§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [7th June], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. SEDDON
On Monday evening, when this Bill was under discussion, I was dealing with the point of view as to the utility and desirability of encouraging agriculture from the point of view of the health of the community. I also referred to the fact that to leave agriculture in the uncertainty in which it is at the present time is grossly unfair to the returned soldier and sailor, who are being asked to be put upon the land. I am one of those individuals who believe that agriculture is the foundation of the social state, and the idea that economics alone matter is not in the interest of the community. The Bill we are now discussing has been opposed by one hon. Member because it contains a guarantee of a minimum price for produce. I would ask the hon. Member whether he likewise opposes the establishment and the continuation of the minimum wage. It is an irrefutable fact that one hangs upon the other, and, unless this security and this guarantee are given to the farmer, then it is a certainty that the wage of the agricultural labourer will begin to decline, and the number engaged will also be a diminishing quantity. This question raises more than the issue of the welfare of the agricultural labourer, or the tenant farmer, or even the landlord. I think I can say with confidence that the right to abuse or selfishly use land in this country is now definitely challenged, and the great mass of the people are not prepared to allow this asset of the nation to be merely used for selfish purposes. The Bill, I understand, does attempt to realise the war lessons upon this very urgent and important question.
Complaint has been made as to the delay with the Bill. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire said it was 18 months out of date. The variety of opinions on this subject was demonstrated at a meeting of agriculturists at the Farmers' Club in April, 1919. There was 444 a paper read, very far-reaching in its effect, and comprehensive, on the question of agriculture and the requirements of the tenant farmer. That paper was criticised by ten different speakers, who had ten different points of view, and I say that if the experts a year ago had not been able to make up their minds, then the Government have some reasonable excuse for the delay that has occurred in trying to present a Bill which will, at least, attain the object they have in view, and get some degree of unanimity so far as the agriculturists of this country are concerned. Another hon. Member asked for a definition of food production. I gathered from his remarks that he thought that agriculture could look after itself. I readily admit that, after the terrible times agriculture passed through from 1879 onwards, many of those who had money were able to hang on; they were able to readjust their system of culture by laying down large tracts of land to grass. But that is not in the interests of the community, and I say that it is rightly understood that our system of culture in this country—the rotation of crops—requires that there shall be wheat grown at least once in every four years. I believe that is the ordinary custom of agriculture in this country, and wheat is an invaluable crop so far as the land itself is concerned. Another hon. Member took exception to this Bill, because it has not been presented as the Alpha and Omega of agriculture. He said, "What is the good of it? It does not deal with scientific treatment; it does not deal with artificial fertilisers; it does not deal with the question of transport," and I believe he also mentioned the question of finance. I have yet to find any statute that takes congnisance of every Government Department. This Bill is dealing with agriculture. I want to say the Board of Agriculture are doing something in the direction of education. I believe that wants accelerating and extending. The question of transport will come under the Minister of Transport, and, when his scheme is in working order, there is some hope that the confusion in the distribution of agricultural produce will become a thing of the past. Education, science as applied to agriculture, and a better knowledge in the use of artificial fertilisers are questions which, I believe, are receiving the attention, directly or in- 445 directly, of the Government, and it is asking too much that you should in any particular Bill deal with the problem from A to Z covering the whole gamut of the life of the agriculturist in this country. Another hon. Member gave the Bill a welcome because of the second part. He said that he would be much more happy if Part 1 were deleted. Part 1 is as essential as Part 2. Part 2, I admit, deals with a long-standing grievance, but Part 1 introduces new principles, and upon the basis of those new principles I believe we may look forward with considerable hope for a revival and for comparative prosperity in this great industry. One hon. Member in criticising the Bill forgot that there is another Act which nullifies his criticisms. In answer to an interjection, he said that he opposed the Bill because of the number of inspectors that would be appointed. There was a Bill introduced last year which threw upon the Agricultural Committees the function of selecting those who would make examinations when complaints were made. I believe I am right in saying that in certain parts of the country names of very estimable gentlemen of very high standing have been put forward, but their names have not been accepted by the Board because they have no connection with agriculture. I think the fear of interference on the part of inspectors is more in the imagination of hon. Gentlemen than possible under the Bill.
