§ If the average price for the wheat or oats of any year for which a minimum price is fixed under this Act, as ascertained for the purpose of this part of this Act, is less than the minimum price as fixed by this Act, the occupier of any land on which wheat or oats have been produced in that year shall be entitled to be paid by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in respect of each quarter of wheat or oats which he proves to the satisfaction of the Board to have been so produced and to have been sold, a sum equal to the difference between the average price and the minimum price per quarter.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The first four Amendments standing on the Notice Paper to-day deal with matters which were under discussion yesterday. The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Dundas White), proposes words which are not required at this point.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I have an Amendment on the Paper, after the word "year" ["produced in that year"], to insert the words "than was produced in the standard year."
I think that Amendment is sufficiently differentiated from what was discussed yesterday in regard to acreage and till- 1952 age. I do not wish to repeat the argument in any way, but as this is an alternative which I propose, perhaps I may be allowed to move it?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I really must hold, after the long discussion, followed by a decision, yesterday, on this particular question, that so far as it is concerned, it is concluded, and what we have now to consider is on what basis the general guarantee is to be established.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I beg to move to leave out the words "each quarter of wheat or oats which he proves to the satisfaction of the Board to have been so produced and to have been sold, a sum equal to," and to insert instead thereof the words "every acre cultivated by him and producing a crop of wheat in that year, lour times, and in respect of every acre cultivated by him and producing a crop of oats in that year, five times."
In moving this Amendment, my first object is to look at this as distinctly a Bill suggesting insurance, in the case of loss, to the men who are producing wheat at the present moment. In the second place, I do not wish to regard this Bill as merely to benefit the farmers, but to look at it from the national point of view, namely, to increase the production of corn and oats. Let me put aside the case for a moment in regard to other cereals obtainable; they can be dealt with in Amendments afterwards. I want to point out where, I think, this Amendment of mine makes more clear and more definite the case of insurance, and prevent any doubt as to its being only for the benefit of the farmer and not to the benefit of the country. Yesterday there was talk on the Front Bench opposite about there being no quid pro quo to the country. Let us look at the matter in a different light. The country wants corn and oats, and how is that object to be attained—how can it obtain increased production? It is not possible for anybody to be a farmer, and you must have experts. There is a limited number of experts in the country, and you cannot call upon them indefinitely. Almost ill of them are doing farm work at present, in order to increase food production in the country, and we should encourage their efforts and increase their efficiency. But we must encourage their efforts in the way the country wants to encourage them. We do not want to 1953 increase their efforts by simply giving more money to the farmers. What we want is to increase the production of corn and oats for the country. As the Bill stands, if this Amendment is not passed, it would give the farmer who has a. large acreage of corn, and who is farming his land uncommonly well—and is thereby doing great benefit to the country, because he is producing the very thing we want—insurance n he did not get a profit, and he would get a very large share of the benefit which was pointed out by the other side of the House yesterday. My Amendment ensures that, because the prosperous farmer will produce not only 4 quarters per acre, but he will produce 5, and he will be rewarded according to his acreage. But if he should fail he will have insurance against that acreage, and that, to a great extent, is also against the labour and expense of cultivation.
It is quite true that high cultivation costs more than bad cultivation, but as to this, it must be remembered that high cultivation is only undertaken where a man is making profits, and is likely to make very considerable profits. As a rule, I think it is found that the man who cultivates highly makes good profits. That is my experience, and where a man is doing good service to the country, and at the same time makes profits, we should not have put upon him the slur of profiteering, or anything of that kind. He should be encouraged to the extent to which the smaller farmer is encouraged, by his having given to him, in the case of every acre cultivated, a certain amount of insurance in respect of the labour and expenditure incurred. Let me go a step further. We want to produce more corn. It is quite true that in certain cases farming has not been properly carried on, but I leave that to be dealt with by Part IV. of this Bill. I believe that that Part will do an enormous amount of good in bringing bad farming up to a decent standard. I pass aside for a moment, though I think it is a deserving case, the case of the man who is willing to run risks and put more money into manure and so make greater production on his holding, although he is producing good results at present. I do so for this reason, that though it is true that you may get some increase, yet you cannot indefinitely increase production, and when you reach a certain point, no matter how much manure you put on, 1954 it does not produce a greater crop. The ratio decreases gradually, and when you reach that certain point it stops. A simple illustration of that fact that there is a point where manuring actually stops production is to be found by looking at the place where the muck heap stood in the previous year and it will be seen that no corn has grown on that because it is over manured. It is quite true we owe something to the man who will increase production by spending more money on the land. He is a man who has been making something out of the land in days gone by, he is one of the rich people this House does not care about protecting. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh?"] I think as a rule that is so. We come to the question of intermediate land. Where are we to expect to get this great increase? It is not from land that everybody knows has always grown wheat, and it is not from land which everybody knows has been growing grass, and which for a year or two will not produce much wheat.
The land from which we hope to get more is the intermediate land, that is land at a low price which has not been worth cultivating under wheat, but which at present prices may be worth cultivating. It is that land we want to bring into wheat and oats. The only reason against that land coming into wheat and oats in very large quantities is that the man who farms it sees that it will be an expensive process, and more so to grow wheat than to grow temporary pastures. It is more expensive to grow wheat or oats than many other things which I know I shall get a profit from, but I am ready to do it on certain conditions, and the conditions are that I shall not have a heavy loss in consequence of the prices falling. That insurance is what we want to give to the man who is in danger of making a loss. Everybody who is in business hopes to make a profit. In agriculture we make smaller profits and percentage on capital than in business, but everybody in agriculture wants to make a profit.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I think the difference between the two is only a matter of quantity, but it is the second Amendment which I have moved, and I will explain 1955 why presently. The great object of this Bill is to produce more corn. I say that if you can give a man a certain amount of insurance that if the prices do fall he will have some remuneration for every acre he has cultivated, and properly cultivated, he will be ready to take up a much larger amount of land than he would otherwise wish to take, and he will convert a great deal more of his farm to this purpose. That is our great object, and therefore I think this Amendment carries out the objects of the Bill even better than the Bill itself would have done, and will bring about the results that everybody in this House is seeking for in the increased production of wheat and oats. The Amendment reads, "Every acre cultivated by him and producing a crop of wheat in that year, four times." The average production of wheat is, I think, about 4 quarters per acre.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I think so. For wheat it is in England and Wales, and I think it is more in Scotland. The statistics are here, but I do not think they very much matter. They state "31 bushels for the last ten years."
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's main argument, but the point he is on now is one of great importance. If he applies a calculation which is based on England and Wales, and wishes to make it the basis for the whole United Kingdom, he may find that it will not work out quite right. I think we should have the statistics accurately.
§ Sir C. WARNER
In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, I may say that I think four times is the nearest number from all the statistics I have been able to collect as the production per acre of wheat in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend (Mr. L. Scott) has got the figures, and he will perhaps be speaking later and give them. But that is a point of detail and not a point of principle.
§ Sir C. WARNER
Personally, I do not wish to press the exact amount. If the House thinks it is too much, let them put 1956 "three times" in, though I do not think that would be fair. It is a point for amendment, and not of principle in the amendment. My principle is that relief should be given to the man for every acre he cultivates, because, after all, the expenditure is the cultivation, and what we want to recoup him for in case of variation of price is the expense that he has been put to in trying to do what the country wants him to do. I think if the right hon. Gentleman looks into it he will find that four times in the case of wheat, and five times in the case of oats is very fair. The Amendment goes on, "And in respect of every acre cultivated by him and producing a crop of oats in that year, five times." Let me say at once that this is open to an objection which can easily be met. It may be said we have got no security for this being properly cultivated. I heard one hon. Gentleman say that the land might only be scratched, and the man would have the right to get this. That is not, of course, what is intended, and I am quite willing to put in the words to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture. I think those are the best words to effect this object, and for this reason: The Board of Agriculture has already got the means, without employing a large body of fresh officials, to verify the returns wherever a claim is made, through the local agricultural committees. I am quite sure that not only could those committees do this work quite easily, but that they would be willing to do so. In order to prevent any cases of fictitious cultivation we might insert such words.
§ Sir C. WARNER
It does not require inspection of every cultivated acre, except by the local committee which inspects every acre of land which is cultivated already.
§ Sir C. WARNER
We are not to have this Bill for ever. It is a war measure, and we are dealing with the facts as we have got them in meeting an emergency brought about by the War. No doubt in peace time there may be a great many modifications and a great deal less of Government supervision than there is at the present moment. I allow that the Bill goes on for five years, but the result 1957 of the War will go on for a year or two after the War, and a good deal of your system cannot be changed at once the moment peace is signed. Let me take another point. It has been very properly urged that under the Bill as it stands, the small grower who eats his own oats or eats his own corn would get nothing. There are thousands of those in Ireland and in Scotland who do not sell their produce, and it has been suggested that they would get over the difficulty by selling to each other and buying back again. We do not want to encourage that sort of thing. I think this Amendment would entirely remove it. Moreover, I think the small grower would be benefited in every way by this Amendment, since he gets paid practically for every acre cultivated. The small crofter or holder in Ireland who has got mountain land, and very often only two or three acres cultivated, will get the full benefit just as much as the man who has the finest land and raises five or even six quarters per acre of wheat, and possibly from six to eight of oats. Those small men are men who, after all, can do something for us, and in this as in other businesses it is found that in the aggregate the small man's efforts come to a great deal more than even the largest producer can do for us. We want, as far as possible, to encourage the small growers to do their level best. I think this proposal will encourage the small grower, and give him the benefit in case prices fall—give him his "insurance," I think, is a better word—in the smallest case just as much as in the largest case; the poor man will get, if anything, more. He is not the man who does very high farming and who produces a large crop per acre. He is quite content if he gets the stated yearly crop. That is the man we want to protect. That man will get more.
Let me point it out: Say that the price falls, and that there is a difference of 5s. Take the example in oats, which is a better way. The small man has only 4 quarters of oats grown on his land, whereas the high farmer produces 6. He sells his 6 for the same price, we will say, being the same quality, or it may be of the same amount and of better duality—which will make a greater difference—he sells twice as much per acre, and he loses twice as much on the sale. Being, however, a large man, he can afford it better. The small man will get remuneration to the extent of five times 1958 5s., or 25s. per acre, which will compensate him for his extra work. The large man will get the same amount, 25s. per acre, but he will lose more, because he will lose more in the quantity he sells—that is to say, he will not make as big a profit. His profit is not assured him, but merely the cost of his cultivation. That is why I think it is very much better to put it in this form, though i am quite willing to say that there are hard cases—there must be hard cases in every sort of enterprise of this kind. It is quite clear, under this, the small man and poor man gets better conditions than the rich man and the man who goes in for the higher cultivation. It has this great advantage: this is one means of encouraging both the small and the great farmer to put in cultivation doubtful land—that is to say, land he thinks is doubtful as to whether or not there will be a crop; he would not use it unless he is assured to a certain extent against loss. It will make him put that land into oats and corn. After all that is our great object in the Bill. I believe this Amendment will produce an enormous increase in the acreage of oats and wheat, and I believe it will carry out through this Bill the object of this House.
Let me say a word about other products of the land. It is quite true that potatoes are equally necessary, but potatoes are a very peculiar crop to grow. It does not do to put land into potatoes unless there is a very large supply of manure to save the impoverishment of the farm. But there are other things we do not now grow. Mustard has been suggested. There are hundreds of other things besides mustard and linseed and things of that kind which are rather experimental and can only be grown in certain places. Let me take one instance of the sort of thing that the farmer may make a good profit out of; and we want to divert him into the growing of wheat. In the part of the country where I live we grow a great deal of clover. It is about the only part of England where clover seed is grown. It is a very uncertain crop, but there have been cases to my knowledge where a man has cleared £80 and £100 per acre for his clover seed. Most years it does not do much good. If he makes a profit at all he has done rather well. But it is a case where there is a gamble, and there is great encouragement to go in for that gamble. Therefore, we want to get people out of doing 1959 these things into growing the corn and the oats. Assure them that they are not going to have a loss, and that we want less of things like clover seed, and so on—though to a certain extent they are necesjary—that we want less mustard grown. Again, men think they are going to make, large fortunes out of the growing of beet for the manufacture of sugar. I do not at the present time think that we have either plant to extend that industry sufficiently or the knowledge, skill, and capacity to do it. I think it would be a mistake for people to go into experimental things of that sort with the object of making money when they might be growing the one thing which is absolutely for the country, the wheat and the oats.
I hope that this will encourage people not to try experimental work in a great many other things like Indian corn, and things of the kind which are grown, I will not say entirely experimentally, but in considerable quantities, and which generally produce cattle food. Yesterday I heard of linseed being grown for that purpose. All these things are good in their way. The agriculturist likes to think that they produce profit and credit to agriculture. But we are not out for that now. We are out to get more corn for the country, and I think this Amendment puts the Bill in the exact shape to get, as a whole, the greatest production of corn and oats in the country. I hope the House will accept the Amendment. I hope that those hon. Members who are opposed to insurance being given to the farmer who already grows wheat will drop their opposition, will forget their vote of yesterday, will not go into that, because as a practical farmer, having farmed for some years, I can tell hon. Members that it is quite possible and quite practicable for the farmer to drop the wheat growing on his existing land and grow other things instead. There is a danger of that, a very great danger. There is a reason for that danger, and it is this: that at the present time the farmer's greatest difficulty is to get food for his cattle; not grass, but winter food for fattening his cattle. For that reason he is ready to drop the growing of wheat because he is in great difficulty, not as a bad agriculturist, but because, I suppose, that wheat requires manuring to produce it, and he is looking about to be able to keep the cattle to make that good manure 1960 for the better production of food. Therefore there is great danger at the present time that many of the fields of wheat sown in wheat this year will not be sown next year unless you give this encouragement to the man that he shall not be the loser by his wheatfield, though he might be a loser in the other things.
§ Mr. L. SCOTT
I beg to second the Amendment. An Amendment to the same effect stands in my name, but in somewhat different words, and there are several similar Amendments. The form of words means nothing so far as I am concerned. I very much hope that the Government will see their way to accept the suggestion contained in these Amendments. The two points which are involved in the Amendment are, to my mind, these: The Bill suggests that the guarantee should be paid on so many quarters, on the number of quarters actually produced on the farm and sold. That involves two questions—the question of sale and the question of measuring the quantity produced. On the question of sale, I believe there is a large majority in this House of opinion that the words "provided for sale" should be eliminated from the Bill.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I welcome the support that comes from the Irish Benches. My own view is that the addition of the provision about sale would make the incidene of the Bill unfair, and give an undue preference to what I may call the wheat-growing areas of East Anglia, for instance, and undue prejudice to the oat-growing areas of Ireland, Wales, the West Country, and Scotland. For this reason: that probably that more than half of the oat crop of the total United Kingdom, and much more than one-half out of the oat crop in Ireland, the West Country, Wales, and Scotland, is consumed on the farm. It is never sold at all. Consequently those farmers would be in a position either to make fictitious sales in order to get their guarantee out of the Bill or would have to go without benefit of the Bill as it stands at present. There are peculiar reasons why in their case they should not be deprived of the practical benefit, which is this: a great many of them are small men, and it would be very unfair. The omission of these words goes a long way to meet the criticism advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for 1961 Dewsbury at an earlier stage in the discussion. He said that one complaint he had to make against the Bill was that its apparent effect was to benefit the rich, skilled farmer of rich wheat-lands, who produced very large quantities, and to disregard the small man. It meets another objection. The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill does nothing for milk. Of course, the broad point about milk is that, whereas wheat and oats may be brought to this country across the sea in steamers, the practice of bringing milk in tank steamers, like oil, has not yet become popular. That is the result of the monopoly of land in this country—for there is no foreign competition respecting it. But it is fair on behalf, to a great extent, of the milk farmers of the country to say that the substantial majority are men who do not grow wheat. We hope to see arable dairying greatly increased in the future. It is of the greatest importance to agriculture that it should be. That is one answer to the criticism made on behalf of milk farmers that the Bill does not do much for them. It is that arable farm dairying is a sound business proposition which produces just as much milk as grass dairying, and, in addition, corn crops to boot—in other words, as a broad proposition, about one to three times as much food.
The advantage of eliminating the stipulation that the oats must have been sold is this. Many of the dairy farmers do grow oats, particularly in Scotland, and consequently you benefit the dairy farmers also, and they are another class specifically benefited by that Amendment. For these reasons I am sure there is a great predominance of opinion that these words ought to be taken out of the Bill. The moment you take them out you introduce a very great difficulty of machinery in applying the Bill as it stands without those words. The provision of the Bill, then, is that the guarantee is to be given upon the number of quarters actually produced on each farm. When you have not the additional possibility of testing the quantity produced by seeing how much is brought to sale, and are thrown back, therefore, on finding out what is actually produced on the farm, you are up against incredible difficulties in practice, and I cannot help suspecting—we shall perhaps hear it from the President of the Board of Agriculture presently—that one reason why in the original draft of the Bill the provision was inserted that the guarantee should only be given in respect of grain 1962 sold as well as produced was that, after racking their brains for suitable machinery for finding out what was produced, they gave it up in despair as an impossible task, and said that the only thing to do was to make it on sales. I cannot help having the suspicion that thoughts of that kind must have passed through the mind of the President of the Board of Agriculture, and that being so, the moment you get rid of that you are up against this difficulty. How are you to find out what quantity is produced on all the little farms in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland? Let me remind the Members of this Committee of what is the case in England and Wales, and of what is even truer in Ireland. It is a very astonishing fact, and I want, if I may, to impress it on the Committee to the full. It is that in England and Wales 87 per cent. of all the agricultural holdings of the country are small, in the sense that they are under 150 acres.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I agree, half are under 50 acres. It is even truer in England and Wales., taken as a whole. We are a nation of small farmers, and not a nation of big farmers. The percentage of holdings, if I remember the figures correctly, over 300 is something quite small; the total percentage, I think, is 3. I am speaking from memory; but if that is so, think of the elaborate machinery that has to be invented to find out what is going on in each man's barn. When does he thresh, where does he put it, how do you know whether the stack he shows you has not been shown you five times before? You cannot do it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The stack will still be in its place. He cannot move it about and put it in another place, as they do with the cattle in America.
§ Mr. SCOTT
The right hon. Baronet is so ingenious in framing Amendments that I think he might be an excellent Inspector-General for finding out how much has been produced; but, failing a Gentleman of comparable ingenuity, I venture to think that the Committee as a whole regard it as an impracticable proposal to ascertain the number of quarters produced in each farm If that is so, what are you to do? The suggestion of acreage is simply this: Instead of taking the number of quarters actually produced on each farm, take the number which correspond 1963 with the average production of the country per acre. There is very little difficulty in ascertaining what acreage is under wheat or oats, for the simple reason that these returns are made to-day in a very large number of farms, and it is quite simple. As a necessary corollary of the Amendment, the returns of acreage under different crops, which is at present optional, should, I think, be made obligatory.
§ Mr. SCOTT
In any case, the practical difficulties of ascertaining the acreage under a crop are infinitely less than ascertaining the actual number of quarters produced off that crop. These are, from the practical point of view, the merits of this proposal; but, apart from a purely practical point of view of simplicity of administration, I venture to think that there are also certain other advantages. Of course, we have to recognise, as in most things in life, that every proposition has its advantages and its drawbacks, and it is essentially a question of choosing the plan that presents fewest drawbacks with most advantages. I prefer in making my choice to know as much about the pros and cons as I can, and I should like to deal with the objections. The objection to the proposal, of course, is that if you are going to give in the case of wheat a guarantee on four quarters, an average production, the man who produces six quarters does not get any benefit out of the guarantee, and it may be said that, pro tanto, to that extent this proposal does not encourage the best production. The answer to that, in my mind, is that the Bill makes a very great departure in the whole attitude of the public towards farming and in the attitude of farmers towards the nation. It is this. Whatever the machinery may be in Part IV. of the Bill, it contains a Statutory recognition of the duty of good cultivation, and in my view that is a reform of the highest advantage from the national point of view, the recognition by Parliament that it is the duty of the occupier of land to cultivate well. I think myself that the recognition of that duty is a sufficient means of achieving good cultivation to justify the giving up of the advantage proposed by the guarantee on quarters produced as an encouragement to the good farmer. I think it means that those who are in occupation of farms 1964 will recognise in future that it is their duty to get the most they can out of their land. I for one hope that this Bill may do just the opposite of what several speakers yesterday said it would do, that it may result in a real understanding between town and country in this United Kingdom of ours, and that the consumers in the great towns may recognise that the farmers are cultivating to the best of their ability in the national interest. If the farmers play up to that in the end they will, I am sure, obtain recognition from the dwellers in the towns and the consumers in the country that that is so. That objection to this proposal, that it does not give a premium, so to speak, on good production, is for those reasons, in my submission to the Committee, one which ought not to outweigh the great advantages that do attach to the proposal. One must never forget in thinking about this question of the guarantee that the Government is not guaranteeing to the farmer that they will pay him for what he does not produce. There is no suggestion that because there is a guarantee on a production of four quarters if he only produces three quarters the Government are going to pay him for the fourth quarter that he does not produce. The Government are only going to pay the difference between the market price and the guaranteed price, a shilling or two. Supposing the average price, as fixed in the Bill, is 42s., and that the guaranteed price is 45s., the difference between the two is 3s. The only benefit the farmer gets is 3s. on the quarter he does not produce, and not 42s. under the Amendment as it stands.
