HC Deb 23 July 1918 vol 108 cc1759-75

Order for Second Reading read.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Prothero)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time." This Bill proposes to continue the powers that the Board of Agriculture now possess under the Defence of the Realm Act during the War, instead of bringing in on the 21st August Part IV. of the Corn Production Act. Sub-section (3) of Section 11 of the Corn Production Act was introduced in another place. It was accepted by the representative of the Government who had charge of the Bill. It was adopted in this House. It was part of a Parliamentary bargain. Therefore, I fully agree that we ought to show some good reason why the powers that we then gave up should be continued. Of course, the main reason is that we still are acting in the stress of emergency. But there are three reasons why I hope the House will give a Second Reading to this Bill. The first is this: If Part IV. of the Corn Production Act comes into operation on the 21st August the Board loses possession of some 40,000 acres it is now cultivating, on which it hopes to harvest its crops, and, more than that, it loses possession also of some 300,000 allotments, which have been obtained under the Defence of the Realm Regulation. We should have no resource but to turn out those allotment-holders and pay them compensation, on the 21st August. The second reason is this: Under the Defence of the Realm Act we have the power to obtain with great rapidity land for allotments. That demand comes mainly from urban districts, and it is a very insistent demand. If Part IV. of the Corn Production Act comes into operation on the 21st August, we shall have no means of satisfying that demand for allotments, except under the procedure of the Small Holdings Act, which, to say the least, is somewhat slow and cumbrous.

No argument was raised in another place against the Bill on those two grounds. It was, indeed, said that we might have introduced a Bill dealing specifically with allotments, but that would not have met the case of the agricultural land of which the Board is in possession, and also this is the simplest way in which we could effect our object in obtaining and retaining the land for allotments. The third reason for which we want the Amendment is that we desire to retain powers of prompt action with regard to enforcing proper cultivation where the land has been neglected. If Part IV. comes into operation, if we issue an order upon a man to clean his field, he has the right of appeal and the Order itself is a seasonal operation which must be performed at once, or probably it is of little or no use for another year. The question of delay, therefore, at once arises. Moreover, if we want to get rid of a farmer, who neglects his land because he has not the means, or the skill, or the capital, we cannot do it under Part IV. except by the ordinary notice to quit, which may not operate for a year and a half. I do not think in the present emergency it is safe for the Board to abandon these powers under the Defence of the Realm Act, and, therefore, I hope that we shall be allowed to retain those powers as regards the enforcement of the specific acts of cultivation according to the rules of good husbandry.

In another place certain Amendments were made. Two out of the three we propose to accept, but the issue rises solely, or almost entirely, upon this question, whether we are to have the right of enforcing specific acts of cultivation with or without an appeal? In those cases the real question is, what are the customary methods of cultivation adopted by good farmers in the district? We think that the best farmers in the district, many of whom are sitting on these war agricultural committees, are as good judges on that subject as any surveyor in the neighbourhood can be. We also venture to think that the war agricultural committees have deserved well of the country by the way in which they have carried out their public duties. We want to preserve their prestige and authority. We want them, to continue working and we want to show them all that we have confidence in their judgment and experience. We think, therefore, it is quite necessary they should be able to issue these specific notices with regard to the acts of cultivation to which I have alluded, such as cleaning foul land and hoeing thistles. We think they should be able to issue these notices within the limits of the class of orders and without any appeal. On that point there may be a difference of opinion between ourselves in this House and another place. The important point for us to remember is this, that we have to make good to Parliament the reasons why we are asking for this Amendment. The reason is, in the main, as I have said, the emergency crisis in which we are working and the danger of parting with some of our powers. I have already explained to the House that we do not propose so long as the labour situation is what it is at present, to issue any more orders to plough up grass land and in any case whenever these orders are renewed they will be subject to appeal. It is only for the limited class of cases to which I have referred that we want these powers.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say what particular words he proposes to disapprove in this Clause?


The notice requiring any land in the occupation of the farmer shall be cultivated according to the rules of good husbandry.


