§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. Whitley in the Chair.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys to be provided by Parliament of Expenses incurred by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries under any Act of the present Session for encouraging the production of Corn, and for purposes connected therewith, and by any other Department' or body to which any powers or duties are entrusted in pursuance of such Act."—[Mr. Prothero.]
§ Mr. LOUGH
Is it in order to propose such a wide Resolution as you have just read from the Chair, which would justify not only expenditure incurred under this Bill, but any expenditure that may be incurred by any Department for an indefinite time; and can it be said that the consent of the House has been obtained to the necessary expenditure under this Bill under such a wide Resolution as that?
The right hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken. The passing of the Resolution does not justify anything. It merely empowers the Committee to deal with the question. The proposal of a Resolution of this kind is to the advantage of the Committee, so that they may have power to modify or alter or propose a substitution for the scheme under the Bill.
§ Mr. PETO
On a point of Order. Should I be in order in moving an Amendment to 978 the Resolution to insert at the end that the Committee be empowered to take into consideration any expenditure that is required in certain parts only of this Bill, omitting, for example, expenditure that may be incurred in connection with Part IV?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Is it not in order to insert an express limitation on the part of the Committee when it is dealing with the Bill under this Resolution?
All I said was that the proper place for that would be in the Bill itself. The Resolution is of no operative effect except to give the Committee on the Bill a free hand in modifying, altering, or doing what it pleases with the proposals under the Bill.
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
Would it be in order to move an Amendment to the Resolution limiting the expense to certain parts of the Bill?
I would like to see an Amendment of that kind, because I do not say that it is out of order to make this Resolution more restrictive than it now stands.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. D. MASON
Have you not ruled already, Sir, on the point raised by the right hon. Member for Islington that the Committee has power to modify the Resolution?
It will be in the power of the Committee on the Bill to modify or alter the proposals of the Bill.
Would it not be in order to limit the amount to be paid out of the Treasury by inserting the limitation in the Resolution?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
May I ask why the terms of the Resolution have not been printed? Is it not very necessary that the House should have before it the exact terms of the Resolution relating to a Bill like this?
The Resolution is now before the House, and I shall be glad to show it to the hon. Gentleman.
§ The PRESIDENT Of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Prothero)
Perhaps it will be convenient to hon. Members if I read the Resolution? [The right hon. Gentleman read the Resolution.] The Resolution is proposed in these terms for the express purpose of allowing Amendments and modifications during the passage of the Bill through the House. There are just one or two preliminary remarks I should like to make about the origin of the Bill, and its relation to the programme now before the country for corn production, and I shall probably be allowed by the Committee to speak again on other points that may arise from time to time. First of all, with regard to the origin of the Bill. This is a Wax emergency measure, designed to stimulate corn production in a great national crisis. It originates in the Milner Committee's Report of July, 1915. That Committee was a small one, and the question that was asked of it was practically this: "Assuming that the submarine menace becomes a danger, what measure would you propose in order to increase the supply of homegrown corn?" That was the question that was asked of the Committee. The members of the Committee were few— I think there were eight and the chairman. Two of them were Members of the opposite aide of the House, and strong free traders, and another member of the Committee was a representative, of the shipping interest, and so pronounced a free trader that he was prepared to go to the extreme logical length of his 980 policy, and say that the total failure of the British harvest was a boon to the nation. And yet, when the question was asked of the Committee composed in that way, we were absolutely unanimous in out Report. We recommended, in the first place, a minimum guaranteed price for wheat (we were only acting for England and Wales), the minimum price for wheat was the form of payment which is adopted in the Bill—the difference between the guaranteed minimum price and the market price as fixed by the net averages—and the introduction of War Agricultural Committees to stimulate production. That is the basis of the Bill, the principle upon which it works, and it is upon the Report of that Committee that the Bill originates. Something has been suggested as to the Selborne Reconstruction Committee's Report, but, as a matter of fact, that Report had not been signed at the time that the policy of the Bill had been decided upon. Therefore, I think I may say, with absolute truth, that the Bill originated in the Committee which was appointed for the specific purpose of saying what was to be done if the submarine menace becomes a peril.
We came to a unanimous recommendation from our conviction that the farmers could not be expected to increase their produce of cereals unless they had a guaranteed minimum price for a certain number of years, and the reason for that, if I may venture to say so, is obvious. The farmer prepares his land in 1917, he harvests his crop in 1918, he sells it in 1919, and you cannot reasonably expect him to grow a crop, with war expenses, unless he is pretty sure to sell it at something better than prewar prices. That is the essence of the whole thing. I know that when the Second Reading of the Bill was before the House a great deal was made of its similarity in some respects to the Report of the Selborne Committee, but I hope I have made the matter quite plain. The Bill is based on the Milner Committee, and on that alone. The Report of the Milner Committee in July, 1915, was not acted upon That was, of course, the responsibility of the Government which preceded this Government. I have never criticised that inaction, because I have always felt that I was not in possession of all the facts of the case, and that if I criticised it. 981 would be an ill-informed criticism. I do not criticise it now. But holding the opinion that I do, very strongly, that the only complete and effective answer that you can make to the submarine menace is to increase home-grown production, I felt bound to take action, being President of the Board of Agriculture, by putting my views into the Bill, leaving to the House the responsibility—and it is a grave responsibility—of rejecting or accepting this measure to increase corn production at the present time. I now refer to the other point—the relation of this Bill to the programme of increased corn production which is now before the country. We can go to the farmers, if we have this insurance against a crisis, and we can say, "Now it is your duty to plough up certain acres, either existing arable or your pasture, and lay them down to cereals." Unless we get this guaranteed minimum price, I, for one, could never go to the farmer and ask him to take the risk. We are asking the farmers of England and Wales for 3,000,000 acres additional under cereals. Though the task is a difficult one, it is not an impossible one, provided the farmer starts with good heart, and provided that he has the labour, the horses, the fertilisers, and the machinery. If we have the minimum price, and if we can provide the amount of labour required, the amount of horses, and other materials for the whole 3,000,000 acres, I believe we shall get what we ask. If we cannot provide these absolutely essential requirements, then we must cut our coat according to our cloth in the matter of the land. We are working this programme through executive committees in each county. These executive committees are composed for the most part of practical farmers who have the local knowledge which is necessary.
There is no special magic about ploughing up acres of land that will not necessarily grow corn; there is no magic in ploughing up land that is unsuitable for arable purposes, or in ploughing grass land which is fully productive of milk or for raising cattle, or land which long experience has shown the farmer is not suited to corn, and which, as is very familiar to anyone who knows anything about farming, must be left down; and the only way in which you can ascertain what land is best for growing additional cereals that we require, whether 982 grass or whether consisting in arable land, or whether it is both, is by a careful survey, a careful estimate of the capability of the county for increasing arable land, and the careful survey of the land in question. You cannot lay down any mathematical rules, nor can you adopt any rule of thumb methods; you cannot say that every farmer has to plough the same equal proportions. All these are impossible methods. What we want to do is to have the land carefully chosen, and we are suggesting to the committees that for the purpose of choosing the land they should have conferences with the landowners and land agents in their counties who will be able to give them the most valuable assistance in selecting the land. I am prepared to say, for my own part, that I believe the committees would get the land they required if they were to do it on an estate basis among the landowners, and if they were to say, "Will you get us such an amount of land, and if you cannot get it, will you say so." I am quite sure if this programme is worked on these lines, with the help of the landowning classes, which we are promised will be given without measure in many counties, that we shall obtain a very large addition to the arable area of the country, and that we shall be able to make an answer which will mean the most effective answer we can make to the submarine menace. The whole thing depends, first of all, on a guaranteed minimum price for a term of years and, secondly, upon the provision of the requisite labour, horses, fertilisers, and so on. On those few points it all turns, and the Corn Production Bill is designed to establish the first point, the minimum price for a given number of years. If we do not get that, we do not make and we cannot make any appeal to the farmers of this country to arrange for any appreciable increase of cereals. That is my deliberate opinion. I have gone into this subject now for several years, and what I. say is based upon a great deal of evidence which I have now-heard on two Committees. I believe what I say is, at all events—I will not put it further—entitled to consideration, careful consideration from this House. I think I shall, after making this statement, best act in accordance with the wishes of the House if I say no more, but father try to reply to the criticisms which may fall upon various details and 983 points in the Bill. If that criticism is offered I shall try to answer it, I am sure, with that simplicity, or is it frankness, which is attributed to me in my public life.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
The right hon. Gentleman, in moving this financial Resolution, has told us that the objects of this Bill are dependent on a great number of "if's," but he does not seem to give sufficient weight to the fact that time is very rapidly passing by, and that unless we soon have some indication of how those "if's" are going to be met, increased production for next year will not be practicable because it will be again too late. I am sure that the whole agricultural community is extremely desirous of playing the patriotic part which is expected of them. Everyone is only too willing to increase the production of home-grown food, but before they can possibly take active steps in that direction they must have some definite guidance from the Government, and that guidance must come quickly. May I point out that already haymaking has begun in various parts of the South of England, and that obviously a great deal of that grass land, if it is to be ploughed up and used next year, must be ploughed up very soon after the hay is off.
The first subject I think the right hon. Gentleman alluded to was the question of labour. It is absolutely useless and worse than useless to plough up large areas of land in grass, especially those areas which are not particularly suitable to arable culture, unless you have the labour not only to plough it up, but to cultivate it. I have personally experience of having ploughed up grass land early in 1915 which has produced nothing at all yet. If that is done on a very large scale we may lose the product of the grass for a very considerable time, and we may not even get back the amount of seed which we have put into the land. These dangers are, of course, very considerable. It is quite obvious that unless the labour question can be met, and unless we can be assured within the next few weeks that the labour will be found, it is quite useless, and perhaps dangerous, to proceed with the ploughing, which ought to be undertaken within the next month. But besides the question of labour, of course it 984 is equally important that the Government should indicate very definitely what they can do. I admit the difficulties of the Government are very great. The difficulty of finding labour, which perhaps does not exist, is an extremely great one, but we ought to have an indication whether the problem is going to be solved or not, and also whether the necessary implements of culture, horses, and so on, will be provided as well as the labour, because we cannot undertake to increase largely the area without having a very considerable supply of implements of agriculture as well. We shall want more horses and more machinery of all kinds. I think a statement on this subject ought to be made to-day, if possible. I do not wish unduly to press the right hon. Gentleman, but unless some definite statements are really made within a very few days the time when this step ought to be taken will be past, and we shall be once again adding one more occasion to the long history of delay. There is one other point we must consider. The amount of artificial manures that can be supplied is admittedly limited. If we are going to bring 3,000,000 acres more under the plough, will it be more profitable to distribute that artificial manure that is required over the large area or might it not be employed more usefully in larger quantities on the existing arable land? That is a suggestion and a point which I think ought to be carefully considered, and some guidance ought to be given to farmers on the matter.
There is another question which is going to cause some difficulty, and that is this: The labour presumably is to be supplied, but there is going to be considerable difficulty in housing. The greater number of agricultural cottages throughout the country are now inhabited by the wives and families of men on active service, and you cannot disturb them. Where are we to put the new men who are going to do the work on the land? That leads up to another difficulty, which is perhaps not so immediately important. The introduction into the Bill of the minimum wage and the steps which are to be taken to improve the conditions of agricultural labour are, I think, admittedly connected with the general question of housing, but they are all based on the assumption, and this is one of the most important points in connection with the minimum wage, that 985 we are going to do the only thing which will solve the housing problem—that is, to come to economic rents for the cottages. No steps taken by the State or by local authorities will solve this question of rural housing unless you arrive at economic rents, and then it will largely solve itself by private initiative. But, during the period of the War, although we may come to the minimum wage and settle the wage question, we cannot come to economic rents, because I believe, under the Defence of the Realm Act, it would be illegal to raise rents. Cottages which are rented at 1s. or 1s. 6d. must continue to be let on those terms—to the end of the War at any rate—owing to the Defence of the Realm Act, unless some steps are taken. Let me refer to one other point about the wage question. It is indicated, I believe, that wage boards are to be set up. The whole of this question of the minimum wage and the wage board, and matters which arise out of it, is not very fully understood in the country, and people do not know how far we have got with this Bill, although they know about the talk of a minimum wage. In the meantime there is a very considerable amount of unrest, and I think we want some indication, and as rapidly as can be, as to how we are to deal with the whole question of wages in such a way as not to vitiate what will later be laid down in the terms of the Bill. I think we want a general indication how to deal with the subject. Again, I think there is a good deal of confusion as to what a minimum wage will mean, and as to whether it will include a cottage, harvest money, and so on—
The hon. Gentleman is really anticipating the Committee stage of the Bill. Those are considerations which do not arise on a Resolution which deals with the broad financial lines of the Bill.
§ Mr. MASON
Of course, I bow to your ruling, and will not pursue the matter, except to say this: at any rate, it is an argument for taking some opportunity of giving us an indication on these various points as to how we should behave in the meantime until we do get to the Committee stage of the Bill. I was very glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about the methods that he anticipated should be adopted in selecting the land to be ploughed up, 986 because in the country, acting with agricultural war committees, I found it extremely difficult to deal with this matter. I happen to live in a county which contains large areas of heavy land, quite unsuitable for making up, and large areas of light land, which is suitable. But the quota for the county is so much, and I feel sure that unless we get a very definite indication of how we are to deal with it we shall be called on to break up our proportion, no matter whether it is suitable or not. The right hon. Gentleman must make that indication of his views very well known or else a very wrong course will be pursued, and is already being pursued in a certain number of cases. I cannot pursue the subject further after the ruling of the Chairman, hut I would like to impress on the right hon. Gentleman that what I have said is not intended at all in any other spirit than one in which I am desirous of ascertaining what steps are to be taken, and that I am not in the least hostile to the proposals put before the House. I am pressing merely that no time should be lost in giving a fuller indication of what action should be taken by agriculturists, because I am convinced that unless these decisions are come to on these questions of labour and other important points soon, and definite decisions, we may very likely lose the great benefit which we may otherwise anticipate from the Bill, because we shall not be enabled to start in time.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
The President of the Board, in his frank speech, gave us to understand that this measure is to be the only answer to the submarine menace. I am afraid that if this Bill is the only answer that the Government have to the submarine menace that the submarine menace will go on and flourish. The real answer to the submarine menace is, as I have more than once said in this House, to smash the hostile submarines. I want, however, to emphasise one or two of the points which have been placed before the Committee by my hon. Friend behind mo (Mr. J. Mason), who speaks with great weight and practical experience. If this financial Resolution is passed, presumably it is intended to secure some benefit to the country. The Government must realise that the passing of Acts of Parliament, the appointment of officials, and floods of oratory will not produce one single grain of corn; that as the President of the Board of Agriculture has stated 987 frankly, we must have labour first, then horses and machinery and fertilisers. The land is in the country. There is all the goodwill in the world to increase the cultivation of it. Unless, however, skilled men are kept upon the land, it is quite impossible that there can be any large increase. It is no use for the Government to work in watertight compartments. The President of the Board of Agriculture must have far more power than he has got. He must have power over his colleagues. His must be the predominating voice in the War Cabinet. I wish my right hon. Friend were a member of the War Cabinet. Then I am quite sure that some sensible decisions would be arrived at in regard to agriculture. A day or two ago I asked some questions about the necessary supply of agricultural labour, and the President of the Board of Agriculture replied thatWhatever may be the scale of effort asked for from the farmers of the country, a corresponding supply of labour will be secured before that effort is finally called for.The President of the Board of Agriculture was not able to give the House any assurance whatever, and we want definite assurances, as has been stated by my hon. Friend behind me, as to where this labour is to come from. I do beg the Government to realise how the matter stands. I am sure no one realises it with more force than does the President of the Board of Agriculture that these vague promises will not do any good whatever. We must have facts, and you must have a realisation of where the labour is to come from. The President is not master in this matter. He has stated that he has represented to the War Office many times that it is impossible to carry on cultivation unless the men are there. The War Office does not take any notice of him. Unless he is very careful this Bill and all its financial responsibility will be abortive, because the labour is not there, having been drafted into the Army. The President of the Board of Agriculture said when he introduced the Bill—he has not made use of any figure to-day—that he hoped by this guarantee to add 8,000,000 acres to the arable acreage of the country.
Eight millions was mentioned. Take it at 3,000,000. You may say as many acres as you like, but the number of acres, after all, which will be cultivated will depend upon the labour. 988 What are the facts as to the condition of affairs to-day? In 1914 there were 1,900,000 acres of wheat cultivated in the United Kingdom. In 1915 there were 2,335,000 cultivated, an increase of 430,000 acres. In 1916 that acreage had gone down to 2,053,000, a decrease of 280,000 acres. In this present year, according to the reports of the Board of Agriculture, there is again a decrease of 8 per cent., which means that there is 160,000 acres cultivated less than there was last year. To compare this year with 1915 there are 440,000 acres of wheat less cultivated. That is entirely due to a lack of labour. Prices have been very high. The Bill gives a guarantee of 60s. per quarter. But wheat has been making 90s. per quarter. Because, however, the farmers have not been able to rely upon a sufficiency of labour the acreage of wheat has very largely decreased in the United Kingdom. I ask the House to take this matter in hand; even to take it out of the hands of the Government, and before hon. Members really part with this Resolution to have a definite pledge from the Government as to where the labour is to come from. The Government tell us that they have a solution for the labour problem. I do not know where it 1s. It has never yet been placed before the House." Practically agriculture—
I am very reluctant to interfere in any way unnecessarily, but I think the hon. Member is carrying his argument somewhat wide. To say that labour is an element without which you cannot give the guarantee, and without which the Bill will not become operative, is quite right. But we are not now dealing with a Vote in Supply, which is the proper occasion to elaborate that; argument. The illustration of the hon. Gentleman is all right, but I would remind him that this is merely an empowering Money Resolution necessary in order to proceed with the Bill.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
In view of your experience and knowledge, Mr. Whitley, I would not attempt to question your ruling. But might I suggest for your consideration that it will be useless to pass the financial Resolution if the means are not in the country for the necessary results to be obtained? That is the simple point I was endeavouring to press.
That as an argument is a very sound one, but the hon. Member cannot pursue it into detail. We cannot go into the question as to which is the right way to obtain the supply of agricultural labour.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I shall endeavour to confine myself as closely as possible to your ruling. What is the position in regard to agriculture at the present time? We must look at this if this Resolution is to be of any future value. The Board of Agriculture state that labour at the present time, even for the present amount of cultivation, is very scarce, and the land is becoming very hard. Before they ask us to proceed, at any rate, very far with this Bill, they must really give us the assurances for which we have been asking. I notice that a Member of the War Cabinet, Lord Milner, told us in another place that the labour problem was not insoluble, 'but that it was extremely difficult in regard to agriculture. He did not say it had been solved, but he did say it was in process of being solved. If it is in process of being solved, since 22nd May, we should like to know what is the solution. I am sorry to be so insistent upon this point, but I am quite certain that the whole success of this Resolution will be jeopardised and the whole of this finance will be absolutely wasted unless there is a sufficiency of labour to carry out expressed intentions. I regret very much to have to deal with it, but as my right hon. Friend the President stated in his very first speech in this House, labour is the crux of the position. What are we to do? The land is very foul. Supposing next year a large amount of pasture land is ploughed up, you are very likely to get a considerable crop of wheat, but who is to clear the land? That is a guarantee that the farmer wants to have as well as the other. Looking at land with which I have some acquaintance, I know full well if it is ploughed up that there is bound to be a considerable crop of thistles, docks, and other weeds. Are we to have the same guarantee that there will be labour to clear that land? If not, the result of the Bill and of all these operations must fail. I am not entirely enamoured of this Bill, for I perceive that the labour—at least I am afraid so— will not be forthcoming. Here in my hand is a paper with the county requirements. It speaks of 3,000,000 acres required by the Board of Agriculture. In 990 some counties—Devonshire, for instance—I notice we have to plough up 150,000 acres. That is the requirement which has been sent out, signed by the hon. Member for Fareham, A. Lee, Director-General, in May of this year.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I am sure the President will forgive me. He knows as well as anyone in this House that it is now no use going on with suggestions. We have to deal with actual facts, as the time is going by. We have really to come down to Lard matter of fact. I voted for the Bill, but I cannot say that I am entirely enamoured of it. I am not enamoured of this financial Resolution, nor of guaranteeing prices to agricultural products. My own fear is that a State guarantee of prices will almost certainly lead to a demand for State control of agricultural land. That is the great danger I see in this Resolution. I would impress upon the House—and any man who understands the position must realise it—that if we wish to get the largest amount from agricultural land it must be done by individual enterprise and individual application. I do not like this policy. I see there are Amendments on the Paper which ask that the land should be nationalised. I am certain that if we look to the proper cultivation of the land —if we look to making the land produce its utmost in this country—it will not be done by nationalisation, nor will it be done by Government officials. It will be done by the intelligence, industry, and enterprise of the cultivators of the land themselves. I am placing my agricultural conscience in the hands of my right hon. Friend opposite. If he had his own way, he could certainly make the Bill a success, and I want the House to support him in the measures which he thinks are necessary for the production of food in this country. As the President of the Board of Agriculture stated in one of his first speeches, we are a beleaguered city, and it does seem to me that the man responsible for the production of food in a beleagured city, or a beleagured country, as this country almost is, should have responsible power, and I for one will support him, even against the War Office, in endeavouring to get a sufficient supply of labour, 991 machinery, horses, and fertilisers for increasing the food production of the country.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I regret that the President of the Board of Agriculture has not given us any information regarding what I asked him about some time ago, namely, an estimate of the financial cost of this Bill in the ensuing year. This is the financial Resolution, and it seems to me that when we are discussing a question of finance we ought to have from the Government some estimate as accurate as it can be—it may be difficult to give an exact estimate, but some estimate can be given— of the amount of money the Government are prepared to spend on this Bill in the ensuing year. The amount that could be spent I may say, if they exercised the powers of this Bill to the full, is almost unlimited, because, as I understand it, the powers conferred in the Bill are such that the Board of Agriculture might cultivate the whole of England or any part of it that they might decide to use, and the cost of that would be very considerable. Then there would be compensation to farmers for taking the land and breaking it up under these conditions, so that the amount that could be spent is quite indefinite and quite unlimited. In looking at the Bill I put the expenses of it under five heads. There would be, in the first place, the actual payments to farmers under the guarantees proposed in the Bill. Should the price of corn not reach the figures indicated in the Bill the farmers will be paid so much. It may be said that the prices fixed in the Bill will be exceeded. It is quite probable and possible they will in the first year and even in the second year. No man can tell what will happen in the other years. It may be said that nothing will be paid under that head, but I am taking five heads under which I can accumulate the expenditure under this Bill. That is the first, and it may be very important. Then there is the cost of the administration of these guarantees. That may involve a very heavy administrative expenditure, because as the Bill stands at present I cannot conceive how you can have a means of really safeguarding what is proposed in the Bill— that is to say, a fair guarantee as to the wheat and oats which are sold in this country as opposed to what are produced. There is no means of really checking sales, 992 of seeing that the corn is not sold more than once, and of seeing that foreign grain is not mixed with home-grown grain.