§ Mr. SCOTT
If the hon. and learned Gentleman had done me the kindness to listen very closely to what I was saying he would have known that what I stated was that the farmer on the fourth quarter which he docs not produce would not get 45s. but 3s. On the three quarters he does produce he gets 42s. in the market and 3s. out of the Government, and the result is that on the four quarters he gets 12s. To suggest that the farmer is going to farm carelessly so as to produce a poor crop in order to get the 12s. when the market price represents four times 42s., namely, £8 8s., is, in my opinion, absurd. He is not going to do it, and that brings me to the last point I want to make, which is this. I do so earnestly submit that the 1965 right view of this Bill is not to treat it as a bonus to farmers. It is not that. The one thing farmers want is to be left alone. Do not let us forget that the farmers do not want this Bill, and that they would rather be left alone. The farmers are content to have the Bill for one reason only, namely, that it is a recognition by Parliament that the agriculture of the country shall be secured from grave disaster and ruin. That is the essence of it, and in return for that security—which I do not believe is going to put money from the Government into their pockets, because I do not believe market prices are going to fall—the farmers will put out their very best efforts. If I may say one word more, it is that at the present time farmers are putting out their best efforts throughout the country, but that they are uncommonly nervous.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I was a little afraid, after the general Debate we had yesterday, that one would follow on the same lines. We have now come to the business proposition as to what basis we should decide on. We must confine ourselves to that particular question. It has been decided that there is to be a guarantee, and that that is not to be limited to excess production. The only question now is between acreage and produce sold.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I will close, then, by submitting that this is a broad, practical Amendment, proposing a simple way of carrying out the guarantee, which is, on the whole, to be commended not only on account of its simple machinery, but on account of the benefits it gives to certain classes of farmers, and particularly to the smaller farmers.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I will endeavour to confine myself strictly to the question before the House, namely, whether or not the bonus should be paid on acreage or sale. It is perfectly true there are objections to either course, and it is perfectly easy to rind objections to this or to any other course, but there are objections to this course which should be stated to the House. There is, first, the objection which the hon. Baronet (Sir C. Warner) himself raised; that crops might be grown on land which was only scratched—those were the words he used—and it might be stated that so many acres had been sown with wheat, and a fictitious benefit obtained. The hon. Baronet therefore sug- 1966 gested that words should be put into the Amendment, and this is the important point, to provide that the Board of Agriculture should be satisfied, first of all, whether the land had been properly cultivated. Then an hon. Member behind me, who is not here at the moment, said that will mean a multiplication of officers all over the country, and the hon. Baronet said that the local committee would be in existence, and would be able to do the duty. First of all, I agree with my hon. Friend behind me that anything which tends to multiply officers should be avoided, and I must point out that this Bill lasts for five years. The hon. Baronet said the War will not last for five years; therefore we are dealing with a situation which does not entirely arise out of the War, and we shall have to deal with it after the War is over. With regard to the local committees, my belief is that the local committees would be a most unsatisfactory body. Of whom are they composed t In many cases they are composed of local farmers, and nothing, as far as I know, and I think my hon. Friend opposite will bear me out, will give more dissatisfaction to farmers than that their neighbours should come round inspecting their land, and pronouncing whether or not they have cultivated their land properly, and that it is in a sufficient state of cultivation to be eligible for the bonus under the Bill. That is my experience, and of course I can only speak for myself, but I believe that will be the experience all over the country. The hon. Baronet shakos his head, but I do not believe the ordinary farmer is very different, whether he lives in Suffolk, Norfolk, or any other part of England.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then I must beg to differ from the hon. Member opposite. I know several gentlemen who were asked to serve on these committees, and nothing would induce them to do so, because it would make them so unpopular with their neighbours.
§ Captain WRIGHT
It is where inspectors have come down from headquarters that farmers have objected. Where the 1967 matter has been dealt with by the local committee there has not been the same bother.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That all depends on circumstances—who are on the particular committees, and how they get on with their neighbours. But it only emphasises my point. The hon. Member says, "Where local inspectors come down it has been extremely unpopular."
§ Captain WRIGHT
No, when they come from the Executive Committee of the Board of Agriculture itself.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This point will properly come on later. If the Committee decides in favour of acreage as against sale of quarters, then the words can be brought up later, but I understand the Government are likely to bring up words, and if that is the decision of the Committee it will deal with this other point on the proviso.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Baronet said that part of his proposal was that these words should be inserted, and everybody will agree, if acreage is put in, there must be some protection, and my point is to advance the argument against acreage being put in that it will necessitate this inspection on the part of the Board of Agriculture, or some permanent body, or on the part of the local committee. I believe both will be extremely unpopular, and in regard to local committees, and it is a strong argument against acreage, I believe if the local committees are to do the work, and it is to go on for five years, it will mean the payment of the local committees. They will not do it for nothing, which is, again, a very strong argument against this particular proposal. Then, of course, there is the argument which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Leslie Scott) advanced, namely, that a good farmer might, I think he said, produce 5 quarters of wheat to the acre and the bad farmer might produce only 3 quarters to the acre, and the result would be that the bad farmer would get an advantage, while the good fanner would lose. May I point out to the Committee that it is not always a question of a good or bad farmer. It is very often a question of the land, and that there is some land which, under the same man, will produce 5 quarters to the acre and some land, with the same expenditure of labour and capital, and with as good 1968 a cultivation, will only produce 3 quarters. More often it depends on the soil, and, therefore, what you are going to do under this Bill is, where a man has got good land, where he ought to be encouraged to produce wheat, he will be discouraged; he will get less than the man who produces wheat on the bad land. And bad land for wheat may be good land for barley and oats; some of the best land for grass and for fattening bullocks does not produce many quarters of wheat. About 3 quarters to the acre is the very best it will yield.
Then I do not agree with the hon. Baronet that because a man happens to be well off he can afford it. That is not the question. We are not dealing with the question as to whether a man is well off or badly off. It is a question of business, and it does not matter in the least whether a man is well off or badly off. I started by saying that anybody can raise objections to this proposal, and there are advantages, of course, namely, that in many cases the farmer does not sell his own oats; he consumes them on the farm. I do not think they often consume their wheat on the farm—not so far as my experience goes. Under the original proposal in the Bill there would have to be sale. The sale would be called fictitious. I would not actually call them fictitious, but they would have to be sales which would not be genuine sales. I should have thought some machinery might have been devised which would arrange that the quantity of corn produced on the farm, and not sold, should receive a bonus, and I am rather inclined to think that is the better way of doing it than by acreage. I understand the Government are going to submit proposals, and we shall better understand the position when we have the proposal before us.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Prothero)
The Government do intend to accept the principle of the Amendment moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Lichfield (Sir C. Warner) in the words of the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott), and the reasons which lead us to that conclusion are these: I quite agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London that the large farmer, who makes a large outlay, ought on any principle of insurance to get a higher rate of insurance, considering he 1969 expends the greater amount of capital, and I also agree that to a certain extent this Amendment will be less of an encouragement to high farming than the form in which the Bill appears. I mean this: As the Bill stands it allows the ordinary play of the market full operation. That was our object in making our proposals. We wanted the farmer to have every inducement, which he has now, in the ordinary way of business, to raise the best samples in the best possible condition, and get the best possible price he could. This Amendment will leave the large farmer still with a very powerful inducement to put his money into the growth of wheat. It leaves him with a very powerful inducement, because it will allow him to get the market price for his crop. If he gets 6 quarters of wheat per acre, he gets the market price for 6 quarters. It is true he is only insured against a loss on 4 quarters, if prices fall, and therefore he may to a certain extent have less insurance than another man, but we do leave him the temptation to high farming and we do substantially insure him against loss.
That is the one possible objection, as I think, or the main possible objection, to this proposal as amended. On the other hand, however, I see very great advantages. In the first place, it equalises the man who farms under some disadvantageous conditions, whatever they may be, and the man who has every advantage of condition. Both get the same rate of insurance. It equalises also the man who is on poor land, the land we want cultivated to the very utmost, to attempt a task, which in ordinary times and without this great pressure of national emergency he would not attempt, to try to grow corn, and obviously the fact that this Amendment places the basis of the Bill on production, rather than on production and sale, is of very great importance to all the small men in the country, who feed, either themselves or their cattle, upon the oats that they themselves produce. I may say that the Bill was originally drafted on this basis, and the figures which have been given to the House as to the possible cost of this measure are based upon the cost if the average price of corn produced, the market price of the total corn produced, fell below the minimum guaranteed. Those are the figures, and the minimum prices themselves were fixed on that understanding. Since then we have changed our original proposal, and I will 1970 tell the House frankly why. We found on going into it that it would be a matter of extreme difficulty to get at the amount of production on the individual farms, especially in Ireland, where they are very small farms, and also in some parts of Scotland. We were assured by our advisers that it was impossible to put the Bill on the basis of production because of the difficulty of administering it. I confess that I always thought we had gone as far as difficulties of administration would permit, and that it would be going out of the frying-pan into the fire, because undoubtedly there were opportunities for fraud which were very difficult to meet on that basis. The advantage of this acreage basis is that it gives a method of administration which is quite possible even in the most difficult districts of Scotland and of Ireland. The method we shall adopt will be, of course, that of framing Regulations, which we take power to make under Clause 3, Sub-section (2), and make it an offence punishable by very severe penalties for any man to give a false return as to the acreage which he sows of wheat or oats. There can be no possibility of mistake on the man's part. He knows the acreage he sows for wheat or oats, and therefore he ought to be, and he will be, punished very severely if he makes a false return.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I am just going to explain. We have certain agents already appointed in the counties, and, provided that they go about certain farms, selected haphazard, and see whether the entry corresponds with the sworn statement of the man in question, I have no doubt we shall prevent frauds on any extensive scale. I am quite sure the farmers of this country, though they are very willing to do the Government where they legally can—and they often can; there are a hundred ways—do shrink from an illegal step which is severely punished. [An HON. MEMBER: "If found out!"] If found out, I agree. Hon. Members may have a worse opinion of farmers and of their fellow countrymen than I have. I do not believe that men will willingly make a fraudulent return for a perfectly miserable result, because, supposing wheat fell 3s., they would get 12s. an acre for the claim they have made. Is that worth while incurring so heavy a penalty as that to which they will be probably ex- 1971 posed? I do not believe so. Then it is said that a farmer will scratch the ground and sow a handful of poor stuff. I do not believe it. It is not worth while, and I think you have got to look at this in a broad, general way. Whatever method you adopt, you cannot prevent some fraud. To whatever profession a man belongs, be it the most honourable in the world, there are sure to be some rogues in it, and there are some rogues among the farmers. I do not pretend there are not, but, looking at it in a broad, general way, I am convinced that this proposal will meet substantially our difficulty, that we shall be able to administer it easily, that we can reduce evasions to a minimum, that we equalise the treatment of the large and small farmer, the tenant of good and of poor land, and that we meet what I myself admit is a difficulty in the Bill as we framed it from certain points of view, that the man who grew the largest crop, also taking the least risks in making his outlay, got the most benefit. Now we no longer do that. We trust to the temptation of getting a price for his corn that will make him grow all he can, especially when we secure him, not perhaps against total loss, but against substantial loss.
May I ask my right hon. Friend if he will not offer any justification for the "four times" provided in the Amendment?
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I will gladly do so. The "four times" is based upon the average of the ten years 1906–15. The average yield of wheat during those ten years was 32.21, that is to say, it is slightly over the average we have taken under this Amendment. Four quarters equal 32 bushels. Therefore, 21 is in excess of the average that we have taken here. When you come to oats—5 quarters—you find that the average yield is 42.38. In that case we are giving as our average 2.38 less than the United Kingdom average. In both eases it is slightly less than the United Kingdom average.
§ Captain STANIER
I rise to protest against the acceptance of this Amendment by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, because 1972 I do not think that he realises, nor does the hon. Member for the Lichfield Division, or the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool realise what they are doing. The hon. Member for Lichfield ended a most excellent speech on his own side by practically acknowledging that he was benefiting bad farming. It will be in the memory of the Committee that he said that, or words to that effect. This Bill is for corn production. That is the name of it, but with this Amendment we are absolutely out for working in the opposite direction. We farmers are always very interested to hear the men of law tell us how we are to grow crops and how we are to arrange it all very nicely to suit the man of law, but when the farmers of England come together and work out their considered opinion on this subject, as they did yesterday in London, and they pass a resolution condemning the Amendments of the hon. Member for Lichfield and the hon. Member for the Exchange Division, after full consideration, you will see that those two hon. Members and the Minister for Agriculture are absolutely up against the big agriculturists and the best agriculturists in this country, and it is my duty as their chairman, to read out in this House the considered opinion of the Central Chamber of Agriculture on this subject. It was to the effect:that the Council is opposed to the Amendments of the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool and the hon. Member for Lichfield to Clause 1, which propose to substitute payment of the guarantee by acre instead of by quarter.Now the Minister for Agriculture tells us that it is very difficult to arrive at the amount of corn consumed on a farm by the stock on that farm. Now that is being calculated and recorded and compensation paid for it on any number of farms in every county, and at any time you like, in order to satisfy the Agricultural Holdings Act. This record is kept by every farmer so that at the end he can bring out his Bill when he leaves the farm in order to get compensation. There never has been any difficulty, and I do not see why there should be any difficulty in the future. The number of sacks is known. You can record them with the threshing machine, and in a great many cases payment for threshing is made by the bushel, and therefore the men will see that the record is kept right through the threshing, because their wages are paid upon it.
I contend that the alteration of the Bill will, as I said last night, and I will say it 1973 again, absolutely encourage bad farming. But more than that, it will encourage grass land which is not suitable being broken up by the farmers in order to get the dole that this Bill will provide. Now the hon. Member for Lichfield dangled before us this plea, that the smallholder would benefit more by the Amendment than by the original Clause in the Bill, but I can assure him, as one who has advocated small holdings all my life, and who has created a large number of them, building them up out of the big farms, that the absolute opposite is the case to what these hon. Gentlemen have said has taken place. I will prove to you how that is. If you go to the actual station which is in the middle of these small holdings they will tell you that the amount of produce of every sort has been absolutely doubled since these small holders have taken the place of the large ones. I will go further than that. The auctioneer who used to hold a fortnightly auction in the middle of these small holdings now has to hold an auction weekly, and he has exactly as much stock to sell weekly as he used to have fortnightly. Therefore the railway will prove that you have doubled the output of the produce, and the auctioneer will prove that you have doubled the output of live stock, and in face of these facts how can the hon. and learned Member for Lichfield make out that you get a less profit on the small holdings than on the big holdings? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I did not make that statement. I said that small holdings in bad land, such as was the case in Ireland and in the mountain land of Scotland and inferior land generally, would get a greater benefit. I did not say that small holdings produced less.
§ Captain STANIER
I am glad the hon. Gentleman did not mean that. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Banbury) said that we do not want all this inspection, and I agree with him. The farmers do not want it done by the gentlemen who come from the Board of Agriculture and other places, and I have often been told by the farmers that to do the things they had been told to do would practically destroy the holdings and the farming quality of the land. We believe that if this Bill is left in the form that it is to-day you will be working for the production of the greatest quantity of corn on the land, which I thought was what this House was out for. If we pay 1974 for the amount produced we know what we are paying for, but if we pay per acre we have not the faintest idea what we are paying for. For that reason I beg of the President of the Board of Agriculture to reconsider his promise and to leave the Bill as it was and pay for the quantity produced, instead of the haphazard way of the acreage which is now proposed. As long as this continues I shall oppose this Bill with every point that I can make against it, and I believe that the President will very soon deeply regret the move he has taken, for he will find the farming community are absolutely in disagreement with him.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I am sorry my hon. Friend opposite has taken such a very strong line against this Amendment. I think he must have been to some extent persuaded by the large, farmers who attend the chambers of agriculture. As representing a part of the country which is largely agricultural, I am glad the Government have seen their way to alter this Bill, and in saying this I have behind me the recommendations of both sections in Kent of the war agricultural committees, who have submitted to the Government a resolution exactly on the lines of the Amendment the Government is now accepting; therefore I do not think it can be said that I am acting contrary to the desire of agriculturists in our part of Kent. The last speaker said this was a Corn Production Bill, and so it is in the sense that we want to bring a larger area of grass under the plough. If we desire to do that in Kent we are at once faced with a very large area which has gone down to grass and which could very well return to the plough, but which does not give a very large yield; therefore this Amendment will undoubtedly give a sense of security that ought to cultivate that kind of land, and it will encourage the working up of that land at the present time. If they were left to work on the standard laid down by the Bill there would be no encouragement for them, and they would have a fear that they would not get the full advantage which they will now get by striking an average. I have no doubt in my own mind, having done a certain amount of inspection in connection with war agricultural work, that this Amendment will be a distinct inducement to the working up of land, which is really what we are seeking to accomplish by this Bill. When prices fall very largely we know that the consequence of that is 1975 that land which produces less goes out of arable cultivation the first, but if we adopt this Amendment it will encourage this kind of land to remain under arable cultivation longer than it otherwise would do under the free play of the market. We are looking to the future, and it is with a view of encouraging a larger acreage under tillage in the future that I think an Amendment which has that effect must be an advantage. On those grounds I am very glad the Government have seen their way to accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Captain Stanier) appealed to the President of the Board of Agriculture to reconsider his position because he had said he was prepared to accept in principle the Amendment which has been proposed by the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott). The hon. Member for Newport says he is going to oppose this Bill tooth and nail and give it his most vigorous opposition if any such suggestion is entertained by the President, and he told us what happened at a meeting of the Associated Chamber of Agriculture, of which he is the President. As far as I know anything about that body it mainly, if not entirely, represents 300 or 500 acre farms, and it also represents those who cultivate their own lands and who are not farmers alone, but proprietors as well. With that class of people I am not interested, and the party to which I have the honour to belong are not returned by that class in Ireland. They are returned by the small farmers in Ireland, who at least form nine-tenths of Irish farmers. The Bill as it stands as applied to Ireland is wholly unworkable. The House must remember that you have such a thing as the Corn Production Bill in Ireland. This Amendment does not get rid of that difficulty; but the small farmers in Ireland have been circularised by leaflets and pamphlets under the auspices of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, pointing out to them the advantages of using as much of their own produce on the farms as they can possibly do, and of buying as little as possible foodstuffs from abroad. The Bill as it stands puts a premium upon the sale of everything produced, and the purchase of everything that is required on the farm.
1976 The suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool on this Amendment, which I am glad the President of the Board of Agriculture is about to accept, certainly gets rid of the inducement under this Bill as it stands for all the small farmers in Ireland to sell everything they produce and buy foreign foodstuffs. That is a very strong reason which induces the party to which I belong to most cordially accept this Amendment, which is to be incorporated in the Bill. If this measure stands as it is, I do not know how it is going to be worked at all in Ireland, and I think the acceptance of this Amendment will facilitate the working of the Bill in Ireland in many respects. These are one or two of the main reasons which induce us to accept this Amendment. We are in a little difficulty, because we do not know exactly what it is that the President of the Board of Agriculture is going to accept. In Ireland we are at a tremendous disadvantage in this Committee stage. We know in a general kind of way that the Irish portion of the Bill requires enormous amendment. We are told that the Government Amendments are ready, and that they are in a position, and have been for some time, to make the Irish portion of the Bill workable. Nevertheless, we are entirely in the dark. We do not know what those Amendments are going to do, and there is nothing on the Paper to give us the slightest indication of the intention of the Government with regard to the Irish portion of the Bill. We accept this Amendment because we believe it is far better to accept the principle of a guarantee by acre than by produce. The reason of that is that the small farmers in Ireland are the occupants of the poorer kind of soil and desert more encouragement. It is the large farmers with 700 and 500 acres or more who, generally speaking, occupy the better soil in Ireland. Therefore they do not need the same encouragement as the men who occupy the poorer soil. They have been brought under the Defence of the Realm Act and compelled to cultivate 10 per cent, more of every holding than what was already under cultivation.
