HC Deb 27 November 1919 vol 121 cc1955-7

(1) It shall be lawful for His Majesty to appoint a Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries who shall hold office during His Majesty's pleasure, and from and after the date of the first appointment any reference in any Act or document to the Board of Agriculture and fisheries, or to the President of that Board shall be construed as a reference to the Minister.

(2) For the purpose of acquiring and holding land the Minister for the time being shall be a Corporation sole by the name of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and all land transferred to the Minister by this Act or otherwise vested in the Minister shall (except where and to such extent as the land is held on other trusts) be held in trust for His Majesty for the purposes of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

(3) Upon and by virtue of the appointment of any person to be Minister the benefit of all deeds, contracts, bonds, securities, or things in action vested in his predecessor at the time of his predecessor ceasing to hold office shall be transferred to and vested in and enure for the benefit of the person so appointed, in the same manner as if he had been contracted with instead of his predecessor, and if his name had been inserted in all such deeds, contracts, bonds, or securities instead of the name of his predecessor. For the purposes of this provision the Board shall be deemed to be the predecessor of the person first appointed to be the Minister.

(4) Section one of the Board of Agriculture 4ct, 1889, is hereby repealed.

(5) The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries Acts, 1889 to 1909, as amended by this Section, may be cited as the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Acts, 1889 to 1919.— [Captain Fitzroy]

Brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

4.0 P.M.

This proposal has for its object the substitution of a Ministry of Agriculture for the present Board of Agriculture. It is not necessary to state at great length the reasons which make it desirable that this change should take place. Those who have interested themselves in the agricultural industry during the last few years are aware of the general desire throughout the country for a real revival of that industry, and must be impressed with the necessity of making the Department of the State which has to deal with it one of of first grade. It will be remembered that before the House rose last autumn there was a proposal made, by the Government before the House for raising the salary of the President of the Board of Agriculture to an amount similar to that received by the heads of the other big Departments of State, but through the vary proper desire of the House that at this particular time expenditure of that kind, if it could be, should be avoided, the proposal of the Government fell to the ground. That does not alter the case for this Department being under a Minister instead of being a Board. So far as I am aware, the importance of a Government Department does not consist in. the amount of the salaries which are paid, either to the head of the Department or to his subordinates, but in the status of the Department in being presided over by a, Minister. The other side of the question is the increasing responsibilities and duties which are rightly being put upon the Department which deals with agriculture. Not only is it dealing with many new questions, but it is also becoming the trustee, as it were, of the State for an enormous amount of land. For that reason, if for no other, it seems to me necessary that the Ministry of Agriculture should be a first grade Department.

Captain FALCON

I beg to second the Motion.


The effect of this would be to abolish the Board of Agriculture, as a Board of Agriculture, and to substitute a Ministry of Agriculture. Of course, this is a big change in name. We have always been known as the Board of Agriculture, and in the old days, long before the present Board was constituted, there was a board, at the beginning of the eighteenth century. But the Board is a name, and nothing else, at present. The Board itself is a perfectly ineffectual body, which consists, no doubt, of very eminent persons, such as all His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State. It has met whenever it has been summoned, but as it has never been summoned the effect of its meetings has not been very great. I do not quite know what particular advantage is conferred by the change of name, but if there is a general feeling in the country that it would be better to have a Ministry which would be a real Ministry, and would not be a Board which is what may be called a sham Board, we are quite willing to accept the Amendment, to disappear as a Board and reappear immediately under I the altered style of a Ministry. Some people think that if they call us by another: name we shall be better, probably, than we were before, I do not think we can be I better. However, if the idea is that we might conceivably be a little better, I am quite willing to accept the change; and if it is the general wish of the House, I shall be perfectly willing to accept the Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause accordingly read a second time, and added to the Bill.