There are a hundred ways in which difficulties arise as soon as you attempt to limit the guarantee to the oats and wheat sold. When you come to production, that is another matter. You get over the difficulties that arise when you say you will make the guarantee on the sale, because then every farmer will sell what he produces, and will buy back from his neighbour what he needs to use himself. He must do that in self-defence. It is not a colourable transaction, but is something which is essential. He will have to sell to his neighbour and feed his neighbour's grain to his own cattle. He will be compelled to do that, and in that way every quarter of oats and wheat produced in this country will be brought under the operation of the guarantee. Even then I feel that you will not be in a position, without a large administrative expenditure and a vast number of inspectors all over the country, to ensure that you are only-paying on the produce of the country. It is quite possible that grain grown in this country may be mixed with grain from outside, and it is extremely difficult to separate them in the Bill. You will, therefore, need to have a system of inspection of the most elaborate and expensive character, involving a very large cost, if much fraud and robbery of the public is not to be perpetrated. That is the second head. The third is the cost of the system of inspection which is to be applied to the whole country. Committees, or inspectors from the Board of Agriculture are to go down to every part of the country, and the first thing they have to look at is the land administration, the administration of the landowner, and to ascertain or report whether that administration is satisfactory. If it is not satisfactory, of course, certain events will happen. Then, again, they have to inspect the farming. All that involves the maintenance of a large number of inspectors and a very big administrative expense, and, therefore, that is a very substantial head of cost under this Bill.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
On a point of Order. I hope my hon. Friend will forgive me for interrupting him, but those who wish to take part in this Debate later find themselves in a great difficulty by listening to his speech. He has discussed the relative merits of a guarantee on production and 993 sale, and he is now discussing the cost of inspection which is suggested under one of the provisions of the Bill. As I understand your ruling, Mr. Whitley, we were not permitted to discuss the actual Clauses and suggestions of the Bill itself, but only the expediency of granting money for the help of agriculture.
No. I think, as far as I followed the hon. Member who was speaking, he was enumerating the points on which charges might come on the public funds through the Bill. Of course, that is just what this Resolution does, to authorise the Committee to entertain proposals involving these charges. What I did suggest was that hon. Members should discuss the broader aspects and leave the details to the Committee stage of the Bill, where they can be tested in the form of actual Amendments.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
That is my intention. I am not going into the details as to how the inspection is to be carried out. I was only referring to the fact that it would have to be done, and that it would cost money, which is relevant to the Resolution we are discussing. Under that third head I put the cost of these inspections of the landowners' and the tenants' farming. There would, of course, be very serious consequences to the tenant if the farming were not successful, and, therefore you must have a good system of inspection. Then, I put under that head the cost of any cultivation carried out by the State. It has a right, as I have pointed out, to cultivate as much as it thinks fit. That may or may not run into a very large expenditure. It depends on judgment and very many things, and remains to be seen; but that is the third head under which I place the expense of this Bill. I take as the fourth head the cost of the Agricultural Wages Board and the various local committees which are to operate under that Board. Finally, there is the financial Clause, which refers to the expenses of any other Department or body with whom any power or duties are entrusted under the Act. I am not quite sure what that means. I take it that that would refer to the Board of Agriculture in Scotland and to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland, but I am not sure whether there are not some other Departments as well. I do not know, and I shall be glad if, when 994 the right hon. Gentleman replies, as I understand he intends to do, on the whole Debate, he will tell us what is the meaning of these very general words—whether they are limited to the Boards I have mentioned or whether there are any other Boards? It seems to me that we have a number of heads there where very substantial and unlimited expenditure might take place, and I do not see any way of meeting in this Resolution what I desire to do—that is, to put some reasonable limit on the expenditure. I do not know what it would be, because it is extremely difficult without having the information before us; but before I sit down I propose to move an Amendment to the Resolution limiting the total amount spent on these things, and, of course, if that amount were exceeded at any time, it is perfectly open to the Board to come to Parliament and ask for further money. Before I come to that I would like to say a few words as to the principle on which the Bill is based. The President of the Board of Agriculture said it was based on the Milner Committee Report. There is a very important financial distinction between the Milner Committee Report and the Bill. The Milner Committee Report limited the guarantee to 45s. a quarter for wheat and to a corresponding rate on oats.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I agree. There was no guarantee with regard to oats; it was entirely with regard to wheat. The guarantee in the Bill is raised from 45s. to 60s. in the present year, and to 55s. in the two succeeding years. That, of course, makes a very large difference in the financial liability imposed by the Bill. I do not know that any man can tell how far these guarantees may be brought into operation, because it is extremely difficult to estimate, but I should like to give some figures which represent a calculation made by a friend showing the difference between the two values of the average amount of oats produced in this country before the War and the price fixed by the Bill. Of course, that would have to be made good to the farmer if prices did not rise to the figures of the Bill. Just to show what that calculation is, let me say that if we take the average production of wheat and oats during the five years preceding the War, 1909–1914, we find that the excess cost involved would be in the first year, 1917–18, £10,250,000 for wheat, and for oats no less a sum than £20,570,000, 995 or a total of £30,820,000 in the first year. In the succeeding years there are similar figures, reduced, of course, by the rate coming down. I should just like to mention what the details are. For the whole period of six years the total would be on that basis—for wheat £41,000,000, and for oats £63,000,000, or a total of £104,000.000. That burden has to be borne, by the country, either in the payment of the guarantee or in the price of the corn. It must be one or the other. This Bill makes that absolutely certain. Our object is to increase the production, and this sum would have to be increased very largely; if we doubled our production we should go on increasing the cost in the later years. If next year the hope of the President of the Board of Agriculture of the breaking up of 3,000,000 acres were fulfilled—experts have given the opinion that you cannot expect to grow more than double the quantity of wheat we have now—if we attain that, we should then have to increase the guarantee, or rather the difference between the pre-war prices and the cost of the wheat, and that would amount to nearly £150,000,000. I mention this to show the heavy sums involved, and the liability to which this country is exposed in this Bill in one way or another.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
The hon. Gentleman has given figures assuming that the whole of the grain will be sold. Instead of that we shall have two-thirds consumed, and therefore his calculation is out of all proportion.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
With regard to those remarks I have already said, I believe, it would be impossible to restrict the guarantee to the amount sold for the reasons I have given.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
Yes; on the principle of the Bill you have to take all the production, but if you gave a bonus on new land you would secure this heavy liability. Further, what I want to make clear to the Committee is that we may be called upon to expend a wholly unnecessary sum. The Bill assumes that wheat growing is not profitable. That is quite a mistaken assumption. The Under-Secretary, in supporting the Bill, said that wheat growing did not pay in England, showing that farmers were losing more than £1,000,000 a year in growing the wheat they had 996 grown. I do not agree with that. I adduce the evidence of Mr. Strutt, one of the ablest men engaged in agriculture, if not the ablest in this country. We have his evidence given before the War showing that wheat growing was a profitable business—
§ Mr. MOLTENO
at the price prevailing six years before the War. Mr. Strutt said:Although the return from capital invested in agriculture is probably lower than that obtainable in any other business undertaking, and the industry and ability of the farmer is always liable to be frustrated by the weather, it is my view that the time has now arrived when those interested in agriculture should cease saying that it is hopelessly unprofitable and that it is an industry in which success is almost impossible without the greatest, parsimony in all expenditure. For happily agriculture is now arising from the depth of depression existing between 1880 and 1900, and there is little doubt that those who have used skill and energy in the management of their farms, tilling their land with judgment and taking advantage of the latest scientific knowledge, have reaped a reward for their industry.During the last eighteen years, on an estate in which I am interested in the East of England, careful field accounts have been kept of the expenses and receipts both on pasture and arable land, and certainly some striking results are shown which contradict the fashionable theory of writers on agriculture that corn growing is unprofitable and that the fanner must now look entirely to his stock if he wishes to succeed in his venture.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
The hon. Member said it was six years prior to the War. Can he give the date of Mr. Strutt's lecture before the Surveyor's Institution?
§ Mr. MOLTENO
But the prices in the two years before the War rose additionally higher. I can show the exact figures. He gives the exact figures as to what he has made, but I only mention these. I must mention another for a moment. That is Sir Matthew Wallace. He gives the same evidence which was the basis of some striking characteristics made in the Bill. He says:The report is based on the assumption that cereal growing does not pay, and indeed that it is only engaged in with fair constancy year by year because of tenacity to custom and of faith in what the future may hold. It can hardly be suggested that custom and hope would enable a man to carry on this business at a loss for thirty-five years, but the evidence of farmers before the Committee showed that profits on wheat were by no means confined to straw. All were prosperous growers of wheat, and some submitted their accounts snowing substantial profits on wheat, even in the derelict county of Essex. It is idle to single out any one crop of a rotation and say that it does not pay. That, indeed 997 could easily be done with every crop in the rotation, and figures could be produced purporting to justify such a conclusion. The broad question is, does tillage pay? The answer is that it does, and the statement that it does not is negatived by the success with which farmers have been able to carry on.That is a very important statement by a practical agriculturist who sat upon that committee, and his colleagues entirely concurred in regard to it. I should like to quote one more extract from a very great authority personally known to me whose name is of world-wide reputation in regard to wheat. What he does not know about wheat is not worth knowing. When I referred to Professor Biffen, the President will remember the immense service he rendered to the culture of wheat. In the report which he contributed to this Report he says:In 1914 wheat cultivation on land capable of producing an average crop of 32 bushels an acre was profitable with wheat at 35s. per quarter.That is the pre-war price, and he also mentions this very important fact, that wheat can be increased on existing arable land simply by fertilisers. At a rough estimate he says:The careful use of artificials might increase the average yield per acre from four up to five quarters. Putting the value of the extra quarter at 40s and the cost of the manures at 15s. this shows a clear profit, of 25s. per acre over and above that of the ordinary crop.So that you can get an increase in yield in other ways than by this Bill if you have the requisite knowledge, and the requisite fertilisers, and the requisite labour. Everything depends upon them. What then is the wise way of utilising your money if you are going to utilise your money for really increasing the wheat culture of the country? Let us put every penny until that purpose is attained much quicker. Do not let us give under this Bill a large sum to men who are already growing large crops of wheat. They are making a very large profit already. There has been considerable grumbling about profiteering in agricultural production, and it would be a misuse of public money to pay men large sums who are already getting large profits.
I would like to indicate a different way of proceeding under the Bill for the purpose of getting an additional supply of wheat. I suggest that should be done in this way; that you should pay for new lands broken up for the purpose of growing wheat or oats. Before I go from that let me point out what the net result of this enormous expenditure is going to be. It is all summed up in Sir Matthew Wallace's report on the Report of the Selborne Committee, which points out 998 that a million acres is the amount of land you are going to put under cultivation. That will produce annually one-fifth of this area in wheat or oats, as the case may be, at 27 bushels to the acre. That gives 675,000 quarters. That is the new production you are going to get out of this Bill. That is the estimate made by careful inquiry by one who knows what he is talking about. You will find that 675,000 quarters is a week's supply for this country. Put that amount against the amount under the financial resolution and you will see the enormous sum which these quarters are going to cost the country. The farmer does not ask for this, ho is against it. I have a resolution here from the Fareham and Hants Farmers' Club in which they say that they neither ask for the Bill and will not take any responsibility for it. They do not want it. We had a deputation from the Scottish Farmers' Union who told us that 90 per cent, of the farmers of Scotland do not want it. It is a suggestion made by people who are not practically acquainted with agriculture as we now know Lord Milner's Committee, which was not a practical agricultural one. I think there is a fair case made out if you are going to break up new land, particularly the higher land in Scotland and Ireland which can produce grain, and if you are going to break it up you want something in the way of equipment, more barns, more accommodation for animals, and so you must increase your equipment. If you are going to do this and break up land which would not otherwise be broken up I think a fair case is made out for giving the landowner and the farmer something for breaking up. That is a business-like way of doing it. You would then help the land producing more corn, but you would not waste a penny on the land now producing to its full extent. I think if we proceed on another programme not by means of the Bill we should avoid heavy liability and achieve our purpose with certainty and the minimum of expense to the taxpayer. The only way open to us in view of the indefiniteness of the Bill is to put some sort of limitation upon it so as not to give an absolutely blank cheque at a time like this when we know money is being spent in vast sums. I move to add "That such expenses shall not exceed the sum of £2,000,000."
When the hon. Member caught my eye I understood he 999 was not proposing at this stage to move an amendment. I had told other hon. Members I thought it desirable that at the beginning the broad discussion should go on. Having caught my eye and made a speech he is entitled to insist, but I think it would be better not to entertain the Amendment at this stage.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I have not spoken here for over four months, and therefore I hope that the Committee will bear with me this afternoon for a little time. I have been, until recently, trying to help my right hon. Friend opposite in his Food Production Department, thinking that that might be of more use than making speeches and criticisms in this House. But I am very much interested in this Bill and the finance which underlies it, and therefore I take this opportunity of saying something on the matter. I will try to adhere to the two main subjects with which the right hon. Gentleman himself dealt. First, whether the Bill is the best way of obtaining that increase of food production which we all want, and therefore whether money should be voted for it; and, secondly, whether on the general lines of administration, without going into details, the Government is taking the right steps to carry out the policy of the Bill, because, of course, if not, it might not be right to authorise the expenditure of money. The guarantee of minimum prices which is offered under the Bill is, of course, the essential means by which money is likely to be spent under the Bill, and I would like to try to go back a minute to first principles, and to see what things the Government is trying to accomplish by the guaranteed prices.
It seems to me that there is a threefold task, and that it may not be right to try to accomplish three different tasks by the same means. I think possibly a little analysis of the task to be accomplished might be useful. First of all, there is the very important question of keeping the present arable land in the best possible cultivation. The farmer must be given, or course, the greatest possible incentive to apply maximum dressings of manure, if he can get it; to use all the labour that is still at his disposal in the best possible way, working as hard as it can, and, clearly, as we get nearer and 1000 nearer—as we all hope we are—to the end of the War, the farmer must be anxious lest, having bought his fertilisers and other things which are his raw materials at high prices, the end of the War may bring a great decline in prices, and he may have to sell at a price which does not correspond to the expenditure which he has been forced to make. That is bound to happen. It will happen very soon, but it is a thing that has got to be thought of and dealt with, and I do not in the least grumble that the Bill should deal with it. Then there is a quite different question—namely, that a large new acreage must be ploughed up in this summer and autumn, so that it may be tilled during the months that follow, in order that food may be produced in the autumn of 1918 in sufficient quantities, whatever happens in the development of the submarine or any other danger. That is essential, and again it has got to be provided for. Then, thirdly, sooner or later the broad outlines must be laid down, and indeed the question must be worked out, of what is to be the new basis of the agricultural industry.
All of us, I think, realise now that there must be a new policy for agriculture. The nation must face a new position. It is one of the primary necessities of our continued existence as a great nation that the best use shall be made of the land in the interests of maximum food production, and that question also must be faced and settled. With regard to that, of course, if the nation requires that food shall be produced in certain quantities in order to secure its safety, it is not possible to force those who are to produce it to do so, unless you make sure that it will bring in a reasonable return on the capital and labour expended. Applying that principle, it is, I think, clear that if the country for purposes of safety needs an increased quantity of wheat, and finds on a real, thorough, new investigation of the post-war position that it will not pay to grow wheat in such a manner as to give the labourer a fair wage, the farmer a fair remuneration for his management, and the landlord a fair return on the present value of what he or his predecessors have contributed to the land, then I think we must either so improve and develop the organisation and science of farming as to ensure that the necessary food production shall pay, or else we must produce the same result by some other means, and clearly it is quite possible it may be 1001 perfectly legitimate to do it by guaranteeing that the prices shall not fall below a certain point.
But I do want to try to bring out this point, that those three things— the question of how to deal with a man who grows wheat and oats; secondly, the question of the man who will break up fresh land; and, thirdly, the question of the permanent basis of agriculture—are three separate questions, and it seems to me this Bill, and the expenditure of money proposed under it, rather seem to deal with those three questions by the same machinery. I think that if one looks at those three questions separately, it cannot really be argued that the right way to deal with any of the three of them is to give minimum prices for wheat and oats for the period of six years. I think it might be a good average way to deal with everything by one prescription, but he is not a skilful doctor who, if his patient is suffering, say, from a broken head, a bad cold, and a sprained ankle, prescribes one means only of tackling the three complaints. May I ask the Committee to look for a moment at these problems separately, and see whether this guarantee limited to six years is the right way? First of all, "there is the case of the man who now grows wheat, and has got to be induced to put every effort into maintaining, and possibly increasing, the production from his present cultivated area, and who knows, in his own phrase, that the bottom may fall out of the War, and he may be faced with prices which may be entirely unremunerative in view of what he has spent on preparation for his crop. It seems to me that case can be dealt with by saying to him that he may come forward, if he pleases, and insure himself against a great loss, such as might be caused by a sudden fall in prices, by making a firm contract with the Government to deliver to them so many quarters of wheat, or whatever he produces, at such prices as will ensure a reasonable profit being obtained, considering what he has had to spend on his raw materials and on the labour necessary to get in his yield. I think that is perfectly reasonable, because clearly a day must come—we all hope, at any rate, it will come—when prices will suddenly fall, and that man must be induced to do his best by his present land. But why that man, who is very likely only cultivating the same area under cereal crops as he cultivated before the War, should be promised under certain circumstances annually for six 1002 years money from the taxpayers' pocket, when he is not doing anything in the way of extra production, I really cannot see, and I cannot find the answer to the question. There is no proof that his industry did not pay before the War. There is no proof yet—if it were to be proved, it would be a different matter—that his industry will not pay after the War. Why farmers, say, in Wales, Scotland, or Ireland who produce a couple of acres of oats in the ordinary course of farming for stock or to provide native oatmeal on which to feed their children, should receive a Grant from the Exchequer for the next six years, I cannot quite see, unless and until it can be proved that it is not possible for them to continue that system of farming without aid of that sort.
In that connection it is perhaps worth just mentioning what my calculation of the possible cost to the taxpayer will be. I do not take quite the same basis as the hon. Member who preceded me, but, assuming that prices might return to the seven-year pre-war level of 32s. 9d. for wheat, and I think 18s. 11d. for oats, but that they would not return all at once, but would revert by exactly the same steps as in the proposed guarantees under the Bill, in that case, omitting the season 1917–18 altogether, and taking only five years, and assuming 1917–18 may be a war year, which it would be, no doubt, desirable to guarantee—taking the five years after with the season beginning 1918, one finds that the oat guarantee would cost £5,000,000 and the wheat £4,500,000, a total of £9,500,000, or a total for the five years after the first year of £47,500,000, and not one grain extra of wheat, or oats produced for that. That is my difficulty in reconciling that expenditure to myself. My right hon. Friend stated, of course perfectly truly, that this Bill was based on the report of the Milner Committee, of which both he and I were members, but I think he forgot to men-Bill was based on the Report of the Milner Committee we were rather careful to say that a man who had grown a little wheat or oats in the ordinary course of his farming, and continued to do it, should not get one farthing of public money for what he is doing, whereas the Bill is on an entirely different basis. [An Hon. Member: "Where?"] It is in the Interim Report, and is headed "Financial aspects of the scheme." I will read it: 1003These conditions are:So that the guarantees, according to that view, would only have operated if one-fifth of the total cultivated area were already under wheat, which means that the man would have stuck to wheat through good and evil very tightly, and therefore might deserve to be helped; or, secondly, that he should have increased his area by at least one-fifth over the area of 1913. It means that he would have to plough up fresh land, which is the case I am coming to, where something undoubtedly must be given in return. That report was not, as the Bill is, a promise of money from the taxpayers to a man, whether he is growing largely or little, or whether he has increased or not increased his production. Therefore, I think the man who has not done anything can be provided for, as I say, simply by a guarantee from year to year, so long as the War lasts, that he shall not be allowed to suffer if suddenly there is a big fall in prices.
- (a) that a fanner should have increased his area under arable cultivation by, at least, one-fifth over the similar area in October, 1918: or, in the alternative,
- (b) that at least, one-fifth of his total acreage under grass and annual crops should actually be under wheat."
Then there is the second class of man who breaks up fresh land. He, of course, uses up the stored fertility of the soil, which his landlord has often had to pay for, without embarking his own capital in the land, and he risks the land getting into a worse condition for profit-making purposes than it was before. That being so, I think it is perfectly fair and reasonable that he should be compensated for breaking up fresh land if it is done under a good system. Undoubtedly in many cases it must be done, and therefore it must be provided that compensation should be given for that purpose. I do not think it would be difficult to work out a scheme under which either these guarantees or some system of bonuses could be given to the men who plough up fresh land on the acreage which they cover after that acreage, and the wisdom of buying had been proved to the Executive of the War Agricultural Committees. By the way, those Executive Committees are tackling their work, and are trying hard to push on with this policy of increase of production—and the way they are doing it is beyond all praise—and I think they 1004 would be quite equal to saying: "This man has proved increased ploughing by the yield, and he shall receive guaranteed minimum prices for so many years, and on that acreage he shall receive a bonus of so much down or so much spread over three or more years." It is possible to work out a scheme for giving a bonus for fresh land ploughed up without paying the taxpayers' money to everybody, whether they plough any fresh land or not. The proposals of the Bill being what they are, I detect on the part of farmers a disposition to shirk the task of ploughing up land, and I have heard them say: "We are going to get bounties on what we produce now, and therefore we are not going to bother about producing very much more." I think that would be avoided if the proposals of the Bill were to reward those who really increased the food supplies of the people, and not others.
Then there is the question of the permanent reconstruction of agriculture. I do not think this House would have been against dealing with that question if the Government had thought it necessary during the War. I am sure we should not have argued that it was unfair to deal even with a controversial question if we had the necessary data for determining how this question should be dealt with. With regard to that point, I have in my mind the fact that we have really not yet in any scientific way worked out what is the increased supply we shall require, and it has not been considered in terms of national safety. We have not said to ourselves or have had laid before us any figures showing that if we had an increase of so many million acres we shall be self-supporting in normal times from year to year, or during the period of an emergency. It seems to me that far more detailed investigation of the relations of food supplies to national safety is necessary before we can consider that question, and it is not unnatural that we should find what we now do find, because of the, absence of that data, that farmers who formerly regarded 40s. per quarter for wheat as the consummation of earthly bliss should now be demanding that the price shall not go below 50s. per quarter, and saying that six years is not long enough and that the period should be increased.
One really has no data upon which we are able to confirm or confute the calcu- 1005 lations which farmers make about the cost of -wheat and its production, and it is, I think, very hard to ask the House to embark upon a policy which will at once become a matter of first-class agricultural contention and agricultural politics, unless we really know rather more where we are than we do now. I know it is difficult. The Selborne Committee tried to produce data, but they did not succeed in telling us either what would give us safety or what the cost of growing an acre of wheat would be, neither did they make any investigation into the question of rent, and they did not tell us whether present rentals were more or less than a sufficient return on what the landlord had invested in improving his land. The science of agricultural economics is practically in its infancy, and, although I fully recognise the splendid work which has been done, but we really need to know a good deal more before we can commit ourselves to anything which, whatever the time limitations of this Bill may be, will be taken by the farmers as being a permanent policy, in regard to which they will use every possible effort to make it a permanent policy, and which so nearly resembles the permanent policy recommended in the Report of the Selborne Committee that it is very difficult to distinguish this proposal from the recommendations of that Committee. I believe that when we get the question really investigated it would be not at all unreasonable to make a guarantee that there shall never again be the utter agricultural depression which we remember ten or twenty years ago, but I do want to avoid making it a subject of acute contention between different sections of our population, as I am afraid it certainly is bound to be, because the farmers will want to increase these guarantees and make them permanent. People in the country will not say that the case has been proved for giving the present corn producers taxpayers' money, and I am afraid that there will be an acute dissension and division on the question in consequence.
It seems to me it would have been enough for the Government to say something of this kind with regard to the final settlement: First, that they accept the position definitely that food production cannot in the future be left to chance; secondly, that they will never allow that loss of the landlord's and 1006 the farmer's capital that happened during years of depression; thirdly, that what the State requires of the agricultural community they will see shall be produced at a reasonable margin of profit to those who are engaged in producing it; and, fourthly, that they will set the most skilled people to work to find what the permanent necessities of the case maybe, what is the most effective and economical way of increasing the food supplies of the country, and what provision shall be made for seeing that those who produce it, labourers, farmers, and landowners, each according to their contribution, shall get a fair return for what they have done. If the question had been investigated in that way so that the results when ascertained would have fully been laid before the country, the great conflict and controversy that I now so much dread might have been avoided. We have to remember that the agricultural interests can be outvoted by the other interests of this country, and it seems to me to be giving, so far as this is a permanent policy—and the intention that it shall be permanent is pretty deep in the minds of a large number of hon. Members in this House—a bad start if you start without really scientific data as to what you are doing, what the country wants, and what it is necessary to give in order that what you want shall be produced.