§ Sir THOMAS RUSSELL (Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture, Ireland)
Unless under 10 acres.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
Yes, unless the whole of the holding is under 10 acres, and that is quite unnecessary, because these small 1977 holdings are already under 10 acres. I think the President will acknowledge that he has had practically no difficulty in getting these requirements complied with, and the only opposition shown by anybody in Ireland to put in 10 per cent, more of their holdings under cultivation this year has not come from those who profess Nationalist opinions, but from those who are Unionists. It is the 500 and 600-acre fanners and landlords in occupation of their own land that the light hon. Gentleman has been obliged to deal with under the Defence of the Realm Act, and he has not had to deal with any small holders, especially in the West of Ireland. These people are already cultivating a good deal of land, but some of the land that has been down in grass for the last fifty or sixty years, and that has been distributed under the ægis of the Congested Districts Board, will not produce a very large crop either this year or next, year. It will require some time before it can be brought into a proper state of cultivation and before you can arrive at a fine tilth in the soil. The humidity of the climate is against it. If you take a sample of Irish wheat and compare it with foreign-grown wheat, you will find that it contains 30 per cent, more moisture. It contains more moisture than wheat grown in England. These people need encouraging, and it is because the proposition of the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. L. Scott) encourages people who are already doing a good deal of tillage and who will do a great deal more, and because it will operate more fairly in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, which are oat-producing countries and must continue, irrespective of the price of wheat, to be oat-producing countries—Ireland can never become a wheat-producing country—than the Bill as originally drafted that we welcome the Amendment and are going to give it our support, notwithstanding what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Newport (Captain Sir B. Stanier).
§ Mr. E. DAVIES
I rise to support the Amendment. An hon. Member suggested that it would be easy to ascertain what amount of wheat had been produced from the accounts rendered in connection with threshing machines, but a great number farm less than 50 acres, and there would be some difficulty in getting accurate information by this means. The real object of the Bill is to bring a greater area of land under cultivation, and par- 1978 ticularly to bring under cultivation that area of land which at present, owing to the nature of the soil and its situation, is not being cultivated. I happen in my own county to be chairman of the war agricultural committee. We recently tried to ascertain what area of land there is in the county which used to be cultivated thirty or forty years ago and which has since gone out of cultivation. We found that there is a large area, but that it is not suitable for wheat growing. It is too high. We have, however, indisputable evidence that the land thirty or forty years ago was producing oats and would produce oats now. The Bill, as it stood, would not appeal to the farmer in that case at all but if under the Amendment he is going to be paid for his acreage under oats, then he will have every inducement to grow oats. It ought to be emphasised that small farmers have the poorest land. It is undoubtedly so in Wales, because, rightly or wrongly, thirty or forty years ago the landowners in Wales amalgamated the smaller farms of good quality and allowed only small farms on the hillsides to remain. The result is that there is practically no wheat raised in those circumstances. The only crops those farms can produce are potatoes and oats. There is every reason to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having adopted this Amendment. It will undoubtedly mean a greater cultivation of land, and it will encourage the small farmer who most needs encouragement.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I do not think that the last two speakers have made any answer at all to the criticism levelled against the Amendment by the hon. and gallant Member for Newport (Captain Sir B. Stanier). He pointed out with great justice that as the Amendment now stands there would be nothing to encourage the production of corn. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ashford Division (Mr. L. Hardy) said that the object of the Bill was to secure more corn, and that we must, therefore, break up grass land. We all agree with him there, but it does not mean that you must break up any grass land. You ought to break up that grass land which is suitable for the growing of corn, because otherwise you will only be wasting labour and pasture land and capital by turning it into arable land. There is nothing in the Amendment to suggest that the land broken up will be in the least suitable for the growing of 1979 corn. It is enough that the farmer breaks up grass land, sows corn upon it, and gets a crop of some sort. Then he is paid according to the acreage that he has broken up. Under the Bill as it stood the farmer, at any rate, was encouraged to grow more corn, because for every quarter of corn that he produced he got his bounty. You therefore, really were encouraging the production of corn. The only safeguard now is that the land must be broken up to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture. I do not understand that there is any power taken by the Board of Agriculture to see that the land which is broken up is suitable for the growing of corn. We do not want in our country districts a great army of inspectors coming down from the Board of Agriculture. We do not very much want agricultural committees coming to individual farmers. After all, it is very unpleasant, and there is considerable feeling about it. Farmers submit to it because they are submitting to all kinds of things that they dislike. Really it is a very invidious task which the members of these committees are performing, and you had better not lay upon their shoulders duties which it would be very difficult for them to perform. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ashford Division said that most of this land would be somewhere about 3-quarter land. Could not the President of the Board of Agriculture secure not only that the land shall be ploughed, but that it shall be more or less suitable by inserting along with the acreage condition—I see the convenience of payment on acreage—another condition that it shall be grass land which will produce a certain crop per acre?
§ Mr. JONES
I do not think you should pay a slack farmer who will not take the trouble to get a good crop; and that is the position in which you will be placed if you abandon payment by results. I think you should combine with the acreage a condition that a certain amount per acre shall be produced. It is no use 1980 saying that you cannot ascertain what is being produced. Every farmer knows what corn he is producing. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but the farmer will tell you—he may not know, but all the farmers of my acquaintance will tell me—how many quarters he has on a given acreage. Farmers will not only tell you for this year but for many years back. Most of them can produce evidence of it, because under the Agricultural Holdings Act at the end of his tenancy, for the purpose of ascertaining the compensation due to him, he has to give evidence as to the amount consumed upon the holding. Since the passing of this Act there has never been any difficulty in ascertaining how much corn was consumed. The hon. Gentleman is mistaken in assuming that farmers do not keep accounts. They keep accounts accurately enough when it is the question of receiving money. The farmer's inaccuracy and carelessness as to accounts only occur when it is a question of the payment of money out. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the farmers of this country keep a very careful reckoning of the amount of corn produced on their holdings and of the number of quarters per acre that they get, and before finally deciding upon the form of this guarantee and grant of money he ought to combine with his grant, according to the acreage under corn, some condition that the acreage shall produce the corn that the country requires.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
I agree that it would be a very great advantage to us if we knew what the Government proposals were so far as Ireland is concerned. Those who took part in the discussion of this measure on the Second Reading were careful to point out that the measure had no direct applicability to Ireland, and we still do not know what steps the Government propose to take to apply it to Ireland. I hope that the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture for Ireland will see that we have his Amendments down on the Paper as soon as possible. I cordially approve of the change in the Government's attitude as to the basis of this Bill. On the whole, the acreage basis is a better basis than the amount of corn or oats brought to market and sold. My right hon. Friend below me (Mr. Leif Jones) is very confident about ascertaining the amount of wheat or oats grown upon every farm. He is in a happy country. We have no Agricultural Holdings Act. That is one point 1981 of some importance in relation to this matter. We have a great many farmers, but I have never yet come across anyone farming what we call a small farm who keeps any accounts whatever. I do not know what would happen to my right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture if he had to go round the various Irish counties and ascertain the total amount of oats or wheat grown, not merely upon the ordinary farms, but upon the additional 750,000 acres which we have ploughed up this year. I am afraid that the labours of Sisyphus would be nothing compared with the labours of my right hon. Friend. The point has been made that this proposal places the bad farmer in a better position than the good farmer. There is something in that point. What ever plan you adopt you will find some objections, but on the whole this acreage scheme is the better one. In Ireland we have an historical precedent, because Parliament in days gone by used to give a bounty for the growing of corn. Therefore, upon purely historical grounds, I approve of this Amendment. I would, however, suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he ought to extend the scope of his proposals. He proposes to pay a bounty or to give an indemnity against loss upon the basis of the acreage under corn or oats. As a farmer, he knows perfectly well that it will be necessary to go further than that. He will have to include potatoes, which we tried to discuss last night. Further, he will have to include the area under root crops. This Bill proposes to provide an additional supply of food. There is no better food than a potato, provided you get a good one. Therefore, from the food point of view, the more potatoes that are grown the better.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
I am not quite clear that the question of potatoes comes within the scope of this Bill. The Bill is entitledA Bill for encouraging the production of corn and for purposes connected therewith.I do not think we can include potatoes under the production of corn.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
We will take an early opportunity of moving an Amendment which may improve the situation. You cannot grow corn without manuring the land, and you cannot grow oats even 1982 without spreading a certain amount of manure. To produce either in a satisfactory measure, you must put your land through a rotation of crops. That is an axiom known by experience to every farmer. If this measure is to conduce to the increase of the supply of food for the nation, the right hon. Gentleman will have to do something to encourage the good farmer as against the lazy one. Supposing one farmer sows 10 acres of oats, and puts no manure into the land, while his neighbour sows 10 acres of oats and does manure the land, it is obvious that the net result to the country would be very much better from the farming of the second man than from that of the first. It has already been shown that this Amendment will enable the growers of oats in Ireland, Scotland and Wales to receive whatever advantages there may be inherent in this Bill. Oats form a very important article of food. Under present conditions we could not carry on our Army at all if we did not succeed in securing a large supply of oats. The oat grower is mainly a small farmer and the Government have done an exceedingly wise thing in changing the basis of the Bill from that of produce to that of acreage. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me seemed to think that the amount of oats or wheat could be easily ascertained by the annual threshing. In Ireland no record is kept on the annual threshing. Some farmers thresh by steam, the machine going round the country, but the great majority of them still use the old-fashioned winnowing machine with a horse, and no record is ever kept of the threshing upon which the Department of Agriculture could reply. I believe that the President of the Board of Agriculture has done the right thing in this matter.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
My right hon. Friend the Member for the Rushcliffe Division (Mr. Leif Jones) has suggested that the guarantee should have some relation to the production on the various acres. If we adopted that principle, it would bring us back to all the administrative difficulties which will be avoided by adopting the acreage basis. I had never been able to see how the Bill as it stood could be worked. It would be quite impossible to ascertain what quantity of oats were really sold in this country. It would lead to all kinds of subterfuge, a great deal of difficulty would be thrown upon the farmer 1983 and, in the result, you would have to pay upon the production. This guarantee gives that certainty to the farmer which eliminates the one difficulty of the seasons. If my right hon. Friend will come round to my neighbourhood and look at the oat fields around there, purely from the point of view of the season, he will find that the oat crop is a complete failure and that some farmers only just manage to get their seed back. It would be very hard to penalise them in a Bill which is intended to help the farmer to grow more crops. The Amendment seems to remove what was a fundamental blot upon the Bill as printed, which was that you gave most to the men who needed it least and least to the men who needed it most. Now we put it in a different way. Some hon. Members say that those who produce the most will not get so much as they did under the Bill as it stood, but in my opinion the man who needs assistance more, even the man who farms poor land, whatever he does, is going to get some help from the Bill which will encourage him to go on to cultivate every acre of land, which, in some seasons, would be a very valuable addition to the food supplies of the country. I agree that the proposed system is much more favourable to Scotland, Ireland, and Wales than the system originally proposed in the Bill.
May I say a few words about the financial aspect of the change? The President of the Board of Agriculture has not told us what difference it will make to the guarantee which the State is to provide if it is based upon acreage instead of sale. The difference between sale and produce is a very big one in the case of oats, while in the case of wheat it does not amount to a great deal. Taking the five years before the War, the amount of wheat sold was about 6,300,000 quarters, whereas the amount produced was 7,400,000 quarters, showing a small difference of about 250,000 quarters. In the case of oats it is estimated that 4,200,000 quarters were sold, while production reached a total of 21,183,000 quarters. That is a stupendous difference. Therefore, if the President of the Board of Agriculture is ready to abandon the measure of sale, which I think he is bound to do, and to adopt the measure of produce, then so far as the finance of the Bill is concerned the risk is increased very seriously. In order to give a measure of the extent to which the risk is increased, I have taken calculations 1984 kindly laid before me by the Board of Agriculture as to the difference between sale and produce. No one can say what the prices of wheat or oats will be in the future. One can therefore only take the pre-war prices and the prices as fixed in the Bill and arrive at the difference between them, in that way obtaining a measure by which we can relatively measure the effect of the two bases of calculation If we make a calculation on the difference between the prices guaranteed in the Bill and the pre-war prices on the basis of sale, the total guarantee in the period of the Bill, which is six years, will amount to £47,500,000; but if you take the basis of production and calculate your bounty on that, you reach the very large total of £104,000,000, or an addition of £57,000,000 to the risk to the State. The hon. Member opposite (Sir W. Beale) shakes his head.
§ Sir W. BEALE
Has it not occurred to the hon. Member that under this Bill the whole product practically will be sold? A man will not want to use his own oats. He will take his neighbour's from over the hedge and pay him for them.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
It has already been agreed that the guarantee will have to be given on production. I am merely emphasising the change in liability which is made by transferring the basis from sale to production. Practically the State liability is doubled. That change is made in the Bill by the acceptance of this Amendment. In making this calculation I take what is ascertained, that is the number of acres under wheat and cats in 1916. You had, roughly, 2,000,000 acres under wheat and 4,000,000 acres under oats. Taking the difference between the average price and the price fixed in the Bill, in the case of oats it would amount to £1,000,000 and in the case of wheat to £800,000. Applying the same test, namely, the pre-war price of wheat and oats and the pre-war production, and applying the prices in the Bill, you will find that yon get a guarantee which, in the first year, would amount to a sum of £30,000,000 and for the whole period would amount to exactly the same figure that I have mentioned in the case of production, namely, £104,000,000. So that what the right hon. Gentleman is doing in accepting the scale of acreage as opposed to the scale of sale, he is doing exactly what he was doing when he agreed to accept production as the basis of the bounty. The hon. 1985 Member for Shropshire and his Friends have not quite appreciated the very great concession which the right hon. Gentleman has made to them, because he has increased his guarantee from £47,000,000 to £104,000,000 over the whole period. Hon. Members will bear in mind that that does not include any increase in acreage. If we have an increase of 3,000,000 acres under cereals, then, of course, the guarantee would be increased by the amount of new acreage. I am leaving that out, because it does not affect the measure by which we can measure the relative financial cost, or risk to the State of the two methods. At the same time, it seems to me that if you are to have a guarantee of this kind, the basis of acreage has an enormous advantage over the basis of either production or sale. It seems to me inevitable that you would have to come to that if you were going to make this really practicable, therefore I find myself ready to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. BARRIE (indistinctly heard)
On the whole, I think those who have studied the matter recognise that the balance of advantage is in favour of the Amendment which the Government has now expressed its willingness to accept. We quite realise the administrative difficulties which would have confronted the Government under the Clause in its original form. I cannot speak with the same knowledge as to Scotland, but in Ireland I am sure there are sufficient Departmental officials throughout the country to see that the returns sent in are roughly checked in a manner sufficient to protect the State. It is said this will be a distinct discouragement to good husbandry, but undoubtedly the good farmer will get his reward in another form, through the prospective State requirements of this country under the programme of the Department of Agriculture, as foreshadowed extensively in the Press. There will be such an abnormal demand for good seed wheat and good seed oats as will put both articles to a premium, and while I have the good fortune to represent a district where the standard of cultivation is high, I think our farmers will feel that they have no objection to offer to the proposal. May I add a word on the broader aspects of the question which has just been dealt with by the hon. Member (Mr. Molteno)? He again seems to threaten the country with the colossal cost of what he calls this bounty system. If those of us who claim 1986 to represent Ireland and to represent agriculture know the position, as we believe we do, we desire to assure the House with some measure of confidence that during the first year the demand upon the Government will be a very small one indeed. Unfortunately, the submarine peril has brought shipping to such a state that we know prices are bound to rule at a fairly high level. While we heard many objections yesterday to the level suggested for the first year in the Bill it seemed to be forgotten that this bounty which the Government was so largely blamed for giving means a price less by 50 per cent, than the average good farmer got for his oats in Ireland in the open market last year. If that is to be the maximum of encouragement which good farmers are to get it does not speak very highly for those who opposed the Bill so vigorously yesterday. It does not show that they even now realise the full extent of the gravity of the food problem. We are dealing with this food problem in what I think is a wise and far-seeing manner. We believe that die real food difficulty is going to come in the early months of next year. I am satisfied that something has to be done, and that the nation realises that it must be done now, not only to encourage the farmer now, but to maintain the extra cultivation which has been set in motion under the stimulus of the Prime Minister's speech in February last. If our friends who were so active in opposition yesterday were as serious in that opposition as they suggested, they should have entered it at the proper time, and that was when the Prime Minister made his statement on the 27th February last. We heard very little opposition to it then. Under the belief that that speech would be made good by legislation, the farmers increased the productivity of Ireland to an extent which is entirely creditable to them. I hope, now that this change is consented to by those who have a right to speak on behalf of agricultural interests, we shall not have any further radical changes made in the Bill. We prefer that the Government should carefully consider the whole scheme because undoubtedly this change in the basis of the allowance will cause an extensive new drafting of the Bill throughout its later Clauses. We regret that this kind of legislation should be pressed through the House under high pressure but we realise the difficulty, and, so far as we agriculturists have a right to 1987 speak in the name of Ireland, we believe that the acreage scheme is a distinct improvement on the scheme outlined in the Bill.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I appeal to the Committee to bring the discussion to a conclusion. We have already spent considerable time over it, and, on the whole, there has been a great consensus of agreement in favour of the Amendment. I might point out to my hon. Friend (Mr. Molteno) that the figures which he gave must in the circumstances be largely conjectural. There is no doubt that a very much larger quantity of oats, probably double or more, might come into the market, and it might very well be that if the sale basis had continued prices might have been brought down so as to render the State liable, when otherwise it would not have been liable. That is a danger to be borne in mind. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Leif Jones) rather challenged me to say why I advocated this particular Amendment when it was evident that it was not an encouragement to high farming. When I said I supported the Amendment I think I stated the case as fully and as fairly as I possibly could on that subject. I said that undoubtedly it did not encourage high farming to the same extent as the sale basis, but I think I pointed out that the farmer was still left with the encouragement of good prices and that we did secure what he wanted, a guarantee against at all events any substantial loss, and I thought that with that guarantee behind him and the temptation of prices in front of him he would farm as highly as he could. I hope after this lengthy discussion we may now come to a conclusion.
I fully agree with my right hon. Friend that the Committee might well come to a decision on the point. As I have followed the Debate it appears to me to have covered a good deal of ground that we discussed very fully yesterday on the case for and against the acreage basis as against the quarterage basis. When we pressed the acreage basis on the President on yesterday's Amendment we coupled it with a limitation of its benefits to the excess. The Commitee will clearly see that this arrangement, without any limitation as to the excess, means that in a year when it becomes operative it will actually cost the Exchequer more than the original proposal in the Bill, 1988 which was only for corn sold. The effect of this is to make it on corn sold and on corn produced. I believe that will be much fairer to the farmers as a whole, and that is one of the reasons why I was strongly in favour of the acreage basis, but it is equally fair to the Committee to point out that the change which is being made, with none of the limitations we asked for yesterday, will, in effect, when it becomes operative, cost the Exchequer more than the original proposal in the Bill as it was first introduced.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
As I was present at the Central Chamber of Agriculture when they voted against this proposal I feel that I ought not to give a silent vote. Obviously, any opinion which was come to by that Committee must have due consideration in this House, but I am convinced, having been there, that this was not a considered opinion even on a simple motion. It was under discussion for a very few moments, and this Amendment to the average man is not a simple question at all. I do not know whether I am average or otherwise, but when the Amendment was first brought to me my impression was that it was complicated, that it was the sort of Amendment which never would get through the House of Commons, and that if it got through the farming community would never understand it. But the more I came to consider it the more enamoured I became of it. I do not go further than to say that it possesses the least disadvantages. After all, it sweeps away all the administrative difficulties which would attach to the sale basis, and, although I agree you could make a very good ease against the Amendment, because it is not a maximum stimulus for maximum production. But, on the other hand, the main object we have in view is to secure farmers, large and small, against loss, which may be due to bad seasons as well as to bad prices. This Amendment does equalise the general position as between good and bad seasons and good and bad prices, to the fortunate and the unfortunate, the large and the small farmer. Anyone who opposes this Amendment, in order to make good his position, has got to lay before us some other constructive Amendment which could be carried through. We have heard from the few opponents of the Amendment no alternative. As to the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Runciman), I think there is a 1989 case for saying the Government must insure that there is at least good cultivation. I gathered from what my right hon. Friend said yesterday that, so far as it could be done by local machinery, it would be ensured. There is one other small point, but it is a point of some importance. I have always, in the whole of my career, had the misfortune to farm or look after strong land. Public spirited as I hope I am, this Amendment would lead me to cay, "No, I am not going to have 50 acres fallow; I shall only have 25, because I shall get more advantage." I do think, from the point of view of the real productivity of strong land, it is essential that in the ordinary rotation all the land that ordinarily ought to come under dead fallow should come under it. As to the arguments that have been adduced by the right hon. Member for Dewsbury, if it can be shown it is in the interests of good cultivation that land should be fallow, the farmer who so leaves it fallow should not be prejudiced. In the main, having endeavoured to analyse this Amendment, I am satisfied that the farmer will be prepared, in the interests of the country and of his own, to accept it.