I do not for one moment impeach the ability of the three authorities, the Farmers' Union, the Treasury, and, I think, the Lord Chancellor, to select sound men of probity and fair play for the Commission, but it would remove suspicion, I will not say anything stronger, if a panel were drawn up by well-known men of authority, and if from that panel names were selected. I am afraid that there may be a charge of political partisanship in connection with these selections, but, if the panel were known to the agricultural community and if names were drawn from that panel, it would remove any suspicion that might exist in the minds of some that there may be a danger of political partisanship in the selection of the Commissioners. I said a moment ago that I believed the Bill was a real attempt to apply the lessons of the War, and I want to say that I had the privilege of a very long discussion with the Minister of Agriculture 446 before he became Minister, and during that discussion I was forced to the conclusion that he had not only given profound study to the matter, but that his mind was in a receptive mood, and that whatever might have been his political predelictions in pre-War days he was honestly trying to formulate a policy with the three-fold object of securing the agricultural labourer a decent standard of subsistence, of getting security for the tenant farmers, and above and beyond all, of bringing into use the land of this country much more profitably and to a greater extent than it has been up to the present time. We have an enormous load of debt, and every million acres brought under the plough means from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 reduction in our Food Bill for supplies from foreign countries. If, by giving ample security, we could gain the confidence of the agricultural community and have an extension of cultivation under the plough, bringing, say, 4,000,000 acres more under cultivation, we should go a long way to relieve the great financial burden resting upon us at the present time.
Agriculture, in my opinion, stands separately from all other forms of industry. In manufactures it is the financial and economic sides that decides to a very large extent, but in agriculture there are values that no other form of industry can give to the country. There is the question of safety. I am not going to anticipate another war. I see my Noble Friend (Lord R. Cecil), whose interest in the League of Nations is admired by all who want to keep the peace of the world, but even in his presence I must say that without being a pessimist I have not yet arrived at the decision that the War, horrible as it has been, has changed human nature. I hope that the advocacy of the League of Nations will create that sentiment which will make war impossible in the future, but at present we should be ill-advised to bank upon that hope and say that agriculture as a means of safety should be neglected, because we are convinced that there is going to be no more war. There are other values in agriculture. There is the value of the health of the community. You do not get these values reported upon the Stock Exchange, but I venture to say that national security and the health of the community are just as much in the interests of the total wealth of the community as so much divi- 447 dend upon capital invested. I therefore welcome this Bill, because I am convinced that our past treatment of agriculture has been wrong from every standpoint. The great agricultural community resent interference, and the idea of being taught science in agriculture will make some of them squirm, but, after all, we need to exercise a little patience with the agriculturist, because science is only applied experience, and I know there are many men tilling the ground successfully who could not argue by text book why this, that, or the other happens, but who can grow the best crops, even although it may be by rule of thumb methods. We want patience with the agricultural community. I believe that the great urban populations for the first time are prepared to recognise that they have an obligation to the agricultural community. It only needs presenting to the urban population that they have no right to have cheap food at the expense of sweated labour, the degradation of their fellow worker, or the bankruptcy of the farmer. I believe that the great urban population will take a different point of view than they took in pre-War days, despite the jeers of the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme.