Having in that way tried to analyse the position that confronts the Government, and the possible ways in which it might have been dealt with, it is perhaps necessary, if only for a moment, to say what I feel as to what one ought to do with regard to this financial Resolution, and with regard to the Bill. I know this is a very minor matter in which I speak only for myself. I do feel, however, and I have to say so honestly, that as on the question of the Indian Cotton Duties, it is rather a question between backing up the Government, though I think they have not done the wrong thing, and opposing and trying to alter their decision. Speaking simply for myself, I think it is right to say that I hope very much that they will reconsider the question of giving the taxpayers' money to men who very likely will not change the way they conduct their industry one iota, or produce one extra grain of anything which is going to be of use to the people of this country. I hope the Government will reconsider that, because I 1007 could not pledge myself to vote for the proposal without a great deal more explanation and justification than it has yet received.
With the exception of that point, if the Government think it right to proceed with the main provisions of the Bill, I should not think it right, after having explained the position I take up, to oppose this proposal at its present stage. I know it is only a question of one man, but I do feel that the Government may find it very difficult to change their formation, so to speak, in face of the enemy, because the War is going on, and if after giving consideration to these things the Government still feel that they must go forward with this proposal, I shall feel it my duty to assist rather than to oppose them. I want to deal with another side of the subject, and that is whether the general policy and administration of the Government with regard to food production is really at the present time backing up the general policy of the Bill. Clearly, if in their administration they are not taking the right steps to carry out what they aim at in the Bill, it would not be right for the Committee to vote this Money Resolution.
Before the right hon. Gentleman enters on that course, I had better remind him what I said earlier in the afternoon. This is not the occasion to discuss the administrative work of the Government, and that must be done in Committee of Supply on the Board of Agriculture Vote. We must now confine ourselves solely to the proposals of the Bill as affected by the finance covered by this Resolution.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am afraid I have described inaccurately what I was going to say. I was only going to try to deal with the question of Labour without going more into detail than has been done by other hon. Members who have preceded me. I feel very strongly that what has happened has been through no fault whatever of the right hon. Gentleman in the matter of labour and other things. Unfortunately, nearly seven weeks have passed since the Prime Minister made the announcement that 3,000,000 extra acres were to be brought under cultivation, and there is yet lacking any definite decision as to how the labour can 1008 be provided to achieve that object. The Food Production Committee is trying to assist the Government in this matter with the utmost keenness, and they have set a splendid example; but during the weeks that have elapsed since the statement of the Prime Minister their efforts have been damped down because they have been unable to announce to the farmers the ways and means by which their allotted task is to be undertaken. They are asking, and the farmer is asking more insistently from day to day, how much labour they will get, what sort of labour they will get, when it will be supplied, and for how long it will be supplied, whether it will only be supplied for poughing up the land or also for subsequent operations; and they are also asking similar questions with regard to the supply of fertilisers, implements, and horses.
The Food Production Department has been doing most gallant work in trying to deal with this and other questions, but the task is rather like making bricks without straw unless these essential and vital questions of labour, implements, horses, and so on, are settled. I know it is not any fault of the right hon. Gentleman. I think I can guess the decisions that have to be taken are matters for the War Cabinet, and the neck of the bottle through which all the work has to be passed is very narrow, and in that way it has been very difficult to get a decision. I feel quite certain that the right hon. Gentleman would have given the House more information to-day on these vital matters if he had been able to do so, and the fact that he has not I am afraid proves that no decision has yet been taken. Surely it would have been better not even to announce the acreage which it was expected the farmers of this country would undertake until the Government had been able, at any rate, to lay down in outline the means in regard to labour, implements, and so on, which were going to be at the disposal of the farmers undertaking the job. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. There has been seven weeks' delay between the announcement of the policy and the determination of these matters, and I hope that period of waiting will soon be brought to an end, so that farmers may know where they are in the patriotic endeavour which the great majority of them are making to do their best in this matter.
1009 I recognise the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty, and I know that it is through no fault whatever of his that these big decisions about labour supply and so on are still lacking. I have not spoken, I hope, in any hostility to him to-day. He has always been extremely kind and courteous to me and to everyone who has had anything to do with him, and I would not willingly do anything to impede the work which he has got to do, unless I thought it necessary to point out some of the things that I have ventured to explain to the House to-day.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
Unlike my right hon. Friend (Mr. Acland), although I am going to offer a little kindly criticism of this Resolution, I am not going to tear it to shreds and then announce to an astonished Committee that I am going to support it. It appears to me that during the last hour or so we have been in an almost purely academic atmosphere and have forgotten absolutely the real fact necessitating the introduction of this Bill. The real fact is that the country is at war and has got to have food. I am going to support this financial Resolution, but enter just one caveat. The whole agricultural community has been kept on the tiptoe of expectation now for three or four months, but it has really had no solid show of any sort. It has merely been given a promise. As I described it the other day—and, I think, correctly described it—the Prime Minister has gone forth as the showman, and he has done so with all his well-known eloquence and with all his well-known imagination, and the President of the Board of Agriculture, in his position of stage manager, is now on the middle of the stage with a huge, expectant, stimulated, and energetic audience, but with neither machinery nor performers on the stage. I hope before this Debate ends that the Board of Agriculture will be able to give us some definite information as to labour, as to machinery, as to horses, and as to housing, because it is obviously no good asking us to plough extra land unless there are houses in which to put the labourers, and that there will also be a definite understanding as to the class and the acreage of the grass land that is to be broken up. Enormous harm may be done by indiscriminately breaking up grass land. My experience has always gone to show that in a grass country the small acreage that is under arable cultivation is extremely hard to cultivate. The two things are as different as chalk and cheese. The 1010 grass farm and the arable farm are as different as iron and brick works. I do not wish to pursue this in detail. I will merely summarise by saying that I am prepared to give every assistance and help, but I do hope that with regard to these main requirements the President will be able to give us some definite information. I want now to elaborate another form of argument, but, before doing so, I would ask whether I shall be in order. This financial Resolution is really due to certain economic causes in connection with the industry in the past, and I should like to know whether I shall be in order in developing that and showing the only possible way of meeting the situation?
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be justified in doing that on the Resolution.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
The real reason why we are faced with a shortage of arable land and why the Government have to come down with this financial Resolution is not the fact, as I have heard it advanced in this House on several occasions, either that there has been insecurity of tenure for occupiers or that the conditions imposed by landlords have been such that the industry could not be carried on at a profit, but is owing to a perfectly simple economic fact. Between 1875 and 1895 2,137,000 acres of arable land went out of cultivation—some of it went out of cultivation altogether and some of it tumbled down to grass—and the actual value of that land, in the opinion of the Eversley Royal Commission, diminished by £834,000,000. I do not want to weary the Committee with statistics, but the Eversley Commission, in reporting on the whole position in 1897, used the following words:The evidence shows that in the most depressed parts of England rents have been reduced on the average by over 50 per cent., whilst in some of the Eastern and some of the Southern counties no rents have been obtained at all, and farms have been thrown on to the owners' hands. Moreover, landlords have incurred increased expenditure on repairs, drainage and buildings, and since 1892 they have paid the tithe frequently without any adjustment whatever of the rent. In many instances where landlords have been called upon to undertake improvements of this kind, it may be confidently held that the present rent does not represent more than a very low interest on the actual expenditure on houses, and so on.6.0 p.m.
If you have got that condition prevailing in an industry, obviously those engaged in it cannot carry it on at a profit. The memories of most of us are wonderfully short, and it appears to me that in all these Debates the House forgets entirely the conditions under which all this land 1011 has really gone out of cultivation. I do not want to argue—I should be out of order if I did—whether the country was right or wrong in saying that you must have cheap food, and so on; but the net effect is that we have got a financial Resolution to-day in order to increase the food of the country. The fall in price was the initial reason for all the decrease in arable land, and prices again are the obstacles to any increase. You have got to face that basic economic fact in discussing this Resolution. All yield is purely a question of the price of the crop. Yield is entirely governed by the price the crop is going to realise. I hope the President, before going to agricultural committees and saying, "we want so many acres ploughed up," will take the other view which I know has been put before him, and which I know has been received sympathetically, and will say, "we want this average amount of bushels or quarters of corn." I hope he will take the existing arable land and say, "we estimate our yield will be so much. Now, by treating the land with extra labour, fertilisers, and machinery, what can you give us from the existing arable acreage?" Then, if that does not meet the requirements of the Board, start on grass land. Yield is really a question of price. I agree that improved methods', education, science, and co-operation do have an effect, but any large increase must really be a matter of the price The law of increased returns governs ordinary manufactures. If you get to a certain output, the same administrative staff will control an increased output, and the whole thing is really one easy-revolving cycle of industry. Exactly the reverse is true of agriculture. The law of decreased returns really governs the agricultural industry. As against a purely easy, regular, uniform increase in ordinary manufactures, you have in agriculture an extremely technical industry, a great variety of soil, a great variety of climate, with risks from climate and a greater variety of customs in a smaller area in this country than in any other country in the world. All that is true of agriculture and is not true of other industries A high yield is no good whatever unless it is cheaply produced. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire (Mr. Molteno) led the Committee to suppose that if you had unlimited fertilisers it would be perfectly easy to increase your 1012 yield, I think he said by five or six bushels per acre, over the whole arable acreage of the country. I absolutely deny that,, for the reasons I have given and for a still further reason that to the land of this country you can only apply your increased fertilisers up to a certain point to give you a return. That is why I say that the yield is ruled by prices. Some extremely interesting experiments were carried out at Rothamsted over a period of fifty years in order to get a definite answer to the question how far, by taking unmanured land, you could increase the yield to make it economically productive and how much fertiliser you would have to use in order to arrive at the point to show there is economic production and how beyond that figure a man might be shying money away. For the first twelve years at Rothamsted an unmanured acre of land was taken. In the first year it yielded eight bushels to the acre. In the second year they applied 200 lbs. of a complete fertiliser—that means that it contained a sufficient quantity of nitrogen, phosphates and potash to make what is known as a perfect plant food—which increased the yield up to 28 bushels, or exactly ten bushels per acre more. In the next year the application was doubled and 400 lbs. of fertiliser were applied, which only increased the yield by another eight bushels up to 36 bushels. The next year the fertiliser was increased by a further 200 lbs., making 600 lbs in all, and they only got an extra increase of just over one bushel.
Apply that to February, 1915, when wheat was at 56s. If fertilisers had remained at the same price, which they did not—they went up over 50 per cent.— the three applications would have cost £4 14s. 6d. an acre and the additional production of 19½ bushels would have given the farmer £6 16s. 6d. If the price of fertilisers rises from 31s. 6d., at which it stood before the War, to 50s., it is obvious that the farmer is losing 39s. 6d. an acre by applying the fertilizers. That shows that you cannot go on, even if you have all the fertilisers. You will not get an economic profit by applying fertilisers unless you first get your yield, which these experiments show you cannot get unless the price is higher than the cost of production. There is one other cause which has been only lightly touched upon, —that is, the individuality of the farmer. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert) informed 1013 the Committee that it was not really a question of simply turning loose Government officials, having behind them all the weight and authority of a Government Department, and that you could not farm by any rigid form of rules. It is impossible for the Board of Agriculture, in practice, to take over land in every agricultural county where the customs are absolutely different and farm that land at a profit. The individuality, the local knowledge of the farmer is more than 70 per cent. —
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Member seems to be developing into a Second Reading speech. There must be some limits to this discussion on the expenses Resolution before the Committee.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
Before you came in, Mr. Maclean, I saw the danger of this and, as I always endeavour to be conscientious and I hope respectful to the House, I did ask the Chairman of Committees before you came in how far I might go in this direction. I am bound to say that I only told him that the argument I intended to elaborate was the general, financial, economic causes that have brought about the reasons for the Government having to come to the Committee for a financial Resolution. I am endeavouring now to put before the Committee the cause that has brought the industry into a condition whereby it has to be helped by such legislation as is now before us.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I gathered that the hon. Member was beginning to discuss the individuality of the farmer. If we are going into that, I do not know where we shall stop.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
Perhaps you, Sir, will allow me merely to enumerate the other causes without elaborating them in any way. In some detail I have elaborated the purely economical, financial cause, which appears to be the underlying cause. In addition to that, there is the individuality of the farmer, and the fact that hitherto all legislation in this House, in the form of the Agricultural Holdings Acts, has held the outgoer up as an angel and the incomer up as the other. That has all tended to deteriorate the class of farming in this country. Every Agricultural Holding Act passed in this House recently has upheld the outgoer at the expense of the incomer, and the net result 1014 has been that there has been a deterioration in this class of farming throughout the whole of the country. The other questions of the incidence of local taxation, destruction by game, lack of drainage—upon none of which I shall be in order in speaking now—are all reasons why the industry has been brought to its present position and why the Government has now to come to the Committee with this financial Resolution. My right hon. Friend who spoke last (Mr. F. D. Acland) said the way to do this was to give a bonus on the land that is broken up. That is a very specious argument. Are you in consideration of that specific act of cultivation going to ask the country to give this man a bonus? If I understood my bight hon. Friend aright, we are to give this bonus irrespective of what the act of cultivation produces.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Only with the approval of the war agricultural committee, who can be trusted to see that useful food is produced in an efficient way.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
I have the greatest admiration for the energy and enthusiasm of the members of the war agricultural committees, but that cannot compete with the wire-worm. I am satisfied that the wire-worm is stronger than any War agricultural committee, or, in fact, than any Government Department. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfriesshire endeavoured to make our blood run cold by referring to a sum of £104,000,000 that would have to be paid by the unfortunate taxpayers of this country. That leaves me absolutely cold because I know for an absolute certainty, so far as anything can be humanly certain, that under the conditions in which the industry will be run in this country and every other country for the next six years it will not mean anything like £104,000,000. Hon. Members may say, Why give it? Because you have to carry your minds back to the period 1875–95. The farmer is not a philanthropist or a fool, and he is not going to run any risk whatever of being put in the position reported by the Eversley Commission in 1897. That is the reason. I do not see any other form of giving the guarantee than that which is proposed in this Bill.
As to its costing £104,000,000, in my opinion there is no danger whatever of that. That is also an answer to the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last when he said that you had the three diseases which he enumerated, and that you 1015 should try to cure them by one and the tame means. If a doctor has three entirely separate diseases to treat he would apply three separate remedies. My answer is that what the farmer wants is security. There is no other means of ensuring that security than that proposed by the Government. I hope that in the further discussion of this Resolution it will not be assumed that one can lay down a sort of general academic decision that has been applied here this afternoon to this industry. It is a highly technical industry. There is a great variety in soil, climate, and custom. Enormous skill is required, and, over and above all, you have the uncertainty of climate. Do not let us try to apply hard and fast rules to it. Remember the one underlying and overlying fact, that the country and this House, for their own purposes in past years, allowed this industry to languish in the manner described by the Eversley Commission. It has now to pay the price for a particular purpose during war-time. Do not let us hear arguments, which may be perfectly true—I am sure no one more than my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture would be moved by the argument in pre-war days—applied to an exceptional state of affairs, an exceptional war condition, where we have to meet an exceptional position in an exceptional way. Let us recognise that if we do that there is no other possible way of meeting the position than the one now proposed by the Government. Let me say to my hon. Friend that I hope he will be able to give to the expectant and to a certain extent, to the still enthusiastic agriculturist, all the stimulus he really wants, which is some definite announcement as to how the performers and the scenery for this great show are to be found.
§ Mr. BUXTON
The Debate on the financial Resolution has naturally ranged over the two points of view with which the Bill specially deals—the point of view of the public need and the point of view of the farmers. I desire to call attention to a point which I think is relevant to this discussion, and to ask the Minister for Agriculture if he will give an assurance that the third point of view involved in the Bill shall not be neglected, namely, that of the labourer. The Bill represents the accomplishment of a national need by means of a compromise—a bargain— between three parties. One of these 1016 parties—and a very important one—is the labourer, and it is rather significant that up to this point there has not been much allusion to the labourer's interests. The low-wage agricultural counties cover a very large proportion of the agricultural area to which we are looking for national supplies. If other parts of the Bill are passed, I hope the Minister can assure us that the part which deals with the Minimum Wage Board will not be dropped. The labourer's share in the bargain should be generously considered, and the bargain should be equitable. If no other claim exists on the part of the agricultural counties, there is at least this one —that the low-paid counties were foremost in coming forward for military service at the beginning of the War, and on that ground alone we ought not to be negligent of their interests. There is need for very special attention to this item because of the extraordinary urgency, which is constantly overlooked, of the need for a better wage, and this business of low wages in agriculture remains one of the blots upon the national welfare. The proposals as to minimum prices should not be brought forward without corresponding benefits being offered to the labourer. The question is whether the basis offered by the Bill is adequate. If the labourer is not raised out of the extreme poverty which he has been accustomed to the bargain is not equitable, and amounts to a piece of class legislation. The criterion of success is that a good class of labour should be attracted to the land—not only be kept there, but brought there. My right hon. Friend has himself given a formula for success. It is that the existence of the labourer should be made prosperous, attractive and hopeful. We may very easily overlook the importance of this problem. To base myself on what I may advance as the highest authority I can, I should like to recall what was said before the War by the present Prime Minister on this subject. In reply to a speech by myself four years ago, in which I had urged that the wages prevailing were a gigantic economic mistake, the Prime Minister said:My hon. Friend, I think, has rendered a service by calling attention to the very deplorable condition of the agricultural labourer in some parts of Great Britain. In fact, I am certain that there is no important industry in which those who are engaged in it are so miserably paid as that of the agricultural labourer. I think their wages and their housing conditions are a perfect scandal to this great country.‥My hon. Friend has also called attention to the fact that there has been a greal deal of emigration, and, what is still more important, migration, from the rural districts in 1017 the last few years. Those who are acquainted with the facts will not be astonished at the numbers who have left those districts, and they must be surprised that many more have not left.The argument is so well put that I may be pardoned for quoting a little further.I also agree with my hon. Friend that there is no economic reason at all why wages should be so low in some of these area? In fact, it always puzzles me why wages should be so very low in some districts. whereas in almost contiguous areas wages are very much higher.…You might imagine it is because farming in certain districts is not as profitable a business as it is in districts where the wages are higher. There is no reason why it should not be, because the wages are lowest in some of the counties which are nearest to the biggest markets of the world. Tina is a most extraordinary phenomenon."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1913, col 2285, Vol. LII.]I leave the argument to the Prime Minister, but it is evident that, to get 3,000,000 additional acres cultivated, a very large addition has got to be made to the rural population and good labour must be given a strong temptation to take to the land. The evil that the Prime Minister alluded to in an almost prophetic way is a large cause of the present trouble.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I really do not see, if the hon. Member is to be permitted to range over the whole question of wages for the agricultural labourer, how I can shut out anything which is touched by the Bill. There must be some limit, as I have said already, to the discussion on this expenses Resolution. I have listened very carefully so far, and I really have not heard anything which touches the Resolution before the Committee. I am quite aware that it is difficult to define the limits, but I have not really been able to observe that the hon. Member has come anywhere near the Resolution so far.
§ Mr. BUXTON
In a general sense I content myself with urging that before the financial Resolution is passed an item in the financial provisions of the Bill, which is a provision for establishing wages boards, may fairly be under review, and that the finances of the Bill ought not to be provided unless we have an assurance that the general character of the Bill as a compromise will be adhered to. The Bill is so far a compromise that it does not even in principle meet the views of a large section of the House, and they are asked to agree to it because of the advantages which are gained in regard to wages.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
On a point of Order. Is it not competent for us to discuss the question of the wages of the labourer, 1018 seeing that the matter is involved in this financial Resolution quite as much as the guaranteed price to farmers? Side by side with the guaranteed price to farmers there is the question of the guaranteed wage to labour, and is it not competent to discuss that matter?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Is it not a fact that, while under this Resolution money is provided for guaranteeing the price of cereals to the farmer, there is no money provided for the State to pay wages? All the Bill does is to say that the farmer is-to pay certain wages. The financial Resolution does not provide any money to assist the farmer to pay the wages. It does not provide any money to pay wages at all.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
The hon. Member has overlooked the fact that there is something to be paid for the wages board, and therefore the actual fact of the setting up of wages boards may be discussed; but I think the amount of the labourers' wages would be out of order, because that is a question to be decided entirely in Committee on the Bill, and I hope there will be a considerable discussion in Committee as to seeing that that is adequate.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
All that the Financial Resolution provides is that a certain sum of money shall be granted for the expenses on the wages board. It would be in order to say that money for that ought to be granted, but you cannot argue that wages are to be paid or increased because the money only goes to the expenses of the board. You can argue what the board ought or ought not to do, but nothing further.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
As far as I can give any guidance to the Committee, in my own view, at any rate, the discussion should relate to those payments which are proposed in the Bill in Clause 3, and where machinery is set up under the Bill to pay out money from the Treasury by authority which this Committee may give it. But hon. Members must confine themselves to the machinery which is set up, and not enter upon general topics which, of course, may properly be referred to on the Second or Third Reading.
§ Mr. BUXTON
In supporting the Resolution, particularly as it applies to the provision of finance for setting up wages boards, I conclude by appealing to the Minister of Agriculture to treat this matter so as to make it a success, and not to leave behind an ill-feeling which may lose the ship for a pennyworth of tar. The labourers are not vocal, and are not organised as the farmers are, except in some parts. The Minister of Agriculture has a genuine interest in the agricultural point of view, which is perhaps only rivalled by that of his colleague (Sir R. Winfrey), and he knows that in the low wage counties, such as Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, and Norfolk, the conditions have been deplorable and disgraceful. He is the last person to run the risk of finding two or three years hence that he did not use an unrivalled opportunity to remove what by universal consent has been a blot on the condition of the country.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
I propose to deal almost entirely with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Acland). He has had a long agricultural experience, and through sitting on the Milner Committee and elsewhere has had an opportunity of forming views on the subject which entitle anything he says to be heard with great respect, but I find myself in fundamental disagreement with the arguments he has addressed to the Committee. The main burden of his song was why give the farmers money to come out of the taxpayers' pockets without any assurance that the farmer to whom it is given is producing any extra corn as the result of that reward—a very plausible song, but I want the Committee to consider whether it is anything more than plausible. What we want to do is to get out of the existing race of farmers the maximum production of corn that we can, particularly during the War. That is the primary object of the Bill, and if it had not that war object it would probably not be introduced at this time. In the course of his speech he said that he would like to see more science brought to bear by the education of, farmers and as a result an increase in output. With that we are all agreed; but education is a slow process, and those who say, as he does, "educate the farmers, "say it because they regard the existing race of farmers with all their merits as on the average unscientific, and if they are unscientific it is quite clear that, in order to get a rapid 1020 increase of production from them, you will have to take measures other than merely educational. The Bill proposes that for every quarter of corn produced by a farmer, whether on existing arable or new arable, he is to be guaranteed a minimum price. It is said that that is unreasonable, because it does not of itself necessitate an increase of arable cultivation or of the amount of arable devoted to corn production. The answer is this: In the first place, take a broad view. We want to get a total increase in our production over the whole country. During the last forty years, year by year arable land has been going down to grass. The acreage under arable in 1913 was smaller than it was in 1906, in spite of the rise in prices in the intervening years. That process is one that must be arrested.