§ Mr. CLANCY
The proposition before the House has been fully discussed, and I do not intend to make any addition to the criticisms that have been offered upon it. I merely wish to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture a question which would clear up what is, in my mind, at present somewhat doubtful, namely, as to what it is he has actually agreed to accept. He commenced his first speech by saying that he would accept the principle of the Amendment moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Lichfield, but that he would accept it in the words of the Amendment of the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool. There are three Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool on the first page.
§ Mr. CLANCY
I want to know exactly. I assume all these three Amendments are practically one, and are going to be accepted by the Minister for Agriculture. There are, however, two other Amendments on the next page concerned with the same Clause, and I understand one of them is accepted, namely, the first.
§ Mr. L. SCOTT
I understand the President of the Board of Agriculture has accepted two Amendments which stand in my name on page 1 of the White Paper and the two that stand on page 2 of the White Paper.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Perhaps I can assist the Committee in this matter. It appears to me, having examined these two Amendments, that they are the same, except in form. I understand the Government's position to be that they consider the second form the better drafting, but there is no difference in substance. Therefore, after the present Amendment of the hon. Member for Lichfield, I shall proceed with that of the hon. Member for Liverpool, and, if there is nothing intervening, then we should get these four successive Amendments, which amount to the same as the simple Amendment now moved by the hon. Member for Lichfield, inserted in the Bill.
§ Mr. CLANCY
May I respectfully say that I quite agree with what you have said, but there is a reason, which I will venture to give, why I, for my part, and, I believe, those who act with me, will not accept the very last of these Amendments until we have had some further consideration of it? I understand perfectly well that the first four Amendments of the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool are accepted by the Government and will be adopted by them. The last, providing for the amount of money to be paid, I am now told is also going to be accepted by the Government. All I wish to say is we must have some criticism upon the subject of the last Amendment, and that our Vote now upon the other Amendments in favour of the Government is not to be taken as endorsing the opinion of the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool as to the amount of bounty or bonus that is going to be paid.
Mr. D. WHITE
The question that has just been asked by my hon. and learned Friend shows the difficulty of the position we are in. I want as far as possible to respond to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but I would point out that to no small extent the difficulty that the Committee is in is due to the neglect of the Government, when they had decided to take a certain course, of not putting the Amendment that they wanted to accept down in their own name, so that the Committee could see exactly how matters stand. We are in this position: We are now discussing an Amendment by my hon. 1991 Friend the Member for Lichfield, which we understand is a different Amendment from the one to be accepted by the Government. I would point out that we have only heard that this afternoon. The suggestion—and I do not quarrel with it—is that the difference between the two is merely in drafting, but it is extremely difficult to follow an Amendment like that of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool when you have to trace it through the Order Paper and through a mosaic of three or four Amendments. I am not in the least suggesting any criticism of my hon. and learned Friend; that, of course, is the way to put it down. My suggestion is that when the Government had decided to accept it, they should have put it down in such a form that the Committee could have seen what they were actually discussing. That brings me to another point upon which I would like a little light. When my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield was speaking, he said that he was quite willing to accept the Amendment to the effect that, on the basis of payment by acres, there should be inserted words that the cultivation should be approved by the Board of Agriculture. Something of that sort is very necessary.
§ Sir C. WARNER
That is the reason I propose to withdraw my Amendment, and the Amendments as put down by the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool leave these words in "to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture."
§ Mr. L. JONES
No. If the hon. Member will allow me, all it says is "if proved to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture that the crop produced is oats." It does not say that the cultivation is to be "to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture."
Mr. D. WHITE
I was just going to point out what my hon. Friend has done. There is no provision that the cultivation is to be to the satisfaction of the Board, so far as I can make out from the words proposed by the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool, and yet the hon. Baronet has suggested that he would be willing to accept that. I would like really, in view of the difficulties—they are not of my causing, they are the causing of the Government owing to their not having distinctly said what they proposed—if I may have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman for a moment, to ask him 1992 whether, in accepting the proposals of the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division, he proposes to accept the Amendments and at the same time to insert some proviso that the cultivation is to be to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture? If there is no safeguard of that kind, the last possible safeguard for this country is gone. There is another matter arising out of that—the question of what should be the machinery by which the Board of Agriculture should act. The hon. Baronet who supported the Amendment we are now discussing suggested that the Board of Agriculture should act through local committees, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London suggested that that would be very undesirable, because one farmer naturally had a dislike to another farmer coming and finding out what he was doing. I would like to add to his objection by pointing out another which I am sure he would sympathise with as one of the guardians of the taxpayers in this House—namely, these agricultural committees, I understand, are largely composed of agriculturists, and when it is a question of sharing out the taxpayers' money I suggest that the agriculturists, who themselves may benefit directly or indirectly, are not the best judges of the question whether the land is being properly cultivated. I maintain that that should be determined by some representative of the Board of Agriculture acting entirely independently of those who are engaged in farming in the locality, and I venture to suggest that to my right hon. Friend.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment. I think the words in the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool carry out exactly the same as my Amendment. The only difference is that mine is easy to read because it is all on one. The other carries out exactly the same thing, only it puts it in other words.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendments made: Leave out the words "quarter of wheat or oats" ["of each quarter of wheat or oats"], and insert instead thereof the words "acre on."
§ Leave out the word "to" ["of the Board to have been so produced"], and insert instead thereof the words, "that wheat or oats."1993
§ Leave out the words "and to have been sold."—[Mr. L. Scott.]
§ Mr. L. JONES
Before the next Amendment is taken I would like to ask whether the President of the Board of Agriculture is going to secure proper cultivation in these cases, because when the hon. Member for Lichfield was moving his Amendment it was suggested words should be put in that the cultivation should be to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture? I think now in the altered form of the Clause it is most essential something of that kind should be done or we shall have a good deal of bad farming.
§ Mr. L. SCOTT
I beg to move to leave out the word "to" ["a sum equal to the difference"], and to insert instead thereof the words, "in the case of wheat to four times and in the case of oats to five times."
§ Mr. PROTHERO
In answer to the question, I propose to add to the existing proviso the proviso that the cultivation is to the satisfaction of the Board of Agriculture.
§ Mr. P. MEEHAN
We understand that the figures, four in the case of wheat and five in the ease of oats, are based on the average production per acre. If that is so. when the Irish Clauses come to be discussed, though we will accept the Amendment now, we will reserve our right to raise the question.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
The figures are based on the production of the United Kingdom. It is said that the Irish average is above that. I quite agree, but this is a United Kingdom measure, and this is a figure that we propose. I may point out to the hon. Member that the large area of new land brought under cultivation will almost certainly result in the quantity not reaching the same high aver- 1994 age as obtained in the past, and that is a justification for the figures which have been choesn.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
By the Bill in its original form the bounty was to be paid on the wheat and oats that were sold, whereas under this proposal it is to be paid on the whole amount that is produced. I have no objection to that, because I think that the original condition was an impractical one, but I think that the President ought not to increase the possible charge on the taxpayer by this alteration, but ought to readjust the figures so as to produce the same results under the original Bill. I would like a reply on those two points: whether the figure is a fair one, allowing for the diminishing return on the extended area of production, and whether you are not increasing the obligation on the taxpayer by this alteration?
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I have already dealt with the point as to the increase in the obligation in reply to the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, but I may have the indulgence of the Committee in repeating what I then said. The Bill was constructed on the basis of production. The minimum prices in Clause 2 were based upon that original form of the Bill. Afterwards, owing to administrative difficulties, which I have already explained, it was decided to make certain changes. Now I am asked whether this does not impose a great additional liability upon the State. My answer is that that is purely conjectural. It is quite evident that in former times a quantity of oats did not come on the market, but was consumed on the farm or eaten by the farmer and his family. The prices that are now fixed would undoubtedy cause a very much larger quantity to come upon the market, if the basis is sale. How much that would be is pure conjecture, but we were warned that there would be serious risk of so large a quantity of oats being put on the market, in order to get the bounty, that the liability on the State would be very considerably increased. Therefore, in contrasting the two systems you have got to take into consideration the fact that the oats that were sold under the old system would represent probably not two-thirds of the amount of oats put on the market under this Bill. Comparing 1995 the two there is thus an additional liability. What it is we cannot say. It is pure conjecture.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
It may be, or it may be inconsiderable. It all depends on how much is put on the market. The figures which I gave to the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire were based on production, and we have throughout assumed that the ultimate expense to which we can possibly be put is the sum mentioned by the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think that there can be no doubt that this alteration will impose a considerable charge. I suppose that is covered by the terms of the resolution. If that is so, I would like to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman would, before the Report stage, endeavour to inform the House as clearly as he can what the amount of the increased charge will be, in order that the House may, on the Report stage, if they think that the increased charge is not right, have an opportunity of reconsidering the matter.
§ Mr. P. A. HARRIS
If we are going to increase the liability on the Exchequer, will it not be necessary that the financial resolution should be passed again?
§ The CHAIRMAN
On a point of Order. The House, perhaps, does not quite recollect the resolution that was passed. It was in the widest terms. It provided for the payment out of monies to be provided by Parliament of the expenses incurred by the Board of Agriculture under any Act passed in the present Session, for encouraging the production of corn. That is the reason I allowed the hon. and gallant Member to move his Amendment. It is clearly within the province of the Committee to entertain his proposal. Perhaps I may put this further point, that there will be nothing out of order, as I see it, on the Report stage, if the House so desire, in reducing these figures if further information shows that to be desirable, because this is not in the nature of a tax at all. Therefore, there will be nothing against proposing a smaller figure when we come to the Report stage of the Bill.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
It is very satisfactory to have the official assurance of the right hon. Gentleman in reply to my hon. Friend (Mr. Meehan), that the average production in Ireland is higher than 1996 Great Britain. But the right hon. Gentleman ought to recognise the practical result of that. Instead of doing so he differentiates against Ireland in favour of the English farmer who has a low production. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will circulate to the Committee some paper giving figures showing the average production for Ireland as compared with the average for Great Britain. My impression is that the average production of oats in Ireland is the highest in Europe, and I think that it would be right for the Committee to have the figures of production for Ireland, and also to have separately the figures of production for England and Scotland. The return recently circulated by the Board gives figures for the United Kingdom, and by adding the production for Ireland to the production for Great Britain you raise the average for Great Britain and lower the average for Ireland. That is very unfair to the Irish farmer. If he gets more out of his land by better care of it he ought to have the benefit resulting from the labour and care which he has applied to it. Wheat is chiefly the crop in England, as oats is mainly the Irish crop, and I notice that in the return for 1916 of the production of wheat in the United Kingdom the four times the difference between the average price and the minimum price, as proposed in this Amendment, is much more than four quarters per acre. The average amount under wheat in the United Kingdom in 1916 was 2,053,000 acres and the production was only 7,471,000 quarters. In order to have an average of 4 quarters per acre the production should have been 8,212,000 quarters, which shows that the differentiation on that point also is in favour of England and against Ireland. You take a lower average of production as regards oats, lower than the actual average, and you take a higher than the actual average as regards wheat, and on these two points, both on the price and on the average production, you differentiate against Ireland.
That is the usual treatment which Ireland, I suppose, has to expect in this House. We have got accustomed to it. The right hon. Gentleman's only answer to my hon. Friend was this: that inasmuch as Ireland is now bringing a much larger area under cultivation, the average is likely to go down, but is it not proposed that England should bring 3,000,000 additional acres under cultivation during 1997 the coming year? It is proposed to have an additional 3,000,000 acres in England under cultivation, but as regards Ireland the position is not the same, and we reserve the right, when the Irish Clauses come up, to ask that Ireland should be treated on a parity with England, and that the average production of Ireland should be taken as the basis of the treatment of Ireland, and should not be added in order to raise the average of England, and pay the English farmer on the food produced by the Irish farmer. On every ground of fair play and reasonableness the right hon. Gentleman's proposal is wrong as far as Ireland is concerned, and we shall take care, as far as we possibly can, that fair treatment shall be accorded to Ireland in this matter.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words,Provided—The Committee will see that I have submitted the Amendment in a form different from that which appears upon the Paper. It provides for two things, either where the land has been so negligently cultivated that there will be no payment at all or where it has been so negligently cultivated that a considerable reduction in the payment ought to be made.
- (a) that if it appears to the Board in respect of any land on which wheat or oats have been produced that the wheat or oats were intermixed with any other crop, the amount payable in respect of that land shall be adjusted accordingly in such manner as the Board think proper;
- (b) when it appears that such land has been negligently cultivated, the Board may either withhold altogether the payment to which the occupier would otherwise be entitled or diminish the amount of this payment to such an extent as the Board thinks proper, to meet the circumstances of the case."
Are we to presume that the Amendment proposed in paragraph (b) is in conformity with the promise made last night by the right hon. Gentleman, that he would endeavour to arrive at some proposal which would assure the Committee that the country would get value for its money? I would point out that if that is the test to be applied, then the Amendment which the right hon. 1998 Gentleman has now moved does not fulfil the undertaking given last night. I should like to know whether he proposes to do anything further to carry out that undertaking, or whether we are to rest satisfied with the negative provision of the (b) part of the Amendment now before the House?
§ Mr. PROTHERO
Perhaps I ought to have explained this Amendment more clearly. I was asked specifically that on the acreage basis the land should not be scratched or anything of that sort. I promised that I would consider whether any device could be arrived at to meet the case by which something was to be done in order to get the bonus. That is not the point of the Milner suggestion, and it is only this particular point that I have dealt with.
May I ask what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to do about his undertaking? I am not sure that this is the proper place to insert the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman promised to consider. If it is not, I am sure he will give guidance to the Committee and let us know what he proposes to do to carry out the special requirements asked for last night.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I think it is a little unusual to ask me for that at so early a date. The point puzzled the Milner Committee for days and days, and when they did arrive at a decision it did not satisfy all of them. I regret to say that owing to the many calls on my time I have not been able at all to attend to this matter, but it can be considered at a later stage.
I do not wish to press unduly with regard to this, but the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I point out the position in which we are placed. It is not unreasonable to ask that the Report of the Milner Committee, which the right hon. Gentleman himself signed, should be regarded as the basis of our requirement, if further time is necessary in order to go fully into the question. I hope he will not regard me as captious if I say that many of us are not over friendly disposed to Clause 1 of the Bill, unless something is done to carry it out in the spirit which we have indicated.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I think the right hon. Gentleman is rather unfair to the President of the Board of Agriculture, who distinctly stated that he could not accept the proviso laid down in the Milner Report. 1999 The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture has not had an opportunity of considering the matter since last night, and, moreover, he distinctly said that he would not accept the proposal of the Milner Committee. It is hardly fair that the Minister should be called upon within twelve hours to produce a fresh scheme, for that is what he promised to try and do, but not on the basis of the Milner scheme, because he distinctly refused to do that in my hearing.
§ Mr. P. A. HARRIS
What the agricultural interest wants to know is what benefit it is going to get out of the Bill, and the nation wants to know what its whole liability is likely to be. I think it would be very difficult for us to consider this Clause without really knowing how far it is to go, and what are to be the conditions, and what is the assurance that good farming is going to be restored. In the circumstances I think we should not proceed with this Clause until we really have the position in this matter clearly defined. I should like to move to report Progress, so that the President of the Board of Agriculture might have an opportunity to consult and to frame a satisfactory Clause.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I could not accept a Motion of that kind. I would point out that the question actually before the Committee is the further proviso which has been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. The question to which the hon. Member referred could, of course, be raised when I put the Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. ROCH
I am afraid I cannot quite follow what is the subject of the proviso which the President of the Board of Agriculture has moved. I presume the Amendment gives further power of inspection to the Board of Agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman has altered the whole basis of the Bill, and the farmer is now placed in a most unfortunate position because the President of the Board of Agriculture has accepted the new basis. We are now living in a country where the Government determines and controls our lives, and I did think that the farmers would be left alone, but they are now to come under a form of inspection which will be intolerable to them. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has machinery to 2000 enforce the proviso he now proposes. Are we to have an endless procession of Government officials, many of them chosen without qualifications at all, to be imposed upon the unfortunate agricultural interest? I very much regret that the President of the Board of Agriculture has made this alteration. I cannot oppose this Amendment because it is a necessary corollary of the alteration made under the Bill. I can only say that the kind of inspection contemplated will be an intolerable interference, and the farmers will not thank you for it.
Mr. D. WHITE
If the agricultural interest or any other interest receives payments out of the taxpayers' money then they must accept the taxpayer's control as to the way the money is to be expended.
There are the accustomed channels through which to persuade the Government, and in regard to these endowments I have had resolution after resolution from farmers accepting them, but complaining of not getting a higher scale of payment than they have. In view of these facts, I cannot tell how my hon. Friend can take up the position he has. Every Member of the House has had complaints from the farming interest that the endowment is not more than it is. My complaint, to come to the particular proposal, is this. The right hon. Gentleman seems to me to have put this qualification the wrong way about, instead of designing it as it should have been in the interests of the taxpayer. When something of this kind was adumbrated by the hon. Baronet the Member for Lichfield (Sir C. Warner) he said that the condition should be that the Board of Agriculture should be satisfied that the farming was good. The President is not following those lines at all. To provide that unless the Board are satisfied that the farming shows neglect, may seem the same thing, but it is not the same thing, because in one case the subsidy would not be granted unless the Board were affirmatively satisfied. But what he is proposing now is that the subsidy will be granted unless the Board are dissatisfied. Even if the Board make no inquiry whatever the subsidy is given as a matter of course. In the interests of the taxpayer I suggest that the 2001 subsidy ought not to go forward unless the Board are affirmatively satisfied that the land is being well cultivated.
§ Colonel GRETTON
There is one point in the Amendment about which there appears to be a little doubt as to interpretation, though I have no doubt as to what the President means. Those words are, "Any land on which wheat or oats have been produced that the wheat or oats were intermixed with any other crop." In some parts of the country you have barley or some other white crop, or a crop pf clover. The words would cover those cases and disqualify the oats or wheat from receiving any payment which might be due. There should be something to cover the question of rotation. In regard to the second proviso, as to the cultivation of the land, it is perfectly true the farmers have not asked for this Bill. This Bill has arisen out of the action of the Board of Agriculture in urging the farmers to plough more land and to produce more corn. The question as to who is to decide whether the land is properly cultivated is a most important point. I happen to be a member of a war agricultural committee, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that no member of that committee or any member of any other committee with which I am acquainted has any desire whatever to undertake any more duties than those which already have to be undertaken. All corn land will have to be inspected and reported on whether the payment under this Bill comes into operation or not, because the cultivation of the land will have to be judged before the crop is gathered. You cannot judge cultivation in any other way, and the whole history of the cultivation will have to be gone into. This is going to be a very serious business, especially in bad seasons, because the question will arise whether there has been negligent cultivation or whether the failure of the crop is owing to events which are beyond the farmer's control. I think I may say confidently that the war agricultural committees generally will not want to undertake these duties. If you are to have a staff of permanent officials to judge all the corn throughout the country during the corn harvest, that will be a very serious undertaking, and will impose a great charge upon the public Exchequer, and will cause great irritation to all farmers engaged in cultivating the land. This may be the least objectionable course 2002 which is proposed, but if you are going to have six years' inspection of every piece of land in the country in wheat or oats, and reports to the Board of Agriculture or somebody else as to whether ft has been negligently cultivated, there is going to be great and permanent irritation, and I think some other method will have to be devised which will inform he Board as to those who are not cultivating their land to the best advantage.