I should like to offer a warm welcome to this Bill in its modified form with the exceptions that the right hon. Gentleman has indicated. This Bill as it first came before another place appeared to me to be rather a serious breach of what the right hon. Gentleman has called a Parliamentary bargain, and in view of the great rapidity with which extensions of the arable area have been made, thanks to the patriotic efforts of the war agricultural committee, it did not appear to me, at any rate, to be a sufficient justification for what might be regarded as a breach of faith. I am open to agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we are by no means at the end of our food anxieties, and, for all we know, it may become necessary to provide once more more active powers for the war agricultural committees in extending their arable area beyond what it is at present. For my part, I feel that the Board is justified in asking that the powers under Part IV. of the Corn Production Act, 1917, should be continued for a longer period, even until the end of the War; but this should be limited to ensure that good husbandry should be carried out upon the existing arable area of this country. So far as that is concerned, I should deprecate there being an appeal against the decisions of the war agricultural committee, because, as the right hon. Gentleman very properly says, it seems that the operation of cleaning the land has to be carried out with great rapidity, and by the time the appeal came to be heard it might be that the time had passed when the occupier of the land could properly or reasonably be expected to carry out the work demanded of him. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has seen his way to agree with the Lords in their provision that, as far as deprivation of possession and as regards the extra ploughing of grass lands, there shall be an appeal such as was provided for under the principal Act. I agree that prompt action continues to be necessary in connection with cases of bad husbandry, and I almost wish there could be included in the Agricultural Holdings Act, by Amendment, a provision which would enable the county war agricultural committees to take action in the best interests, not merely of the food supply of the country, but of the tenant farmers themselves, to see that the land is not allowed to slip back into a neglected condition, with the result of a reduced production of food, sometimes, indeed, becoming little better than prairie land, to the detriment of all concerned. If powers could by an Amendment of the existing Act be conferred on some local authority to keep land in its present state of cultivation, producing for the country the largest possible supply of food, it would be a good thing. Subject to the modifications announced by the right hon. Gentleman, I give my hearty support to this Bill.


I should like to support this Bill. I am not an agricultural labourer, nor a landlord, nor a landholder, nor an agriculturist, but I am very interested in allotments and in what is being done by allotment-holders. Very considerable anxiety has been expressed during the last few months as to the action of the Government with regard to allotment-holders throughout the length and breadth of the country. These people have increased now to quite remarkable numbers, and I am very glad to be able to testify that the interest in allotment work has not decreased. We may claim that allotment-holders have sensibly improved the food situation, especially in the neighbourhood of large industrial centres, and have been able to make considerable contributions to the food supply which have proved of incalculable value. They feel that their tenure is in a rather precarious position. I understand it is to come to an end in August of this year under the old Corn Production Act. They are anxious, therefore, for a Bill which will give them security of tenure as is provided by Clause 1 of this Bill. I believe by that Clause their tenure is made secure until the termination of the War or six months after.


Two years after.


I was not aware of that fact. I now understand that the Presi- dent is bound by the promise he has made that it should be for two years after the termination of the War?


Not exceeding two years. Under the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1916, Section 1, it is so provided.


I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that answer. At all events, it removes any immediate cause for anxiety that the allotment-holders may have had. They will now be secure for two years after the War. I should like to urge the right hon. Gentleman to give them a definite place in his great scheme of land development. Let it not be said that they were treated merely as men who could be of assistance during the War, and then, after the War, their exertions were forgotten and their good work was neglected. I am quite sure that is not the wish of the President of the Board of Agriculture, for we know from what he has said and done that he takes very great interest in allotment work. I trust it may be possible next Session to introduce a small Bill giving further opportunities to allotment-holders and making clear what their position is. At the moment, if I understand it rightly, they are protected by certain Orders, and by this Bill, when it becomes an Act, they will be further protected. But apart from such protection they do not know where they are at all, and it does seem to me it would be advisable to further regularise their position when opportunity offers, as it may offer before very long. I beg to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the assurance he has given that for two years after the War they will be safe in their tenure of the land they now hold.