Farmers are people who take rather broad views and rather long views; farmers think in terms, not of years but of rotations, and a rotation is from four to five years. Consequently, the farmer who looks ahead will not take action unless he can see forward more or less with safety over a period of from eight to ten years. Consequently, in order to appeal to him and induce him to put into his farm the additional working capital that is involved in the conversion of grass into arable, say about £4 an acre; you have got to satisfy him that it is a safe investment. Unless lie is so satisfied he will not do it. In addition, with the existing labour difficulties he is extraordinarily afraid of making any change whatever in the method of cultivation which would involve the necessity of finding more labour. Roughly speaking, under arable a farmer wants four times as many labourers as under grass. Consequently, you have two strong inducements operating on farmers' minds against increasing arable cultivation, which you have got to get over and unless you say to the farmer in bold language, "the State will see that you do not suffer a big loss by arable cultivation "he will not do it. The Prime Minister in his initial speech on this subject, and in his subsequent speech in the City, made a definite promise to the farmers of this country. He said that the country's need for increased supplies of food in 1918 is so urgent that the Government appealed to them to make an enormous effort to increase the arable cultivation of land, and he made the promise in the terms of this Bill, namely, that they should have a guarantee of these prices. As a matter of common sense, 1021 what is likely to be the effect on the mind of the farmer if, after that pledge has been given by the Government, they find that that pledge is cut away so that they do not get anything like the same degree of security that they were promised? It will knock the bottom out of their confidence, and I am perfectly certain that if the Director-General of the Food Production Department were in the House and speaking he would tell the House that if you alter the broad promise given by the Government to the farmers you will find that this great campaign, which otherwise would be a success if those promises were kept, will fall to the ground.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I accept the interruption of my hon. Friend, but he will realise that J. must deal with one point at a time. Of course, I absolutely endorse what has been said by previous speakers, that it would be futile to attempt to add any large area to arable cultivation unless we find enough men, enough horses, enough machinery, and enough fertilisers both to do the additional arable and to keep the existing arable in good cultivation, and this will occur to the Government, as we might gather from the speech of the President of the Board of Agriculture this afternoon. It is true that they have not done it and that farmers, because they have not done it, are, to use simple language, in a blue funk, because the promises have not been carried out; and if in addition to that, which is disturbing the minds of farmers to-day beyond measure, you take away the promise of financial security that you have given, then you are going to make things worse and, broadly speaking, we shall not see the extra output of food in the season of 1918, unless the promises are kept on broad lines in the terms in which they were given. I submit to the Committee that that is a very strong reason in itself for saying that certain figures having been promised on certain terms, that promise ought to be kept. I quite appreciate the point of view of those who say that possibly it would have been more convenient if the promise had been given on acreage instead of on output, but the original promise having been made in one form ought not to be changed into another unless there are absolutely conclusive reasons for doing it. Mjy submission to the Committee is that not only are there 1022 no conclusive reasons for doing it, but that there are very strong reasons against doing it.
Take that point first. Some farmers out of their land will produce three quarters of wheat per acre, and another will produce six or seven or even more. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO!"] I say that the lion. Member can go and see the farm near Wantage. There are not many which will produce up to that, but there are a great many which will produce over six. Why should not the good farmer have the benefit of his good farming? A guarantee on acreage would give as much to the bad farmer who only scratches the ground and only gets three quarters an acre out of it as to the good farmer who gets six. Turn to the other point, the suggestion that the guarantee should be given not on all the land put under wheat or oats by a given farmer, but on the additional land under wheat or oats. Is that likely to be regarded by the farmer as a performance of the promise given by tile Government? Obviously not. It would be for only a small fraction of the total production. What value would that be to them? Those who say that the farmer ought to be given a guarantee only in return for extra production completely forget a part of the Bill on which the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Buxton) laid so much stress, trespassing on the Rules of Order in order to do so—the wages provisions of the Bill. Does the Committee appreciate what the increase of wages over pre-war rates, even to 25s. a week, means measured in terms of cost of production of wheat over an ordinary rotation!I have been closely into a number of figures for different farms, and I can assert by this evidence, which is as good as you can get in this country, that in the case of Essex the raising from the pre-war rate of wages to 25s. a week means an increase per quarter of wheat produced of 10s. 6d., and 25s. is to be the bed rock minimum under the Bill. The wages board may very probably make minimum rates substantially higher than 25s.
When you are telling a farmer that he has got to pay his men 25s. a week, and in addition ask the farmer to employ his men week in and week out all through the year, and not adopt the practice of not employing his staff in bad weather and so on, and thereby to increase enormously the cost of production, is it reasonable to say to him: "We ask you to increase your 1023 arable, where the cost of labour is four times as much as it is with grass, and we will not give you guarantee against loss over the whole of your production, but will only give you a guarantee for one-tenth of whatever small addition you may make"? I submit that it is not business. One more point. During the last few years it has been very difficult to produce wheat at a profit. A great many men have had considerable portions of their farms under arable cultivation. They have been adopting the policy that the nation wanted adopted. They have been acting in the national interest. They have been doing their duty. Why should they, because they have been doing their duty to the nation and cannot practically increase their arable area, now be told, "You have got to pay increased wages, but because you cannot increase your arable area more than a certain percentage, because you have already done your duty by the State, you are to get nothing in return"? If that were done it is the nation which would be leaving its friends in the lurch in a very dirty way. These reasons, I submit to the Committee, are very strong indeed for saying that the broad principle of giving a guarantee for the whole produce of the farm in wheat and oats ought to be adhered to in this Bill. The right hon. Member for Cam-borne Division (Mr. Acland) thought, in spite of that, it was not right to do it, and that you should only give a guarantee or bonus, as the case might be, for additional land broken up. What would be the result of that? The immediate economic tendency of that would be to urge the farmers to break up land in order to get the additional bonus which he is promising him and to let all the existing arable go back to grass.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Perhaps the hon. Member will remember that I said it would be perfectly right, in order to prevent any such tendency and in order to encourage the farmer to do his very best with the existing arable land, to give him a guarantee that there should not be a sudden drop in prices which would make it unprofitable for him to do his very best with his existing arable land.
§ Mr. SCOTT
That does not touch the economic tendency to which I refer. If you are going to give the benefit in respect of land newly broken up, which you do not give in respect of existing arable 1024 land, I challenge anybody to produce a reason why the economic tendency would not be to induce the fanner to let his existing arable go back to grass in order to get from the State the bonus for the maximum number of acres of new arable. That follows as an obvious economic necessity. The right hon. Gentleman wound up his speech by referring to the Milner Report. That Report I do not think he quoted fairly, although I do not for a moment suggest that he did so intentionally. The broad point of that Report was that it suggested a guarantee of 45s. for four years. Under the head of "Financial Aspect of the Scheme" the Report made these comments:(10) The promise of a guarantee un all the wheat grown in the country is open to the objection that it is conceivable that no great quantity of additional wheat might be produced beyond what would have been grown had no such promise been made, and the State might, therefore, if wheat prices fell, be obliged to pay a considerable sum for a comparatively unimportant result. To meet this objection, it has been suggested that the guarantee should be limited to the additional wheat grown by the farmers over and above their prewar production, measured by the harvest of 1918. In principle this proposal meets with our approval, but we doubt whether it would prove workable in practice, and we are, therefore, unable to recommend it.(11) Another proposal, having the same object in view, appears to us of a more practical character. It might be possible to give the guarantee in respect of the whole quantity of wheat produced, and at the same time to make sure that the country is getting a substantial quid pro quo for the liability undertaken by the Exchequer.They suggest that possibly it might work if the farmer only got his guarantee on fulfilling one or other of two alternatives. The conditions they suggest are either that the farmer should have increased his area under arable cultivation by at least one-fifth over the similar area in October, 1913, or—and this is an alternative to the first—in those cases where he cannot materially increase it that at least one-fifth of his total acreage in grass and annual crops should actually be under wheat. That is a less objectionable rider to add to the proposal of the Bill, and is not open to the objection that it is a radical withdrawal of the promise made to the farmers by the Prime Minister. My objection to it is that it differs substantially from the promise, and further, that I do not believe it would make any practical difference in the result. Unless you are satisfied that new conditions of that kind attached by the House to the promise of the Prime Minister are going to be effective in their result and do something substantial, there is a very strong reason against adopting it. The Tanners understand the present situation; 1025 they are working on the basis of the Prime Minister's promise; and if you go and attach conditions of that kind they will think there is much more in it than they see. They will say, "If the Government, having made one perfectly definite promise, starts with boggling conditions of this kind, where are they going to end? How do we know that in a year or two their whole attitude will not be changed?" The one essential thing to revive the farming industry in this country is to make the farmers in this country believe that the Government is going to see them through. The broad point of the Bill I believe to be this, and it is that broad point which justifies the measures which involve, to the greatest extent, this money Resolution.
What farmers want is not a promise of a bonus from the Government. What they want is a promise by the Government that they shall not be absolutely left in the cart. They remember, as the hon. Member for the Horncastle Division of Lincolnshire said, the bad times of the Eighties when so many were ruined by the concurrence of two fortuitous events from outside over which they had no control, namely, an absolute slump in the world prices which dominated the wheat market of this country, and a succession of bad seasons. They will risk the seasons; they know they have got to do that. What they want the Government to say, and what they believe the Government have said is what the Government have actually said, and that is the promise which the farmers at present believe. They believe the Government have said, "We will see that it does not happen again." The farmers of this country do not expect prices to fall below the prices mentioned in the Bill as the guaranteed minima, but they are afraid they may, and farmers are slow-moving people, very shy of any new courses of agriculture and very much imbued with old traditional fears. We have succeeded, I believe, at the present time in eradicating to a large extent those fears, and I do say to this Committee with all the urgency that I can command, "Be very, very careful lest you do not, by some action which you do not think very drastic, completely upset the present equilibrium of the farmer's mind." That is really the thing we have got to bear in mind. The right hon. Member for the Camborne Division ended by an expression of his views under four heads. I 1026 am going to restate them because he said that that was what he wanted. I am going to submit to the Committee that that is what he has got in this Bill and what the Board of Agriculture is now doing. I believe he has got to the full every one of the things that he said he wished for. The first thing he wished for was this. He said all that the farmers wanted was that the Government should let them know that agriculture could not be left to chance. That is the very thing that this Bill does. It secures them against the improbable risk of very low market prices. Secondly, he said that the Government should let them know that they will never allow the losses of the Eighties to recur. That is what this Bill does. Thirdly, he said that they should be ensured a reasonable margin of profit. That is what this Bill does.
§ Mr. SCOTT
This Bill goes, I am quite certain as far as my right hon. Friend is willing to go in ensuring to the farmers a reasonable margin of profit. The Bill goes this far that on the two most important articles of agricultural production prices shall not fall below a certain level, and that level has Been fixed at a line which I am quite sure my right hon. Friend will not argue is an unreasonable line. With such knowledge as we now possess, the figures of the market prices in the Bill are such as to leave to the farmers a reasonable margin of profit. At any rate they do not err on the side of giving the farmer too largo a margin of profit, but they give him a reasonable margin on good farming. The last hope expressed by the right hon. Gentleman was that the Government will set all their experts to work to see how agriculture can be made more scientific. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. That is the effect of what I understood him to say, and that is the very thing the Board are doing. Concurrently with the security to the farmers given by this Bill the Board are engaged in doing all they can in the way of providing expert assistance to improve methods of cultivation in the country in every way. I submit that the Bill does provide every one of these things. One single word about the details of the money Resolution: If this money Resolution is not passed, obviously the whole Bill is brought to an end. My right hon. Friend criticises the money Resolution, but says he will support it. What the Committee has got to do is to decide, Aye or 1027 No, is this money Resolution to be passed? Any criticism of the details car) be made in Committee. I submit that we have not yet heard a single reason why the money Resolution, as such, should not be passed.
§ 7.0 P.M.
My hon. and learned Friend has made a speech which would have been equally appropriate to the Second Reading of the Corn Production Bill. Under the ruling from the Chair, both of yourself, Mr. Maclean, and Mr. Whitley, it has been difficult to go into many details, and it is improper that we should go into many of the details of the financial Clauses. The Committee is conscious throughout the whole of this discussion that the authorisation for which the Government now asks cannot be defined in figures until the Committee stage of the Bill has been reached and the final shape in which the guarantee is to be drawn and settled has been made by the House. I shall do my best to keep within the four corners of the rulings which have been given, but I may be perhaps allowed to make some reference to the general consideration which lies behind this Resolution as well as behind the Bill itself. In the first place, I shall make it clear that those of us who thought it our public duty on the Second Reading of the Bill to criticise the methods by which the objects of the Government were to be attained, and may have to criticise them again in Committee, wish it to be perfectly clear, as I hope I made it clear when the subject was discussed in February and again on the introduction of the Bill, that the need for an increase of the food supply in this country is so great and so pressing that we must be prepared to make payment for such departures from economic farming as may be necessitated by our national requirements. Whatever that payment may be, if the value is received, I think we ought to make it. When the Prime Minister first sketched his proposal, I think on the 23rd February of this year, in following him I pointed out that while not committing ourselves in any respect to the details of his scheme, we were prepared, and I thought the whole House was prepared, to make such necessary provision as was required for the production of more wheat in particular from the farms of the United Kingdom. It is suggested that there may be an 1028 alternative method which is worthy of consideration. When first I mentioned this to the House I said that it would be better, in my opinion, rather than deal with a minimum guarantee and the possibility of maximum prices going up to whatever might be thought prudent by the Food: Controller—who, by the way, is a much, more disturbing factor in farming operations than this House is—the neater and the cleaner and more businesslike transaction would be to extend the power of the Wheat Commission, who now have control of the whole of the imported wheat, so that they could purchase at contract prices, declared beforehand, throughout the whole of the unit of rotation—that is to say, for a period of four years—such home-grown, wheat which is in condition for milling as was not required for consumption on the farm. That proposal did not meet the acceptance of the Government, although I find that on looking through the Milner Report it was seriously contemplated by the Milner Committee, and the only objection raised to it at the time by the Milner Committee was this, that they had been advised that if the Government fixed the maximum for home-grown wheat it might seriously interfere with importers, with the possibility of breaking the market. There has been a complete change in the way in which imported wheat is now treated, and the possibility of interfering with the import trade, as then contemplated, has thus entirely passed away. Furthermore, by-fixing the maximum prices, the Food Controller has himself taken the very step which the Milner Committee advised at that time might prove too disturbing. If the Milner Committee were reconsidering the question, they might possibly give a more actual guarantee to those who appear to need a guarantee in order to conduct their business with energy, but we have done that much more completely by making a complete purchase of the whole of the home-grown crop than by paying these guarantees. That proposal has not met with the approval of the Government.
Although that is so, I am not prepared to say there may not be other proposals on which I would be prepared cordially to support the expenditure of public money for value received. The promises which were made by the Prime Minister in February in this House, and in the City 1029 later on, were of a general character, and I feel sure that anyone who knows the House of Commons will not imagine that any speech made by him outside would bind the House of Commons in its action. It is equally certain that it was a more general policy that was outlined by him than could be used by a Government Department as the basis of any prices for the greater production of foodstuffs in this country. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Denman) is not going to suggest that any proposal made by a Minister outside is binding on this House. The proposal made outside must be submitted to the House, and everybody on that bench as well as everybody on this bench, as well as private Members, would be prepared to support the right of the House of Commons to amend the finances of the Bill in whatever way they might deem to be wise.
§ Mr. DENMAN
The guarantee which was given in this House was confined in the Bill to the prices guaranteed, and that is under the authority of the Committee of the House.
I am quite sure that agriculturists will have to depend on the decisions of this House in Committee rather than on the statements made in the course of preliminary Debates. This financial Resolution does, in fact, provide for any scheme which may ultimately be decided upon by the House. For that reason those of us who are prepared to make payments for value received are, of course, in duty bound in the national interest to vote for the Resolution, for it is of such a general character, and is drawn in such a way, that whether you adopt the method of complete purchase, or any one of the five other methods that I have named to the House it is necessary. Let me say a word or two about paying compensation on the breaking up of land. You may pay compensation for breaking up grass land, and on this subject I have recently refreshed my memory in reading a small book by Mr. A. D. Hall, now at the head of the Board of Agriculture in England, in which he thoroughly discusses, with a considerable amount of favour, the actual payment of compensation for breaking up grass land. That is one possible way of dealing with this subject. Another is to guarantee, as is printed in the Bill, payment on all wheat and oats sold. The other is a guarantee on all wheat and oats produced. The fourth is a guarantee on all the acreage 1030 based on prices variations, and the fifth is the actual proposal made by the Milner Committee, which, with all due deference to the President of the Board of Agriculture, I find is not in the Bill as he introduced it. Let me say a word or two on each one of these proposals. In considering the proposal that compensation should be paid for merely breaking up all grass land, there would be, it is quite true, no guarantee that the land would be put to the best use. That does not seem to me a practical danger. Anyone who has studied the course of prices, and the effect of the inflation of currency in this country and every other civilised country in regard to food prices, will argue that it is hardly likely that you can expect that the difference between the guaranteed prices and the market prices is likely to be so great that they will make it worth while to plough up land merely for the object of getting the guarantee on the sale of the crops produced. The Government in their wisdom have seen fit to discard that proposal.
They have, on the contrary, decided that they will undertake the obligation of the expenditure of public money on all wheat and oats sold. Since we had the Second Reading discussion the limitation of this benefit to wheat and oats sold has become more and more unpopular. There is no doubt that some of the fears which were pointed out then by others as well as by myself as to limiting the benefits to wheat and oats sold would in itself only lead to a great deal more handling of produce in order to secure the benefit than is in the public interest. Furthermore, it was grossly unfair that some classes of farmers who would be producing wheat and oats, as far as the economy of their farms could possibly permit, yet might get no benefit out of this Bill because they consume the wheat and oats for the animals on their farms, particularly milch cows. It is dangerous to express any preference on agricultural questions, but I have always held the view that it is far better that milk farms should combine a very large amount of tillage, in the public interest, and on grounds of economy, and that such a combination is the best; yet it appears that on the basis of the Bill under which we have to make payment none of these results would be secured and milk farmers would, in fact, get no benefit, although they may be just as essential for the preservation of 1031 human life as is the produce of those who grow wheat and oats. Then comes the guarantee as to the amount of grain produced and the objection which is taken to that by a great many farmers at the present moment is that there is a large amount of grain produced as far as the farmer can get it out of his ground with the labour and machinery available for him. I must repeat what I said on the Second Reading that, as far as that is concerned, it does not appear to me that we do get value received in giving a guarantee to the farmer, when he produces no more from his land in the future than he has in the past. I regret to say that in the earlier discussions more stress was laid on the fears of the Milner Committee. I must say that I myself held the view that the Bill is based more on the Selborne Committee's report than on the report of Lord Milner's Committee, and it seems to me to go much more on the recommendations of the Selborne Committee than on the Milner Committee, though the right hon. Gentleman says it is merely based on the Milner recommendations.
I would point out that the Milner Committee were quite well aware of the objection of paying to these farmers, who make no increase in their production, but who, indeed, might diminish the amount of land under cultivation in the future, the difference between the current prices and the prices provided in the Bill. They gave the alternative that at least one-fifth of the farmer's total acreage under grass and annual crops should actually be under wheat. They give no answer to the objections alleged by us here as to the farmer who did not increase his area of arable cultivation, or who indeed might diminish his area of arable cultivation. One-fifth is a large proportion, but this is not the moment to discuss that in detail, and I do not propose to say anything further about it, but when the Committee stage comes, I notice that there are several Amendments on the Paper which will provide for the payment of this guarantee on the area or on the produce which is in excess of the produce in the year 1913, and which the Bill would contemplate as being used for this peculiar form of national service. There is another proposal as to the guarantee of acreage based on prices variations. I daresay this is not a moment at which the right hon. Gentleman will see how to approach suggestions of this kind, but 1032 I hope the Government will keep an open mind on the subject, for they will find that the case that can be made out for giving a guarantee on further acreage ploughed up in the national interest, which might not be otherwise ploughed up because apparently in the mind of the farmer it would be uneconomic to do so, would be much greater than has been previously admitted in the discussions we have had on the subject. Payment on acreage would to some extent get over the difficulty I have described of our not fostering much more the beneficial farming than has been attempted within the four corners of the Bill, namely, milk farming, and I know of no other way in which that could reap the benefits which are suggested.
These proposals, as they stand, are in themselves varied, and we cannot decide on them now. Whatever they are, it is quite clear this Resolution must be passed in order to authorise our going on with the measure at all. There are a good many of us who are prepared to criticise the first part of this Bill, but who desire very much to see the production of food in this country fostered by legitimate means and to see secured some of the benefits of the other parts of the Bill. Those of us who hold that view are in duty bound to authorise the House to proceed with the Committee stage and to incorporate in the Bill obligations which may fructify in the future. Some of my hon. Friends are in favour of the limitation of the authorisation to a fixed sum. I heartily agree with him that on many occasions to limit the authorisation to a fixed sum is thoroughly justifiable. But in the peculiar conditions under which we stand, first as regards markets and secondly the effect on prices by inflation—inflation which no man can prophesy, not only as to the present, but as to the peculiar variations which may occur in the farming interest itself—it must be impossible for any Department of Agriculture in any one of the three things to be able to give a prophecy as to the exact amount which may be required. For my own part, I do not think it is likely to be a large amount. It may be very little, but if we are going to do the thing, and if it is a necessity, and if we agree to make a payment in order to increase the food production, then do not let us limit it, but let us make a clean job of it. For that reason I should recommend hon. Members to vote for the Resolution, reserving criticism for the Committee stage, when 1033 there will probably be opportunity for dealing with the several suggestions that have been discussed in the House.
I welcomed one remark made by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Prothero) when he moved this Resolution, and one which I think will relieve the minds of many of us in this House, because on his Second Heading speech he looked on these proposals as being the basis of a permanent agricultural policy. In his Second Reading speech he undoubtedly gave that impression to the House. I do not mean to quote his actual words, but I think he will find, if he refers to the OFFICIAL REPORT, that he was inclined on that occasion to describe the intention of the Government as in the future to proceed by way of guarantee to those who grew corn. If that were to be the case, I am afraid many of us would have to repeat our objection to dealing with such a controversial subject during the War. But he has this afternoon prefaced the whole of his remarks by the definite statement that this is a war measure designed to secure the production of corn in a time of national crisis, and I hope it is only as a war measure it will be treated throughout the Committee and the following stages of the Bill, and I hope it is only as a war measure that the Government will recommend it to the House.
My right hon. Friend said that he would never ask farmers to plough more unless we guaranteed prices, but the invitation has been given to farmers all over the country. I hope that invitation will continue whether the guarantee is given or not. Those of us who have been concerned with agricultural organisation in England, as well as in other countries, know quite well that there has been a great deal of land put down under grass not for purely economic reasons, but because of the trouble and annoyance which having a considerable amount of labour has been to some farmers. That tendency was not general, but there were many parts of the country where labour troubles led to a great deal of land being put down under grass. I hope it will not be necessary to drive the farmers to till land to the best national advantage merely by guaranteeing prices. The farmer has a national duty like other people, and so far as I know they are prepared to recognise it. But in the production of food the main items are not only that you are to guarantee prices, but, as the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, and 1034 it has been repeated from nearly every quarter of the House, you must secure adequate labour for the cultivation of the soil, and you must have an increased number of horses and more machinery for ploughing and a greater abundance of fertilisers. And you are not going to get the extra amount of labour on the land unless you are prepared to house the people. Then you must not only have cottages provided but you must have sheds. There are tens of thousands of farmers in this country who cannot add to their arable land for the simple reason that they are not equipped. You will have to have a considerable expenditure on sheds and buildings if grass farms are to be turned into arable farms. Just as that is necessary, so, too, is it necessary that more accommodation should be provided for the labourers. I do not suggest that advances should be made by the Exchequer for these two purposes, but I would press on the Government the necessity for pressing their propaganda in the country, not only along the lines of guaranteed prices, but with the object of increasing the agricultural population and the accommodation of the agricultural population.