§ Mr. PETO
It seems to me that in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman) the President was rather quick in disclaiming this proviso (b) as in any measure meeting the request made yesterday by various Members for some quid pro quo. Surely one of the obvious quid pro quos is that there should be good cultivation. Part IV. of this Bill deals with proper cultivation, and throws the onus on the Board of seeing that the land is properly cultivated for which purpose in that part the Board take definite powers. Therefore this proposal is really trying to do the same thing in two ways in two parts of the Bill. The proviso says if the farmer is negligent in cultivation the bonus or guarantee is to be withheld, and in Part IV. it is proposed that if the farmer does not properly cultivate his land the Board will take very drastic powers to take possession of the land and see that it is properly cultivated That brings me to a suggestion I desire to make. In view of the present difficulty and the desire that has been expressed by the President to think over in what way he can meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury, surely Clause 8 of the Bill is the proper place to deal with this question of a quid pro quo, and it would be better, I suggest to postpone this proviso and consider it with any other proviso which the right hon. Gentleman has in possible contemplation. Unless we are to take this as an indication that Part IV. is going to be dropped this is a curious proposal to put forward, making this double barrelled arrangement of taking power in one part to see that the land is properly cultivated, and in another part leaving the onus entirely on the farmer to cultivate the land if he wants to get a guarantee, and, in fact, except for this inspection, free to cultivate the land and take the bonus or lose the bonus as he chooses. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should drop 2003 the second proviso (b) and bring it up subsequently with the other dealing with proper cultivation.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
There is one question I should like to ask the President. We are now asked to insert in the Bill a provision that this bonus should not be payable in cases where the Board is of opinion that the land has been negligently farmed. By what process do the Board of Agriculture contemplate this provision shall be enforced? I take it in this connection that the bounty will not be payable every year. It is anticipated by a very large number of Members that it may not be payable at all, or not within the six years. In any case you cannot tell under the provisions of the Bill until the average price of the year has been finally ascertained whether or not the bounty will be payable in respect of the harvest of any particular year. In other words, you have to wait until the April after the year in which the harvest has been reaped before you can tell whether or not any bounty will be payable. It is only then that the Board of Agriculture will know whether or not it is necessary to have inspection with a view to the application of this Clause. The specific point I wish to address to the President is this: Do they propose every year to have a sort of routine inspection everywhere on the chance that the bounty may be payable in respect of the harvest of that year, and with a view to checking the operations of this Clause? If so, will they not have to establish immense official machinery which perhaps may not be utilised, or, on the other hand, do they propose to wait until they know if the bounty will be payable in respect of the particular harvest? If that is so, seeing that they will not know until the April after the harvest has been reaped, how will they be able to ascertain whether or not the land had been negligently cultivated in the previous year?
§ Mr. HARDY
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not see his way to follow the suggestion made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Peto)? It appears to me that Clause 8 would be a suitable place at which to discuss this question, because under it the Board takes power to make Regulations to prescribe the manner under which the payments under Clause 1 are to be made. Surely that is the place we ought to have 2004 this discussion, and adjourning this proviso until then will give us time to see any suggestions the Government make on the Paper. I would, therefore, ask the President to reserve the proviso to Clause 8.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I rise to point out two things. If any business accepts a State guarantee, then it is only reasonable that there should be State control. If you do not have a provision of this sort it will be perfectly possible for a man not to cultivate land at all or to cultivate it very negligently and yet get the bounty. That difficulty did not arise when you paid him on production, but under this acreage principle that difficulty arises in the greatest possible way. I do not see how it is possible for anybody who pretends to be the guardian of the public purse even in the loosest way to agree to give a guarantee on acreage independently of production and not have some control. On the other hand, look at the question of machinery. For my part I quite sympathise with what my hon. Friend (Mr. Roch) said on that point. I am not fond of inspection, but, then, I am not fond of bounties. I would neither have bounties nor inspection, and I should like to be a free man if I were a farmer and not to be the object of charity. But if I were the object of charity, I feel I must be under some control. This is not going to cost any more in machinery than the other proposal. That proposal has been abandoned by the President of the Board of Agriculture because he felt it might eventuate in costly and difficult machinery. No doubt it would be very difficult to arrive at accurate results. Therefore we understand the reason why he abandoned the basis of quantity sold and substituted the acreage for it. That will require an amount of inspection and examination, and very difficult inspection, and weighing, and a great deal of trouble. This will not require, I think, as much machinery as that; but I must urge upon the Government that it would really amount to a public scandal if you gave a bounty and did not take any security to see that the State was getting something in return for that bounty.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
All the difficulties which have been put before me by hon. Members would not, I think, if they had been here at a previous stage of the Debate, have been put.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I should be sorry to be the object of the charity of the right hon. Gentleman; I should prefer to be a free man. This arises over a very small point, which was this: It was represented to me that a man might scratch the surface of the soil, grow a handful of grain from it, and claim the bounty. I replied that no man in his senses would be fool enough to spend the time and trouble upon doing that for the very small reward which was offered here in this bounty. I do not believe he will. The House must remember that he has got to give—I am afraid I am repeating myself, because I have said all this before—a certificate of the amount of land on which he is growing grain. He has got to give it accurately under a very severe penalty. From time to time we will have inspection, but we trust to this—as I said before, the farmer will do the Government if he can do the Government legally, but he would not do so, or try to do so, if he is subject to a very heavy penalty. We must trust to that as our main defence in this case. I was asked, I think, by the hon. Member opposite if I would put in some words which would guard against this special danger. He complained that I had put the words in negative form: that I had put them in to the effect "if the land was negligently cultivated," instead of in the affirmative form, "satisfactorily cultivated." I submit to the House that the Amendment is quite sufficient. We have got tremendous power to take care that the land is properly cultivated, and I hope we shall use it. The whole basis of giving this security to the farmer is that we may be justified in using these strong powers. We have always that power behind us. My proviso is a very simple thing and applies to a very small section of the community.
§ Amendment agreed to.
The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. ANDERSON: At the end of Clause to add the words,
Provided that the land on which such wheat or oats have been produced is publicly-owned land.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would like to ask the hon. Member how he makes the proposal fit in to the Clause as it stands?
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I do not understand, Mr. Whitley. I do not see that there is, in my proposition, anything inconsistent with the Clause. If, however, you will allow me to make the proposal I will try 2006 to explain what it is I mean. The purpose of this proposal, which I beg to move, is to ensure that any bargain struck as between the producer and the nation is going to be a bargain mutually advantageous to the producer and the nation, and is not going to benefit those who may be behind the producer, that is the landlord, or the land-owning classes. Consequently, what I am suggesting is that if a bounty is given it must be a bounty in respect of land which is the property of the nation and which is publicly-owned land. My suggestion is that any bounty which may in the first instance be given to the farmer for in creased production, or for good work, may afterwards be taken from the farmer by increased rental, and therefore the farmer will gain no advantage so far as he is personally concerned. My own view is that the present system of land tenure is wrong. I believe also that the present system of land tenure is doing a great deal to stifle good production and food production—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is what I expected. The hon. Member's remarks are hardly within the scope of the present Bill. We have to deal with conditions as they are at present.
The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Mr. DUNDAS WHITE: At the end of the Clause to add the words,
Provided that the sum so payable shall in no case exceed five shillings per quarter of wheat or three shillings per quarter of oats.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment of the hon. Member for the Tradeston Division of Glasgow deals with weight as against acreage, and I am afraid it can hardly be fitted in.
In order to bring it into line, I would suggest that I might move it in this form: The substitution of "20s." for "5s." and of "15s." for "3s.," and "per acre" instead of "per quarter."
May I read it as revised?Provided that the sum so payable shall in no case exceed twenty shillings per acre of wheat, or fifteen shillings per acre of oats.
In moving the Amendment in this form, I do it with a view of placing some limit to the liability of the taxpayer under the Governmental proposal. We have been assured by the President of the Board of Agriculture that in his opinion there will be no liability in respect of wheat, and that the liability in respect of oats will be comparatively small. The figures I am proposing are well outside that suggestion, and I venture to move the Amendment with a view, as I say, of limiting the liability of the taxpayer, which at present, if the Clause goes forward as it stands, and if the prices of wheat, say, four years hence, sink to what they were before the War, may mean that that liability will be very great indeed.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
That is to say, that if wheat descends to 34s., and if there were in the Bill as it stands now a substantial guarantee, the Clause as amended by the hon. Member would reduce it very considerably?
§ Mr. PROTHERO
This is a Corn Production Bill. The danger against which it guards the farmer may not be a real one, but it is a very real one in his mind. If you reduce the guarantee or insurance, as suggested by the hon. Member, I am very much afraid that it will be of very little use to the farmer, and very little encouragement to him to incur any outlay.
§ Mr. L. JONES
I hardly anticipated that the President of the Board of Agriculture would accept this Amendment. But I must point out that his refusal to do so is a somewhat curious commentary on his statement made a little earlier, that we were incurring hardly any liability by the Clause as it stands. The right hon. Gentleman would give us no figures, but he intimated that it was highly improbable that any demand—certainly any early demand—would be made upon the Exchequer. When a limit is proposed which would limit, if the Bill came into operation, the payment of many millions 2008 by the State—I do not know how many, perhaps my hon. Friend has worked out the figures; I have not?
On the basis of 2,000,000 acres, which is about the acreage which is under wheat, it would limit the liability to £2,000,000. In the case of oats, I think the liability would be limited to £3,000,000.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Commander H. CRAIG
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, after the words last added, to add the words,Provided that nothing in this Section shall be interpreted as depriving the Ministry of Food of the power to requisition at the minimum prices as fixed by this Act all home-grown supplies of wheat and oats.I am informed that it may be that under the existing powers given by the Defence of the Realm Act the Ministry of Food already has the power, in case of need, to requisition supplies of wheat and oats grown in this country, but I would point out that those powers will expire within, I think, six months after the end of the War, whereas under this Act the guarantee is continued for a period of five years. I hope that the President of the Board of Agriculture may see his way to accept this very harmless Amendment for the purpose of reassuring the public. We are guaranteeing the farmers, at the public expense, a minimum price for wheat and ought we not to be careful to see that at the same time we give some guarantee to the consumer that he is not going to left, having guaranteed the farmer a minimum price, at the farmer's mercy to exploit the market over and above that minimum price? While we have been discussing the question of inducing the farmer to grow more wheat by promising him the minimum prices mentioned in the Schedule of this Bill, one has been able to observe that up and down the country a maximum price of, I think, 80s. a quarter having been fixed for wheat, a price far in excess of anything in this Schedule, farmers are not offering their wheat even at 80s. You can take up paper after paper and find reports to that effect. 2009 It has been contended that by guaranteeing them 65s. or 45s., or whatever it may be, you will induce them to grow more wheat, but apparently the inducement of getting even 80s. for wheat, not grown under the obligations imposed by this Bill, such as increased payment to their labourers, does not make them willing to part with their wheat for 80s., when the public are willing to buy, when there is a chance of getting more. I do suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, for the reassurance of the public mind, that he might accept these words, although the Ministry of Food may at present possess the power under the Defence of the Realm Act of commandeering wheat, and put it in black and white, so that if the occasion arises—they are not obliged to commandeer it, and nothing I say compels them to commandeer it—here is the price at which they shall commandeer.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I see no objection whatever to these words. The Food Controller has the power, and it is one of the strongest reasons we have for asking for an insurance against loss. The fact that the Food Controller is there and can cut the farmer's profits short and not allow him to benefit by the market is one of the reasons why we ask for an insurance against loss. If farmers were left perfectly free and had the market price as it was they would be quite willing, no doubt, to risk the expense of growing corn, and would do it much more freely than they will do it under this Bill. You have, however, set up a Food Controller. You have thrown to the wind all the laws of supply and demand. The farmer is no longer free, and if you cut him off from profits at one end it is not an unreasonable thing to ask that you should secure him against loss at the other end. The whole position is absolutely abnormal, and I see no reason at all, so far as the Minister of Food is concerned, why his powers should not be applied. I may perhaps point out to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment that, speaking in this House on 23rd February, the Prime Minister said this:The only guarantee we have given of the maximum is this, that if the State commandeers either potatoes or cereals, the price will not be fixed without the consent of the Boards of Agriculture in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and, therefore, there will be an opportunity of consultation before the prices are fixed. Obviously, you cannot limit the power of the State to commandeer for national purposes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1917, col. 1606, Vol. XC.]2010 There is the point, but subject to what the Prime Minister said on the 23rd of February, I see no objection to this Amendment.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has accepted these words, because I think we ought to make it perfectly clear to the farmers what the position is. They ought not to be encouraged to think that they are going to get this as a minimum, and then to make as much as they can on top of it. It is not fair. Already we have had an illustration of the effect of not making statements in a perfectly clear manner. If I may refer to potatoes, in the speech referred to on the 23rd of February the Prime Minister stated that there was to be a guarantee for potatoes for this year, but it turned out that instead of it being this year it is not going to start until, I think, 15th December. I think, therefore, that we cannot be too clear in saying what we mean in this Bill, and I am very glad the President of the Board of Agriculture has accepted the words so that everybody will know what the position is.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
This is rather an important point, and it is one of those things that the House in Committee often agrees to without having the least idea of what the proposition really is. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Army, let us say, in Ireland can come along and commandeer the Irish oat crop at the minimum price fixed in this Bill, or is it to be a price fixed in consultation with the Department of Agriculture in Ireland? That, I understand, is the undertaking given by the Prime Minister, and it is a point that may make all the difference. I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman that there are very disquieting rumours in my part of the country. We have grown enormous quantities of oats, and I am very glad to say that the crop promises extremely well, but if the Army is to come along and commandeer all our oats at a price very much lower than the price we can get in the open market, the Army, at least, will have some trouble. I warn the right hon. Gentleman that this is a matter which ought not to be decided without some definite consideration. We are all peace and quietness, but if you are going to commandeer all the oats from all the farmers, who have been put to such great trouble to plough up extra 2011 land under the stringent regulations of the Board of Agriculture, you will not find it very easy.
§ Mr. GARDNER
I think the right hon. Gentleman has come to a decision a little too hastily. I can easily understand that he should accept the power to take corn at any price the Food Controller likes in time of war, and that power is no more than the Food Controller already possesses. We hope, however, that this War is not going to continue for anything like the length of this guarantee, and I for one strongly object to a Government official, whether the Food Controller or anyone else, having the enormous power in time of peace that the Food Controller has under this Amendment; that is, to take the crop at the minimum price each year. It has been said over and over again that farmers do not care, from their own selfish point of view, for this Bill at all. If these prices were offered to me as a farmer, and if I only looked at them from a purely selfish point of view I should reject the proposal altogether. I would rather be without the Bill from my own selfish point of view. I recognise that it is a necessity to the State, that it is a national question, and that it is a right thing that you should support it, but no farmer is really attracted even by these minimum prices of 60s. and 55s. in the next two or three years. I think myself that they are absolutely worthless, because I do not believe for a moment that wheat in the next two or three years will fall as low as these minimum prices are. Further than that, I do not think you can grow it on these new lands that are coming into cultivation at a profit at those prices, and therefore it would be most unfair to tell farmers that you would take the power, whether the War is on or whether it is not, to commandeer their grain at the minimum prices we put in here. I hope the President of the Board of Agriculture will reconsider his decision, which, if I may say so, has been a little too hastily taken. I am sure he will startle a great many of the farmers, who had thought that they were going to proceed under this scheme without any such condition as this attached to it.
§ Mr. DENMAN
May I suggest to the Committee that it is better to leave out the words now that we have the assurance—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—
§ Mr. L. SCOTT
On a point of Order. Are these words in order? I am sure that the President of the Board of Agriculture will not regard it as an insult from me that I take it as a point of Order, but, speaking as a lawyer and not for the moment as the representative of an agricultural constituency, my submission to you, Mr. Whitley, is that these words are perfectly futile, as they add nothing whatever to the Bill; and for this reason: There is absolutely nothing in the Bill which could possibly have the result against which these words are intended to guard. My submission as a point of Order is that the merits of good drafting have to be considered, and if, as a matter of drafting, words are absolute surplusage and mean nothing whatever, they should, I respectfully submit as a point of Order, be ruled out.
§ The CHAIRMAN
My view is that these words are simply declaratory. I do not think that they alter the law as it now stands, but that is not a reason for me to say that the Amendment is out of order. There are some occasions when the Committee may think it desirable to insert purely declaratory words.
§ Mr. HOLT
On the point of Order. These words, as I understand them, contain what is in fact an untrue statement of fact, namely, that the Ministry of Food now has the power to requisition at the minimum prices as fixed by this Act all home-grown supplies of wheat and oats. The Ministry of Food has no such power to requisition at these prices. As this Amendment contains an untrue statement of fact, is it in order to move it?
§ Mr. GARDNER
You said, Mr. Whitley, that the words are declaratory. Are they declaratory of anything in this Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then I take it that they are declaratory of the Defence of the Realm Act or some other Act. Those, I take it, will last only for the period of the War, but if the words come in here, surely their effect will last as long as the Bill lasts?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. L. JONES
On a point of Order. May I point out that the powers of the Minister of Food, as I understand it, do not cease after the War, and I do not see therefore why this Amendment should be limited to the period of the War.
§ Mr. DENMAN
This interesting interpolation of points of Order has illustrated the point which I wished to make, which was that this addition makes no difference to the Bill. There is nothing in Clause 1, which is the Clause that we are concerned with, that could under any conceivable circumstances be interpreted as depriving the Minister of Food of any powers whatever. The Minister of Food has powers under the Act of last year, and powers conferred on him by Regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act, and under these Regulations alone he could fix a minimum price for wheat and oats which he requisitioned, and no declaration of this kind has any effect whatever. In the interests of good drafting and legislative decency it would be far preferable to have the proviso omitted. I think all the lawyers in this House, and probably in the other House, would be surprised if they saw a Bill with a sentence of this kind in it. For that reason only I submit it should not be put in.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
Is it not an absurd position to insert a proviso in a Bill that is going to last for five or six years when you know that your proviso, at any rate, will terminate at an earlier period than the Bill terminates? Apart from that, while I do not mind, from the consumers point of view, so long as the Act is administered in consultation with the Board of Agriculture, I do object to the Food Controller having power, if the War lasted over the whole period of the Bill, in the last year to commandeer either wheat or oats, because if you had that you would then raise a hornets' nest on the second part of the Bill. It is obvious you cannot grow wheat at £45 if you pay 25s. per week to the labourer. I can only tell the House that I have been farming some acres for a good number of years, and last year I grew wheat at a loss. It cost me £9 per acre to grow, and I sold it at £8. We had a very bud year, and that might easily arise under this proviso in the last period of the Bill. I feel that this proviso is purely redundant; it cannot really affect the Bill during the period of the War, and to insert the proviso after the Food Controller has ceased to exist is useless.
§ Mr. R. MCNEILL
Mr. Whitley, I endeavoured to catch your eye earlier in order to point out to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Prothero) the mistake of accepting an Amendment which he knew could make 2014 no alteration whatever in the law, and I think that that fact has increased force from the Debate which has proceeded. My hon. Friend opposite talks about the proviso not affecting the state of affairs during the War, but he seems to contemplate the possibility of it affecting the situation after the War. Of course, the proviso can no more affect the situation after the War than it can now. You may just as well put into the Bill that nothing in the Clause shall be taken as affecting the Habeas Corpus Act. All that this proviso does is to say that it shall not be interpreted as depriving the Minister of Food, if he is continued, of any power he possesses. Either he possesses these powers or he does not. If he possesses these powers, and I think he does, and any power which might be given him under the Defence of the Realm Act, this Clause does not deprive him of them; and, if he does not possess them, it will not give them to him. It seems to me that the Amendment can effect no change whatever in the law, and under these circumstances—personally I represent an agricultural constituency and I do not care two straws whether this is put in or not—I think, in the interests of draughtsmanship, it was a very great mistake of the Government to accept it.
I was wondering what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman) thought of it when this Amendment was accepted. He has had a great experience in piloting Bills through this House. I think he can remember occasions, I do not know whether he was in charge of the Bills or not, when we have urged Amendments for one reason or another, when it has always been considered conclusive if the Minister in charge said, "Although they may be perfectly harmless, we will not put in Amendments which will not make any alteration in the Bill." That is a good position to take up. What is the use of overloading a Bill with advertisements and instructions to the population, which have no effect on the law? The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Molteno) defended the proposal as a useful instruction for the farmer. It may be very good and very useful to put such instructions in a leaflet issued by the Board of Agriculture. That is the proper function of a leaflet, but it is not proper to put instructions into an Act of Parliament. Surely, it will be a complete departure from the ordinary practice if the right hon. Friend consents 2015 to put in a proviso, which he himself says will not affect the law, and the only purpose of which can be to give information which may be useful or otherwise to certain classes of the population.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I rise for the purpose of making a suggestion which may be helpful to the Committee in putting the matter into proper form. I think there is force in some of the criticisms of the hon. and learned Gentleman behind me (Mr. McNeill) and the other legal criticisms which have been made, and perhaps it will make the thing clear and simple if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Prothero) can see his way to move, as an Amendment, the following words: "Provided it shall be lawful for the Board of Agriculture to purchase home grown supplies of wheat and oats at the minimum prices fixed in the Bill." That would make it perfectly clear that the duration of this proviso synchronises with the duration of the bounty, and that the State will be able to get something out of it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That might be a very good suggestion, but the words suggested go quite beyond the scope of the present Clause
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It may be that this Amendment interferes slightly with the beauties of draughtsmanship, but I think there are good reasons why it should be made quite clear in the Bill. I think it should be made quite clear, from the standpoint of the farmers, and also from the standpoint of the public, because it does give an assurance that the interests of the public are not being overlooked in this matter, that when you are fixing prices for the farmer you are also taking into account the question of the actual price of food, that you will not make this merely a Bill for giving farmers a minimum price, and let it soar as high as possible, but that you are going to see that these prices are fixed and that there shall be some protection for the purchasing public at the same time. There is a good practical reason for the acceptance of the Amendment, and I am glad the Government have accepted it. I am quite sure that all those wonderful draughtsmen who have risen in various parts of the House must take into account the fact that the President of the Board of Agriculture would not have accepted this Amendment if he had not submitted it to the Government draughtsmen, who also, I presume, 2016 know something about how legislation should be put together. From that point of view, although it may not really give any new power to the Ministry, I believe there are practical and sensible reasons why the Amendment should be put into the Act, and that point of view has more importance than any mere technical point of draughtsmanship.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
It may be said that from a drafting point of view I made a mistake in accepting this Amendment, but I am not a draughtsman, I am not a lawyer, and all that I knew was that it did not make the smallest difference, whether it was in the Bill or not. I am sorry to say I accepted the Amendment on that ground. I shall stick to it.