§ Mr SEDDON
Well, I have not changed, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman has, because of the loss of friends. It is because I have convictions. The attitude of the urban population is sympathetic, and, whatever may be the opposition to this Bill, I am convinced, if it can be proved that it is in the interests of the worker on the land and the security of agriculturists, that it will be received by them, and for that reason I give it my support.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
My hon. Friend who has just sat down was a very valuable member of a Committee which sat two or three years ago upon these agricultural subjects, and I am sure he will agree that it was quite impossible for him at that time to foresee the present condition of agriculture. I am in a similar quandary, because the War has changed the whole outlook for agriculture. We have to recognise that there has been a revolution in the agricultural industry. The old order is passing. The great landowners 448 are passing. One of the signs that the old epoch is going was when we read in the newspapers, with almost a shudder, that Devonshire House was to be turned into a cinema! The great landowners are selling their estates. It may be that they do not wish to do so, but it is a question of force majeure. They must do it. Income-tax, Super-tax, and Death Duties will compel the break-up of the large estates of this country. The tenant farmers have benefited during the War. One cannot disguise that fact. The farmers themselves would admit it. They are buying up farms at apparently inflated prices. After all, the big landowners have done their duty. They have not charged bare-bone rents in the past. The farmers have been easily rented. The labourers to-day have the minimum wage, but they will tell you that they are not so well off as they were before the War.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I think there are some who have benefited; but the agricultural labourers, at any rate, in Devonshire, tell me, if they have a family, that they would rather be in the position in which they were before the War than the position in which they are to-day, with the present high cost of living. I am quite prepared, indeed anxious, to consider this Bill from the point of view of increasing arable cultivation in this country. I hope sincerely that the alarming prospects which are held out of a shortage of wheat will not be realised. It would be very serious to this country if they were realised. My right hon. Friend in one part of his speech talked about the submarine menace. Frankly, I am appalled when I hear that we have to prepare for another war so soon after the last War. All I can say is, if we have to prepare for another war so soon after the late War, then the gentlemen who have been at the Peace Conference have not done their duty. Production on the land, and the increase in the arable area, must depend upon the price which the farmer or cultivator will get for his produce. That is absolutely a sound doctrine. There can be no way out of that. No farmer is in business for his health, although he has a very healthy occupation. Therefore we have to consider what are the proposals of the Bill—and I propose to review them in a very friendly spirit—in regard to fixing a 449 price for wheat and oats which will induce the farmer to plough up more land, and bring it under cultivation. In his Bill my right hon. Friend has brought in two things—that the basic year shall be 1919, and that 68s. shall be the minimum price per quarter for wheat, and 46s. per quarter for oats. Where, I ask him, does he get those figures? The Report of the Agricultural Commission? But the Agricultural Commission was hopelessly divided on the subject.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Oh, the majority. Let us see what they say:We recommend that in fixing the guaranteed prices for the grain crops of 1920 the Agricultural Costings Committee should take the following figures which, on our estimate, are somewhat below the average bare cost of production in 1918–as the datum line from which to proceed.Then they give 68s. per quarter for wheat, 59s. per quarter for barley, and 46s. per quarter for oats. I may mention in passing, that barley has been left out of the Bill altogether, though this was recommended by the Commission. What I wish to draw attention to are these words:We recommend that the following figures which are" (they say) "somewhat below the average bare cost of production.What does that mean? Does that mean the actual cost of production? Does it mean that in this figure there is any profit left to the farmer? I should like my right hon. Friend to tell me. Is this bare cost of production, without any profit at all for the farmer? If so, what are the use of the figures?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Certainly, but I am putting my questions now. If these figures are based upon the bare cost of production, and there is no profit for the farmer, why, of course, these figures are no good at all, because no farmer is going to produce unless he anticipates a profit. My right hon. Friend in introducing the Bill said: "This is a Bill to guarantee, not a profit; it is a guarantee against loss." How does anyone, how does my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, expect an enormous increase in the arable 450 area of the country if men are only to be guaranteed against loss? I ask this question in a very friendly spirit, because I want to help the Government in their Bill. Another point: You are to have four years' notice before these minimum prices are to be withdrawn. I can scarcely understand that. I have studied the Bill. I believe this was recommended by the Commission, but I cannot understand how anybody outside a madhouse, or this Commission, or a Government Department, could recommend that four years should be given. What is the first thing that would have to be done? Supposing I farm, or I have a friend who farms, 100 acres of wheat. I want to increase the acreage under wheat to 150 acres. What is the first thing I have to do? I must have more labour; that will mean cottages. I have to get more horses; that will mean stables. I have to get tractors, and tractors were, in my judgment, a very partial success in Devonshire. I have to get ploughs and an enormous number of other etceteras. By the time I have got these things the four years are nearly up.