The effort which is being made by the Government at the present time must indeed have a permanent effect on British agriculture. I do not myself believe that it is a complete reply to the submarine menace. I believe that the only reply to that is a more complete command of the seas. It is no use our imagining that we can face the submarine menace with equanimity even if we produced every ounce of food in this country which is necessary for our consumption. Therefore, when my right hon. Friend and others said that this is the only reply to the submarine menace I would enter the caveat that unless we can succeed in forbidding the destruction of our merchant fleet by enemy submarines, it will not only be our food supplies that will suffer but our material strength will be sapped. But it is a great contribution if anything can be done towards increasing our food supply in alleviation of that menace, and it is only as an alleviation that we can give it support.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I listened with great interest, and on the whole with pleasure, to the speech of my right hon. Friend. I do not think that the Government can complain in any way 1035 of the line which he has taken this evening. I am sure that he is right in saying that this is not the stage at which opposition to the main principles of the Bill should be shown, and that it is necessary to do something on the lines proposed by the Government. I rise for one reason only. I am afraid that if his speech were allowed to go without some statement on behalf of the Government it might be assumed that we are perfectly ready to consider anything, and are not inclined to press our own proposal. I do recognise that there are many different methods of dealing with the problem with which he have attempted to deal in this Bill. I recognise also that my right hon. Friend is perfectly right in saying that no speech by the Prime Minister or anyone else, either in this House or out of it, can bind the House of Commons in the sanction it gives to the expenditure of public money. As regards that we are all agreed. But there is something beyond that in which the Government at least are bound. The Prime Minister has made declarations on his own behalf, and on behalf of the Government of which he is the head, which are being acted on by the farmers of this country. He cannot bind the House of Commons, but in what he has done he has bound himself and he has bound his Government. While I may say on behalf of the Government that we will approach all these questions with the desire that the discussion should be free, and that the opinion of the House of Commons should be fully expressed, we discuss them with the determination to carry out in its main principles the policy which has been accepted by the Government, and which, I believe, is being acted upon now throughout the country by the farmers. That is really all that I desire to say. I agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman said.
It is well that we should be quite clear on this matter, in view of later stages. Does my right hon. Friend mean that he will not be prepared to accept any Amendments which alter the basis of the guarantee as it is now printed in the Bill?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
No; I do not say that in so many words. What I have said, and I repeat, is that it is the intention of the Government with regard 1036 to the main principles of our Bill now proposed to see them carried through. We are quite ready to consider any suggestion which will give effect to what are the purposes for which this Bill was introduced, but we are not approaching it with a mind which is ready to take one of a half a dozen different schemes. We have laid down our proposals and we intend to carry them through, as any Government does in a Bill it introduces. I say this not for the sake of the House of Commons, but for its effect on the country. The Government have made definite pledges, and as regards the principle of those pledges it intends to see them carried out.
§ Mr. MORRELL
This Resolution proposes to authorise the expenditure of an unlimited amount of money for the purpose of guaranteeing prices during a period of six years. No limit has been mentioned in amount, which is a very unusual feature in a Resolution of the kind. Everyone agrees that in certain circumstances it might rise to many millions of money. I think that is admitted. And yet those who support this proposal have not even yet made up their minds, especially the right hon. Gentleman, whether this is being put forward as a temporary emergency measure, in order to meet what is called the submarine menace, or whether it is really being brought forward, as we have also been told, as a new development of the agricultural policy of this country. In introducing the Resolution to the House to-day the right hon. Gentleman recommended it as a temporary and emergency measure, and as the best measure calculated to meet the submarine menace. I venture to think that in the course of the very short—too short—speech in which he introduced the Resolution he himself provided the best answer to the arguments which he used, because he said the guaranteeing of prices would be useless for the purpose of producing more food unless the farmer was assured of more labour, more horses, more fertilisers, and more machines. At present the farmer is not assured of any of them, and it is perfectly plain that if he were assured of them the guaranteeing of prices at the present time is useless, for the simple reason that the prices of wheat and oats are higher now than the guarantees proposed by the Bill. Therefore, it seems to me that it is playing with the House of Commons to say that 1037 this is a war emergency measure when it will do nothing to produce more corn unless those four conditions are satisfied, unless, first of all, you have more labour, more horses, more fertilisers, and more machinery than at present. When you have these four conditions, then for the purposes of the country for the period of the War guaranteed prices are not necessary at all. If this is intended to be an emergency measure we are going the wrong way about the matter altogether. We are therefore bound to consider this Resolution as a permanent change in the agricultural policy of the country.
As a permanent change in the agricultural policy, as it was recommended to us on the Second Reading, I am utterly opposed to this Resolution now before the House. I am opposed to it on these grounds: that it must mean that we are making ourselves liable for the expenditure of this amount of money without any security whatever that we are going to increase the total production of food in this country. That is to say, not merely the production of corn, wheat, and oats, but the production of meat, milk, and vegetables which are equally, almost as vitally, necessary to the welfare of the people of the country. As regards a large class of land, everyone admits—it has been proved again and again in the course of this Debate— that tins Bill will do nothing whatever. There is a large proportion of land in this country already fully cultivated, already producing what corn, wheat, and oats it can. As regards that land you are going to pay over big sums of public money for the benefit of farmers and landowners who are already making a good profit out of the land they occupy. I say to do that at this time, when we are talking so much about profiteering, is a most shameless and a most pernicious proposal. The Government, by this measure, in the case of certain land, is not only giving encouragement, but endowment to the profiteer. Everyone who has thought for the public funds ought to oppose such a measure as that. We all agree, in regard to a very large class of land, that the War has only proved what a great many people were saying before the War, that that land hitherto has been neglected and has not been cultivated up to its full use. In old days it was the mark of the Radical and the land reformer to say that. To-day it is the 1038 mark of the patriot—that is the only difference. But the fact has been brought home by the War that we have neglected our own land. It would be out of order to give reasons for this statement; but what I want to ask is how far are these guaranteed prices really going to benefit and improve the production of food on this large area of land which is under-cultivated and under-developed? I will not keep the House long, but I want to take the case of Germany. I want to take a Report which was made by Mr. T. H. Middleton, Assistant Secretary to the Board of Agriculture, on this question only last year. Everyone knows that the German climate in relation to agriculture is not so good as the climate of this country.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I will deal with that point in a moment. One point at a time. In respect to Germany, in the first place that country has not so good a climate, has not such good markets, nor are they so near as are our markets. Yet in Germany—as Lord Selborne's Committee pointed out, and as Mr. Middleton pointed out—the amount produced for each 100 acres is vastly greater than the amount in this country. I speak of the last twenty years. Take the figures as to the amount produced in 100 acres of cultivated land in Germany and in England. The British fanner on every 100 acres of cultivated land grows 15 tons of corn; the German farmer grows 33 tons —rather more than twice as much. I will give the reasons in a moment. By this Report I am going to show, if I can, that the remedy for the present state of things is not by this Resolution, which will do nothing, nor will the guaranteed price. The German farmer grows twice as much corn for every 100 acres as does the English farmer. Take potatoes. The British farmer on his 100 acres grows 11 tons, the German farmer grows fifty-five—exactly five times as much. As regards beef, the conditions are almost equal. The British farmer raises 4 tons and the German farmers 4¼ In milk, again, the British farmer produces 17½ tons and the German farmer 28 tons.
§ Mr. MORRELL
The British farmer grows 15 tons of corn to each 100 acres cultivated; the German farmer grows 33. That is in this Report, dealing with the "Recent Development of German Agriculture," by T. H. Middleton, C.B., Assistant-Secretary to the Board of Agriculture.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I am coining to that. I am only saying that all I wanted to bring out was that the German farmer occupying land gets more food out of it than does the English farmer. That is so. I am putting forward the proposition that the yield per acre is greater from German cultivated land than from English.
§ Mr. MORRELL
Certainly. It only excludes heath land and mountain land. It means ordinary cultivated land. It suggests that the German farmer produces twice as much corn as the English farmer.
§ Mr. MORRELL
Mr. Middleton goes on to say that the British farmer feeds from forty-five to fifty persons, whilst the German farmer feeds from seventy to seventy-five for each 100 acres of cultivated land. The German farmer is to-day, and has been in the last twenty years, far more skilful than the British farmer. My right hon. Friend on the Front Bench is really wrong in his interruption. We are dealing with arable and pasture land in this Report. I was only using the term cultivated land in the sense that it excluded mountain and heath land. It does not follow that the Report is right, but I suggest it is worth consideration, seeing that it is a Report made by a man who is a very skilful and well-known man, Mr. Middleton, and who was specially commissioned by the Board of Agriculture to inquire into the recent development of German agriculture. This is his Report, and I think it is—
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
On a point of Order, Mr. Whitley. The hon. Member has gone into the question of German agri- 1040 culture on this Report: will other hon. Members also be allowed to deal with the Report?
I do not think the hon. Member has gone beyond the proper scope of the Debate. The question before the Committee is as to whether or not we shall authorise the Committee on the Bill to entertain any proposals involving a financial charge on the Exchequer for the promotion of com production in this country.
§ Mr. MORRELL
On that point of Order. I should have been able to show, and quite well, if I had not been so much interrupted by my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, that the difference between British and German agriculture is not due to financial considerations at all, but that it is due almost entirely to the better use of fertilisers, already referred to in this Debate by the President of the Board of Agriculture, and the better technical education that the German farmer enjoys. The tendencies to which the hon. Gentleman opposite referred have nothing to do with the matter. If I had been given two minutes' more attention I should have been able to have made my point—that the difference between German and British agriculture is really due to the difference in technical education. It is very important, and therefore—
I think the hon. Member is now going rather outside the scope of the Debate. We are only deciding to-day, or attempting to decide, whether or not to authorise the Committee to accept any proposals involving a charge on the Exchequer for the better production of corn.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I think, Mr. Whitley, that the proposals which we are really considering, whatever be the wording— though I obey your ruling—are proposals involving a public expenditure for guaranteeing prices; therefore, I suggest I am entitled to show that a guarantee of prices by this Bill would not do anything to improve British agriculture. That is the point I was trying to make. British Agriculture is behindhand, because our methods are wrong, and guaranteed prices —this is the point I want to make in this Debate—will have the effect of stereotyping those methods.
That is quite a proper point for the Second Reading of the Bill, but that has been approved by 1041 the House. The lion Member therefore should not enter on the subject with the same width on this occasion as on the Second Reading.
§ Mr. MORRELL
I was not fortunate in being called upon at the Second Reading, or I should have made a far wider speech than I am, entitled to do now. I would have dealt with wages, and so on. However, I will not pursue that aspect of the-matter any further since it appears to be so very distasteful to hon. Members in this House. [HON. MEMBEES: "No, no ! "] Nor can I go into the question of tariffs. How far will this guarantee of prices tend to increase permanently the productivity of the English soil? How far may we ensure in this way that the land which is now ill-cultivated, and for a great part under-cultivated, undeveloped, and neglected, will be properly cultivated according to the best methods and by the use of the best fertilisers? Will these proposals do anything in that direction? I submit, with all deference to (his Committee, that, so far from helping to improve the production of food in this country as a permanent measure, these proposals will absolutely be an obstacle to real progress. They will be an obstacle in this way: They will establish and stereotype the present unscientific and old-fashioned methods of farming. There is no doubt about it that the British farmer—I am not speaking of all, because some of our farmers are thoroughly up-to-date—but a great number of our English far Tiers carry on their business in an old-fashioned, traditional, and unbusinesslike and unscientific way. As regards these men, you are now going to give them the security of a public guarantee without taking any steps, except what are taken by Part IV. of this Bill, to see that they improve their methods.
I want to ask again what sort of effect is the Bill going to have on the production of milk? Everyone knows that lately we have had a risk of a very, serious shortage of milk, and that the Board of Agriculture themselves have been very much alarmed about it. They are always fixing new prices and making new arrangements so that the milk farmer never knows where he stands with regard to his milk. We were told that on 15th June there would be an increase in price in order to encourage an increase of milk production. I think I am right when I say that in consequence of the depletion of large herds of dairy cows, 1042 which can be sold at high prices, there has been a chance of a very serious milk shortage. What will be the effect of this Bill? It will encourage the production of wheat and oats at the expense of dairy farming.
§ Mr. MORRELL
The hon. Member is very free with his interruptions, but I am myself engaged in milk production at this moment, and at any rate I am entitled to-put my view before the Committee. I believe that in a great many cases the effect will be, although I dare say it is not right that it should be so, to discourage and hinder the production of milk and dairy farming. I quite agree that dairy fanning can be carried on on arable land —it is in Denmark—but the tradition in England is that it should be carried out almost entirely on grass land, and when without taking any steps to improve technical education and the methods of the farmer you pass a Bill which will increase the price of wheat and oats I think it will have a bad effect on the production of milk. And I would like to point out that whereas we can import in an emergency wheat and oats in spite of the submarine, we cannot import fresh milk which is vitally necessary for the health of the people, and, above all, for the health of the children.
Then as regards vegetables and all the other small things, what effect will these guaranteed prices have? It is bound to be to put up the price of land against the small holder, against the small cultivator, and against the market gardener. Great attempts have been made to increase small cultivation in this country, and for the sake of providing labour for the big fanner, if for nothing else, it is vitally necessary that the increase of small holdings should not be stopped. This Bill will be one of the severest blows at the small holder in this country. The hon. Member on the Front Bench (Sir B. Winfrey), who has done so much for small holdings, knows that it is bound to-put up the price of small holdings, and in that way it will have a bad effect on the cultivation of vegetables and other things of that character. In other ways the small holder will be penalised. This Bill will tend to raise the price of wheat and oats—I do not say that it will do so, but. it will tend to that result—and as the 1043 small holder is largely a purchaser of wheat and oats, he will suffer because he will have to pay more for what he buys, while he will not get any more for what he sells. On all these grounds—that it is not only a great waste of public money, but that it is a proposal which is going to do permanent harm to the best interests of British agriculture, that it is going to be bad for agriculture, that it is going to be an obstacle to really scientific farming, that it will not help forward the production of wheat and oats in the emergency, but will, as I believe, tend to have a thoroughly reactionary effect on the progress made in the last ten or twenty years in British agriculture, I shall, if anyone goes to a Division, support him in opposing this Resolution.
§ Sir J. SPEAR
I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, who complained that we were not getting enough out of our land. The present proposal is to get more out of it, and I should have thought, therefore, that the hon. Member, from his own point of view, would have been in favour of that proposal. I want in a few words to give the reasons why I shall support the Resolution now under the consideration of the Committee. We have had a very serious lesson as to the danger of trusting so much for our food supplies on foreign countries, and I think it would be criminal if, as the result of that lesson, we neglected to provide against any such danger in the future. The present high prices of the necessaries of life, which are deplorable, because they are not good for either the consumer or the producer, would never have been so high if the House in years gone by had given fair attention to the great industry of agriculture. I think there is evidence in all parts of the House that it is the intention of Parliament to see that fair scope is given for the development of our home land in the interests of the common weal. It is not a farmers' Bill; it is a national Bill. The farmer will work it, as he has done, loyally in the interests of the country. He would, I believe, prefer to be left to carry on his business on principles guided by supply and demand, but the State think it necessary in the interest of the State to interfere with his role in carrying on his business, and I venture to submit in all fairness that it is only reasonable that the State should see that the farmer does not lose by being compelled to alter his 1044 system. We have been talking for a good many years past about wanting to see more people living in the rural districts, to see better housing, and better wages paid to the agricultural labourer. I feel confident that as the outcome of this Bill we shall obtain some of those results. While supporting the principle of the Bill there are, of course, questions which I think should be amended in detail. I quite agree that it would be unwise to go too far in breaking up our old pasture. It is better for us intensely to develop the arable land at present in use than to go too far in breaking up pasture land. We have all become aware that because of the unprofitableness of cultivation in years gone by we have failed, and are failing, to produce as much corn and other commodities from the land as is desirable in the interests of the State. I feel confident that this Bill will do something to correct that evil, and as the result I believe we shall see such a development of rural life as will permit the establishment of a good many more people on the land and the creation of an independent peasantry.
With regard to the wages question, I know it would be out of order to discuss that now, but while I quite agree that as the agricultural labourer stuck to agriculture in times of depression, so now that better times have come he should be dealt with liberally—and I do not complain of the minimum wage of 25s. a week —I do submit that an opportunity should be given for partially disabled men who are anxious to do what they can to be employed at wages equivalent to their output. There are many old age pensioners who are very anxious to put in half a day on the farm, and it would be against their interest if they were prevented from doing this because they could not earn the minimum wage. Consequently I feel that the Government are taking a right step in promoting this Bill, but in Committee I think there will have to be Amendments for developing our arable land in the way of breaking up temporary pastures. A good deal of arable land is laid down for three or four years in temporary pasture. We could keep it in continual cultivation to meet the crisis existing, and I venture to say that we should derive better results than from the breaking up of old pasture. There is a danger of evil effects through wire-worm and through the corn grown on old pasture being so strong in straw as not 1045 to yield corn which would be equivalent to the outlay. I agree with the Government that it is a step necessary to win the War. We are all in favour of that; and I believe also that the ultimate effect will be to promote the resuscitation of rural life and the development of our land to a greater extent, with the result that we shall provide much more native food at home and shall thus avoid the necessity of sending so much money to foreign counties in order to provide the necessaries of life. I shall vote with pleasure for the Resolution.
Some misunderstanding may arise out of the last statement made by the Leader of the House (Mr. Bonar Law), and I have asked leave to intervene for one single moment in order to ask a question which may lead to our misunderstanding being cleared up. The right hon. Gentleman said that whereas the House of Commons was not bound by pledges given by Ministers that of course the Government was bound by those pledges, and that we fully recognise. Of course, in time of war, whatever the Government ask for in this House is given much more readily, as we know, than on other occasions, and when I put a further question to him as to how far that was going to affect us in Committee he gave the impression to some of us, although I cannot believe it was in his own mind, that whereas we would have desired that on the Committee stage there might be a comparatively free discussion of he financial proposals of the Bill which we are now covering by this Resolution to-day the Government must press their proposals, and we understood him to say that they must press them substantially as they stand. The adherence to the principle of the Bill we can quite understand, but if my right hon. Friend really meant that the proposals as they stand were to be pressed by the Government, and pressed by the Government after they have definitely given pledges outside from which they cannot recede, it means that all discussion in Committee on alternative principles or modifications of the Government proposals will become impossible. It will greater assist us if the right hon. Gentleman will make his point a little more clear.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It must be that what I said was not very plain or my right hon. Friend (Mr. Runciman) would not have had any doubt about it. I did not think there was any doubt as to what I 1046 said, and certainly there was none as to what I intended. I rose, as I pointed out, for one reason only. The speech of my right hon. Friend, in dwelling on the fact that the House of Commons was absolutely free, seemed to me to produce this statement: that if nothing was said by the Government it would be implied that the whole thing would be an open question. I rose then in order to say that that was not so, because, although obviously the House of Commons was free the Government was not free. That was my intention. As regards the particular point my right hon. Friend has raised, I hope when the actual words are seen in print it will be found that I did not say we were not ready to leave to the House a perfectly free and open mind to discuss anything which was contrary to the pledges made on behalf of the Government by the Prime Minister and other responsible Ministers. I hope that is perfectly plain. We are at first to adhere to the principle of the Bill and act up to the position taken on behalf of the Government.
That does not close the door on the Committee stage if the Government consider with an open mind modifications which are not in regard to the principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Certainly not. That is clearly my intention. I think I should be the last man in the House to interfere with the privilege and practice of the House in a matter of that kind.
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
I have listened to the discussion this afternoon with very great interest. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Prothero) that the attainment of the results he desired rested on two things —on the passage of the financial provisions of the Bill, and on the greater supply of labour. Those are the two policies on which it rested. And it must be plain to anyone that unless the second policy, that is the supply of labour, stands, whatever we do financially under the Bill cannot possibly attain the desired results. It is rot an endowment for agriculture so much as labour for agriculture. I had a remarkable instance of this, because I received a circular from some dairy farmers setting forth that unless their trade was named as a specialised trade, from which men could not be drawn, they could not undertake to supply the public with milk. Hence we have not a guarantee of labour, 1047 but of a sufficiency of labour. Whatever we do under this Bill may fail to attain its end, but it will not be altogether abortive. The Member for South Moulton (Mr. George Lambert) used the phrase "abortive," but I would like to point out that though it might be abortive to attain the desired result it will not be abortive to the unfortunate taxpayer, who may have to pay an enormous amount without getting an adequate result for what is paid; and it will not be abortive to the landed interests, or to the big farmers, who will be enabled, as the Bill stands, to make an enormous amount of extra profit even though they do not raise any more grain than they did before.
Indeed, that is the great finanical objection to the Bill. That is why many of us do not want to vote for the Resolution. If it was clear that the country would get value for money we might be prepared to consider it, but there is a certainty of large payments and no certainty whatever that the results for which those large payments are to be made will be reached at all. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire (Mr. Molteno) put to the Minister of Agriculture a question which brought out some useful information. This goes to the question of the amount of money which may be provided under the Resolution we are now discussing. He says, "Supposing that the actual prices were the same as in the average of the five pre-war years and that the production was the same as in the five pre-war years, then what would be the amount the taxpayer would have to pay under this measure?" And the answer is to this effect, that in the year 1919 the amount will be something over £22,000,000, and in the following year it would be a like amount and in each of the three succeeding years it would be practically £10,000,000. Thus an enormous burden would be placed on the taxpayer, assuming that the prices were as they were in the average five years before the War, without any extra grain was produced, and no other land was brought under cultivation.
All the figures are hypothetical, but there could not be a clearer hypothesis than the five years preceding the War in seeing what the result will be. The hypothesis is by no means an unlikelihood, because immediately after the War 1048 prices will be affected on account of increased production and the increase of wages, and it is not at all unlikely that in the years 1920 and 1921 prices may be at the same level as they were before the War. Even if they were not higher, the figures might not be as high as £10,000,00a or £22,000,000. They might not be less. When we have a Minister coming down, and asking support to a financial Resolution, why does he not give us figures? These are the figures which have been given by the Minister in charge.
§ Colonel WEIGALL
It is hardly fair to say that these were the figures given by the Minister in charge. He gave the hon.. Member information.
These figures were given in response to an hon. Member. If the Minister in charge had any estimate better, and wanted to give figures on that assumption, he might have done so. But he has not. That is the complaint of those of us who differ from Members who support the, measure, that we are really not given figures and are asked to authorise an enormous expenditure without any guarantee that we will have the result aimed at. As a matter of fact, those who benefit by this expenditure have been making enormous profits from the high prices that have prevailed. The profits from agriculture have never been higher than they are now. The people of the country are groaning under the enormous prices they have to pay, and the conclusion is that the Bill is to increase their profits further and lay an enormous sum in taxation on the taxpayers, even though there is no extra production at all. It seems to me to be the most colossal profiteering that has ever yet been proposed. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is legalized ! "] Yes, legalized. It is brought in by the Government, and we are told on the one hand that the Government are going to take stern measures with profiteers, but the Bill places the taxpayers at the mercy of the profiteers as they have never been put at their mercy before. It may be necessary at this particular time to do something specially to encourage agriculture, and if anything will encourage agriculture it is a thorough revision of the land system from top to bottom. Ministers may say that they have to do something now, and that they have produced some makeshift measure. I will not object to a measure like that in principle at a time like this. The Chief 1049 Secretary for Ireland said, "You are going to ask the farmers to plough up their lands and do various other things, and they are afraid it may lead to their loss. Are you going to propose that they should do this at their own cost?" I am quite ready to admit, if Parliament and the public authorities ask the farmers to do something of that character, they are entitled to say, "We will guarantee you against loss." There is no one, so far as I know, who quarrels with that proposition. If they are put to expense in doing what the Board of Agriculture wishes, the taxpayer should meet them over that, and the taxpayer may be called upon to guarantee them against it. But what we object to is that possibly enormous sums should go to gentlemen in respect of land which they are now cultivating and which they could continue to cultivate, possibly though no guarantee were given at all. That is what we object to.
