HC Deb 25 July 1918 vol 108 cc2091-3

This Act may be cited as the Corn Production (Amendment) Act, 1918, and shall be construed as one with the Com Production Act, 1917, and shall come into operation on the twenty-first day of August, nineteen hundred and eighteen.

Amendment made: Leave out the words "and shall come into operation on the twenty-first day of August, nineteen hundred and eighteen."—[Mr. Prothero.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with Amendments.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."—[Mr. Prothero.]


I would really venture to put in a protest. This is a Bill which has undergone considerable changes. The Government introduced it in another form in another place. Then various changes were made in the nature of concessions in favour of the landed interest. Then the right hon. Gentleman came to this House and, instead of standing by the Bill as it left the other House, accepted it subject to several variations. Those variations have been made, and, as he said, the last Amendment was a concession. The Bill, as compared with what it was when originally introduced by the Government, is really a series of concessions without any corresponding advantage to the taxpayer, who is placed under a heavy liability under the Corn Production Act. In addition to that, many of the Amendments made have been manuscript Amendments, and it has been very difficult to (follow them. I submit that before we proceed to the Report stage and the Third Reading we ought at least to have a print of the Bill as amended in Committee—it is a very short Bill—so that we may really see what we are discussing on Report. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, who has been in many ways conciliatory and whose conduct of the Bill we all admire, not to force it on Report, but to wait until we can see how the Bill stands before taking those stages. If he does that, I am sure that those stages will involve no delay.


I would like to support what has been said by my hon. Friend, and I do so in no spirit of hostility whatever either to the right hon. Gentleman or to the Bill. I think you must agree that if the Report stage is taken now the House generally will not have an opportunity of really understanding what the position is. I have seldom known a Bill so drastically amended in Committee. It is no exaggeration to say that something like a third of the Bill has been excised and other words substituted. If so serious a change is made an opportunity ought to be given to the House to peruse the Bill in its new form. I take no exception to the right hon. Gentleman entering into Parliamentary bargains as such. This may be a good or a bad bargain, but I should like an opportunity to look at the Bill as amended. I do not take this course with the view of indicating that there will be any hostility to it on the Report stage, but I plead that we should have an opportunity of seeing the Bill. I entirely concur as to the right hon. Gentleman's courtesy, and we are making no complaint in regard to him; but we ask him to give us this opportunity of looking at the measure in its revised form before proceeding to further stages.


If either of the hon. Members who have spoken had been in the House during the Debate——


I have been present right through.


—he would have realised that very little change has been made in the Bill, and I cannot see why they should object to proceeding further.


Having been in the House during the whole Debate and taken some part in it, I find myself in complete agreement with the hon. Member (Mr. White). I see on the Paper that we are asked to take the Committee stage of the Corn Production Bill. Nearly every Amendment of importance has been a manuscript Amendment, and we have had to follow it as best we could, and it is perfectly true that practically a third of the Bill will have to be reprinted. I really think under these circumstances, and considering specially that we have it from the President of the Board of Agriculture that he believes these further Amendments, or Amendments to the Lords Amendments, will be agreed to in another place, we should have some opportunity of finding out whether this bargain is one which is really considered reasonable by all the interests concerned, both those particularly dear to the hon. Members immediately below me and to those with whom I am more associated, and it is not reasonable, considering the circumstances in which it came from another place, that we should take the further stages without seeing what it looks like when it is in print.


I am bound to back up the appeal which the hon. Members have made. I have asked the right hon. Gentleman a question, which I hope was put in all courtesy, as to whether these valuers were to have the power of adding this 30 per cent. or 10 per cent. on account of the land being taken compulsorily or other work having to be done compulsorily? He made me no answer of any sort or kind. It is rather an important point, and one ought to have a chance of making a point of that kind which is really substantial.


I should not like to go against the opinion of so many hon. Members, but I hope if we put the Bill down for next week the House will allow us to get it. It is a matter of some urgency, because we are very far on in the Session.


Agreed as far as we are concerned.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill, as amended, to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 78.]