Do the Government really think anyone is going to embark upon a large scheme of arable cultivation with only four years' notice and guarantee? I do not quite understand how such a proposal can have come into the Bill. Here, again, if you are going in for these guarantees you must really have practical unanimity. My hon. Friend who has just sat down said that the urban population will be with us, that they will view us sympathetically, that they will view the extension of area sympathetically, and are prepared to pay for it. Are they? Will they? This Commission was very sharply divided in opinion. Twelve members recommended the guarantee; the 11 other members were against it altogether. Here are their words:We are, therefore, of opinion that nothing in the conditions under which the industry was carried on before the War, or in the prospects now before it, would justify us in recommending the continuance of the policy of guaranteed prices for cereals.So 12 are in favour of guaranteed prices—no, only 11 were in favour—and the twelfth, the hon. Member for East Grinstead, thinks they are not sufficient at all, and he was a member of the Commission. You cannot have any great expansion of the arable area of the country upon such a slender foundation. The hon. Member 451 for Kettering said: "There is considerable risk." Parliament, this Parliament, cannot bind its successors. What will happen if you have a Parliament elected which says, "We will have no guarantees, and if there are such guarantees we will not pay them"? No, I really am sorry to say that I can only conclude that this Bill will not add a single extra acre of wheat to the country. That has been said over and over again in Debate. Three hon. Members have spoken—the Chairman of the Agricultural Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead, and the hon. Member for Kettering—and all these have stated in as many words that this Bill will not add a single acre to the wheat acreage of the country. I tell the Ministry of Agriculture, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and the Government that, if they are going to have a guarantee, they want a guarantee that will be effective, and it cannot be for four years; it must be for at least 20 years. No man is going to engage in building, buying horses, and so on, and entirely change the character of his cultivation, unless he has got a guarantee for at least 20 years, and any practical farmer will tell you so. This is the condition of an extension of the arable area.
What is to happen? How are prices to be fixed? There are three Commissioners to be appointed, one by the Board of Trade, one by the Board of Agriculture, and the other by the Treasury. How are these gentlemen to fix the minimum prices or cost of production itself? Honestly, I do not know. There is some land that will grow five quarters of wheat per acre, at a less cost than other land will grow 3½ quarters But I go on. I tell the Government that if they wish for a greater extension of arable area, they must give something more tangible in the way of guarantees. There is no way out of it if you are to win the confidence of the agricultural community. Agriculture is the one industry of the country that requires individual enterprise and individual effort. It is the one industry that depends so much on individual effort If anyone is in any doubt about that, let me say that I spent a sad last week in France. I saw there how the French peasants who are working for themselves are endeavouring to recover the land. They were at work before 6 o'clock 452 in the morning, and were still busy at 7.30 at night. But they were working for themselves. I wish them well. However, that is perhaps away from the point. This Bill does a good deal to bring agriculture under Government control. Is my right hon. Friend aware quite how far this Bill really tries to Bolshevise agriculture in this country? I cannot quite recognise in the Noble Lord the Minister of Agriculture and my right hon. Friend opposite Lenin and Trotsky, but still they seem to be taking great powers over the agricultural industry. Let us see how far the agriculturists are allowed to handle their own enterprise?
The cost of production—that is under the Wages Board. The farmer has no voice in it. Under this Bill the landowner may be compelled to put up buildings by an order of the County Committee. Then the Board of Agriculture may come down, and tell the farmer what crop has to be on the land. Lastly, the price of the crop is to be fixed by Government officials—these omnipotent gentlemen, who are to sit up here like little angels guarding the agricultural industry. There is a good deal of Government interference in this. There was one remark which fell from the hon. Member for Kettering which, I thought, was very illuminating. I am very glad that the Labour party have got to see it. That is, that you cannot farm land in this country by inspectors. I do not think that even the very beneficient reign of the Board of Agriculture, and these estimable officials, who seem to like control and want to gather it in with their hands, will prove quite the right remedy to-day. I observe that in a great newspaper—this morning's "Times"—it says that this is a Bill which bids fair to give the farmer all that he can reasonably require. I would not mind at all this Governmental experiment being applied to the newspapers. I wonder what the editor of the "Times," or Lord Northcliffe—I believe he is in control—would say supposing the wages of all his compositors, reporters, and everyone else were fixed by the Government? Supposing that in relation to the plant he used, the printing machinery etc., the London County Committee could come in, and order what he had to put in. Supposing the contents of the newspaper, or his own newspapers, were to be prescribed for him, like the Board of Agriculture, prescribes what I am to till on my farm 453 —I have no doubt that some Members of the Government might be very glad to do this—supposing the price were to be fixed by three gentlemen up here in London, I do not think that the "Times" newspaper would be quite satisfied, or that Lord Northcliffe would sit down very calmly under it.