I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture swept aside the Selborne Report, apparently on the ground that his action was based on the Milner rather than the Selborne Report. You cannot sweep aside the arguments in the first portion of the Report by that happy method. There is one argument in the Selborne Report which was stated with remarkable clearness by Sir Matthew Wallace. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to meet the argument, which was simply this. As we all know, different portions of land on the same farm would produce some more and some less. You have land that will produce 6 quarters to the acre, and for the ordinary farmer that land will be cultivated whether a guarantee is given or not. Then you have land which will only produce 3 quarters. That land may be cultivated if a guarantee is given, and if a guarantee is not given it will not. But the Government system does not give the bounty by acreage, and the result is in the case of land which would produce 6 quarters, supposing the guarantee were to be 10s., the whole of that land which would produce 6 quarters, and where no guarantee is needed at all, you get 60s., whereas the owner of the land which would produce only 3 quarters would get only 30s. Thirty shillings would not be sufficient, but the 60s. would be a pure bonus and gift to those interested in that land. That is the difficulty we want to avoid, and what guarantee have we that the Government will avoid it? I cannot follow the right hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. 1050 Runciman) on his excessive optimism in this matter. I think the House is indebted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for making the position of the Government perfectly plain. The Government are going to stick to the proposals in this Bill. That is the position, and if my right hon. Friend or anyone else thinks we should support this Resolution on the ground that the Government are going to consider with an open mind the possibility of all sorts of changes, he is being misled by a sense of false security which will land us in a place we do not want. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of freedom of discussion. Of course there will be freedom of discussion in the House. The question is, what will happen when it comes to a Division? Then we may be sure that the Whips of the Government on both sides will be put on to support the Government proposals and carry them through. Therefore, let everyone recognise that in helping on this financial Resolution they are helping on the Government proposals. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has done his best to make the position clear as regards that.
One effect of this dole — because it is nothing but a dole to certain interests— will be that the price of land all over the country will rise. It has risen already. I know round about Glasgow and in the South of Scotland the rents paid for grass farms and other farms arc much higher than they were. You have only to read the columns of the daily papers to see that. Sooner or later this dole, in the same, way as a bounty, will go, not to the cultivators of the soil, but to the people who own the land, who will be able to get better prices for it. In fact, the Government themselves recognised that when they put in certain proposals, which, I would remind them, they have not adhered to, as regards security against the raising of rents, because in the proposals they had adumbrated they spoke of security against the raising of rents generally, whereas in the Bill we find these proposals are limited to cases of land on yearly tenancy, which is in a much narrower form, and which in Scotland would have a very much more limited application. In Scotland we are interested in small holdings. What is one of the things that prevents small holdings that we desire? The enormous prices we have to pay for the land. As soon as this Bill becomes law you will find that prices have gone up something like 50 per cent., and the making of small holdings will 1051 hardly be a feasible proposition. In fact, there could not be a worse proposal to tell against small holdings.
We have been told that farmers have been acting on Government promises. I should have thought that, whilst the Prime Minister might outline certain proposals which he intended to introduce to Parliament, everyone should recognise there was no guarantee of those proposals until they had been approved by the House. If we take up that line, for practical purposes the House of Commons is to be bound by any promises the Prime Minister may make. And I would ask, How have they acted on these proposals? Remember, the proposals of this Bill not only consist of giving increased prices, but also consist of a minimum wage for the agricultural labourer, which I may say will be of no use in Scotland, where the wages are above that level, and will be of no use in many parts of England, though in some parts of England they may be an advantage. I see a representative of the Board of Agriculture sitting opposite, and I would like to ask him, as it is said that farmers have acted on this, whether there is a single case of a farmer, on account of this Bill, having raised the minimum wage to his labourers? It is very useful to say they have acted upon it where their own interests are concerned, but what about the case of the agricultural labourer?
It has been said that this is a war measure. It is by no means a war measure. In the first place, for practical purposes it will not operate until such time as the War is over. There is no likelihood whatever that m 1917 prices will be below those guaranteed by this Bill. That has been said, I think, from the Front Bench opposite. We all know it is a matter of fact. These guarantees are really meant to come in later in times of peace. If they were meant to be limited to the time of war, why should the Secretary of the Local Government Board, speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, have said that two years before these guarantees are to be ended there is to be a reconsideration with a view to seeing whether they should not be continued still further. The whole object of this scheme is to get in a system of bounties, and to get in a system of bounties which is about the most mistaken system you can possibly have. If there 1052 is to be any guarantee of this kind it should surely be limited to the case of land which would not otherwise be under wheat and oats, and it should be limited to the case of new land which is broken up. Of course, if you do that, then you make sure of getting something, but under the proposed system we may land the taxpayer in his worst extremity in an enormous expenditure for which we may get nothing like adequate advantage, and perhaps no advantage at all. The advantage comes, not in the continued cultivation of land that would be cultivated in any case, but in the increased cultivation of new land, and I was very sorry to gather—I may be wrong—from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that there did not seem very much possibility of the Bill being limited to these cases. Therefore, it seems to me desirable that in having such a general Resolution as we have before us, we should at least take some steps to limit the enormous liability under which the taxpayer may be placed.
It has been suggested that this is only a temporary measure. There again the right hon. Member for Dewsbury seemed to take that view, but I would like to point out that that view is fallacious, and if we want to see how fallacious it is we have only to look to the enormous Grants that are now made under the Agricultural Rates Act. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are associated with this Resolution were also associated with the Agricultural Rates Act, or at least some of them were. This measure is brought in as a measure for six years only. The Agricultural Rates Act was brought in as a measure for five years only, but once it was in working operation new interests were found to have sprung up, and it was continued further. Then that Act and the Act for Scotland were put bodily into the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, and we have continued them year after year ever since. The right hon. Member for East Fife, speaking with reference to the Agricultural Rates Act—and I would like to repeat his words, for they are equally applicable to the principle of this measure —said:In form it was a Bill to last only five years, but, as everyone knew, and as all Parliamentary experience proved, Grants of this kind once given were not, in fact, revocable. He did not believe there had been any case in which subventions had been made by Act of Parliament out of Imperial funds for local purposes which it had over been found possible afterwards to recall or even diminish in amount.That was his view then. Circumstances have proved it to be true under that Act, 1053 and they will prove it to be true under the proposals before us. These proposals, tied as they are to the proposals the Government make in the Bill, would to my mind be the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the British taxpayers. No attempt has been made to answer the economic argument which I and other hon. Members have tried to state. We say ii we are to expend money we ought not to do it unless there is a certainty that good results will follow. Anything along the line the Government proposes will certainly be to the immediate benefit of the landed interests, although I very much doubt whether they will be to the ultimate benefit of those landed interests, because you may be certain that once the taxpayer finds out what enormous doles they are paying they will try to apply more effective taxation to those who are getting the money.
If we are to vote these large sums for a certain purpose, surely the increased value of the land which results ought not to go into private pockets, but into the public Exchequer. I agree with what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), that the most effective use of the land can be made by those who are using it for the highest profit they can get without undue interference on the part of the State. Once you begin this system of State doles in respect of land cultivation you will increase the amount of State interference, and in that way I am very much afraid that there may be a risk not of production being increased but diminished by introducing all the evils of divided control. There was another hint of what may happen from giving this dole although cultivation is not increased. The farmer will not desire to run the risk of breaking up fresh ground, because he gets a profit without it, and it may induce him to continue the old style as far as he can, and that might have a very serious and deleterious effect. Something has been said about the need of improved education, but that subject is outside the limits of this financial Resolution. Nevertheless, we want to go much more fully into that matter, and I very much regret that the Minister for Agriculture has not stated a clear case on economic lines for his proposals, and I believe he would have done so if it could have been stated. As far as I know, there is no economic ground and no economic justification for these proposals. They are purely makeshift proposals, brought in 1054 without any consideration of their results, without any fair statement on the part of the Ministry, or any assumption of what prices may be or to what the expenditure may amount to, and we shall be placing that heavy burden on the taxpayer without getting anything like an increased advantage for the people as a whole. On these grounds, and because it appears now that the Government are going to stick to their proposals from first to last, I consider it my duty to oppose this Resolution,, which only paves the way for such undesirable proposals.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I differ rather substantially from the views which have been expressed by my hon. Friend who has just sat down in regard to these proposals, and I do not wish to give a vote without explaining my position. I do not know whether I should be disorderly in making a passing reference to the time we have been occupying ourselves on the Committee stage of a financial Resolution, and to the difficulty and the vagueness of that Resolution, but I have come to the conclusion that a system of Parliamentary procedure under which we are spending: two whole days on a Resolution of this kind is a procedure designed to waste time and to have no practical result whatever. I regard this essentially as a war measure, although my hon. Friend denies that, and says it has the appearance of a makeshift. It if; intended and it is designed as a makeshift for war purposes. A war measure does not necessarily mean a measure which will be effective only during the War, but it is a measure which has become necessary because of the War to increase productivity not only during the War, but also for the period immediately following the War, when the continued existence of this country, the necessities of its trade, the restoration of its peace conditions, depend almost as much as now upon the economy of shipping and of tonnage. For these reasons the measure which may be effective after the War, and for a considerable period after the War, ought to be considered just as much a War measure as a measure which affects us only during hostilities. The financial proposals of the Bill, for which this Resolution is introduced, are justified, for you are interfering with the business of the farmer. You say to him, "You must risk more capital and till more ground than you would do if you were allowed to work your own way. We want this increased production for the 1055 purposes of the State, and we want you to do what we tell you and not what you like." You cannot turn the farmer out and till the soil by Civil servants. You have to work through the farmers, and therefore you must Eave their good will and prove to them that they are not going to be ruined. You are making him do all this, and your agricultural committees are going to tell him which land he must till. For that reason I think he is entitled to come and say, "I cannot afford to do all this unless you make my capital secure."
Mr. D. WHITE
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, does that apply to the land already under cultivation and which would be under cultivation in any case?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
That is the point to which I propose to address myself. There are three different classes of farms to which these proposals may apply. There is the farm which has no arable land now, the farm that has arable land now and you want more added to it, and there is the farm that will not now have arable land added to it. It is all arable up to the greatest extent now. I want to ask the representative of the Board of Agriculture if he will tell the Committee how extensive is the last class. In my belief, and I only speak for that part of agricultural England which I represent in this House, there are very few farms indeed on which no new acres can be tilled or will be tilled under this Bill. I believe my right hon. Friend opposite is thinking of a very limited class of farm indeed. In any case if a man has greater security he will put more capital into the acreage which he already tills, and he will devote himself more energetically to the cultivation of his land; and even on farms where no increase of acreage can take place, you will get increased production from these increased efforts.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir R. Winfrey)
And he will put more land under cereals.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
Yes, certainly. I will take the case of the farmer whom you ask to increase his acreage. You say to him, "We will pay for the new acreage, but not for the old." Consider the case of the farmer who is prepared to risk to the mercy of heaven, to the mercy of the 1056 wind, a certain amount of his capital every year. If he is a prudent man, he puts aside a certain amount as reserve. You ask him to embark all his capital to the mercy of the wind, and he says,"? will do it, if you give me some security against one danger, namely, against the danger of a sudden slump in prices." If you ask him to engage in the expenditure of more capital, he is entitled to say to you, "I will do it if you make my capital secure from one danger, the danger of a slump in prices. I cannot get security from you against another danger, the danger of a failure of my crop." Therefore, I am glad to hear, and I am perfectly certain that my constituents, whom I have taken the trouble to consult so far as I can by correspondence, will also be glad to hear that the Government intend to stick to the principles of their Bill. After all, it is no new thing for a Minister to go to a community and say, '' If you will do this, I will ask Parliament to carry out certain pledges which I make to you." The Ministry is bound to make the pledges. Parliament has the choice of ratifying them or of refusing to ratify them, but the farmer who receives a pledge from the present Government under which he is accepting interference from the War Agricultural Committees has every right to expect that Parliament will ratify that pledge.
I agree with my hon. Friend in one aspect. I do think that the effect of these proposals on the price of land is likely to be very serious. Farmers, not from any want of will, but from want of discovery of method, and it is quite understandable, are not now adequately taxed, and they are making large profits. They have got money in their pockets or in the bank, they see this new security for their industry in the future which they have never had before, and they are tumbling over one another in their competition for the farms which come into the market. I have not verified the figures, but I heard the other day of a case in which a farm changed hands at £102 per acre, which is the sort of price one used to think was confined to urban land. I ask if the Government will not take that sort of possibility into consideration, because they may be faced after the War with an over-capitalised industry, in which money has been locked up through purchase, and this may cause agricultural depression in the future. I am not at all sure that the Government will not find great difficulties 1057 following upon the passage of this Bill in preventing a rise in the price of land and the raising of rents. Part of the Bill is devoted to that purpose, but I am not at all sure that they will find it easy to work, And that my hon. Friend is not right in declaring that by this Bill we are taking the first step towards the entire or partial nationalisation of the land of this counry.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Sir F. Cawley)
I am very glad that ray hon. Friend (Mr. D. White) thinks that the War will be over before this measure comes into operation, but I am afraid that he is rather sanguine.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
That is only a very small part of the measure. He opposed it on the ground that we are doing something for agriculture, and that it was a dole for somebody, but I could not make out whether it was the landlord or the tenant. I would remind him that neither the landlord nor the tenant has ever asked for this Bill. The landlord has said, "Leave me alone, I am quite satisfied. I do not want to be interfered with." The Government, however, come to him and say, "We must interfere with you. We are short of corn, and you must plough up morn land than you otherwise would do. We are therefore going to interfere with you, whether you like it or not." It is a very fair proposition, if you come to a man and say, "You must hot carry on your business in the way you think is best for making a profit, but you must carry it on in the best way for the nation," that he should have the right to say to you, "You must give me some guarantee if I do so that I shall not be the loser thereby."
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
I do not know what my hon. Friend means by corrupt politics. There does not seem to be anything corrupt about it. My hon. Friends, I think, are not quite aware of the experience which farmers had in the early Nineties. 1058 Perhaps they are not quite aware that three-fourths of the agricultural farmers in this country were ruined. They have that fear before them every day.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
No, not during the War, but they know perfectly well, if they plough up more land and corn comes down to the price at which it was at one time, that they will be ruined men. It is therefore, perfectly right for them to say, "We want some security against ruin." I do not like to prophesy, but as a matter of fact I do not for a moment anticipate that it will ever cost the country a penny. It will certainly not cost the country a penny this year. The guaranteed price for this year, 1917, is 60s. Does anyone for a moment suppose that the price is coming down below 55s. next year or the year after? I think it is extremely unlikely that it will come down from the present price of 80s. to below 55s. Therefore, so far as this year and the next two years are concerned, it is absolutely improbable that this guarantee will ever come into operation. My hon. Friend opposite said that something will have to be done to prevent the same state of things happening as happened during the agricultural depression, when corn went down to about 20s. per quarter. The present Lord Chaplin told me that during the agricultural depression he offered two farms of 1,000 acres each to three different farmers who were known to be good farmers without any rent at all for five years, and they would not take them. We do not want agriculture to come to that state again. Then what are you going to do. The minimum price fixed here for the last period of this guarantee is 45s. If you wish, on account of the submarine menace, to keep land under the plough and produce corn you will have to do something if corn comes down and leads to agricultural depression. What are you going to do? Are you going to give a guarantee, are you going to have a tariff, or are you going to have a subsidy? Those are the only three alternatives. Personally, I do not look with very great abhorrence upon doing something to keep the necessary land under the plough, so that in the case of another war we shall not be in the same position as we are in to-day. This is absolutely a War measure and nothing else. We had a great disquisition from the hon. Member for 1059 Burnley (Mr. Morrell) upon agriculture. This has nothing to do with the general question of agriculture at all. It is a War measure pure and simple. How are we to induce the farmers to raise more corn? The hon. Member who spoke last but one said this would not do ii, but there are 300,000 more acres under cultivation this year than there were before. Everybody knows that the farmers, rightly or wrongly, are under the impression that they are going to get this guarantee. They are ploughing up their grass laud on the understanding that they are going to have this guarantee or insurance, which, I say, will not cost the country a penny. I hope the House will look upon this Bill as a War measure and not think that it is necessarily a dole either to landlords or to tenants. I hope they will disabuse their minds of all such ideas and look upon it as a measure which is good for the country and which will do something to alleviate the present scarcity of food.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I find it difficult to follow the arguments advanced in support of this measure because, to a large extent, they seem to be destructive of each other. On the one hand, we are told that this is not going to cost the country a farthing; on the other hand, we are told that the farmers have had to alter their plans so much that the country must come to their aid and must be ready to pay out large bonuses and doles to the farmers.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I will deal with that in a minute. I think it will be found to be a kind of insurance for which a large price will have to be paid ultimately. We were told to-day by the Leader of the House that the House of Commons, or at any rate the Government, is entirely bound to the proposals—indeed, to the details of the proposals—by the fact that the Prime Minister has made certain promises and given certain pledges to the farmers. There is no one in this country who can bestow pledges with lighter heart and freer hand than the Prime Minister. One can only hope that his pledges to the farmers will be more honoured than his pledges to labour have been repeatedly during the last two and a half years, because although pledges have been given to labour it has been found that later on that the circumstances have so altered 1060 that the pledges were no longer binding and had to be entirely changed. Perhaps the farmers are more sacred in the eye of the Government and the Prime Minister than the great mass of the working people, who also have had to do something and have had to make considerable sacrifices during the last two and a half or three years. I am utterly unable to understand the attitude of what is, or used to be, the Opposition Front Bench. We have had various speeches made from that bench, mostly contradictory and cancelling each other. Some of them were made in support of and some of them in strong, opposition to this proposal, but they all agree, whether they support the Bill or think that it is thoroughly bad, in that they are going to stand by it and see it through. The right hon. Gentleman who himself used to speak in this House on behalf of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. Acland) made a speech which was destructive of the Bill from first to last. He believed it to be bad and vicious in principle, yet we are going to find him to-night in the Lobby in support of the proposal. I cannot understand an attitude of that kind at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Chesterton Division (Mr. Montagu) told us that the-speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Tradeston Division of Glasgow (Mr. D. White) ought not to have been made upon this financial Resolution-at all.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I did not say that What I said was that the procedure of the House of Commons in regard to financial Resolutions, which made it possible to have a Second Reading Debate over again, seemed designed to waste time.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
May I point out, since, this question has been raised, that I do not think I have heard a single speech which has been strictly in order? That leads me to hope that the hon. Member now in possession of the Committee will make a more strenuous effort than he has hitherto done to get near to the Resolution.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Seeing that you, Sir, have allowed so large a latitude to the previous speeches, I do not see why I should be made a scapegoat for all my predecessors in this Debate, but I am quite willing to get as near the point as I possibly can. I agree that the ground traversed has been very wide. I object very strongly to this financial Resolution and, if others 1061 vote against it, certainly I shall record my vote against it too. I do not believe in arguing in one direction and voting in the other. We have been told in the past that politics is the science of good government. Unless we are careful politics is going to be the science of endowing private interests. Once you begin with that, you are going to have, necessarily, corrupt politics. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy admitted in reply to a question put by me that he sees no difference in principle between endowing farmers and endowing anybody else whose business has been upset by the Government during the War. Where on earth is that going to take us? Any number of people have had their business upset by the War. Indeed, there are very few people who have not had their business upset by the War. Are they all coming forward with claims for guarantees for the next six years, and are they all going to be guaranteed against loss?
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
The hon. Member has misunderstood me. I said the Government wanted something from the farmer, and the farmer said, "If I alter my acres of tillage to what you require, you must give me some security that I shall not lose by it during the next six years."
§ Mr. ANDERSON
Do not make any mistake. The manufacturer will see to that. The manufacturers have had their business upset, they have had new machinery brought in, and have had all sorts of changes made. Why should not they be guaranteed in the same way? Where do we get to? We get to a general scheme of bribery in politics, which is an utterly corrupt thing and is worthy of the Government from which it comes. I believe also in this. The right hon. Gentleman placed before the House certain alternatives. He said, if we do not do this, we must do this, or we must do that. I object to this measure, because I believe you are endowing and perpetuating a bad system of land tenure in this country and that you are not getting down to the root of the trouble at all. You are 1062 endowing a bad system of land tenure which was in the past strongly condemned by the very people who are now bringing-forward these proposals, which in the end will be used to bolster up the land interest of this country, and which will, as even the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Montagu) admits, increase the value of land and in the end help to increase the rent and profits of the landowner. That is what we are getting to. I believe that is the wrong way to tackle this problem altogether. If you want more food produced, as we all do—we have that in common, that we want to use the land of the country to its fullest possible extent—I believe a just system of land tenure is the only thing which will give you that, and the raising of the condition of the labourer, greater freedom for the labourer, and extending the number of small holdings under some decent system of security of tenure, which used to be the old policy of many members of the House, is being not only endangered by this new development, but in my opinion is being entirely side-tracked, and we are having something entirely new put in its. place which is taking us in a wrong direction altogether. I believe it to be wrong; and bad, and I am going to resist it. We are told that nothing will be required. We are voting an indefinite sum of money. It will never be called for, and not a penny of it will ever be used. That is. the kind of argument which is very often used when all sorts of people want a guarantee. We very often hear people asking others to sign this or that. It is never going to be used. Nothing is ever going to happen. But we know very well what does happen in a good many cases when people are misled by arguments of that kind. If the Government believe that no part of this money would be needed they would not take the trouble to put this Bill through the House at all, and certainly the farmers would not take the slightest interest in it if they did not believe the money was going to be paid to them out of the Exchequer.
I should have had more sympathy with the farmers than I have if I had seen them making the terrible sacrifices in this War which are sometimes pictured in this House. There is no class in this country which has suffered less on the whole from the War and has had to make less financial sacrifice by reason of the War, than the farmers. That is admitted. I will go beyond that and say there is no class in 1063 the country on the whole which has benefited more substantially from the War than the farmers have done, and you are perpetuating that. You are going to guarantee that, and you are going to see that the high prices the farmers enjoy are not going to be allowed to come down under normal conditions. You do not expect the War to go on for the next six years, do you? I suppose some hon. Members think the war has now become a machine which has got out of your control and which you-cannot stop. No one really believes it will go on for the next six years unless it involves the entire destruction of civilisation in Europe. But this measure is going to go on for the next six years, and under the terms of this Resolution your are committed to the expenditure of public money for the next six years. I do not believe for a minute it will come to an end in six years. How can you stop an arrangement of this kind? You are encouraging the farmers to make certain changes. It will be a very nice thing for the farmer to be able to give the agricultural labourer a minimum wage if the money for the minimum wage is to be guaranteed by the wage earners in the town and we are going to pay higher prices for foodstuffs. Once you have laid down this principle, that the farmers, not at their own expense but at the national expense, are going to be made to pay a minimum wage to the labourers, the farmer will see to it that that does not come to an end at the end of six years. You are making a permanent arrangement, and it will certainly go on. From all these points of view the principle you are now admitting is a vicious and a corrupt principle. It is a corrupt principle of government, it is a corrupt principle in politics, and it is not going to stop where it now is. I should have thought the present financial condition of this country is sufficiently serious without undertaking unknown risks like this. We are piling up a debt under which the nation will stagger for years to come. We are using up enormous amounts of money, and when the time for reconstruction comes and you want money for rebuilding and for education after the War, you will find that these great interests, like the landed interests, have the first claim upon it—you have given them the first claim upon it—and social objects will have to suffer because of what you have done. The Government is very much to blame 1064 indeed. Where is this money going to come from that the farmers get, as they will get it? It is going to come from the wage earners. You are going to ask the wage earners in your urban towns to tax themselves in order to prevent themselves having cheap food.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
We shall all agree now, at any rate, that that is clearly a subject for Ways and Means and not for this Committee. I have given as much latitude to the hon. Member as to any hon. Member who has spoken.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I will go on to another point, but I do not believe that an extra acre of land will be cultivated as a result of this measure. In point of fact, prices are so high at present that any sensible farmer is putting every acre he can into cultivation, governed by knowledge of the War situation and governed by shortage of labour, shortage of horses, and so on, and therefore there is no chance at all that this is going to do any good. I am quite convinced that the more the workpeople understand what is involved in this matter the more strenuously they will be opposed to it. I have no doubt on that account at all. I believe that in the end, as the result of the increase in the value of land and of the increase of rent, the money it is now proposed we should vote will very largely go to the landlords of this country. It will become a new dole for the landlords of the country, and I am absolutely opposed to that, just as I believe that this bounty will become a permanent bounty, and that it will have to be opposed by the democratic forces of the country, and I shall have an absolutely clear conscience in voting, without reservation at all, against this measure, which I believe to be an anti-social and a corrupt measure, and against the true interests of the nation.