Mr. D. WHITE
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on sticking to his acceptance of the Amendment, but really I think he has, if I may say so, appeared in a white sheet when there was no occasion to be clothed in that way. It seems to be perfectly clear what the object of the Amendment is. The object is to remove all reasonable doubt. The doubt may be justified or not, but there might be a doubt as to whether any of the powers were affected by the provisions of this Bill. The removal of all reasonable doubt is a very good reason, and a very common reason, for the insertion of a proviso of this character. I listened with much attention to various hon. and learned Friends who spoke on this point, not as Members of the House, not as representing agriculture, but as lawyers, and gave their opinion as lawyers, and when I heard them I was reminded what I once heard Lord Shaw say, when he was upon the Ministerial Bench as the Lord Advocate for Scotland. He said, "Lawyers were very honest people and their advice was always worth exactly what it cost," and, remembering that, I was not so much impressed as I might otherwise have been. I only wish it could have been in order for the President of the Board of Agriculture to have accepted the further Amendment that was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow (Mr. McKinnon Wood). I hope, however, that when he comes to consider later on—I anticipated this little difficulty—an Amendment standing in my own name, when I think it will be in order—the President of the Board of Agriculture will turn a more favourable ear to the proposals of my right hon. 2017 Friend the Member for St. Rollox. In the meantime I am glad he has accepted the proposal, and we shall be very pleased to see it in the Clause.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
The insertion of this does make things different. It implies that the Ministry of Food has certain powers, and that gives me the right to discuss the question whether the Ministry of Food ought to have those powers or not, and I propose to discuss that question.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That really would not be open. This is purely, as proposed, a matter of interpretation. It is not an alteration of the present law or the Ministry of Food at all, but it is purely a question of interpretation.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
I have got to deal with the Bill before me, and in dealing with the Bill I must deal with the words of the Amendment, and I submit that I am entitled to discuss this Amendment in its plain and ordinary meaning. Personally, I do not know whether under the Defence of the Realm Act or any other Act the Ministry of Food has that power or not, but if it is proposed to insert this reference to this power, which may or may not exist in any Act, I am entitled to discuss the question whether the Ministry ought to have this power to requisition at the minimum prices all home-grown supplies of wheat and oats, and I vehemently oppose any suggestion that it should have any such power as that. I think it is most unreasonable that by anything contained in this Amendment it should be implied that the Ministry has this power. It may be so or not, but by implication this would, I think, extend the powers of the Ministry of Food, and I certainly most strongly object to any such extension.
§ Mr. DENMAN
This Amendment clearly neither adds to nor subtracts from any power the Ministry of Food has now or will have at any future time. It does not assert that the Ministry of Food has at the present time this power, but merely says that nothing in this Section shall be interpreted as depriving the Ministry of Food of the power when ever the Ministry of Food may have it. On a point of Order. Surely the question whether it is at some future time to have the power or not, or whether it has it at the present time, does not arise on an Amendment which merely says the Ministry of Food shall not be deprived of it.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
I think the hon. Member was beside the point rather than I was beside it. This assumes that the Ministry of Food has the power at present to requisition all home-grown supplies of wheat and oats. That may be so, but I object to this Bill referring to it if it exists, and I object to it assuming it exists if it does not exist. The War Office in Ireland has already caused a great deal of irritation by commandeering and requisitioning hay, wool, hides, and other things at prices which are far lower than the market prices would be. In the case of wool, for instance, I object to it being requisitioned by the War Office. Wool is produced in Ireland and is sent to this country, where it is manufactured into cloth; but the War Office, so far as I know, has never requisitioned the manufactured article over here, though it has requisitioned in Ireland the raw material at a price fixed by itself. I would ask, is it a fact that up to this moment the War Office has never requisitioned cloth at a price fixed by itself? I object to a power being applied in Ireland to raw material which is not applied here when it becomes the manufactured article. I also object to the power exercised by the War Office of requisitioning hides. When they are manufactured into boots in this country, I have not heard that up to this moment the War Office has called on the manufacturers to supply the boots at prices fixed by itself.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Member refers to wool and hides. We cannot go into that, surely?
§ Mr. O'SHEE
My argument is that the Ministry of Food ought not to have the power suggested in this Amendment, and I am putting before the Committee my reason—namely, that the War Office, in exercising the power of requisitioning, does so unfairly as regards people who produce the raw materials, and does not exercise it at all upon those who manufacture those raw materials into finished goods. That is a distinction which is resented very much. I should not object at all if the manufactured article was commandeered in the same way as the raw material. As regards the wording of the Amendment itself, I would ask, assuming that the Ministry of Food carries into 2019 effect what is indicated by the proviso, what would become of the provision in Clause 2 for ascertaining the average prices of wheat and oats in any year? It has to be ascertained in accordance with the Corn Returns Act, 1882. How can you ascertain average price? In fact, what is the meaning of Clause 1? If the Ministry of Food commandeers all the home-grown supplies of wheat and oats, how are you to ascertain for the purpose of Clause 1 the difference between the average price and the minimum price? Assuming the Ministry of Food commandeers all the home-grown supplies of wheat and oats at the minimum price, is not the average price the minimum price? Where does the difference come in? Where comes in this elaborate provision in Clause 2 for ascertaining the average price, when, on the assumption of this proviso, the Ministry of Food commandeers the whole lot at the minimum price, and there is no other price than the minimum price?
The President of the Board of Agriculture, when he was accepting this proviso, said he accepted it subject to the undertaking which the Prime Minister gave in his speech in February last as to requisitioning grain to be produced under this Bill, that the Ministry of Food or the War Office would consult the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, or the Board of Agriculture in England, or the corresponding Board in Scotland. He said he accepted it subject to the condition that the Prime Minister's undertaking should be held still to be good. I want the Prime Minister's undertaking in this Bill. I am not satisfied that it shall be understood that the Prime Minister's undertaking will be carried into effect. I do not accept the Prime Minister's undertaking. If I had to choose between an undertaking given by the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Agriculture I would prefer the latter, because I do not know that the President has broken any pledges, and I could give a good many instances in which the Prime Minister has not fulfilled his undertakings. The right hon. Gentleman said this was to be read in the light of the Prime Minister's undertaking, but let us have it in the Bill itself. I strongly oppose this proviso, and will divide against it. The assumption on which the Second Beading Debate was carried was that there would be a free 2020 market for wheat and oats—in fact, that is the assumption underlying the Bill. If you accept this Amendment, the whole structure and basis of the Bill falls to the ground. The operations carried on in Ireland in regard to requisitioning produce have created intense irritation, because the people realise that while you are commandeering at fixed prices what is produced in Ireland you are not doing the same in the case of manufactured goods in this country. You invite tenders for manufactured articles in this country, but you commandeer our produce at prices which you fix without consultation with the growers. We object to that system in Ireland, and you will find very soon that if any attempt is made in connection with Irish produce to fix the price in this way it will be resented. We have been promised a free market for wheat and oats, and that was the position when the Irish farmer was induced to grow an additional 700,000 acres of oats; and is it right now that you should insert a proviso that all the additional crops we have produced this year may be commandeered? Under the Defence of the Realm Act the Irish farmer was compelled to cultivate his land and produce an extra 10 per cent., and now you tell him that you are going to commandeer his crops at a fixed price, while the English farmer is not treated in this way. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes!"]
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
The same object has been achieved by negotiations with English farmers, but where an arrangement cannot be made voluntarily, compulsion can be put into force.
§ Mr. O'SHEE
I have not heard of compulsion, but there is certainly not a corresponding order to that which applies to Ireland. There was a general Order made with regard to Ireland that every farmer should cultivate, under a heavy penalty, 10 per cent. over and above what he had cultivated in 1916, and that is quite a different Order to what the hon. Gentleman has referred to. It is only in individual cases that a special Order is made in this country, and there is no general Order. In Ireland you compel everybody to cultivate an additional 10 per cent. and in England you do not do that. Now that we have increased our acreage in Ireland by 700,000 acres this year, on the faith of being able to get the market price, you now warn Irish farmers that the Ministry of Food or the 2021 War Office may come along next September and take all the oats and wheat grown in Ireland at the minimum price, and I say that is entirely unfair.
§ Sir CLIFFORD CORY
I certainly think this is a very undesirable Amendment to put into the Bill. The hon. Member for West Waterford (Mr. O'Shee) says the Ministry of Food have the power of taking the entire crop of wheat or oats at the minimum price. If there is such a power it is certain the farmers might be placed at a great disadvantage, because the market price might be very much higher. Personally, I doubt whether the Ministry of Food or any Government Department has the power to commandeer, at the minimum price, if it is below the market price. I know they have power to commandeer any article they require, but I have yet to learn that they can take such articles at any price they like. I know that in my district they took some hunters at £50 apiece, but the owner took the case into the County Court and he got £250.
§ Sir C. CORY
At any rate, they have to give the value for what they take. I think it is most undesirable that a State Department should have the power to take goods at any price, and the minimum price would be very unfair at the present moment. Therefore, I think this Amendment is most undesirable. If these words mean nothing, then it is folly to put them into the Bill Notwithstanding that the President of the Board of Agriculture has agreed to accept these words, I think he had much better withdraw that acceptance rather than commit the folly of putting these words into the Bill.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I attach more importance to the declaration which, I think, in substance, is the same as the view held by the mover of this Amendment, that the public should be protected against having to pay exorbitant prices in excess of the minimum price fixed in this Bill for wheat and oats which may be requisitioned hereafter. If you ask any large employers of labour throughout the country—I am speaking after hearing the views of a great many people in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and elsewhere—which is the one question which is caus- 2022 ing them the greatest anxiety, they will tell you it is the cost of living to the working people, due to the very high maximum prices which have been fixed largely for cereals, wheat, and oats. It is not the ordinary play of the market at all. It is a price which has been caused artificially, and is due to a shortage of supply, and that is the point at which the Government must step in for the protection of the public. The Government are the only people who can in any way regulate these prices and protect people against extravagant prices for their food supplies. No better illustration could be given than the course of prices of wheat and oats leading up to the maximum which has been fixed. The pre-war price of wheat in 1914 was 30s. In 1915 it was 50s. In 1916 it was 49s. Through the submarine menace it rose to S4s. This price had no relation whatever to the cost of production. I am dealing with British corn grown in this country. The Government looked on while the price rose until it reached 84s., and they then fixed the maximum price at 78s. They could have got the same wheat at 50s. if they had stepped in in time. I have had some experience of farming. I was brought up on a farm, and I farm some land still. Therefore, I know what I am speaking of, and I say that, so far as the farmers of Scotland who grow wheat are concerned, they would have been handsomely paid at 50s., and they would have been thankful to get it at any time before the War. Allowing for the increased cost of production due to the War, 50s. was a good paying price.
I look with alarm on the suggestion that while a minimum price is to be fixed to guarantee a good return to the farmer—that is the basis of the Bill and nobody is complaining of its generosity, for it is generous both as regards wheat and as regards oats—the farmer is to be allowed, in the event of a shortage in the course of next year, in June or July, through the success of the submarine menace, to get a profit over and above what is admitted to be a good return and after he has been guaranteed that good return. I do not believe that the farmers of this country desire to Lave anything of the kind, and I think it is highly desirable in the interests of the farmers themselves to relieve them of the charge of profiteering which is very unjustly levelled against them. It is most desirable that notice should be given in this Bill that the Government 2023 are not to be debarred in any way from taking, but that their right is to be recognised to take, the wheat and the oats at the minimum prices upon which this Bill is based. I should have liked to have seen a clear declaration to that effect. I know what the extra cost of production during the War is, and I know perfectly well that those prices, taking a run of years—I do not say every year—for all classes of land will yield a good return to the farmer for the wheat and the oats that he grows. I regard it as of the first consequence to the peace of the industrial part of the country that it should be clearly understood that there is to be no more of these excessive prices, but that in future the Government are not going to look on while prices are run up to the highest and then come in and commandeer at the highest price. That is what must always take place, because if you commandeer at anything below the market price, you do injustice to legitimate dealers. It ought to be clearly understood that the Government will not allow prices to go soaring up far beyond the cost of production and legitimate profit, but will be entitled at any time to step in and say, "We will take the crop at this good price which is fixed as the minimum under the Bill."
§ Mr. L. JONES
If the President of the Board of Agriculture made too light of this Amendment when he accepted it, the last three speakers have made a great deal too much of it. My hon. Friend (Mr. Falconer) expresses a general desire to safeguard the prices of food in the country and to satisfy the legitimate anxiety of the people in the towns about food prices. I think with him that there ought to be some security in this Bill that the prices to be paid to the farmers for their crops are not going to be excessive, seeing that they are going to receive these guarantees, but I do not think that there is anything in this Amendment to give him the security which he desires, nor do I think that you can find in it the dangers which the hon. Gentleman from Ireland and the hon. Baronet opposite mentioned. I really think they have not observed that the Clause is intended to be and is declaratory. If you read the words of the Amendment that is made perfectly clear. How on earth can powers be conferred on the Food Controller by an Amendment which says: 2024Provided that nothing in this Section shall be interpreted as depriving the Minister of Food of the power to requisition.You cannot deprive the Food Controller of a power which he has not got. It would be improper at this place, I submit, for us to attempt to define the powers of the Food Controller. I do not know how far he is entitled to requisition food supplies at the prices which are fixed, but there is nothing in this Bill affecting his powers. I am not quite sure of that, but if in fact we are not depriving him of any powers which he at present possesses it would be better if the Amendment were worded in that way. We are passing legislation subsequent to the establishment of the Ministry of Food, and I think it would be better if the Amendment were worded: "Provided that nothing in this Section shall deprive the Ministry of Food of any power of requisitioning food at fixed prices which he may possess." That would be a more legitimate and more sensible way of dealing with it. I submit, however, that these words simply say that the Bill does not deprive the Ministry of Food of powers which are at present in that Department, and that they cannot be interpreted as conferring new powers on him nor as asserting that he has powers, if he has not. The point having been raised in Debate, it is essential that words should go in saying that we are not interfering with the power of the Food Controller to requisition supplies. I know that lawyers attach small importance to anything said here in Debate. I hope the President of the Board of Agriculture or his representative will stick to the Amendment. By so doing they will not be raising the spectres which some of my hon. Friends have seen, but they will do something to make it clear to the public that we are not, in passing this Bill to benefit the farmers, doing anything to inflict higher prices upon the public.
§ Major NEWTON
I hope that the representative of the Board of Agriculture will pay attention to what has been said by the last speaker. When I heard that the Amendment, as it appears on the Paper, had been accepted by the Government, I was amazed. Farmers really are not very fond of this Bill at all. The one thing they hate and fear is meddlesome interference and the payment of unreasonable prices by the Government in 2025 requisitioning their products. The view put forward was that we should not prejudge the question. This is not the proper place to consider this matter at all. It could be more properly done on another occasion, when some non-committal words might be put in to which we could not object. It is felt by many of those who support the Amendment that it will come out in another place. Why should we, in the meantime, deliberately provoke a feeling of great uneasiness among farmers? The whole question of requisitioning is a very difficult one. Anyone who has had experience of the requisitioning of houses and the payment of their owners, knows that they have been most abominably treated. Even the representatives of the Government who are putting their policy into operation to-day—everyone admits that they are acting under superior orders—are doing so in a most improper and cruel manner. I hope the President of the Board of Agriculture will reconsider the decision at which he has arrived, and which, I am afraid, was come to in too much of a hurry.
§ Sir W. BEALE
It should not be overlooked that at the time this Amendment was put down the Clause was in a very different form from that in which it is now. As drawn there was some reference to sales, and although I find it very hard to see it, I can imagine that in somebody's mind the powers of the Food Controller might have been in some way affected. Look at the matter as it stands now. The only provision is that you are paying a bonus according to acreage. The question of the price at which the produce is to be sold is in no way material any longer. How anybody can imagine that anything in this Clause could be interpreted as depriving the Minister of Food of any powers passes my comprehension altogether. It is a pity that the Government should accept an Amendment like this, because if you put it in it is all very well to say that it does not operate, but if it happens to come before a Court they will have to find a meaning for it, if they can, and the only meaning they can find for it is that it was intended to confer a power on the Minister of Food to requisition at a price which is not the price which then obtains, but the minimum price of this Bill. I am not at all disagreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Falconer) that if you put into the Bill a provision 2026 that the Minister of Food shall have power to commandeer at the minimum prices it would be a stronger protection, but that is not the intention of the Government in accepting the Amendment. The effect of accepting it is that, however high the prices may go, they can pick out particular farmers and apply it. I strongly submit that it would be wise to reconsider this matter and not to put in the Amendment, because although the circumstances in which it might have application might not occur to everybody, it might be called in aid and the only meaning that could be put upon it is that it confers new power on the Food Controller to commandeer at the minimum prices fixed by the Bill. Quite apart from the question whether he ought or ought not to have that power, he ought not to have such a partial power given to him by the provisions of this Bill.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
I sincerely regret the acceptance of this Amendment by the President of the Board of Agriculture, because the country owes the right hon. Gentleman a debt of gratitude for dealing with a very intricate question and helping us to make a contribution to the increased food supply. I recognise that in a time of war the Government nave a right to commandeer anything, but in this Bill we are entering into a bargain with the farmers of the country in the interests of the State to produce an extra amount of corn. Although it has been said, and is probably correct, that the admission of the Amendment will make no real difference, because in war the State has a right to commandeer from the farmer, yet it is the introduction into this Bill, which was a bargain between the agricultural classes and the State, of a principle which may rightly be exercised by the State under certain conditions, but which was never contemplated when the negotiations were entered upon. It was understood that minimum prices should be fixed, with the right to the producer of corn to sell it in the public market at whatever price he could get. Therefore, I regard this, without imputing it to the right hon. Gentleman, as a breach of contract. The understanding was that the minimum prices should be fixed, in order to induce the farmer to revolutionise his system, in many ways at great loss to himself, much against his inclination, but in the interests of the State. We were asked to reduce our capacity for producing stock in order to produce corn for the State at this crisis. We were willing to make the sacrifice on 2027 the understanding that there should be minimum prices which would not affect the right of free sale afterwards.
§ Mr. L. JONES
At the particular moment the promise was made the right to free sale had been affected. The Government had prevented the hon. Member from selling his wheat at the price he could have got in the open market.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
That is not so; that was long after the negotiations were entered into. I am not arguing against the right of the State to commandeer anything in an emergency, but I say that if a bargain has been struck to induce agriculturists of the country to revolutionise their system, the conditions of the bargain ought to be stuck to to the letter. Although I am quite sure the President of the Board of Agriculture does not intend to take undue advantage of the agricultural interest—he was careful to say that any action taken by the Food Controller would be taken in consultation with the President of the Board of Agriculture—yet the acceptance of this Amendment will tend to deter the increased production of corn which we all wish to see in the interests of the consumer. The British farmer would have gone on doing his best without the Bill. We have shown that for two years by the fact that, notwithstanding the deficiency of labour, we have during the last two years produced more output from our soil than was the case any two years before. The British farmer is alive to his responsibility and was anxious to carry it out as far as he could, but the Government come in and insist on revolutionizing our system. They suggested certain terms. We accepted the terms, and now, by the introduction of this Amendment, they have been departed from in the letter if not in the spirit. I know the right hon. Gentleman is too honourable to depart from any part of the contract which he has entered into. I exonerate him from any intention to deceive the farmer, but, on the face of it, the acceptance of this Amendment will lead agriculturists to feel that they have been sold. I have done the best I could to persuade the British farmer to stand by his country in time of crisis and produce all he can, whether we win or lose, but all the same when we negotiate for a bargain we want the letter of that bargain to be carried out as well as the spirit.