There is one thing which the agricultural industry are sick and tired of, and disgusted with, and that is Government control. We have got so many Departments at present, and indeed the very Department for encouraging arable cultivation is not the Ministry of Agriculture, but the Ministry of Food. If you are going to get wheat cultivated, it depends upon the price, and the Food Minister is fixing the price all along the line. If you want cottages in the country, it is not a matter for the Board of Agriculture. But you go to the Health Minister. Then we have lurking in the offing the Minister for Labour, who has some scheme about agricultural hours; and then we have the Board of Agriculture, dodging about like a dog on a racecourse. If you want to encourage wheat growing, you have to allow the farmers to get the market price for their product, and you are not doing that to-day.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
May I point out to the hon. Member that the Minority Report is signed by the Labour Members on the Commission. Here is the name of Mr. W. R. Smith, who is a Labour Member, and I assume that he represents the Labour party.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Then I was mistaken, but I will not go into that question. It seems to me that I am about the only old-fashioned Liberal left in this House to the extent that I do not owe allegiance to any of our present leaders. This is what the Minority Report says:We are strongly of opinion that the British farmer should be free to sell his cereals at the price at which imported cereals are sold in this country.454 How can you expect farmers to have confidence in your new tribunal under present circumstances? If it suit the Government to keep down the price, they do it. Farmers are very suspicious of the Government in this matter of prices. Let me say a word about labour. After all, the labourers are a very important part of the agricultural community. They are dissatisfied, very dissatisfied, to-day, and they have reason for it. I was recently in the country in a remote North Devon parish when an agricultural labourer said to me: "My wages have been fixed by the Wages Board at 42s. per week, and my son is working on the railway and he is getting 59s. per week. What is the reason for that?" I candidly confessed that I could not say. Can my right hon. Friend or any Member of the Government explain it? This has all been fixed by outside authorities, and now I understand that another 8s. per week is to be added to the railway men's wages. I am not able to follow it. I do not begrudge it, but what about the agricultural labourer, who is to be dealt with in this Bill? The difference now will be all the more striking.
In the case I mentioned of the labourer, instead of his son getting 59s. a week, he will be getting 67s., or 25s. a week more than the agricultural labourer. You cannot expect agricultural labourers to be satisfied under those conditions, and I cannot help thinking that you have got the country into a thundering muddle over this matter. The agricultural labourer is not content to be sweated in this way, because he has to pay his share of the railway charges, and I think he is entitled to an equal wage with that of a railway porter, because he works harder and, more than that, he works more hours. [AN HON. MEMBER: "And it is skilled labour!"] Yes, and it is skilled labour. I do not want to decry the skill of the railway porter, especially when you arrive at the railway station, and cannot find anyone to take your luggage. Do you propose to fix the price of wheat and oats at a price which will enable the farmer to pay 67s. a week? That is a point you have to consider.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
If my right hon. Friend will look at the Bill, he will see that in case there be any variation in the cost of production, a rise of wages would be reflected in the guaranteed price.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I quite agree. We have no control over these things. The Wages Board fixed the agricultural labourer's wage, but will they put up the wage to 67s.? Will you put up the price of wheat and oats so that the agricultural labourer can be paid the same as a railway porter? You are now passing a Bill dealing with this question through Parliament, and I think I have a right to ask these things. I assure the Government, and my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that it is easy to make speeches here, and draw rosy pictures of what is going to happen; but you have to go down into the country to work it out in a practical way. I think the agricultural labourer deserves every encouragement, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that if you intend to increase the arable area, it means more labourers on the land, and the rural housing part of the Government scheme should be under the Board of Agriculture, or somebody who will attend to rural housing. The labourers cannot live without houses on the land. The security of the farmer I regard as a very excellent provision in the Bill, and I hope that nothing in this measure will be allowed to go through which would in any way set up dual ownership. That to my mind would be fatal. More than that, there must be fair play for the owner of the land. You must give an owner every encouragement to spend money on buildings and equipping and draining the land.