I do not want to detain the House at this time, more especially because I had not the good fortune to hear the beginning of this Debate. I did not know that this Bill was coming on so soon, otherwise I should certainly have taken steps to be here when the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture was speaking. My only object now in rising is to express some regret that anything is being done, at this time, to weaken the powers of the agricultural executive committees. I was one of those who regarded the appointment of those committees with a great deal of apprehension. I must say from the experience I have had of their working in my district that I am filled with admiration at what they have succeeded in accomplishing in the short period. Speaking, as I hope I may, as a practical agriculturist—and I have now had a farm in my occupation for over four years—I notice hon. Members smiling, but I may say that this has brought me into personal contact with these committees—and they have given me real assistance. I can also assure hon. Members that my contact with the members of these agricultural committees have been uniformly pleasant; they have given me advice and help, they have hired horses out to me, and, on the whole, I have nothing but praise for the work which has been done by them. For that reason I confess that I am inclined to take sides—if there is any controversy—with Lord Lee, because I have seen in my own neighbourhood the immense change for the bettor following on the work of the Food Production Department and the agricultural committees. Nothing is more certain, I suppose, to those who take an interest in matters agricultural than that before the War—even to-day—the land of this country was not, and is not, producing anything like the amount it might produce under proper conditions of cultivation.

The agricultural committees have done something to remedy the deficiency. I know, however, that in my own district, in spite of all the efforts which have been made, there are still farms which are disgracefully under-cultivated. At a time like this, when the production of food is of such vital importance to the country, I confess it seems to me a pity that any machinery should be introduced which will have the effect of delaying the application to the tenants of such farms of the powers possessed by the Food Production Department. Only a few days ago I remember speaking to a man who was doing some steam-ploughing in my neighbourhood. I was asking when he was going to bring the steam plough to my farm. Not knowing I had any special interest in the matter, he described to me one or two of the farms at which he had lately been at work. He said, with intense conviction, having been round all the farms in the neighbourhood, that there were men who had no business to hold the land they do hold. In time of war I must say I have very little sympathy or pity for men who hold land and do not cultivate it to its fullest extent. Therefore I frankly confess that I regret that anything should be done to alter or impair the powers of the agricultural committees to enforce the proper cultivation of the land in the district.

At the same time, I gather that we are not—I hope I am right in this!—really going to have a change of policy. Personally, I greatly regret the resignation of Lord Lee. Though I have always differed from him politically, I recognise—and I think no one can fail to recognise—the immense amount of energy and of real initiative he has put into the work of the Food Production Department. If the report which I see in to-day's papers be correct, I think my hon. Friend opposite—I think I may so call him—the Member for the Wilton Division (Sir C. Bathurst) is likely to occupy that position. I trust if that be so that he will do his best to support the agricultural committees. Certainly, whoever takes the place of Lord Lee, I cannot help feeling will have still a great deal of very important work to do if we are to make the cultivation of the land of this country at this time what at really ought to be. Therefore, I hope I am not exceeding the bounds of order if I say that, whatever the result of this Debate on this Bill may be, that we may still feel that the agricultural committees, who have done gratuitously a rather difficult and thankless task, who no doubt have made mistakes, but who, on the other hand, have done excellent work, will still have the encouragement and support of the Government in the work they are doing.


I expect many Members of this House will, with the last speaker, feel that it is regrettable that powers should be taken from the war agricultural committees. Because there is, I believe, that feeling, I want, in a few sentences, to say how excellent, on the whole, this Bill seems to be. The position the President had to face was one of obvious difficulty and one opening up a very wide field of controversy unless carefully handled. I confess it seem to me he has shown in this particular Bill all the skill and dexterity of touch with which we were so familiar last year when the main Bill was under consideration. What we really have to balance is two different factors—justice to the tenant and cultivator of the soil on the one hand, and, on the other, speed of production. The balance which is made by this amending Bill seems to me to be exceedingly perfect. Obviously, where you have the right of appeal you must, to some extent, slow down operations, but I believe you will get a corresponding advantage in the sense of a lessened feeling of grievance on the part of the cultivators. Let me give one quite simple fact, for example, of the sort of thing which would be prevented by this right of appeal, the sort of thing which we all know has occurred; for we all know cases where, well on in March, orders to plough and to sow oats were sent. The weather happened to be good, and, with luck, you got the thing done in some sort of way. The issuing of such an Order without any preliminary notice was a thing which only those who had to do with land can realise. If there is a right of appeal against an Order of that kind, then the Committee will make up its mind some time in advance, and they will probably decide that the executive committee is right. With regard to the right of appeal on questions of cultivation according to the rules of good husbandry, I felt that was going too far, because it introduces delay when you really want it to speed up things, but as the President says he proposes to omit those words, I hope the House will accept this measure.

