HC Deb 27 November 1919 vol 121 cc1957-9

Each Council of Agriculture shall meet at least twice a year for the purpose of discussing matters of public interest relating to agriculture or other rural industries.


I beg to move, at the end, to add the words "and these meetings shall be held in public."

My object is to provide that the meetings of the councils of agriculture for England and for Wales shall be held in public. The Bill provides for the setting up in each county and county borough of an agricultural committee, and provides for the setting up for England and for Wales of separate agricultural councils. I lay great stress on the establishment of these councils if the Bill is to be a success at all, because for the first time it provides a statutory body which will be able to discuss agricultural questions, and we shall have a means of arriving at what is the real opinion of agriculture on questions affecting agricultural policy. It is quite true that, these councils have no legislative or administrative powers at all; they are merely consultative bodies, but if they are to have value it is absolutely essential that everyone who is interested in agriculture should know not only what are the decisions they arrive at, but what takes place at their discussions and on what grounds they have arrived at those decisions. It is a great mistake, in my view, that we should have public bodies meeting in private. The Royal Commission on Agriculture carefully shuts out the public from all its discussions, and its decisions carry no weight or authority. I am very anxious to see that avoided in the case of the new council.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I think it absolutely essential, if these councils are lo be of value, that their meetings should be held in public. I see no point in them holding them in any other way. It is useless to suppose for a moment that anything that goes on among ninety persons will do other than leak out in some form or other, and very likely in a very inaccurate form.


It is quite reasonable and proper that the meetings of these large bodies should be in public. One of their objects is to arouse as much interest in the industry as possible, and if there are full accounts in the local Press and the London Press of their meetings, so much the better. I accept the Amendment.


I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has accepted the Amendment. These bodies are much too big to be any real good as deliberative bodies. When people really deliberate they should do it in private, but these would be such bodies that everyone would want to play up to the constituents whom he represents. In fact, every six months there will be a sort of general blow-off on agricultural matters in general, and when you are having a blow-off of that kind the more publicly it takes place the better.

Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is out of order. It imposes a charge. You cannot impose a charge on the Report stage.


As I understand the Amendment, it would not impose any charge upon public funds, but only on the rates.


That is the reason for which I ruled it out. We cannot impose a charge on the rates on the Report stage. The next Amendment, proposing to apply the Bill to Scotland, is also out of order. The House passed this Bill on the distinct understanding that it was only applicable lo England. In order to extend it to Scotland or Ireland it would be necessary to move an Instruction to the Committee. No such Instruction was before the House.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. HOPE

I raised this question on the Second Reading, and the Parliamentary Secretary promised to consider it before the Report stage. No question was raised then of its being out of order.


In order to extend the Bill to Scotland it would have been necessary to have an Instruction to the Committee. Of course the question of an Instruction cannot arise upon the Second Reading of the Bill, but when the Second Reading was passed, then would have been the time to apply for an Instruction to extend the Bill to Scotland. That was not done. You cannot take a Bill limited to one country, and suddenly, without any notice that you are going to do it, extend its provisions to another.