One can say with confidence that in the vast majority of cases landowners of the country have treated their tenants fairly and generously. They never would have got through the terrible agricultural depression between 1880 and 1900 unless the landlords had met their tenants. The cases of capricious evictions are few and far between, but I agree with the Government that the tenant farmer should be protected against capricious eviction, and also against the land speculator. Many owners have had to sell their farms through no fault of their own, and I suggest that my right hon. Friend in this matter should steer a very just and judicious course. He must not injure the owner of the land, and must prevent any unjust owner of land from injuriously affecting his tenants. I hope we shall all be agreed on this matter. For my own part I cannot help thinking that simplicity in this matter would be the best. With regard to questions of improvements, if 456 any farmer make an improvement which increases the market value of the holding, he should be paid the value of that improvement when he quits. I contend that the Bill will have to be very radically altered if we are to increase the arable cultivation of the land to the extent of anything like 4,000,000 acres, about which my right hon. Friend spoke in his opening speech. If that additional area is to be added to the cultivable area of this country, this Bill will have to be hatched again, and hatched differently.
I would like to say at the outset of my remarks that I regard this Bill as a direct attempt by the Government to fulfil its pledge. To my mind, it is an honest effort to satisfy all the parties concerned in the great industry of agriculture. Not only is it designed to meet the needs of the landowners, the tenant farmers, and the agricultural workers, but, further than that, it is framed in the interests of the nation as a whole, and therefore I welcome it. I am firmly convinced that this Bill is fair to all the parties concerned. The landowner, if he is a good landowner, has nothing to fear at all. The tenant farmer gets the security which is essential to him, and the labourer knows that under this Bill he will get a fair wage for his efforts to produce food for the nation. And last, but not least, the consumer knows that a genuine effort is being made to safeguard him against the great shortage of foodstuffs which does exist to-day throughout the world.
After listening to the Debate on the Bill I must express my surprise at the opposition which has been levelled against it by practically every hon. Member who has spoken. The hon. and gallant Member who sits for the Daventry Division of Northamptonshire (Captain Fitzroy) stated in his opening remarks that he was only expressing his own view, and not those of hon. Members with whom he is associated in this House. I am indeed glad of that admission, because I do not believe for a single moment that the views which he expressed can in any way be taken as an indication of the general view held by the Members of the Committee over which he presided with such ability and skill. It would seem to me, at any rate, that he has changed his mind in a very short time. Only the other day I read with great interest a speech which he delivered to a large gathering of 457 farmers in his own division. I believe he was then addressing the local branch of the National Farmers' Union in Northamptonshire, and he said the Bill was a genuine endeavour by the Government to carry out the pledges given by the Prime Minister at the Caxton Hall, and, if anything, the measure was more in the interests of the nation as a whole than in those of the agricultural community. But in the House of Commons on Monday, only a few days after that statement, the hon. and gallant Member said:I am convinced that the Bill will do harm and will lead to less production in this country by giving less security than is the case now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th June, 1920, Vol. 130, Col. 105.]I really wonder which view the hon. and gallant Gentleman holds, whether he is in favour of the Bill, or whether he really means that it is a bad Bill from the national point of view. Again, the hon. and gallant Member for Daventry said he was of the opinion that this Bill bore the hall mark of the National Farmers' Union. I maintain that it is not so, and that it is framed generally on the lines suggested by the Reconstruction Committee over which Lord Selborne presided. But even if it does bear the hall mark of the National Farmers' Union, that does not make its case any the worse, because, after all, the hon. and gallant Member is a supporter of the National Farmers' Union, and has signed its whole programme without any reservation at all. So much for the criticisms which have been levelled against the Bill. There are a few points upon which I should like to ask an explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture. These various points which I am going to raise have all been brought to my direct attention by farmers themselves, and therefore I claim that they are worthy of consideration. In Part I, which deals with the amendment of the Corn Production Act, 1917, we find in Clause 4, Subsection (8), a definition of the rules of good husbandry. Is it according to the, terms of the tenancy agreement, and, if so, will words to that effect be inserted? There are provisions dealing with the maintenance and clearing of drains, dykes and ditches. May I ask my right hon. Friend to define the position of a tenant farmer in a case which has frequently occurred where the outlet is blocked for reasons over which he has no control? Again, what would be the position of a 458 farmer in a mining district where subsidences occur and damage is done to the drainage system. Would that tenant be liable to have to quit his holding without compensation if given notice to quit, because, for reasons over which he had no control at all, he had failed to comply with the rules of good husbandry? Then again, in Clause 7, if a tenant farmer asks for a reduction of rent and a landlord refuses to go to arbitration, would notice to quit in such a case be treated as capricious, and would compensation be payable on the penal scale?