Captain WRIGHT

I agree with the Member who has just spoken in deprecating any limitation of the powers of the agricultural committees. I also deprecate the resignation of the Director of the Food Production, who seems to some of us to have been somewhat premature. I would call the attention of the President of the Board to the fact that the provisions in the Corn Production Act, 1917, that Part IV. should come into force either at the end of the War or twelve months from the date of the passing of this Act was in the nature of a bargain, and it was a provision accepted by the right hon. Gentleman on account of a certain amount of opposition from those engaged in agriculture to some of the proposals in the Bill. They wanted Part IV. to come into effect at once. The position at the present moment is that under this Bill that bargain is being done away with, and the appeal which was given to owners and occupiers is to be taken away, so far as the Orders or notices concerning good cultivation are concerned.

That is the point of view of the owners and occupiers. They think they should have that appeal as from the 21st August next, and I do not think they like this Bill inasmuch as it takes away that right of appeal. From the point of view of the agricultural committees they think there should be no appeal because they feel if there is going to be an appeal against their decision their authority will be lessened, and they will no longer have the influence they have had in the past. It seems to me time that another bargain should be come to between the parties concerned. I would suggest for the right hon. Gentleman's consideration a provision under which the right to compensation given by this Bill should be extended, and that the procedure of the Corn Production Act, 1917, with regard to the claiming and assessing of compensation should be brought into force as from February, 1917. If the right hon. Gentleman will agree to some such provision as that, I know it will go a long way with the Executive Committees' Federation and the executive committees, and the owners and occupiers concerned. I do not want him to answer me this evening on that point, but I hope he will consider an Amendment providing that the procedure under the Corn Production Act, 1917, regulating the assessment for claims for compensation should be made retrospective as from February, 1917. I think that would go a very long way in the direction of causing those inclined to oppose this Bill to withdraw their opposition.


There is one thing which has been said by several speakers which, I think, requires some comment, and it is the assertion that this Bill will have the effect of weakening the powers of the war agricultural committees. That statement has already appeared in the newspapers as being the reason for Lord Lee's resignation, but from the point of view of a certain number of the war agricultural executive committees there is no reason why that should have been the result. If there had been an appeal from all the Orders issued last year, I think it would have been absolutely fatal to the work which those committees have done. Their work was done at very great pressure. Many of the Orders were issued very late, but that was not the fault of the executive committees. If those orders had not been carried out, a great deal of what is now in some counties a good corn crop would not have been produced. Some of the land which is most in dispute has produced some of the very best crops, and that shows that if the appeal had been enforced in those cases the country would not have had now this extra corn. I think the right hon. Gentleman has adopted a most excellent compromise in this matter, because the appeal which he has granted is not one which is going to effect any congestion; and obviously there will not be the same number of instances as in the previous winter. In any case, there will not be the same congestion.

If an appeal had been granted in matters of cultivation or bad farming, I think that would have been a very serious weakening of the Bill, and I am glad the right hon. Gentleman is going to omit that. I think there is a danger of some people, when they hear of the great success of the working of the agricultural committees, weakening their efforts and not regarding production as urgent, but I hope that is not going to be the feeling throughout the country, for this may lead to many of them not using the efforts which are still necessary for the national advantage. I hope all these people will make an effort to do a little bit more, and that they will not be diverted from taking that course by the statement that the action of the executive committees is being weakened by the Bill now before the House. I hope their action will not be weakened. On the contrary, I hope their hands will be strengthened and that the very good work they have been able to do up to now will be increased.


I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will give some indication as to who will be the arbitrator in case of a dispute arising as to whether a farm is farmed well or not. Will it be possible to say who will be the arbitrator? I think it might be more satisfactory inasmuch as the object of the Bill is to promote cultivation and increase production; we must all feel deep sympathy with it. I wish to bear testimony to the great and valuable work rendered by the war agricultural committees, but, after all, we cannot forget that the great success of this scheme has been due to the master mind of the President himself in devising it. It is true that the war agricultural committees have loyally carried it out. It should not be forgotten, however, that the loyalty and perseverance of the farmer, together with remunerative prices for crops he has produced, have contributed to the great success which has hitherto attended this increased production. We all want to see it carried on. The better the land is farmed the better it is for the farmer, for the landlord, and for the country, and, inasmuch as this Bill will help to produce that, I am sure that we all wish it every success. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell) has just told us that he has gone in for farming during the last four years. I only wish that he had done so a little earlier, and had experienced some of the times that the farmer has passed through. Still, he will get them by and by, and he will be a valuable help in this House in dealing with agricultural questions. He must not, however, form all his conclusions from his experience of the last four years, because if he does I am afraid that they will be rather erroneous conclusions.