§ Sir CROYDON MARKS
The farmers never asked for this Bill. Those who have been opposing it have been strenuously suggesting that it is unnecessary because the prices will never have to be paid, from which it follows that at present the prices are higher than, those provided in the Bill, and therefore there will be nothing to be paid to the farmer. The farmer was content to go on and produce what he could produce from his land and sell at the market price. Therefore he did not ask for the Bill. But now that it has been brought in and you specify therein a certain minimum and permit the farmer to sell at a minimum, but at the same time it is to be made up to the average price if it is above that, you are now going to take away that gift. You are giving on the one hand a kind of promise to the farmer of a fair return, notwithstanding that he shall not get perhaps the market price, but what you are giving with one hand you are taking away with the other. I want to make it quite clear that this is a reflection and an innuendo and a suspicion cast upon the farmer. It is by inference suggested that the farming class of this country is prepared to take advantage of what would be the ordinary law and stand out against the powers which the Controller might have unless it is put in the Bill. There is no occasion whatever to reiterate in the Bill that some other power belonging to another Department shall be exercised against us. Of course, they have the power. Why, then, put it in, unless it is to cast aspersion and suspicion? It has been suggested deliberately that there are two parties in this House, those standing up for the country and those proclaiming their advocacy of the towns, as if the farmers were selfish enough to look after their particular interests in order that the other people elsewhere might be themselves penalised by the benefits they are having. It cannot be alleged that the profiteering that is going on is due to those tilling the soil. You must not look among the farming class to find out those whom you are going to stigmatise for that but elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman, who is supposed to be taking care of agriculture, accepts an Amendment which he says is unnecessary. It is an unnecessary insult to put into the Bill an Amendment which suggests that without it these people will be standing out for more than they are entitled to get. I wish he would permit us to have a vote, notwithstanding that he has accepted 2029 the Amendment, in order that those who represent the most important industry of the country at present could register our vote against an Amendment which has been accepted in a hurry, and which will do a great deal to undermine the confidence of the farmers in the Department that is supposed to look after them.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
The effect of the Amendment will be in practice that the minimum price for oats and corn will be paid. Whenever the Food Controller requires oats or corn he will immediately commandeer them at the minimum price. I am just as much against profiteering as anyone else, and I think it is a pity we did not try to stop it earlier. The people who are really profiteering are not to be found amongst the farmers, who are only now beginning to live. We farmers have taken a very good-humoured part in the Debate. We have not been affected by the abuse which has been hurled at us, because we do not think it is altogether really meant. If it was we should certainly get angry. I am prepared to meet the Government in this matter. I think I may take some credit to myself for having drawn the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Amendment was one of very serious importance. I would agree to the Amendment if it went in this way, "Provided that nothing in this Section shall be interpreted as depriving the Ministry of Food of the power to requisition at the prices fixed by the Department of Agriculture." That carries out the promise given by the Prime Minister when it was first decided that the Food Controller should have power to commandeer food supplies. If we have the protection of our Department of Agriculture and the English farmer has the protection of the English Department, we should be perfectly satisfied and the public generally might also be satisfied but just as in the billeting question what will happen is that you will have a lot of gentlemen sent about the country with orders from a higher authority, and very often the higher authority has been very busy and has not exactly known what orders he was giving. These gentlemen will commandeer oats and corn at the minimum price. I am perfectly certain if the Chief Secretary had been in his place to-night he would have warned the Government against what this Amendment may possibly lead to If you are going, in my country at all events, to commandeer 2030 the farmers' oat crop after they have complied with the very drastic Regulations of the Department of Agriculture and have succeeded in breaking up 750,000 fresh acres, sowing again with oats, I do not imagine that the position of the Chief Secretary for Ireland will be a very happy one. The House agreed to this rather hurriedly, and I would suggest to the Gentlemen in charge of this Bill that they ought to reconsider the point. The Food Controller has sufficient powers already. We do not wish to detract from any of his powers, but this Amendment will undoubtedly hold out an inducement to commandeer oats and corn, for instance, at the minimum price; in fact, it practically directs the representatives of the Government to do so. If this sort of thing is to happen, I warn the hon. Gentleman that there will be serious trouble. We have made no great grievance of the fact that that our wool has been commandeered, although it was commandeered at a lower price than in this country. Similarly our oats will be commandeered, probably at a lower price, and will also be commandeered on a more extensvie scale than will be the case in this country. I would earnestly advise the Government to reconsider their attitude in this matter, or, if they will not do that, take some means of making sure that whatever prices are paid for commandeered corn or oats in Ireland will be fixed in consultation with the Irish Department of Agriculture. If they do not do that, I warn the Government that there will be serious trouble, and there are serious troubles enough in the country at the present time.
§ Major WHELER
I did not intend to say anything in this Debate this evening, and all I do want to say is this, that the farmers in my Division will consider this Amendment very seriously indeed, and will be very much against it. The whole question of corn supply in this Bill is based on whether you are going to give the farmer the security which he asks for if he makes his production. It seems to me if an Amendment of this sort is going to be put in that the farmers will get very suspicious indeed, and you will not get that keen support which it is absolutely essential you should get if this Bill is to be made a success. Everybody recognises that commandeering in some cases is essential and has to be carried out, but why an Amendment of this sort 2031 should be put in I cannot imagine. Such an Amendment as this has never been inserted in any Bill before practically threatening the farmer. When thin is read in the papers to-morrow the difficulties of the war agricultural committees, which are great enough to-day in carrying out the scheme of the Board of Agriculture, will be increased to an enormous extent, because farmers will resent that on the second day of this Bill Amendments were accepted which do undoubtedly throw a feeling of distrust on the agricultural industry as a whole. If this sort of Amendment is to be accepted, then all I can say is farmers will get more and more distrustful, and you will not get the keen support you want for the Bill. Every day is of importance now. Time will be lost; the land will not be ploughed up; and therefore the many acres which—if this Bill were treated in the way we hoped it would have been, namely, in a generous spirit by this House—you would have got will not be ploughed. Every acre lost surely is a detriment in every way to the object for which we started when this Bill was introduced, namely, to increase our own productiveness and make us more independent of the submarine campaign. I am quite certain that if the President of the Board of Agriculture would reconsider this, and go back on the promise already given, it would do more good than accepting an Amendment of this sort, which, as he has already said, is not really necessary, and which, at the same time, does seem to throw a suspicion of distrust upon the agricultural industry as a whole. It will do a great deal of harm to the work going on about the country now.
§ Captain Sir B. STANIER
I rise in the hope that something will be done to upset the most regrettable incident that happened while some of us were away refreshing ourselves, namely, that the President of the Board of Agriculture has thought fit to accept this Amendment. There is no doubt at all, as several speakers have said, that the farmers of this country never asked for this Bill. That is a well-known fact, but it is also a well-known fact that you are not going to get the farmers to come forward and play the game of this Government if this Government is going to play tricks on them. This is an absolute trick if there ever was one in the purest sense of the word. Here we have an Amendment brought in under the guise 2032 that it is of no value, and that the Food Controller has got the very powers to enable him to do this if he chooses and thinks that it is right to do it. If that is so, why do you bring in this Amendment? What more are you doing?
§ Sir B. STANIER
Any sensible man would oppose it. What are you doing? In the Bill you are offering the farmer 60s. a quarter for growing his wheat. The farmer knows perfectly well wheat is worth 90s. to-day, and he also knows that to-day the Food Controller is allowing him 75s.; and here you are going to tell the Food Controller, "Oh! no, you must have another and a third figure." What a ridiculous state of affairs! What I contend will be the result of all this is that the confidence of the farmer in the Government of to-day, which I mentioned last night, quoting the Prime Minister, will be destroyed. The fanners had gained confidence through the very words that the Prime Minister spoke; and if one of the Prime Minister's first lieutenants is to do a thing like this you will sweep away with one stroke of the pen all the confidence the farmers have in you to-day. What I think we ought to do, and what I hope some hon. Gentleman will do, is to move an Amendment to this Amendment. I suppose that would be in order. If it is, then I believe we could come to the rescue of the President of the Board of Agriculture and save him, because that is what we shall have to do. The President of the Board of Agriculture is trying to destroy his own measure and break it all down. I do beg of the representatives of the Board of Agriculture who are here on his behalf to go and fetch him and tell him what he has done.
§ Sir B. STANIER
Exactly, and he has had time to do it. As the President of the Board of Agriculture is not here we ought to move to report Progress. I am afraid that you would not accept it, and that is why I have not moved it, though I think that you would be perfectly right if you did accept it, with all due reverence to you. An hon. Member whom I know has a very valuable Amendment in his pocket. I hope that he will move it and thus come to the rescue of the 2033 President of Agriculture and save the very Bill which he has been trying to carry through this afternoon.
§ Colonel Sir R. WILLIAMS
I agree that the President of the Board of Agriculture in accepting this Amendment did so under a misapprehension, and I agree with him that the misapprehension does not matter very much. I would, however, appeal to the Mover of the Amendment to withdraw it now and take us out of the difficulty. I consider that he has made a mistake in moving it. I put myself in the position of one of His Majesty's judges who, when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, will have to decide what this proviso means. We have no right to interfere with the powers of the Food Controller except in one particular His powers are unlimited. He may commandeer anything he likes at any price he likes, and this Bill does not stop him. He may commandeer all the wheat in the country at 59s. 6d. or 69s. 6d. and nobody can stop him, but if he chooses to fix on 60s. as the particular price at which to commandeer the wheat, then the Bill stops him. The Food Controller would take very good care, when commandeering the wheat, to fix it at a price at which this Bill would not stop him. The Amendment says that we shall not interfere with the Food Controller commandeering wheat at 60s. We cannot interfere with him in his price. I appeal to the Mover to withdraw his Amendment. He has produced a discussion on what I think is an entirely false basis. I daresay he wanted to do it. He has delayed the Committee for at least an hour and a half, and I dare say that he wanted to do it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Sir R. WILLIAMS
No, but I have been present a good part of the time. We have had a discussion on absolutely nothing. The hon. Member for Kent knows that we cannot interfere with the Food Controller, and the President of the Board of Agriculture accepted the Amendment because, he thought that it would save time and that it did not matter what we put into the Bill. The difficulty will, however, arise when the measure comes into a Court of justice to be interpreted, and the judge will say, "Why was this put in? What was the common-sense of the House of Commons in putting in a proviso which it cannot enforce?" We should not put 2034 into an Act of Parliament that which does not concern the Act of Parliament, but which concerns an outside body over whom we have no control.
§ Commander CRAIG
The hon. Member who spoke last was not in the House, or he would have heard the Chairman say that although this Amendment might have very little legal value it was of a declaratory character and, as such, well understood by the House. Having listened to some of the speeches of the other side, I am more than ever confirmed as to the necessity for putting in some such declaration as this. This is the very thing which I desire to provide, namely, that while guaranteeing the farmer a minimum price on the one hand, you must not allow him, on the other hand, to fleece the public over and above that minimum price if the market price is higher at the moment when any Government official, armed with the powers of this House, comes along to commandeer the produce. Suppose, for instance, that the Government official comes along with power to commandeer at the minimum price, which in the Bill is fixed at 60s., and the market price at the moment happens to be 80s., I distinctly hope that this will be taken as a stage direction to that Government official to commandeer at 60s. It seems to be forgotten by some hon. Members who have spoken from below the Gangway that, after all, these prices at which, suppose even by a stage direction, it is directed that the Government may commandeer are prices which are held out as an inducement to the farmers to grow corn, and it cannot be a hardship to take power to commandeer at a price which we are holding forth as an inducement to the farmer to put more land under wheat. I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having so graciously accepted this Amendment.
§ Mr. WING
I should like hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on this matter to realise that there is a very ugly feeling in the country that the farmer is profiteering, and the very fact that the hon. Member on the opposite side spoke of the market price of wheat being 90s. is an indication that the farmer will take advantage of that. I think if the farmers ask the Government for a guarantee on the one hand, they have a right to give a guarantee on the other hand that all the guaranteeing should not be on the part 2035 of the public, but that there should be some on the part of the farmer. I am sure that the acceptance of this Amendment by the President of the Board of Agriculture will produce an entirely different impression upon the public to-morrow from that which the speech of the hon. Member would lead us to form. It would be some indication that the Government are going to protect the public against anybody taking advantage of the public need at a time of very great public stress. I therefore hope that the President will stand by his concession. It will be an indication to the public that so far as commandeering is concerned it will be in the interests of the public, while at the same time guaranteeing to the farmer the handsome profit which the Government has put in the Bill with a view to putting land under cultivation. I hope that no pressure that is brought to bear upon the President of the Board of Agriculture will cause him to give way on the Amendment he has accepted.
§ Mr. FFRENCH
Several hon. Members in this House seem very anxious, and rightly so, to protect the consumer, but very few, to my mind, seem anxious to protect the farmer. If you want to protect the consumer, I think the better way to do it would be to stop profiteering. I have seen cases in the newspapers where profiteering occurred five and even seven times over. Why does not the Food Controller or somebody put a stop to that, instead of blaming the farmer for the increased prices? It has been said by several Members of the House that farmers did not ask for this Bill. The farmers in the county of Wexford, my native county, have not asked for this Bill, and, to my mind, they would be better without it. What do you do? You ask us to change our system of farming once more. For many years Ireland was a corn-growing country, and we had to stop that. We had to make it a cattle-raising country. Our people fell in with that idea, after some time, in my county in particular, where the people took not only to raising cattle, but to stall-feeding them in winter, and finishing them. Our system is this: We set aside a certain number of acres to feed cattle in the summer. We stall-feed those cattle in the winter, and finish them and send them over here.
Now we are to be compelled, under the Defence of the Realm Act, to break up a 2036 good deal of our land, and our system that we have fallen into is to be destroyed—and for what? For your minimum price. What is the minimum price? One would think, from the statements that have come from hon. Gentlemen here, that the farmers' pockets were going to be lined with gold. In my county we sell corn by the barrel. Your minimum price for oats is 24s. per quarter for the last three years. That would mean 15s. 1d., or thereabouts, for a barrel of oats. We consider that only a very small price, particularly for the risks we run. Do hon. Gentlemen think that every time the farmer breaks an acre of land he is going to get a good crop out of it? Not at all. There are pests in the way—birds, blights, and other things—that the farmer has to contend with, and your minimum price will be very small at the finish. I for one would prefer to follow my own system of farming to being compelled to break up more land, and run the risk of having to sell my corn for a minimum price, because we are told that under this Amendment the Food Controller can come along and take our corn at the minimum price. I respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill that if this Amendment is to be a part of the Bill, and become law, he would do well to withdraw the Bill.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I am afraid that by accepting this Amendment I have raised rather a storm in a teacup. The Amendment, if it is carried, leaves the powers of the Food Controller exactly where they were. It makes absolutely no difference; it merely recites the fact that we have got those powers.
§ Sir W. BEALE
Is it the fact that the Food Controller has power to commandeer at the minimum price specified in this Bill, without any regard to other circumstances? Has he the power, whatever the circumstances, to put it in another way, to commandeer at this minimum price put forward in the Bill?
§ Mr. PROTHERO
He certainly has that power, and all that this Amendment does is to say that the Act does not deprive him of it. There is nothing in the Bill to deprive him of it; it simply leaves the powers of the Food Controller exactly where they were. It adds nothing to them, and it takes away nothing from them. I dam say, from what I am told, that, from a drafting point of view, it is a mistake of mine to have allowed it to come in. I do not know that I admit even that. I think it is 2037 just as well when this power exists, and hangs over the head of every farmer, and over every quarter almost that he raises, that he should be reminded of that fact. Of course, if you ask me whether the Food Controller is going to commandeer at a price which is merely put in to ensure the farmer against loss, I think it is absolutely absurd. Wheat, for instance, was often raised in 1916 at a price considerably above the minimum prices fixed in this measure. The minimum price is fixed for one purpose only, to ensure against loss, and that the Food Controller ever would exercise this power at the minimum price seems to me the height of absurdity. Moreover, let me remind the House once more, as I think not many Members were here when I did so before, that the Prime Minister on the 23rd of February said this:The prices for potatoes or cereals raised under this Bill will not be fixed without the consent of the Boards of Agriculture of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and, therefore, there will be an opportunity of consultation before the prices ate fixed.He went on to say what I take to be the essence of this proviso:Obviously you cannot limit the power of the State to commandeer for national purposes.This proviso is merely a recital of what the Prime Minister said. You cannot limit the power already given to the Food Controller. This Amendment does not add to or take from those powers. It simply recites their existence, and you read into it the Prime Minister's pledge to Parliament. [An HON. MEMBER: "A Parliamentary pledge is worthless!"] It may be worth something or worth very little, but there it is. From the interruption of an hon. Member I gather that he was Tinder the impression that the Food Controller had no power to do this.
§ Mr. FLAVIN
I know the Food Controller has the power, but we know that, as far as Ireland is concerned, he has never consulted anybody in Ireland in fixing prices.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
He was given those powers by this House. I do not know whether the hon. Member objected then, but that was the time to do so.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
Now there is a change made in this Bill, that the Food Controller shall not fix them without reference to those Boards. That is the protection. The opportunity of pointing out the exact position is one which is valuable. The Food Controller has the powers, and the fact that he has got those powers is one of the main justifications for this Bill. I have already pointed that out. You limit the profits of the farmer in the market by creating an official and endowing him with powers to take wheat or oats at a price below the market. If you do that, then the farmer may very well say, "You are going to shut me off from the market price, and I must be insured against loss for going into farming at all." The case for the minimum price rests to a very considerable extent upon these very powers which do exist, and which were created before this Bill, and which this Bill cannot affect either to make them more or make them less.
§ Mr. FFRENCH
As the right hon. Gentleman has stated that the Food Controller would consult, the Boards of Agriculture of England, Scotland, and Ireland before fixing the prices, will he kindly have that put into the Bill?
§ Mr. HARDY
I was about to ask the question which the hon. Member has just asked. I think the Government now see that the acceptance of this Amendment; is not a wise decision and that we should not allow it to pass without some change which would prevent misunderstandings. We are altering Statute law, and the Food Controller only gets his powers through a Statute. We distinctly come across his powers because you are desirous of making a certain bargain with a very large number of people in the country. They expect if there is to be a bargain, and when they are asked to spend a very large sum of money in breaking up land, that there shall be no doubt as to the other side of the bargain being carried out. We want to make sure as to what this Amendment means. As it reads, to the man in the street, and I may say to the farmer, the Food Controller's attention is at once called to the fact that he may requisition under minimum prices. That may not be at a price which the wheat and oats cost to grow. Even last year they cost more than 60s. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Undoubtedly the very best information from the finest farms in this country will show that the 2039 cost was more than 60s. I appeal to the President, who knows a great deal more about it than I do, and I am quite willing to abide by his decision. He said it would be ridiculous to take the minimum price. We do not want to be in any danger of that, and we do not want the farmer to get it into his mind that there is any danger of it.
Therefore I beg to propose, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "at" ["requisition at"] to insert the words "not less than," and at the end to add the words "such prices to be agreed with the President of the Board of Agriculture for England and the Ministers of Agriculture for Scotland and Ireland." If the Prime Minister's pledge is put into that statutory form it brings the Food Controller into actual connection with the President of the Board of Agriculture. In that case we should feel that something had been done to safeguard the position of the farmer.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will oppose the Amendment to the proposed Amendment. Surely this Bill is to encourage the production of corn, and it is unthinkable that the Government would ask this Committee to subscribe to certain terms for the production of corn and then go behind its own Act by commandeering the produce at prices which would not be fair and equitable to the farmer. It would reduce the legislation of this House to a farce. I am surprised that the Amendment should be proposed at this late hour after we have been discussing the matter so long. The hon. and gallant Gentleman below me said that it made no difference to the powers now existing. I asked him then why he opposed the Amendment, and he said that every sensible man would oppose it. If it makes no alteration in the powers, as the President of the Board of Agriculture very courteously and lucidly pointed out, if it neither adds nor takes away from those powers, why all this discussion? Why not go to a Division and let us see how many hon. Gentlemen will oppose this Amendment. I have great sympathy with hon. Members from Ireland. I have always endeavoured to co-operate with them, but I do think that in this question it should be remembered that beside the producer there is the interest of the nation as a whole, and surely hon. Members opposite must trust the Government? I do hope 2040 the Government will adhere to this Amendment which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has proposed, I think for a very proper reason. I appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite who has proposed to amend the Amendment. In a time of great national stress, I feel sure as a patriotic Member he will not suggest the limitation of any Executive power which the Government believe to be right for the country as a whole.
§ Sir S. COLLINS
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has returned to clear the air. Although the representative of a London constituency, I flatter myself that I know just a little about agriculture. I have sympathy with agriculturists because I come from an agricultural county, a county which is so ably represented by the hon. Baronet behind me for South Dorset. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman opposite is going for once to stick to his guns. Why all this fuss about this Amendment if it is as harmless as it is stated to be? Cannot the hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies, cannot the farmer, trust the Food Controller, especially the new Food Controller—I will say nothing about the past one? After all, why should we not have our eye upon the farmers? The farmers are all doing well. I had the privilege only a day or two ago of going over the farm of a friend of mine who cultivates 1,000 acres of grazing land, and I said to him, "What have you to grumble at now?"—for we know that if anyone has the privilege of grumbling it is the farmer. I heard with great satisfaction and some astonishment his reply to me, "I have nothing to complain about." That is indicative of the farmers all up and down the country.