Another point I would like to raise is that apparently no provision is made in this Bill for cases where a tenant is required to leave his holding so that the landlord may farm it himself and then, a year later, let it or sell it as he chooses. I would like to say a few words on Clause 12 which deals with arbitration on quitting a holding. I think that a clear definition should be given of what are considered to be dilapidations. If it was possible to draw up a schedule of improvements in the case of the Agricultural Holdings Act, would it not be possible to have a similar schedule setting out dilapidations in this Act? I apologise for having asked these questions of my right hon. Friend, but, as I said before, they have been brought to my notice by farmers. I can assure my right hon. Friend I have not asked them with a view to complicating his task at all; on the contrary, I have rather done so with the object of assisting him. Speaking generally, I believe this Agricultural Bill has the whole-hearted support of all classes interested in the industry of agriculture generally. As far as my Division is concerned I have not received a single complaint against it. My Division is a purely agricultural constituency, and not a single complaint has come from a landlord, a tenant-owner, a tenant or the Agricultural Workers' Union.
I appeal with all sincerity to hon. Members who claim to represent Labour in this House to support this Bill. There is no doubt at all that under the Corn Production Act agricultural labourers have benefited a great deal. In 1914 the average wage of agricultural workers in this country was 18s. a week. In 1917 the minimum wage was 25s. a week. Twelve months later it was 30s. a week. In 1919 it was 36s. 6d. a week, and in February, 1920, it was 42s. Now there 459 is a rumour afoot that it will shortly be 46s. 6d. a week. It must not be overlooked that during this period the hours of work have decreased from 58 per week to an average of 49 and one-third. That proves quite clearly that under the Corn Production Act agricultural workers have gained a lot. I am quite certain that the farmers do not in any way object to high wages for the workers, and that all they want is to be assured that they on their side are going to be protected. I appeal to all members of the Labour party in this House to support this Bill on that ground, and I repeat I am quite sure that the farmers will not mind these high wages as long as they themselves are protected.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I am sure that the House listened with the greatest interest and approval to the speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), who made some very pertinent remarks upon the Bill. I gather the right hon. Gentleman took the same attitude as most people who are interested in agriculture. They think the Bill is devised with the best motives, and that the general principles on which it is drafted, so far as they go, are sound, but that it does not go nearly far enough in many directions, and in detail requires considerable amendment. The first remark I should like to make, and I think it lies at the root of the whole matter, is that this Bill is a Bill which is not introduced in the interest of agriculture as such. The words of my right hon. Friend in introducing the Bill were that this measure was introduced,in the interests generally of the consumers of this country and in the interests of our great urban population."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th June, 1920, Vol. 130, Col. 93.]5.0 P.M.