If the right hon. Gentleman could indicate who will be the arbitrator, I should be glad, because these disputes cause a good deal of ill-feeling. There is often very great difference of opinion as to what is good farming, and a fanner very much resents any interference with his system of management, especially by brother farmers who are on the war agricultural committees. I cannot help thinking that it would be desirable that we should have a recognised authority to settle any disputes. It would avoid some of the bitterness which springs up when members of the war agricultural committee come down on a farmer and say, "You are not farming right." He would be glad to be able to turn to an impartial tribunal to decide whether the charge was justifiable or not. We all agree that the land ought to be farmed up to its highest capabilities, and the war agricultural committee ought to have a remedy, but, in case of dispute, it should be decided by an impartial arbitrator, and, if the right hon. Gentleman will provide for an impartial tribunal in his Bill, I think it will avoid friction.


The arbitrator is the arbitrator who is appointed under Part IV. of the Corn Production Act, namely, an arbitrator appointed by the Surveyors' Institute.

10.0 P.M.


Unfortunately, I did not hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but from what I have been able to gather the Bill is going to be accepted by the Government, subject to the alteration that there shall be no appeal from the war agricultural committee in cases where there is supposed to be bad farming. I am very sorry to hear that, because, though there may be cases in which the war agricultural committees are judges of good farming, I am quite certain from my knowledge of them that in many cases they are not judges of good farming. I happen to know a committee, a prominent member of which is a solicitor who has never had anything to do with land at all. I do not know how on earth he got on to the committee, but he is quite incapable of judging whether farming is good or not. Supposing the war agricultural committees are composed of farmers, you are setting one farmer to judge of the farming on another farm. All farmers differ with regard to the best methods of cultivating their lands and all farms differ. Farmer A on his farm A may cultivate his land very well, but he may not be a judge of what farmer C on farm C ought to do. You do not know how to cultivate the land until you have tried it and until, after some years' experience, you know what each field grows. It is impossible for any man, however capable, to go round the country and by merely walking over a field decide whether or not it is being cultivated in the proper way. I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Barkstone Ash (Major Lane-Fox) that all these experiments are successful, if what we desire is the production of food. I am assured every day, and I know from my own experience, that the result of this ploughing up of grass land has been that other arable land has been neglected. There is not the labour.


We farm rather better in Yorkshire.


You cannot have arable land without labour, whether yon farm better or worse. There may be sufficient labour in Yorkshire, but there is not in other parts of the country. I defy any war agricultural committee, sitting in a county town, to decide whether or not a given person is able to single out his roots or keep them clean. Agricultural labourers can earn quite sufficient now without piece-work, but when you come to hoeing roots, unless it is done on piecework you do not get it done in the time in which it ought to be done. That is one of the results of the Corn Production Act. Instead of more work being done, there is less work done. I do not see how you are going to get over that difficulty. It is a very great power to put into the hands of these people. I do not know how the war agricultural committees are selected. I have never been able to find out. There are three or four ladies on the Wiltshire War Agricultural Committee. I happen to know one of them. She is a very nice lady, but I do not think she knows anything about farming. I really do not know why on earth they were put on the committee. In law cases, whether you go before the magistrates at the Petty Sessions or before the High Court, there is always an appeal. Why should there not be an appeal from the decision of these particular people, who are not elected, who are chosen somehow or other—I do not know how—and whose decisions in many cases are extremely bad? I sincerely trust that this Bill, which has been very carefully considered in another place, will be passed without any further Amendments. It must be remembered that the Corn Production Act would never have become law unless this Clause had been brought in, and it does seem to me that it is more or less a breach of an agreement to alter it as soon as it has come into operation, in what many of us consider to be a vital respect. Unless I am very much mistaken the Government in another place accepted these Amendments. I have read the Debate which took place there very carefully, and I think all these Amendments were accepted by the Government. But I am not quite certain about that. There was one Division in which the Government were beaten by two. However that may be, I sincerely trust that the Bill will be allowed to pass without Amendment.

