion that we should proceed by way of acreage.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
He said in his speech this afternoon that while he could not agree to all that was contained in the Milner Report, he would attempt to meet 1871 the views of those opposed to the present proposal of the Government in some respects.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
An extension of his action might have an influence upon the Division which must shortly take place. I would desire to get from him, if possible, a more explicit statement in connection with that point. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Divide!"] We do not want upon this subject an acrimonious Debate. We are trying to settle a practical question by practical means. [An HON. MEMBER: "Let us have a Division !"] There may be considerable differences of opinion between us, but both of us are trying to get an excess corn production, which is required by this country, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that as well as I do. We think we can only do it most easily, effectively and cheaply by means of an acreage basis. He has conceded the question of quarterage. We desire that there should be some extension on his part of the principles we advocate, and trust that the right hon. Gentleman will still be in a humour to give some more latitude in that respect.
§ Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR
I am sorry to intervene for a few moments between the Committee and the desire for a Division, but, after all, Ireland is an agricultural country, and not too much has been said for it in the course of the Debate. There seems to be some misapprehension as to the statement made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) in the course of the discussion. The Amendment before the Committee will have a certain effect in that it does not apply to tens and hundreds of thousands of Irish farmers. I will, in the few moment left, endeavour to explain what I mean, and I shall do so from the terms of the Bill itself. It is proposed that the basis of remuneration, if I may use that word, shall be on the acreage and not on the production of corn—that is to say, there shall be more tillage and less grazing land. I come to the provisions of the Bill, and I find that 1872 the word "agriculture" is synonymous with "tillage." I find in Clause 11 that "for the purpose of this Act the expression 'agriculture' includes the use of land as grazing, meadow, or pasture land." I want to say a word for hundreds of thousands of small farmers in Ireland who cultivate a portion of their land and graze another portion. Take a small farmer with 50 acres, who cultivates 25 acres and grazes the rest. If from patriotic or other motives he cultivates the pasture portion, under the terms of this Bill that does not entitle him to any reward because the whole of the 50 acres is devoted to agriculture even when it was devoted to pasture; so that if a small farmer in Ireland changed the form of his agriculture from grazing and pasture into cultivation and tillage he will not be entitled to any benefit under this Bill. I listened to the Attorney-General, and I have no objection to the high tone of his speech, not the smallest, but he said nothing at all to meet this case. I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture to say whether the Amendment if accepted would affect Ireland, and I am not aware that he said anything in reply. Therefore, if he accepts this Amendment, or if the Committee should accept it, the effect would be to disqualify hundreds of thousands of farmers in Ireland from any benefit whatever under the Act. Is that going to be allowed? Has the right hon. Gentleman anything to say, if this Amendment be carried, and hundreds of thousands of farmers represented in this House are disqualified absolutely from receiving any benefit? If he places this upon an acreage basis he will disqualify them. I have only to refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who proposed this Amendment. He stated in the course of his Speech that if this Amendment were carried it would have that effect, and I insist that the Irish farmer will be disqualified. I shall not pursue that argument. I have intervened because the position of the matter as it stands is most unsatisfactory, and I protest against it.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'wheat,' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 184; Noes, 100.1875
|Division No. 68.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Gardner, Ernest||Nugent, Sir W. R. (Westmeath, S.)|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Geider, Sir W. A.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Lieut.-Col. William||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||O'Malley, William|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Greig, Colonel. J W.||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. H. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gretton, John||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Balfour, fit. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Barnett Captain R. W.||Hacked, John||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Barran, Sir Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Haddock, George Bahr||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Barrie, H. T.||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Giouc,. E)||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Beach, William F. H.||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Philipps, Captain Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest George|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Slake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Boland, John Plus||Hodge, Rt. Hon, John||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive-||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Royds, Edmund|
|Brookes, Warwick||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W.|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Home, Edgar||Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Butcher, John George||Hunt, Major Rowland||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Cator, John||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburghshire)||Scanian, Thomas|
|Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir Fdk. (Prestwich)||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Robert (Herts, Hitchin)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Spear. Sir John Ward|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Joyce, Michael||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Keating, Matthew||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. H. (Asht'n-u-Lyne)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Kellaway, Frederick George||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Kilbride, Denis||Stewart, Gershom|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Larmor, Sir J.||Stirling, Lieut.-Col, Archibald|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Ches., Knutsfd.)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire Crewe)||Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Taibot, Lord Edmund|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lowther, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Appleby)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Henry Page||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Tickler, T. G|
|Crumley, Patrick||M'Kean, John||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Currie, George W.||Mackinder, Hallord J.||Turton, Edmund R.|
|Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||McNeill. Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Denniss, E. R. S.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Dixon, Charles Harvey||Magnus, Sir Philip||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Doris, William||Malcolm, Ian||Weigall, Lieut.-Col. William E. G. A.|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Marks, Sir George Croydon||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Marriott, J. A. R.||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Esmonds, Sir Thomas (Wexford. N.)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co.. Leix)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fell, Arthur||Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth||Worthington Evans. Major Sir L.|
|French. Peter||Meysey-Thompson Colonel E. C.||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Field, William||Molloy. Michael||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Fitzpatrick. John Laior||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Younger, Sir George|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Nolan, Joseph||F. Guest and Mr. J. Hope.|
|Foster, Philip Staveley|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Clough, Willitm||Goldstone, Frank|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Gulland Rt. Hon. John William|
|Anderson, W. C.||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Heime, Sir Norval Watson|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Davies, Timothy (Lines. Louth)||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Barton, Sir William||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol. S.)||Hill, Sir James (Bradford, C.)|
|Bontham, George Jackson||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Hinds, John|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Elverston, Sir Harold||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. H.|
|Bliss, Joseph||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Hogge, James Myles|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Bryce, John Annan||Finney, Samuel||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Fleming, Sir John||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Galbraith, Samuel||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen|
|Jones, R. Haydn (Merioneth)||Outhwaite, R. L.||Sutton, John E.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Parrott, Sir James Edward||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Partington, Hon. Oswald||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Kenyan, Barnet||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Tootill, Robert|
|King, Joseph||Radford, Sir George Heynes||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arton)||Wedgwood, Lt.-Commander Josiah|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk.B'ghs)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas F.|
|Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Robinson, Sidney||Williams, Aneurin (Durham)|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Rowntree, Arnold||Williams, John (Giamorgan)|
|Maden, Sir John Henry||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Scott, A. MacCailum (Gias., Bridgeton)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Millar, James Duncan||Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansfield)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Morgan, George Hay||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Morison, Hector||Snowden, Philip||Shaw and Mr. Wiles|
§ It being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.1876
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 12th February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly[...] at Nine minutes after Eleven o'clock.