§ Sir S. COLLINS
I do not know, and I am only giving the House the experience of others, and of this farmer. I put it to hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies: Are not their friends doing well? They know they are. Why not, then, trust the Food Controller? I shall trust him especially with this 2041 Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture has been cast-iron to-day until this Amendment was brought forward. He is willing to give way. I commend him for it, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be led away with blandishments.
§ Mr. H. SAMUEL
On a point of Order. May I draw your attention, Mr. Maclean, to an Act that may perhaps shorten the discussion? The Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman behind me is in two parts, but the two parts connect. The second part proposes to insert words to provide that if the Food Controller shall take certain action it must be after consultation with the Presidents of the Boards of Agriculture.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The new Ministries and Secretaries Act, 1916, Section 4, says:(4) It shall be the duty of the Food Controller to regulate the supply and consumption of food in such a manner as he thinks best for maintaining a proper supply of food, and to take such steps as he thinks best for encouraging the production of food, and for those purposes he shall have such powers or duties of any Government Department or authority whether conferred by Statute or otherwise as His Majesty may by Order in Council transfer to him or authorise him to exercise or perform concurrently with or in consultation with the Government Department or authority concerned, and also such further powers as may be conferred upon him by Regulations under the Defence of the Realm (Consolidation) Act, 1914, and Regulations may be made under the Act accordingly.I submit that the second part of the Amendment which is now being moved is really inconsistent with that provision, as it would distinctly limit, or have the indirect effect of limiting, the powers of the Food Controller as conferred by that Section of the Statute. If such limitation be intended it ought to be done by Amendment, either in this Bill or some other Bill, of that Section of the Ministries and Secretaries Act.
§ Mr. FALCONER
May I point out that the Food Controller is not exercising his functions except in agreement with the President of the Board of Agriculture? I do not think that the President can possibly entertain the idea of limiting the powers of the Food Controller in the way suggested.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
At the commencement of the discussion it was ruled by the Chairman of Ways and Means, and the subsequent Debate has only confirmed that view, that this proposed addition was purely a declaratory one. To put in the words proposed to be inserted by the Amendment to the proposed Amendment as to the Food Controller are, therefore, out of order.
§ Colonel SANDERS
The first part of the Amendment suggests the insertion of the words "not less than." Are they out of order?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I think so and for the same reason. The tendency is to limit the powers of the Amendment, which is a purely declaratory one. I shall, therefore, have to adhere to that ruling.
§ Mr. HARDY
On a point of Order. Surely the proviso itself is a limitation to a certain extent, by inserting the words "minimum prices." If it were only a declaration it would only insert the words "Ministry of Food of the power to requisition." If you admit the limiting words "minimum prices," surely my words, which are also limiting words, are in order? If you introduce some limiting words, my words are not more limiting than those admitted in the Amendment.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is for me to do the best I can to interpret the object of what hon. Members move by way of Amendments. I have given my ruling, and I see no reason to alter it.
§ Mr. HOLT
I understand that you have ruled the Amendment to the proposed Amendment out of order, and I want to take the strongest exception to the Amendment on the Paper. First of all, the proviso has no connection whatever with the Clause. No rational human being can assume that this Clause has a meaning which it declares it has not got. The second objection I have is one which seems to me to be entirely borne out by your ruling, Mr. Maclean, and that is that this Amendment as it stands declares that the Food Controller has a power which he 2043 does not possess. As you have ruled that the hon. Member for Ashford is not entitled to insert words to limit the power of the Food Controller it seems to me remarkable that we can insert words without any meaning that will increase the power the Food Controller now has. He has no power whatever to requisition all home-grown supplies of wheat and oats at the prices fixed under this Act. Now we have the Government accepting an Amendment which states in a Clause of this Bill, which manifestly has nothing whatever to do with the subject, that it is not to deprive the Food Controller of powers which he does not possess. That seems to me the most extraordinary measure that anyone could conceive. The President of the Board of Agriculture accepted this Amendment on the express ground that it was practically meaningless, that it makes no difference whatever. When he goes to the Law Courts, the first thing the judges will say is that these words must have had some meaning. If anybody ever takes the matter into the Law Courts the first thing that the judge says is that the words must have had some meaning, and the right hon. Gentleman is, therefore, wrong in saying that they are meaningless, because it is impossible that any words inserted in an Act of Parliament can be meaningless. They must have some meaning.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
All I said was that they are meaningless to this extent, that they do not add to or take away from the powers of the Food Controller. They merely make certain that under this Bill there is no deprivation of those powers. The word is "depriving."
§ 10.0 P.M
§ Mr. HOLT
That is quite true, but you cannot have a more dangerous form of legislation than to say you are not to deprive a man of a power which he does not possess. Some hon. Gentlemen, and the right hon. Gentleman, do not seem to think that it matters whether the words you use in an Act of Parliament mean what you intend them to mean or whether they mean something wholly different. This is really a serious matter to insert in an Act of Parliament a proviso which has really no apparent meaning and to which the judges must give some meaning, and it is about the most foolish thing you could possibly attempt to do. As I have said, the Food Controller has no power to fix 2044 these minimum prices at all. When these words, if they are inserted in this Bill, come to be considered by the Court it will be found they have conferred some power on someone which nobody has dreamt of. It will be for some learned counsel to prove some proposition which has hitherto been found unsustainable in law. On drafting grounds I think it is exceedingly foolish to put this proviso in the Bill.
If it has any meaning, I object to it on merits. I am opposed to this Bill, I am opposing this Clause, and I shall oppose this Amendment for the same reason as I am opposing the Bill, and that is that I believe the farmer should depend on the free market for his encouragement. Just as I object to paying him a bounty, so I object to depriving him of the price which he can obtain in the market. After all, I am the representative of a large number of farmers, and I should be very sorry to go back and have to tell them that while we have given them a very small boon in the Bill, wrong in principle and small in itself, we have taken from them the right to sell their goods at the fair market price of the day. It is a very bad bargain for the farmer. Everyone in this Debate has spoken as if he were certain that the War is going to end next week. Is that such a certainty? Suppose it did last three or four years. I think that would be a very great misfortune, but it is one which people are thinking of as a serious possibility. What would be the position of the farmers then? Does anyone mean to say that if in 1920 the War was still going on the farmer ought to be compelled to sell his wheat at 45s. and his oats at 24s.? If this Amendment has any effective meaning at all, that is what it means. [HON MEMBERS: "No!"] What does it mean, then? I say that if it has any meaning at all it means that in the event of the War continuing for a very long period of time the farmers will have to take prices that are utterly unfair. I agree with the President of the Board of Agriculture that this Amendment has no meaning, and for that reason I am going to vote against it.
§ Mr. DILLON
I must confess I was astonished at the ruling given just now, Mr. Whitley, by the Deputy-Chairman. We are bound to accept it for the moment, but I trust that on a further stage of the Bill we shall be able to raise the point again. That no Amendment is to be 2045 allowed on this Bill that may limit the power of the Food Controller is astonishing. The power of the Food Controller is not a case of the laws of the Medes and Persians, unalterable. Surely this House has power at any moment, if it thinks proper, to limit the power of the Food Controller. I must say that I listened to the ruling with absolute amazement. I do not propose at this moment to raise that question of Order, because it has been dealt with on this Amendment by the Chair, but I am bound to say, after listening to that ruling and the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Hardy) being ruled out of order, I am strongly opposed to this Amendment. This Bill is, in my opinion, rather a roundabout, and not the best possible way of helping agriculture. On the Second Reading of this measure I endeavoured to give my views on what I thought would be the better way, at any rate so far as our country is concerned, of encouraging agriculture; but we have got to make the best of what is offered to us, and this Bill, of course, gives a certain amount of the money into the pockets of the Irish farmers, but really by way of encouraging farmers to break up their grass land and till an increased amount of land. But to say that the Food Controller may come along, perhaps this very harvest and the next, and commandeer and seize upon their crops, at a price below the market price, is the most grotesque proposition I have ever listened to. One of the main purposes, probably the main purpose of the Bill, is to induce farmers, by giving them an assurance that prices will not fall below a certain level, to break up land; and if you at the same time hold this threat over their heads, that they may be deprived of the advantages of high prices by the Food Controller coming in and seizing their crops, at a price below the market price, you are doing your best to counteract and destroy the whole effect of this Bill. If that is so, you are doing a foolish and a wrong thing, and I say it reinforces my view that the Government in this particular, as in many other respects, have gone the wrong way about it. I think this Amendment either is entirely unnecessary and meaningless, and that in that case why accept it? What is the object of accepting this meaningless Amendment and pass nothing? It is an advertisement to the farmers that their crops may be 2046 seized at less than the market value, and goes a long way to destroy the good effect which the Government propose.
§ Mr. HARDY
I am sorry to have to detain the Committee again, but, in consequence of what I understand is now the ruling, that this is merely declaratory, surely it is better we should have a declaration in the right terms? It is no use making a declaration if it is not a full declaration, otherwise it is liable to cause misunderstanding. It says that the Minister of Food has power to requisition all home-grown supplies of wheat and oats, but, as my right hon. Friend below me pointed out to the House, he only obtains that duty if he does it in consultation with the Government Department concerned. Surely those words should be added, in order to make clear what is his power; that he has not the power by himself but concurrently with the Department concerned. The Act says it is the duty of the Food Controller to regulate the food and consumption, etc., and for this purpose he shall have such powers or duties of any Government Department as may authorise him to exercise these powers in consultation with the Government Department or other authority concerned. It is a double duty. There are two persons concerned before these things can be decided upon. If we are making a declaration it seems to me we should make it in full terms.
§ Mr. P. MEEHAN
The President of the Board of Agriculture has stated that this Amendment is unnecessary and, consequently, we on these benches cannot see why it should be passed. He referred also to the powers of the Food Controller as having been given to him by this House. He has got no powers from this House. They were conferred on him by Order in Council, and this Amendment simply gives the indirect sanction of the House to whatever powers have been conferred on the Food Controller outside the House. I was surprised at the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. D. Mason) making an appeal to us and asking us to trust the Government. After the manner in which we have been treated for the last couple of years I am surprised he should have asked us to do any such thing. Another Member asked us to trust the Food Controller. We are more inclined to follow the advice of the American humorist, Mr. Dooley. He said, "Trust everybody, but 2047 cut the cards." We want to cut the cards in this matter, and we want to know why, if this Amendment is unnecessary, the President of the Board of Agriculture has accepted it. We should like to know that. Our experience in Ireland of the powers of commandeering does not encourage us to give this unofficial sanction to the Food Controller. The way the hay was commandeered and the manner in which the farmers whose hay was commandeered, at low prices had to wait, in many cases a couple of months, and then were told that the War Office did not want the hay at all. Under these circumstances, we are going to oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I think this discussion has served a useful purpose. It seems to have been a revelation to Members of this House of the extraordinary terms upon which agriculture was carrying on its business at the present moment. Apparently the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) was totally unaware that at any moment the Food Controller can come down and fix prices for any agricultural produce. He can and he does, and it is merely for the sake of calling attention to the fact that I accepted this Amendment. I do not believe the House realised the fact that that was one of the main justifications for the Bill—that the unfortunate farmer is cut off from the market price, and if you cut him off from the market price it is perfectly clear he should have an advantage at the other end of the scale, and I cannot conceive why Members of the House should not admit the absolute justice of that position. If this Amendment is not purely declaratory, if it is not merely a statement of powers which already exist, why, then, I have done a very foolish thing in accepting it. I believe myself it is absolutely declaratory, and nothing else; but if it would meet the convenience of the House, I am quite willing to consider, with the Law Officers of the Crown, whether it is declaratory only of the powers of the Food Controller, and, if it is only declaratory, then I see no reason why it should not go into the Bill. If in any possible way it confers on him new powers, then, on the Report stage, we will consider it afresh. I suggest that to the House as a possible solution of a difficult position which has served to awaken the House to the extraordinary disadvantages under which agriculture is working at the moment.
§ Mr. HARDY
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would not reverse the process. Surely, if the Law Officers have to be consulted as to whether it is a declaration or not, it is proper to keep it out of the Bill until that has been decided! It makes no difference whatever to the ultimate fate of the proposal, but I do think it is wise not to put things in a Bill about which we are not sure, and, therefore, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would not make an appeal to the Mover of the Amendment, on the complete understanding on all sides that it is a matter for reconsideration with the Law Officers, and that, of course, the hon. and gallant Member has complete liberty to bring the Amendment up on Report in exactly the same terms as it stands.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I have no objection whatever to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to leave it to the Committee to say what we ought to do. Whatever way the Committee decides we are willing to agree to, because, whether you bring it up on Report after consultation, or whether you put it in before the Report and then have consultation, does not make any substantial or material difference. I leave it to the Committee.
§ Mr. KILBRIDE
The right hon. Gentleman says he is going to consult the Law Officers of the Crown. Are we to understand in Ireland that, whatever declaration they make, that declaration is going to bind the judges in Ireland? Because in the past we have heard of several good intentions with regard to land legislation from that bench opposite, and it was the late Mr. Gladstone who said that the Irish judges had got so little to do that they exercise their ingenuity in a way which no English judge has time to exercise it, and they twist and they turn what was intended by the House of Commons to be in favour of the Irish tenant, and after they have done with it, what the House of Commons intended for the Irish tenant has been interpreted by them as being intended for the Irish landlord. Are we to understand that when the right hon. Gentleman gets the opinion of the Law Officers, who are English law officers, in the future that is going to bind the Irish Courts? I do not believe it is. What I am looking forward to is the last three years of the guarantee, when, as we all know in Ireland, the guaranteed price of 24s. a quarter for 2049 oats would certainly not enable Irish farmers to continue to grow them. Six years or five years hence, when the immediate necessity of the War will be past, are you going to give the Food Controller or his successor, in the interests of the people of the large cities of England, the power to control the food of Ireland? We will not take anything on trust from any British Minister or law officer in the future. Never were people so let down as we have been within the last three years. Certainly if the Minister for Agriculture accepts this Amendment, we I should all vote against it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
May I put this point to the Committee? At the very beginning of this Amendment, or perhaps when it was handed in yesterday, I asked the hon. and gallant Member who moved it whether there was any point other than declaratory in the Amendment. It certainly was my view that there was nothing else, and if there had been, in so far as it went beyond the mere declaration, it would have been outside the scope of this Clause. It is clearly not in order on this Clause, either to add to or derogate from the powers of the Food Controller, and anything of that nature would have been out of order. It appears that in the Debate some apprehension has been expressed that it does either directly, or by implication, involve something beyond that. It would seem to me that if that is so, it would simplify the matter—I do not know what the Mover would think of this—if the words were "Provided that nothing in this Section
§ shall be interpreted as depriving the Ministry of Food of the power to requisition under Section 4 of the New Ministries and Secretaries Act, 1916." That would make it quite certain that there is nothing beyond a purely declaratory effect.
§ Commander H. CRAIG
If it would meet the general view of the Committee I am perfectly willing to adopt that suggestion.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
I most respectfully suggest that this Amendment might be withdrawn, and then let the right hon. Gentleman bring it up again on the Report stage, if it is necessary.
§ Question put, "That the words, 'Provided that nothing in this Section shall be interpreted as depriving the Ministry of Food of the power to requisition at the minimum prices as fixed by this Act all home-grown supplies of wheat and oats,' be there added."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 76; Noes, 146.2051
|Division No. 69.]||AYES.||[10.22 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Robinson, Sidney|
|Adamson, William||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)|
|Anderson, W. C.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Jowett, Frederick William||Shortt, Edward|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Kenyon, Barnet||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||King, Joseph||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Buxton, Noel||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Maden, Sir John Henry||Tootill, Robert|
|Clough, William||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Millar, James Duncan||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Falconer, James||Outhwaite, R. L.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Finney, Samuel||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Pringle, William M. R.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund||Younger, Sir George|
|Goldstons, Frank||Radford, Sir George Keynes|
|Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Rea, Walter Rusell||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Rendall, Atheistan||Commander H. Craig and Mr. Percy A. Harris.|
|Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Hogge, James Myles||Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M.|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Gardner, Ernest||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Parkes, Sir Edward E.|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Creig, Colonel J. W.||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gretton, John||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Guest, Capt. Hon. Fred. E. (Dorset, E.)||Philipps, Captain Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Bathurst, Capt. C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Hackett, John||Pratt, J. W.|
|Beach, William F. H.||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Haslam, Lewis||Remnant, Sir James Farquharson|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Blair, Reginald||Hibbert, Sir Henry F||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Boland, John Pius||Hinds, John||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Holt, Richard Durning||Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hope, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Edin., Midlothian)||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Bull, Sir William James||Horne, Edgar||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Butcher, John George||Hunt, Major Rowland||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Carew, C.||Jessel, Col. Sir Herbert M.||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Cator, John||Joyce, Michael||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Keating, Matthew||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. H. (Asht'n-u-Lyne)|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Kilbride, Denis||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Larmor, Sir J.||Steel-Maitland, Sir A. D.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton||Stewart, Gershom|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Ches., Knutsfd.)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Tickler, T. G.|
|Crumley, Patrick||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Touche, Sir George Alexander|
|Currie, George W,||M'Kean, John||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||Macmaster, Donald||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Denison-Pender, J. C.||MacNeill, J. G. Switt (Donegal, South)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Weigall, Lieut.-Col. William E. G. A.|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Dillon, John||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Doris, William||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Molloy, Michael||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Fell, Arthur||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Field, William||Nolan, Joseph||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Fitzpatrick, John Lalor||O'Leary, Daniel|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||T. Esmonde and Captain Sir Beville Stanler.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||O'Shee, James John|
|Foster, Philip Staveley|
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."2052
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 176; Noes, 29.2053
|Division No. 70.]||AYES.||[10.31 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Cautley, H. S.||Fell, Arthur|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Firench, Peter|
|Archdale, Lieut. Edward M.||Clancy, John Joseph||Field, William|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Fisher, Rt. Hon, W. Hayes (Fulham)|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Fitzpatrick, John Lalor|
|Bathurst, Capt. C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Beach, William F. H.||Cowan, Sir W. H.||Fletcher, John Samuel|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire. Crewe)||Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Craik, Sir Henry||Foster, Philip Staveley|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Crumley, Patrick||Galbraith, Samuel|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Currie, George W.||Gardner, Ernest|
|Bennett-Gohdney, Francis||Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham|
|Blair, Reginald||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Denison-Pender, J. C.||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Boland, John Plus||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Gretton, John|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Dillon, John||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Dixon, C. H.||Hackett, John|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Doris, William||Hanson, Charles Augustin|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence|
|Bull, Sir William James||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)|
|Butcher, John George||Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Haslam, Lewis|
|Carew, Charles R. F. (Tiverton)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.|
|Cator, John||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Hewart, Sir Gordon|
|Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Molloy, Michael||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Hickman, Col. Thomas E.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Hinds, John||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Shortt, Edward|
|Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Hope, Harry (Bute)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Hope, Lieut.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)||Nolan, Joseph||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. H. (Asht'n-u-Lyne)|
|Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Horne, Edgar||O'Leary, Daniel||Steel-Maitland, Sir A. D.|
|Hunt, Major Rowland||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Stewart, Gorshom|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald|
|Jessel, Col. Sir Herbert M.||O'Shee, James John||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Ches., Knutsfd.)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Parkes, Sir Edward E.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Joyce, Michael||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Tootill, Robert|
|Keating, Matthew||Perkins, Walter F.||Touche, Sir George Alexander|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Peto, Basil Edward||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Kilbride, Denis||Philipps, Captain Sir Owen (Chester)||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Pratt, J. W.||Weigall, Lieut.-Col. William E. G. A.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton||Randles, Sir John S.||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvon, Arfon)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Roch, Walter F.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|M'Kean, John||Rothschild, Lionel de||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Macmaster, Donald||Rowlands, James||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W.||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's);||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Younger, Sir George|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Salter. Arthur Clavell|
|Marriott, J. A. R.||Samuels, Arthur W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain|
|Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||F. Guest and Mr. J. Hope.|
|Meysey-Thompson, Colonel E. C.||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Adamson, William||Jowett, Frederick William||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Kenyon, Barnet||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Bentham, George Jackson||King, Joseph||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Williams, Llewellyn (Carmarthen)|
|Clough, William||Maden, Sir John Henry||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Goldstone, Frank||Outhwalte, R. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Hogge, James Myles||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Anderson and Mr. Holt.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Pringle, William M. R.|
Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again"—[Mr. Prothero]—put, and agreed to.