Colonel ROYDS

Before the Second Reading is passed, I should like to quite clearly understand what is the effect of the Bill? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell me if I am right in construing the effect of the Bill as accepted by him. Is it really to abolish the right of appeal in regard to bad cultivation? If this Bill had not been introduced, the Corn Production Act would have come into operation, but the powers exercised under the Defence of the Realm Act comes to an end by this Bill. I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman make his statement, but I am informed that the effect of the Bill is merely to abolish the right of appeal in respect of bad cultivation. Is that the whole effect of it? Is it quite clear that no person can be deprived of his right to the occupation of his holding or any part of his holding for the purpose of allotments or any other purpose without his having a right of appeal to an arbitrator? If the effect of the Bill, with the Amendments which were passed in another place, is merely to abolish the right of appeal in regard to bad cultivation, then it is rather unnecessary to pass the Bill at all. I quite appreciate the good work that has been done by the war agricultural committees. My own private opinion is that the position of these committees would be materially strengthened if there were an arbitrator to whom matters of dispute could be referred. I do not believe there would be one appeal in 999 cases out of 1,000. There would only be an appeal in a case which is a proper subject for appeal. If the right of appeal were given in respect of bad cultivation, that would strengthen and not weaken the position of the war agricultural committees. I shall be much obliged if the right hon. Gentleman would answer these points before we pass the Bill.


This Bill is quite different from the original Bill. I understand the Government proposes to strike out from the Bill as it has reached us that part of the proviso which establishes a right of appeal in regard to bad cultivation. With regard to the right of appeal against an Order for the ploughing of grass land, I have had considerable experience of the working of an agricultural executive committee, and I do not think that right, if granted, would materially weaken the operations of the committee. As the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Major Lane-Fox) said, the late coming of the ploughing Orders was not altogether the fault of the war agricultural committees. If the grass land is marked out for ploughing, the Order should be given in time, and there would be no loss to anyone from any point of view if the right of appeal were given in that case. Many cultivation Orders are matters of great urgency, and the right of appeal would render the execution of those Orders of no avail, because the time for carrying them out would pass, and the mere fact of appealing, in a vast number of cases, would mean that the Order would be set on one side. The war agricultural committees still have a great deal of work to do. As one goes about the various counties he cannot help noticing that a great deal of land is not being cultivated to full advantage. That applies not only to arable land but to grass land also. The war agricultural committees have still a great deal of useful work to do in giving advice and sometimes bringing pressure to bear with regard to the cultivation of land. Anything which would weaken their authority in that direction would be disastrous to the best interests of the country. War agricultural committees are only a temporary device for promoting the interests of the country in certain urgent directions. Their powers are too drastic to be continued in peace time. This is a war emergency measure and the powers can only be justified under that head.

I differ from some hon. Members who have spoken, because I confess I look with considerable alarm on an appeal against the war agricultural committees entering into the occupation of land as they can do now, subject always to the appeal to the Board of Agriculture where the persons concerned refuse to carry out the Order or where the farm generally is badly cultivated. In some cases the occupier is unwilling to do it, and in every district, however excellent it may be, there are always one or two contumacious persons who resist authority. They set a bad example to the whole countryside. If there is the right of appeal and great delay in carrying out these Orders it will be found that drastic action will have to be taken, and some persons dispossessed of their land who, under the present conditions, would not be dispossessed of it for the reason that the authority and the powers of the war agricultural committees are now well understood, and, in the final issue, it is known that they have power to get their Orders carried out either by the occupier or by themselves entering into possession in order to execute the Order, the employés becoming servants of the war agricultural committee. If it is wide-cast over the country that the powers of the war agricultural committees and of the Board of Agriculture are going to be weakened, you will have people trying to find out what the position is, and drastic action will be necessary where the matters are now carried out easily by negotiation. The better line of action would be to improve the war agricultural committees where they are at fault or use their powers without discretion or where they use them with partiality or ignorance. No doubt they are in some cases capable of improvement, and I would suggest that where the Board of Agriculture or the Food Production Department is not satisfied with the work of a war agricultural committee they should take steps to strengthen that committee with the amount of knoweldge and discretion which is necessary in a public Department. With the Amendment the President has announced I welcome the Bill, although I think there will be a certain amount of friction when the new conditions are established, and the result will be that some persons will be dispossessed of their land.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. J. Hope.]