§ Colonel Sir R. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member (Mr. Anderson) challenged me to answer him later on in the Debate. I am glad to do so because I know something of the subject of which I think he will pardon my saying he knows very little. If I had said about his occupation, of which I know nothing, what he has said about farming, of which I know something, I think he would be justly angry at the imputation which he and other Members have chosen to make against the farming interests. I know that acres are being broken up, not 1065 because of the high prices, but because, in the first place, of this Bill, and, secondly, because of the War Office offer of a certain price for oats. I should like to tell him of my own experience, which is worth a good deal of theory. I inherited from my father about 40 acres of land. It was very good sheep land. The tenant in those days asked my father to allow him to plough the land for corn, because corn was at a high price, and my father allowed him to do so. That tenant passed away, and so did my father, and the tenant's son and I have been trying to get that land back to decent grass again. The tenant's son has passed away, and I have had to do it myself. That land, which was really good sheep land, has had to be ploughed up this year for oats because of the War Office offer. That is one fact which will do away with a certain amount of fiction in the hon. Member's speech. [An HON. MEMBER. "It is economically bad."] The hon. Member is perhaps right, and perhaps some day the people of the country will realise that England is not a wheat country, that it is a barley country, that Scotland is an oat country, and that Ireland is a grass country. The hon. Member (Mr. Anderson) spoke about the wage earners in the towns as if the people in the towns were the only wage earners, and agricultural labourers were not wage earners also. The people in the towns want corn, and because of that the land of England, or a good deal of it, has to produce corn, and for the same reason wheat has to be introduced from foreign countries. I am glad of that, because it is a good thing for the poor dwellers in the towns that they should get their broad cheap. You cannot do two things. You cannot get your bread cheap and yet grow your own supplies in this country against economic facts. If you want to grow wheat against economic facts in this country the country must pay for it. That is sound economics. This is not a wheat country. It is not even an oats country. I am speaking generally. Of course, I am quite aware that some parts of England are good for wheat and some parts are good for oats, but England, speaking generally, is a barley country, Scotland an oats country and Ireland a grass country. We cannot grow wheat in this country against the summers of Canada, against the hot summers of Aus- 1066 tralia, against the hot climate of India, and against the soil of a great many parts of the world. The hon. Member forgets another fact, and that is, that the seas are not free at the present moment, and that you cannot get in all the wheat you want. Our ships are being destroyed by submarines, and freights are high because tonnage is getting very much shorter. Have my hon. Friends realised that demand and supply have something to do with each other, and that if ships are being destroyed freights must automatically rise, and, therefore, the price of corn must rise. We are told we must guard against starvation. Please God, long before this Bill comes to an end the submarine menace will be at an end, but it is not at an end yet, and will not be at an end for some time. Even if it were at an end now, the shortage of tonnage would not be made up for some considerable time.
§ Sir R. WILLIAMS
I was forgetting. I will leave that matter, and deal with the Resolution itself. I want to back up what was said by the right hon. Member (Mr. Montagu) in hoping that out of come of these war conditions a better financial system will be devised in this country. Several Members have been called to order because they have indulged in speeches which ought to have been made on the Second Reading or upon the Bill itself, instead of on this Resolution, which is a purely formal Resolution to enable the Bill to he brought in. I think that when it comes to a Resolution, which is a mere form to enable a Bill to be brought in, because this is a Bill to deal with public money, it is nothing less than a scandal—and I myself have been at fault —that we should have spent the whole of this evening discussing the Bill, instead of deciding whether the Resolution should be passed or not. Perhaps all this talk has been really to defeat the Bill and to talk it out. If so, it is another instance of the fact that we are forgetting that we are at war. We do not want in war-time, however important a Bill may be, to waste time upon mere formal motions. An hon. Member opposite has got a Motion put down for 1067 a Committee to inquire into the whole financial relationship of the House with estimates, and everything else, and I hope that if that proceeds we shall reconsider the whole financial system, and then we shall not be able to waste time as we have done to-night. [An HON. MEMBER: "It has not been wasted."] If it has not been wasted, I hope the hon. Members who have spoken will not repeat their speeches on the Bill, and that they will not waste the time of the House by making speeches a second time over. If they do make speeches a second time, then on one of the occasions it must have been a waste of time.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Baronet has his remedy now by not discussing that matter any further.
§ Major GODFREY COLLINS
I beg to move, after the word "Expenses." to insert the words, "not exceeding £2,000,000 in any one year."
I have listened to the Debate, and I think it has been very clear that the course of argument has told heavily against the Government. No doubt that is the reason why the Chancellor of the Exchequer came in before dinner-time and told us very definitely that the Government were not going to listen to arguments but to press the Bill through the House of Commons. The Prime Minister's pledges in this matter, no doubt, can be kept, but I -would remind the Government that other pledges, referring to the price of potatoes, made by the Prime Minister, have been broken, and perhaps pressure from this House may cause him to modify his opinion about this Bill. The only speech made in support of this Resolution was by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, who, at the end of his speech, told us that it was quite clear that the Bill would cause rents to be raised by the landlords, and, in addition, would lead to land nationalisation. If that is the course which this Bill is going to produce, surely the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire will not be found supporting this financial Resolution. The President of the Board of Agriculture told us that this Bill was based on the Report of Lord Milner's Committee. I have here the final Report of that Committee, and I may read a few words from the Minority Report issued by two of its members: 1068The question as to whether it would be an ultimate advantage to this country after the War to give a bonus to agriculture is a very large one. It is not, in our opinion, within the terms of our reference. It has not come within the scope of our inquiry, and upon it we consider we are not called to offer an opinion.These words are directly contrary to the statement made this afternoon by the President of the Board of Agriculture. I hope before the Debate closes to-night we may really find out why this Bill has been introduced, because now we know, according to the President, that it was based upon the Report of Lord Milner's Committee, and according to the words which I have just read, two of its members state:the matter did not come within the scope of our inquiry, and upon it we consider we are not called upon to offer an opinion.The Bill has been advocated in the interests of farmers, but not a single Member of this House has told us that the farmers themselves wanted the Bill. I have had handed to me a copy of a resolution passed by the Fareham and Hampshire Farmers' Club, which is dated the 4th June. It says:That this meeting of the Council of the Fareham and Hampshire Farmers' Club, before proceeding to the consideration of the Corn Production Bill, desire to place on record and to repeat (hat they have not asked for this Bill, that they do not ask for it, and that they decline to accept responsibility for any consequences that may ensue.That is a resolution passed by farmers themselves. We have not had a single Member rise in his place this afternoon and say that farmers in other parts of the country have advocated this Bill. I hope, therefore, that the legend that this Bill is being pushed forward in the interests of the farmers may not be heard again.
I think that this Resolution involves one of the largest questions that this House has had to consider for many months. It is a Resolution to give money out of the Treasury to a particular industry. That industry, as we all know, has been doing very well out of the War. It neither pays a proper Income Tax, nor any Excess Profits Tax whatever, yet Income Tax payers in the town and labourers are going to be taxed year after year for the benefit of this industry. It is quite easy to realise what will happen if this Bill becomes law. Take an election in. some agricultural constituency. Mi. Jones will stand for 65s. on corn permanently. Then another candidate will rise and stand for 75s. on com. You are 1069 bringing the worst forms of American politics into this country by the methods of this Bill, and it will not end there. You will have members of industrial constituencies saying to their constituents: "The farming interests are allowed to put their hands into the British Treasury. Why should not, say, the sugar refining industry receive a bonus from the Treasury? Why should not the makers of motor cars who find competition from America rather difficult dip their hands into the Treasury till?" Once you start this principle it will be very difficult to stop, and that is the principle to which we are being asked to agree by the passing of this financial Resolution. If the Bill is said to be required to produce an increased crop in 1917–18, we have no certainty whatever that it will have that effect, and many speakers this afternoon have argued, and argued correctly in my opinion, that the proper way to achieve the object which the Government have in view, is to make a definite contract with the farmers to plough their grass lands and to sell their produce to the Government.
That was the course which the Ministry of Munitions adopted when they needed munitions of war. They went as business men to men who could make munitions. They considered the terms which they would require. They entered into contracts to produce a certain quantity of goods. Why should not the President of the Board of Agriculture do likewise with all the farmers of the country, who have the power and the ability to turn the grass land into ploughed land? I find that that method was adopted by Mr. Tristram Eve with a certain amount of success, from what got into the daily Press a few months ago, and in addition to that method the President of the Board of Agriculture should adopt the policy initiated by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he wished to get certain financial securities into his possession. He levied a Super-tax on the owners of these financial securities. In other words, he forced them by taxation to offer their securities to the Government, and if the Government would adopt that policy of offering contracts to farmers, and on the other hand, levying a tax on the farmers if they would not put their land to proper use, they would be in possession of a double-edged weapon in this matter. They would set ordinary economic laws into effect, and 1070 by this Bill we are tampering with ordinary economic laws. We have no estimate whatever as to the cost of this Bill. I was hopeful that the President of the Board of Agriculture this afternoon would give us some estimate as to the probable cost of this Bill, and certainly the policy of the Government in this matter, if they have any difficulty to overcome, any trouble to smooth out, or any opposition to stifle, is a simple one. They say, "Let the Treasury find the money; give the Minister a blank cheque; our successors must foot the bill." The Government then proceed to tell the Treasury that they are not to raise the money by taxation, but that they are to find it by bill, or bond, j or some other method. If this Bill becomes law, every industry will endeavour I to dip its hand into the Treasury till.
To-night we are voting money for a certain industry. To-morrow the House is being asked to confirm a particular charter which will give financial advantages to particular people. No wonder that public expenditure is rising from day to day. No wonder that yesterday it was £6,000,000 a day and that to-day it is £8,000,000 a day. No wonder the Government keep the House in the dark. No wonder that officialdom mounts up needlessly. No wonder that Parliament is asking, "Are we getting value for this money?" And that is why I desire to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture what security have we that the nation is going to receive value for any money paid out by this Bill? That is the kernel of this question. How many actual acres are going to be ploughed under this Bill? How many officials are going to be employed? What will be the cost of administering this Act? What will be the money paid to farmers under this Act? We have had no figures and no information from the Government on this matter. We are asked again to give them a blank cheque. We have learned from experience during the last three years. We have had Token Estimates presented to us time and again by the Government. This is a Token Estimate. We are given no information. We do not know the cost. We do not know what value we are going to receive for the money which this Bill will put into the hands of this particular industry. I am anxious in the interests of the general taxpayers to see that this Bill does not operate at their expense. If the money were to come out of the pockets of 1071 the taxpayer for the purposes of this Bill during the limited period of the War, there would be little difficulty, no doubt, in getting any sum of money from this House to increase the growth of cereals.
We now clearly realise, however, that this is not a war measure; it is a permanent measure for this country; it is the first step, I think, in the new tariff policy of the Government, bounties to the fanners, followed by protection of key industries in the towns. This is the first step on that road. I move my Amendment to the Resolution because I am anxious to serve the interests of the general taxpayer. I think both the present and past Government have been treated with too great leniency in regard to the expenditure of public money, and we have now an opportunity of limiting the amount which this Bill will draw from the coffers of the Treasury. By accepting my Amendment the Government will have an opportunity of coming to the House to ask for further money if they require it. It is not a wrecking Amendment; they can spend the £2,000,000 in the year in the best way they like, and if more is required in the year they can ask the House for it. The time will come when there will be very many claims on the Treasury for public money after the War, but if we are to go on granting such unlimited sums, what will the total be? Several estimates have been made to show what might be the cost to the Treasury if this Bill becomes law. I am not able to give any correct estimate, but surely the President to the Board of Agriculture must have some figure in ins mind. Surely he would not ask us to come to this House to adopt a policy unless he had carefully considered the total cost of that policy. Not a single figure has been given to the House, either this afternoon or on the Second Heading stage, as to the total cost. I really think this House is entitled to have some knowledge, some figure, from the President of the Board of Agriculture as to what this total cost will Be, and it is on that ground that I have submitted my Amendment.
§ Sir R. WILLIAMS
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Chairman. Is not the Amendment one which should be inserted in the Bill itself and not in the financial Resolution, which is to enable the Bill to be brought in?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman has-asked me the question, because the discussion of the Bill has been going on during the whole time. Of course it is in order to limit the expenditure in the Resolution.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I think we ought not to deal with this Amendment to the Resolution until we have a clearer idea of what is in the mind of the Mover. The expenditure under the Bill might apply to each of the four parts of the measure, and I very much want to know from the Mover of the Amendment how he proposes, if the £2,000,000 prove inadequate, to cover the total expenditure under the Bill with the £2,000,000, and to which part or parts. of the measure he proposes to devote the money?
§ Major COLLINS
I explained that if the £2,000,000 was not enough the Department should come to the House and ask for a further sum. It is impossible for me to allocate to what purpose the money shall be applied and all I propose is to limit the sum to £2,000,000, and that if more is required they must come to the House to ask for it.
§ Mr. DENMAN
It is a most curious financial proposal, and I do not remember to have heard one more odd suggested in regard to a Bill of this character. The £2,000,000 is admittedly inadequate, and what would arise in the middle of the season, when it was found that further sums were required and to what portions of the measure would the money apply, it is difficult to say. The proposal of the hon. Member cannot be-regarded as orderly financial procedure, and I am afraid that his proposal does not commend itself to the Members of this House. Of course, the hon. Member knows that the money is provided by this Resolution for the purposes of the Bill, but that no money could actually be devoted to it except on the Vote for the Board of Agriculture or on some other Vote; so that, in any case, this House will have the opportunity of reviewing the expenditure from year to year. The Amendment does not commend itself to me and I desire to refer to one or two arguments which the hon. Member adduced. He began by observing that there was no evidence that the farmers wanted the Bill, basing his statement upon a resolution which we have already heard 1073 twice in this House from a. particular association, a resolution drawn in rather curious terms—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The Amendment is now the Question before the Committee, and it is to limit the expenditure to £2,000,000 in any one year, and the lion. Member should address his observations to that point.
§ Mr. DENMAN
Am I to understand that the President of the Board of Agriculture in his answer will not have the right to go beyond this Amendment to the Motion?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman can certainly speak to the Motion, and I am asking the hon. Member to confine himself to it and to the Amendment.
§ Mr. DENMAN
One point is whether the £2,000,000 is adequate to fulfil the purposes of the Bill. Am I right in understanding that?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is entitled to speak in relation to the matters to which the Amendment to the Resolution refers.
§ Mr. DENMAN
I think that this Amendment should not be adopted, because it proposes a sum which is admittedly and on the face of it wholly inadequate for the purposes of the Bill, and if the Amendment is passed I am perfectly certain that the necessity will arise for a reconsideration of such a proposal, that involves the coming to this House for additions to a sum which it was foreseen would be inadequate. In the circumstances, however, I do not wish to pursue the matter further.
§ Sir JOHN AINSWORTH
The object of all this Debate is to encourage the production of food which we all agree is highly desirable. There is, I think, a strong desire not to trouble the House with a Division if the Government will only take us a little more into their confidence and let us know what their policy is, and especially how we can help them in carrying it out. What is the good of the Government bringing in a Bill for no reason whatever except that it is intended to carry out speeches which nobody remembers made by the Prime Minister.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Baronet no doubt heard my ruling as to 1074 the limits within which the Debate on this Amendment to the Resolution must be confined.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
I am extremely sorry if I transgressed. If the object of this Bill is to carry out promises made by the Prime Minister I would really like to say where is the Prime Minister. This is a matter on which we want to assist the Government, but we have no information laid before us. We are simply told this is the Bill and we have got to take it. Really has the House of Commons come down to this? I would like to remind right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench that little as they think of the House of Commons, when they want money they have to come here for it, and I do not know where else they would get it. Would it not have been better, with the country involved in a terrible war, when they want assistance to come down hero and avoid discussion and recrimination by asking for the assistance of the House in increasing the food supply of the country which we all want.
§ Sir J. AINSWORTH
I apologise sincerely, I had not intended to transgress, and I will not detain the Committee further.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I propose to confine myself strictly to the Amendment. The Amendment is to limit our expenditure under this Bill to a particular sum. In the Bill there are certain liabilities imposed no doubt on the State. There are liabilities for the allowances under Part 1 of the Bill, that is to say, if in any given year the average prices as ascertained fall below the minimum prices guaranteed by the Government there will be payments due from the State. Then there-are other payments. There are administrative payments under various parts of the Bill. Let me deal in the first place with the payments which may become due under the first part of the Bill on the difference between the market prices and the average prices. It is quite plain that there I cannot be expected to give a figure. I quite agree with the Member for Dumfriesshire (Mr. Molteno) that it is possible the expenditure might be the-figure he mentioned.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
That is a possible expenditure, because I mean it is derived from an answer which my Board gave, but no human being in this House or anywhere else believes that that possible expenditure is probable. After all, the hon. Member himself when he comes to action acts upon probabilities and not possibilities. It is quite possible that on his way here to the House he might have been run over and badly damaged by a taxi, but unfortunately he does not always act up to his own professions. He did not stay at home, because it was possible that he should be damaged by a taxi, but he came down here and made a speech. After all, what the House has got to act upon is not on possibilities but on probabilities.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
If you look on the probabilities- and take the year 1917 it is practically absolutely certain that there can be no claim on the State under the Bill as it is now proposed. For 1918 it depends entirely on the duration of the War. But, assuming that the War is over at the end of this year, does anybody suppose with all the dislocation of business due to demobilisation and to the continued use of our ships for the purpose of bringing the men home that the prices of corn are going to fall in any appreciable degree below fifty-five shillings? I do mot think anybody in this House supposes that is likely. But if you go further and right through the whole period covered, what do we find? Every factor of probability is against a fall in corn prices. The cost of production has risen enormously not only in this country but all over the world. The cost of production has men so much in America, and in Canada also, that at the present time they cannot product1 wheat cheaper than this minimum price. The fact is that the United States of America every year are getting closer to the time when they will consume their whole ordinary margin of corn—with the exportable surplus dwindling year by year—unless they revert to the same principles of increasing the corn production which in this country sent up the price of corn, and will equally send up the price of corn in the new world. There is no trace up till 1914 of any substantial increase in the corn area of the countries with an exportable surplus. On the contrary, since 1915 there has been a distinct shrinking. Hon. Members must 1076 remember that other countries as well as ourselves are suffering from a lack of labour. The moment the War is over the belligerent nations will compete in the; markets of the world for the exportable surplus of wheat, that is to say, will compete for that which we have hitherto had practically at our own disposal. Nobody can imagine after the great devastation in the belligerent countries of Europe that anything like the normal quantity of wheat and other cereals can be produced that were produced before the War. Not only will there inevitably be this competition from all the belligerent nations, but after all wheat is the cheapest form of food available, and whenever prices rule high for other forms of food then you find that the demand for grain is greater. Not only, therefore, will you have the competition by the belligerent world for the world's exportable surplus, but you will have a greater demand owing to the fact that wheat is the cheapest form of food.
Everybody knows that the state of the currency is such that for many years, at all events for these six years, it is going to have a tremendous influence upon prices; it will keep up prices all over the world. Lastly—though I must say I speak on this subject with diffidence—there is the question of freights. For at least a year and a half it is, I think, obvious to the House that we shall have to use a great deal of our tonnage upon demobilisation. Even when this task is completed, the tonnage of the world will be so depleted that the rate of freight at which wheat can be brought to this country will keep up the price. These are the reasons that make me think that, while it is possible that £104,000,000 will be spent under this Bill, it is more probable that nothing at all will be spent. I say that quite deliberately and after long consideration.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
Supposing£104,000,000 were to be spent, and supposing that the fact of that spending were to give us such a supply of home-grown food that we could not possibly starve because of a scarcity of the main necessaries of life, I should say that it would be quite worth while spending the money. If Germany knew that we had got that margin at our disposal, I believe it would bring peace much closer to this country. After all, if it shortened the War by forty days it 1077 would be a very good commercial bargain, to say nothing of the saving of life, which is infinitely more valuable than money. I do not, then, propose to wander into the domain of prophecy. I cannot say what will be the liability which is incurred by the State under this financial Resolution as to the allowances which may become payable under the Bill. I do not think it possible for human beings to state it. I do not know whether the House would like to know what I only put forward as an individual opinion. I think in all probability we shall pay nothing. That is to say, you will get a good deal of increase of materials without spending any State money. That is what I believe is possible. But I do think that it is also quite probable that towards the close of this period, say in the last two years, you may have to pay something upon oats. I do not know why I need be so specially frank with the House in giving my opinion upon that subject, but there it is! I believe you may have to spend a certain amount, but nothing like the figure given by the hon. Member for Dumfries. You may have to pay something like £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year during the last two years on oats. That is possible, if not probable. I cannot believe that you are going to pay anything upon wheat. After all, wheat and gold go very much together. There is no probability that I can see of wheat falling to 45s. during the six years—one of which is 1917.
I do not know if the House wants me to say anything more upon this side of the question. I have done my utmost to show that the statement of the hon. Member for Dumfries is an improbable one, although it will make an admirable paragraph no doubt—not that he wants it to be used in that way—for the newspapers. A dole of £104,000,000 to the farmers ! It is, and I appeal to the members of the House to agree with me, absolutely improbable, widly improbable, that anything like that figure can be paid to fanners.
Another point is, that I have been asked to state—and the speech of the hon. Member for Greenock (Major G. Collins) was a very powerful one—what sort of figure I believe we shall spend on the administrative part of the Bill. These administrative parts of the Bill, so far as I have been able to estimate them, are, first of all, the estimates for administering allowances. Then there are the administrative expenses for the Wages 1078 Board for England and Wales; arbitrations; and finally, there are the expenses under Part 4 for contributions to the War Agricultural Committee. Of course, we have been into these figures with the utmost care. We have estimated, for instance, the number of principal assistants, chief accountants, permanent clerical staff, printing, postage, office accommodation, miscellaneous—they all appear. But if I may say so, I do not think any useful purpose will be answered by my stating them here in the House. They are absolute estimates. We are having now a great deal of our work, I should say at least half our work, done for nothing, and the moment you say that you estimate for so many hundred paid assistants it is uncommonly difficult to ask a man to work for nothing. Similarly, every one of these items of expenditure that I can see is likely to be diminished as the time goes on during the period for which the Bill will be in operation. Take, for instance, the initial expenditure for starting the Wages Board. It may be heavy, but when once you have the system established it will be comparatively light, and therefore I venture to suggest to the House that inasmuch as these figures have to be first of all approved by the Board of Agriculture, then approved by the Treasury, and then submitted in Estimates, and approved by this House, the House has sufficient control over this item of expenditure. I venture to think that that is the case, and that by the other course you ask us to pursue—by making an estimate—you would greatly increase the expense ultimately to be borne by the nation under this head. If we here and now put up an estimate in round figures of what we propose to spend, there is a sort of human tendency to work up to that. I think we all realise that that is the case.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
The hon. Gentleman has made it pretty high. I do not feel that I can accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Greenock, and I hope that after what I have said he will not press it. I do not think we shall get any further by it. We should have endless complications, and I believe it would not give the House what, after all, we all want to have —any greater control over this expenditure.
Mr. T. WILSON
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman cannot see his way to accept the Amendment. Going through the arguments which he submitted to the House, we find that he really supported the Amendment. If he does not expect an expenditure of anything like the amount suggested by the Amendment, then in Heaven's name let him accept it; because I am quite satisfied that, so far as the House of Commons and the country are concerned, if there is a larger expenditure than the two millions suggested by the Amendment, there will be no hesitation whatsoever on the part of Parliament in granting that increased expenditure by a Supplementary Vote. I hope, therefore, that he will reconsider his decision so far us accepting the Amendment is concerned. With regard to the Wages Board, so far as I understand it there ought to be no expenditure under this Bill for the Wages Board. It ought to be dealt with by the Ministry of Labour. It is only owing to the overlapping of the different authorities and the desire for so many Departments to have a finger in the pie in dealing with wages that expenditure is so great. The Bill is a bad Bill, and the arguments in its favour seem to me to be of two kinds, while one in a sense answers the other. The right hon. Gentleman assumed in connection with the conveyance of food to this country that there is going to be a shortage of ships after the War. There is going to be no shortage of ships when the War is over. The demobilisation will be dealt with, and the cargo boats required to bring food to this country will be supplied.
The right hon. Gentleman says, "No." What is the use, then, of asking the people of this country to do all that they possibly can to increase the number of cargo boats? Where does America come in, and the enormous number of cargo boats that she is building? Are they all going to be destroyed before the War is ended? If they are not, they will be at the disposal of this Government or of other Governments at the conclusion of the War, and food will come to this country as it did before the War. There is not going to be the shortage that was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech. He talked about the increased cost of producing food in this country. What is one of the causes of the increased cost of producing food in this 1080 country? One of the causes is that the people who are now producing food in this country are not skilled producers of food but they are receiving high wages. When the War is over we shall have the skilled producers of food back at their work on the land, and no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that that is what will happen. What there is most trouble about is not the increased production of commodities in this country, but whether when the War is over the country will be able to maintain the wages that were paid prior to the War, not what the people are receiving now, and if they cannot the cost of production in every commodity will go down. I maintain that the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Greenock (Major Godfrey Collins) is one which ought to be accepted. But if the expenditure suggested by him is exceeded the House will not hesitate to grant a supplementary estimate. If you go to the Board of Agriculture or any other Government Department you may rest satisfied that the amount will be over spent. Therefore, I put it in the interests of true economy that the House should vote in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Greenock.
§ Mr. J. MASON
The hon. Member for Greenock said he had no wish to wreck this Resolution. May I point out to him that the attempt to limit the Government is absolutely to wreck the whole proposal. It is quite obvious that the Government cannot enter into a guarantee of a limited liability arrangement. Obviously, if we are limited there is no assurance that those who are guaranteed any particular arrangement will have that arrangement fulfilled. The President of the Board of Agriculture has pointed out very fairly the question of probabilities and possibilities. He has shown that the probability is that no very great burden can fall on the State, but if you limit this to a definite figure those who are asked to accept that guarantee would have every reason to say that the guarantee was no guarantee at all. Therefore, I beg my hon. and gallant Friend to see that if he-persists in the Amendment he is wrecking the whole proposal.
I thought I pointed out to the hon. Member for South-East Lancashire (Mr. Tyson Wilson) that if this limitation be inserted in the words of the Resolution it will necessarily 1081 have to go into the Act, and as to the suggestion of a Supplementary Estimate it would not operate without a new Act.
§ Major COLLINS
Surely if the money is allocated out of the money of the national revenue for the purposes of this Act, towards the end of the year there will be nothing to prevent the Government coming to this House, as they do on many occasions, for Supplementary Estimates and asking the House to find farther sums to carry out the provisions of a particular Act? I have no desire to move a wrecking Amendment to the Bill. I remember the Amendment moved by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) a few years ago when he endeavoured to restrict the payment out of the Exchequer to a certain sum. It was that Amendment in my mind which made me move the Amendment this evening. It is only to provide that this sum may be put into the Act of Parliament. There can be nothing, so far as I know, which will prevent the Government coming to the House again later in the year and asking for further sums of money to carry out the provisions of this? Bill if it becomes law.
I do not think the hon. Member is correct there. The position is this: If this Amendment is added to the Resolution it will be my duty to see that a corresponding limitation is introduced into the Bill providing that no expenditure under this Act shall exceed the limitation in the Resolution. That is part of my duty as Chairman to see that. I cannot see that any Supplementary Estimate could be valid.
Mr. D. WHITE
One suggestion I would make to the President of the Board of Agriculture is that if he expects for the next two years there would be no liability under the Bill, and even in the concluding years of the period the liability would not exceed £5,000,000 a year, the position might be met by his willingness to have £5,000,000 inserted. If so, I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock to substitute £5,000,000, which is the right hon. Gentleman's own figure.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 34; Noes, 195.1083
|Division No.51.]||AYES.||10.11 p.m.|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. H.||Raffan, peter Wilson|
|Anderson, W. C.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, H. B. Less (Northampton)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Jowett, Frederick William||Sutton, John E.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Kenyon, Barnet||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||King, Joseph||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Buxton, Noel||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Wedgwood, Commander Josiah C.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Clough, William||Molteno, Percy Alport||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Finney, Samuel||Morrell, Philip|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Major|
|Goldstone, Frank||Pringle, William M. R.||Collins and Mr. T. Wilson|
|Hancock, John George|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Burgoyne, A. H.||Dixon, C. H.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Burn, Colonel C. R.||Doris, William|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Byrne, Alfred||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Carew, C. R. S.||Duffy, William J.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Carnegie, Lieut.-Colonel D. G.||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Fell, Arthur|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Cechrane, Cecil Algernon||Etrench, Peter|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Courthope, George Loyd||Fletcher, John Samuel|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Cowan, Sir W. H.||Foster, Philip Staveley|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Gardner, Ernest|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Craig, Col. James (Down, E.)||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Craik, Sir Henry||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Boles, Lieut. Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Crumley, Patrick||Gretton, John|
|Boyton, James||Currie, George W.||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Hackett, John|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Haddock, George Bahr|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Hanson, Charles Augustin|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Magnus, Sir Philip||Robinson, Sidney|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Malcolm, Ian||Rowlands, James|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Rutherford, Watson (L'peol, W. Derby)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Meux, Hon. Sir He-d worth||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Middlebrook, Sir William||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Higham, John Sharp||Molley, Michael||Shortt, Edward|
|Hill, Sir James (Bradford, C.)||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Hills, John Waller||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Hinds, John||Mount, William Arthur||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Newton, Major Harry Kettingham||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A.H.(Asht'n-u-Lyne)|
|Hunt, Major Rowland||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Starkey, John R.|
|Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Nolan, Joseph||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir J.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Johnston, Sir Christopher||Nugent, Sir W. R. (Westmeath, S.)||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Dowd, John||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Jones, William S Glyn- (Stepney)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Touche, Sir George Alexander|
|Joynson-Hicks, William||O'Shee, James John||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Keating, Matthew||Paget, Almeric Hugh||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Kelly, Edward||Parker, James (Halifax)||Watson, J. B. (Stockton)|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Welgall, Colonel William E. G. A.|
|Knight, Captain E. A.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike(Darlington)||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Parkins, Walter F.||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Radford, Sir George Heynes||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Rawson, Colonel R. H.||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Reddy, Michael||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Lundon, Thomas||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arion)||Yale, Colonel Charles Edward|
|M'Kean, John||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|McNeill. Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Roberts. Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Captain|
|Maden, Sir John Henry||Robertson. Rt. Hon. John M.||F. Guest and Mr. J. Hope|
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "Provided that the total sum that may be expended by the Board of Agriculture or any other Department for the taking over and cultivating any land shall not exceed half a million pounds."
As far as I understand these proposals, taking three men per 100 acres of arable land, the Board of Agriculture would have to find 100,000 men. Taking the average amount of wheat—and I think I am not giving an excessive amount—to be three bushels to the acre, it will require 110,000 quarters of seed wheat to be found next October. If this Resolution is passed and the Bill becomes an Act it will require 110,000 quarters of wheat to be found, which will be taken away from the making of bread and put into the ground, with the very doubtful result of a certain amount of crop arising in October, 1918. Therefore we are going to run the risk of losing 110,000 quarters of wheat in order in a year and a half's time to get something in return, and if the War goes on for another one and a half years I do not know where we shall be, and I am quite certain we shall not want any bread.
1084 Under Part IV., if this Resolution is carried, we shall be giving the Government an unlimited sum with the power of taking any amount of money that the credit of this country will supply in order to take away land from the farmers and put it into the hands of the Government for cultivation. If we pass this Resolution without any limiting words the whole of Great Britain and Ireland may be taken over by the Government and farmed by the State. We have had some experience of the method in which the Government manage business matters, and if they take over the whole or any great part of the land of England, Ireland, or Scotland, instead of there being an increase in the production of wheat, there will be a decrease, and I have no doubt there will be a great increase in the hotels taken over and the salaries and expenses of officials. The Amendment does not in any way touch the farmer. If I may say so, the right hon. Gentleman made a very strong speech in support of the last Amendment. He certainly said that in no circumstances, so far as he was concerned, was any money going to be spent at all. Leaving that out of account, however, 1085 it is quite clear that the farmer will not be hurt in any way if my Amendment is carried. On the contrary, he will be safeguarded, because, unless something of the sort is carried, he is open to an agricultural war committee, consisting perhaps of rivals or of people who do not like him, coming down and saying, "Your land is badly cultivated. I shall call the attention of the Board of Agriculture to it; and they will turn you out and cultivate the land themselves." If I succeed in carrying a limiting Amendment— and I have been successful once or twice with limiting Amendments—what will be the effect of it? All the advantages to the labourer under the Wages Board, and all the advantages to the farmer under the provision for giving him a certain sum if cereals fall below a certain price, will be maintained; but the farmer, in addition, will be safeguarded in holding his farm. Unless something very serious occurs he will still be able to cultivate his farm, because, of course, although £500,000 will go a certain distance, it will not go very far. I really do commend this Amendment to the House as being a serious Amendment, and one which ought to be carried.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I very much regret that I am unable to accept the Amendment. The right hon. Baronet has told us that he has succeeded very often with these limiting Amendments.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
Well, I very much wish that on this occasion he had been content to rest on his laurels. I feel, although the circumstances are not exactly parallel, that the principle is just the same as it was on the Amendment just dealt with. In point of fact, the control of the House is complete as matters stand. All this expenditure must first of all be approved by the Board of Agriculture and the Treasury. Then it appears in the Estimate and comes before this House for control.
§ Mr. PROTHERO
I do not think really, that anything is to be gained by accepting this Amendment, and I regret that I am unable to do so. There are many points which have been raised in the course of the Debate on which I should like to say 1086 a word, but, being obliged to reply on Amendments on financial questions, I cannot touch on them.
§ Commander WEDGWOOD
It is not often that I find myself in complete agreement with the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury). On this occasion I find myself not only in agreement with him, but I hope he will press this Amendment to a. Division. It may appear to some hon. Members to be a trivial matter, but it is of the greatest importance that- we should prevent the Government of this country, which means the permanent officials of the country, wasting more of our money than, we can reasonably help in this particular manner. The Amendment proposes that we should limit to £500,000—a sufficiently large sum, one would think—the amount which may be spent by the Board of Agriculture in purchasing or acquiring land; and carrying on the business of agriculture. The right hon. Baronet has made it perfectly clear to the Committee the very reasonable objections to this sort of manner of carrying on agriculture. Directly you bring in the State as the agriculturist you bring in the hotels and the inspectors and you produce the largest amount of red tape and interference and: the smallest amount of wheat. Speaking as a Radical, this Amendment is even more desirable. The Board of Agriculture, I need hardly say, to Members who think with me, is at the-present time suspect. We believe, particularly in view of the introduction of this Bill, that they are acting in the interests of the big landlords of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] It is absolutely true. What is this Bill but giving a large bonus to the big landlords of the country? [An HON. MEMBER: "Not a penny !"] The right hon. Baronet, who desires to be-honest, does not think it advisable, in the interests of the country, to give a bonus to any particular class.
This particular Amendment seeks to limit the exercise of powers by the Board in a particularly dangerous direction. If you allow them to go into the market and purchase land right and left in order to set up State farms, you give them a power which will act detrimentally to the interests of the public, but which may be used with the greatest possible partiality in the interests of a particular class. How are we to decide whose land is to be bought up? It rests entirely with the Board of Agriculture. How are we to decide what price is to be paid for 1087 that land? It rests entirely with the Board of Agriculture. The President of the Board of Agriculture comes before us here and tells us that we may rely upon the House of Commons checking and preventing that expenditure. It is notorious to everyone here that when once a bargain has been closed by the Board of Agriculture, this House is absolutely impotent to prevent the payment being made or the bargain being sealed. We shall be asked merely to confirm a decision to which the Board of Agriculture has come. Surely it is not unreasonable to say that £500,000 is all that shall be spent in this way. The right hon. Baronet brought forward the excellent argument that it was not in the interests of the tenant farmer that the State should come in and act not only as landlord, but also as tenant farmer. I quite agree with him, speaking as one of that oppressed class who pay no Income Tax and no Excess Profits Duty, and who has a certain amount of land of his own. I do protest against this interference with the agriculture of this country by a State Department which has hitherto not shown an exaggerated sense of its knowledge of agricultural difficulties in this country. My objection is one of principle. I object to a blank cheque being signed to give State money for the purchase of land in this country. We of the Land Group in this House, who believe in the taxation and rating of land values, have always opposed this idea of State purchase.
I would point out to the hon. and gallant Member that there is no question of State purchase involved in this Amendment at all. The Amendment as moved by the right hon. Baronet is with reference to Part IV. of the Bill, which deals with the power to enforce proper cultivation.
§ Commander WEDGWOOD
I am quite aware of that, but if the State is going to cultivate the land as a business proposition it is obvious that they will have to acquire rights over the land which will guarantee a return to the State of the expenditure made by the State in that direction. If you once propose that the State should go into the business of agriculture and put up farm buildings, go in for fencing, draining and manuring, and all the rest of it, it is impossible to conceive that even a Government Department could take on that job without 1088 acquiring either a fee simple of the land or a sufficiently long lease to enable them to recoup themselves for their expenditure. Therefore, we may say, without any doubt of the accuracy of our position, that when once you give them under Part IV., that power of cultivating the land which is claimed for it, and on which they take powers to spend money in this Bill, thereby you do at the same time give the State powers to take a sufficiently long lease of the land to make it extremely undesirable in the public interest. The buying of land by the State means various inspectors travelling round the country selecting land for cultivation or lease or purchase, and you have all the jealousy, all the sense of injustice, all the back-biting and attributing of improper motives which is so intensely undesirable, and to which a bureaucracy is particularly liable. The Bill is bad enough, but that the Government should take powers to spend an indefinite sum of money on agriculture direct under State management, is one of the worst features in the Bill. I do not like any of this interference with agriculture. I am quite convinced that the less the inspector does in directing the fanner the better it will be for the total production of wealth in the country, but that the State should actually go in and do farming itself and have labourers working on the land directly under the State, seems to me to be a most unfortunate departure and one which can only end in disaster. That we should limit the amount is urgently necessary, and at a time when we axe spending nearly £8,000,000 a day I protest against any addition to the burden for so unsatisfactory a reason.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I have persistently endeavoured from the introduction of the Bill to get some figures upon which we could reply. No figure whatever has been given. We have not been told what the Bill is going to produce or what it will cost. I must use the Chancellor of the Exchequer as an example of the danger of having no Estimate whatever. His Estimates have already proved different by some millions a day. In this case we have asked for some figures, and the right hon. Gentleman has told us that he has figures of a very definite character, yet he denies them to us. He knows what this administration is going to cost. He may not know what the 1089 damage, done by these agricultural committees may be in breaking up acres of land, but he has told us he knows what the administration is going to cost. We ought to have something to go upon. This is a very dangerous part of the Bill, this breaking up of land. I know already it is raising considerable feeling amongst farmers. They are being largely compelled to break up some of their best acres of land. I do not think it is desirable that you should get the
§ farmers set against us when we are asking them to put forward their best efforts to produce as much corn as possible. I support the Amendment because we have not been given any figures whatever.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 23; Noes, 199.1091
|Division No.52.]||AYES.||[10.41 p.m.|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Lambert, Richard (Wilts., Cricklade)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Watt, Henry A.|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Wedgwood, Commander Josiah C.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Morrell, Philip||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Farrott, Sir James Edward||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Cellings, Major Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Pringle, William M. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir F.|
|Hancock, John George||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Banbury and Mr. Molteno|
|King, Joseph||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Dixon, Charles Harvey||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Melton)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Doris, William||Larmer, Sir J.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Duffy, William J.||Layland-Barrett, Sir F.|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Fell, Arthur||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||French, Peter||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Field, William||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Flannery, Sir J. Forescue||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Flavin, Michael Joseph||McMicking, Major Gilbert|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Fletcher, John Samuel||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Foster, Philip Staveley||Maden, Sir John Henry|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Galbraith, Samuel||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Gardner, Ernest||Malcolm, Ian|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Boyton, James||Greig, Colonel James William||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Gretton, Colonel John||Marriott, J. A. R.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hackett, John||Millar, James Duncan|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Haddock, Major George Bahr||Molloy, Michael|
|Burgoyne, Captain A. H.||Hall, Captain D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Atrincham)||Mount, William Arthur|
|Byrne, Alfred||Hanson, Charles Augustine||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham|
|Carnegie, Lieut.-Colonel D. G.||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir F.||Haslam, Lewis||O'Dowd, John|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Higham, John Sharp||Ormsby-Gore, Hen. William|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Hill, Sir James (Bradford, C.)||O'Shee, James John|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Hills, Major John Walter||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Hinds, John||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)|
|Courthope, Major George) Loyd||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike(Darlington)|
|Cowan, Sir W. H.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Craig, Col. James (Down, E.)||Johnston, Sir Christopher||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Crumley, Patrick||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Currie, George W.||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund|
|Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||Joynson-Hicks, William||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Keating, Matthew||Rawson, Colonel R. H.|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Kelly, Edward||Reddy, Michael|
|Davies. Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Danman, Hon Richard Douglas||Knight, Captain E. A.||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A.H.(Asht'n-u-Lyne)||Whiteley, Herbert James|
|Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Starkey, Captain John R.||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Robinson, Sidney||Steward, Gershom||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Rowlands, James||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Royds, Edmund||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W, Derby)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Samuels, Arthur W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Tickler, Thomas George||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur||Touche, Sir George Alexander||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Toulmin, Sir George||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Shaw, Hon. A.||Tryon, Captain George Clement||Wright, Captain Henry Fitzherbert|
|Shortt, Edward||Walker, Colonel William Hall||Yate, Colonel C. E|
|Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)||Watson, J. B. (Stockton)|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Weigall, Colonel William E. G. A.||TELLLRS FOR THE NOES.—Captain|
|Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)||Wholer, Major Granville C. H.||F. Guest and Mr. J. Hope|
|Spear, Sir John Ward|
§ Main Question again proposed.1092
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 186; Noes, 26.1093
|Division No.53.]||AYES.||[10.50 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Maden, Sir John Henry|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Fletcher, John Samuel||Malcolm, Ian|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Foster, Rt. Hon. Henry William||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Foster, Philip Staveley||Marriott, J. A. R.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Galbraith. Samuel||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Gardner, Ernest||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Greig, Colonel James William||Mount, William Arthur|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Gretton, Colonel John||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Bathurst Col. Hon. A. B. (Glos., E.)||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Haddock, Major George Bahr||O'Dowd, John|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hall, Captain D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hancock, John George||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Boyton, James||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, A.)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Haslam, Lewis||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Helne, Sir Norval Watson||Pratt, J. W.|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Higham, John Sharp||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hill, Sir James (Bradford, C.)||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Hills, Major John Walter||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Carnegie, Lieut.-Colonel D. G.||Hinds, John||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir F. (Prestwich)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rendall, Atheistan|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Hunt, Major Rowland||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Johnston, Sir Christopher||Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Tynside)|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Rowlands, James|
|Courthope, Major George Loyd||Jones, William S. Glyn (Stepney)||Royds, Edmund|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Melton)||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Currie, George W.||Larmor, Sir J.||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Shortt, Edward|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Layland-Barrett, Sir F.||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth)||Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Dixon, C. H.||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A.H.(Asht'n-u-Lyne)|
|Duffy, William J.||Locker-Lampson G. (Salisbury)||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Lowe, Sir F W (Birm., Edgbaston)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Stewart, Gersham|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Stifling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald|
|Fell, Arthur||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, Watt)|
|Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Watt, Henry A.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Thomas-Stanford, Charles||Weigall, Colonel William E. G. A.||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wheler, Major Granville C, H.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Tickler, T. G.||Whiteley, Herbert J.||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Touche, Sir George Alexander||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Wright, Captain Henry Fitzherbert|
|Toulmin, Sir George||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Tryon, Captain George Clement||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Walker, Colonel William Hall||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain|
|Watson, J. B. (Stockton)||Wilson-Fox, Henry||F. Guest and Mr. J. Hope.|
|Anderson, W. C.||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Sutton, John E.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Molteno, Percy Alport||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Byrne, Alfred||Morrell, Philip||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||G'Shee, James John||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Collings, Major Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Parrott, Sir James Edward||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hackett, John||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Ponsonby, Arthur A W. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Com-|
|King, Joseph||Raffan, Peter Wilson||mander Wedgwood and Mr. Pringle.|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Snowden, Philip|
§ Question put accordingly.1094
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 196; Noes, 21.1095
|Division No.54.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Ffrench, Peter||McNeill, Roland (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Maden, Sir John Henry|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Fletcher, John Samuel||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William||Malcolm, Ian|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Foster, Philip Staveley||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Galbraith, Samuel||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Gardner, Ernest||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. 6. (Glouc, E.)||Greig, Colonel James William||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Gretten, John||Millar, James Duncan|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones||Molloy, Michael|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Hackett, John||Mount, William Arthur|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Haddock, George Bahr||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham|
|Bentnam, George Jackson||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hancock, John George||O'Dowd, John|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fertescue||Hanson, Charles Augustin||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Boyton, James||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G A.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||O'Shee, James John|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Haslam, Lewis||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Carew, C. R. S.||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)|
|Carnegie, Lieut.-Colonel D. G.||Hill, Sir James||Pease, Rt. Hon. H. P. (Darlington)|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir G.||Hills, John Waller||Pennefathcr. De Fonblanque|
|Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick||Hinds, John||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Hohier, G. F.||Pratt, J. W.|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Howard, John Geoffrey||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Hunt, Major Rowland||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A||Johnson, Sir Christopher||Rawson, Colonel R. H.|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Cowan, Sir W. H.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, E.)||Reddy, Michael|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Craig, Col. James (Down, E.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Knight, Captain E. A.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Currie, George W.||Larmor, Sir J.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Boutle)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Layland-Barrett. Sir F.||Robinson, Sidney|
|Davies, Timothy (Lines, Louth)||Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton||Rowlands, James|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Levy, Sir Maurico||Royds, Edmund|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Lewis, Rt. Hon John Herbert||Rutherford. Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Dixon, C. H.||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Doris, William||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edghaston)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lundon, Thomas||Shortt, Edward|
|Fell, Arthur||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Touche, Sir George Alexander||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)||Toulmin, Sir George||Wilson, Captain Leslie O, (Reading)|
|Spear, Sir John Ward||Tryon, Captain George Clement||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Stanley, Rt.Hon.Sir A.H.(Asht'n-u-Lyne)||Walker, Colonel William Hall||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Starkey, John Ralph||Watson, J. B. (Stockton)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Steel-Maitland, Sir A. D.||Weigall, Colonel William E. G. A.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Stewart, Gershom||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L|
|Stirling, Lieut. Col. Archibald||White, Patrick (Heath, North)||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Whiteley, Herbert James||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Thomas-Stanford. Charles||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain F. Guest and Mr. J. Hope.|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Tickler, T. G.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Snowden, Philip|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Sutton, John E.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Molteno, Percy Alport||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Clough, William||Morrell, Philip||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Parrott, Sir James Edward||White-house, John Howard|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W, H.|
|King, Joseph||Pringle, William M. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Commander Wedgwood and Mr. Anderson.|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts., Cricklade)||Rattan, Peter Wilson|
Question put, and agreed to
§ Resolved, "That it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys to be provided by Parliament of Expenses incurred by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries under any Act of the present Session for encouraging the production of Corn, and for purposes connected there-with, and by any other Department or body to which any powers or duties are entrusted in pursuance of such Act.''
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.