We cannot insist too much upon that being clearly understood, because there is still an impression abroad in the country that this Bill is demanded by and designed for the particular interests of agriculture. That is not so. The Bill has been introduced, as my right hon. Friend said, in the interests of the great urban population and of the consumers. It is to increase production. I, too, as well as my right hon. Friend, read the article in the leading newspaper to which he referred. But I did not draw quite the same conclusion as he did from it, because I noticed one very 460 great difference, namely, that in the case of corn, as we are all aware, the nation and the country very much desire to increase production, but I am not quite sure that the same incentive existed in the case of Lord Northcliffe's newspaper; otherwise, I think, the analogy was an excellent one. The country wants more production, and that is why the Government are introducing this Bill. Why is it that we are not producing as much as the country wants, and at any rate a great deal more than we are? It is a truism to assert that when prices were low agriculture was left to itself to fare as it best could, and with low prices and heavy burdens farming became quite unremunerative. Everybody knows that is the reason. Rather on that principle I remember a very well-known phrase used here by Mr. Birrell which attracted a good deal of attention at the time. That right hon. Gentleman said, "Minorities must suffer." I am afraid that is true. I listened with very great interest to what my hon. Friend below me (Mr. Seddon) said. I listened with great interest to his speech, because it came from one who represents a large urban population, who desires to see increased production, and who also desires that the whole urban population should realise that it ought itself to be prepared to make sacrifices in order to obtain that increased production. That is the opinion of many thinking men. But after 30 years' experience I am afraid it is still unattained, and I do not believe, if you look at the play of political forces, if you look even at the quotation given by my right hon. Friend opposite from the Minority Report of the Royal Commission, who did, so to speak, represent those urban populations, that they are prepared to make sacrifices in the form of guaranteed prices. My hon. Friend believes, as I do, that it would be worth the while of those urban populations to make those sacrifices in order to get the corn grown at home, but does he really think in his heart of hearts that, if prices fell well below the minimum, if ample cheap food could be obtained from abroad as required, those urban populations would still be willing, under those circumstances, to tax themselves and pay minimum prices far above the value? Does he really think they would be prepared to go on doing that?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I am aware of the reason for it, and we all agree that it would be wise, but does my hon. Friend think it would be done?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Even the War has not done that, as is absolutely proved by the Minority Report of the Commission; and in this connection I welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) has come into the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) said that a period of four years was ludicrous; the guarantee ought to be for 20 years. He told the House that he did not claim to represent any party, but my right hon. Friend (Mr. Acland) sitting by his side does, I believe, claim to represent and to belong to a party in this House which has great ambition to govern this country in the future, and he spoke for them. He said that the guaranteed prices will probably be withdrawn under the four years' clause when the emergency conditions cease.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
No; I said if this House did not want to go on with them. The point I emphasised was that the Bill gives power to this House to terminate the guarantees at four years' notice.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I took down my right hon. Friend's words, but I accept his qualification that it would only be done if this House wanted to do it. His attitude, however, was that it would be extremely probable that these guarantees would be withdrawn when the emergency ceased, and that is exactly my point. As long as there is an emergency, this great industrial community, in its own interest, is prepared to ask agriculture to increase production; but when that emergency passes, and when ample food is obtainable from abroad, what guarantee have we? With the instances before us of my right hon. Friend's words, of the Report of the Royal Commission, of the attitude of the Labour party, of every indication we can get, what possible hope can there be that we can really expect that this industrial country will make sacrifices in the direction of lightening burdens or 462 of paying high guaranteed prices in order to maintain food production in this country? I am quite sure that that is a broken reed for us to count upon, and we had better face it. Nobody can believe more strongly than I do in the justice and the soundness of the argument used by my hon. Friend (Mr. Seddon), but I do not believe that we can count upon it, and we must expect something different. This community at the present moment realises that it wants more food. It wants agriculture to set to work to produce that food, and it wants to legislate in order to enable it to do so. I suggest that this Bill, by itself, is quite inadequate for that purpose. That is not condemning the Bill, because many of the things that have to be done are outside the ambit of this Bill altogther, and could not be included in it. I say, however, that you have to go very much further than this Bill goes. Taking it as far as it goes within its limited orbit, it proposes three main things—guaranteed prices, improved forms of production, and better security for the tenant. It is not only a question whether or not we are likely to get the industrial community to act in the manner I have been discussing, but whether we can make the agricultural community believe that they will do so, and give them sufficient confidence in that belief to induce them to spend their capital and their brains on putting land under the plough which is not under the plough now.
Have they ever had any experience of this industrial majority doing anything for them in a direction which involves a sacrifice to themselves? Have they ever had a minimum price? They have not, but they have a maximum price. When the prices were at the bottom level, when farmers were being ruined, when landlords and labourers were receiving either no rent or very little rent and starvation wages, did they get any minimum price then? Was any notice taken of them? They have a right now to say, "When prices were low we had to stand the shot; when prices are high we ought to have the advantage." But does the nation say that? No. In the interests of the industrial majority, when prices are high, a maximum price is imposed upon agriculture. I am not throwing stones at the industrial majority; I am not finding fault with them. It is human nature, and we 463 have to face it The majority will always be persuaded to act in its own interest as far as it sees it. But what can we expect the agricultural community to do under maximum prices now, without minimum prices when times are bad, and when they know, from what the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, said that it is not introduced in their interests at all, but in an emergency and because the Minister of Agriculture, as he told the country a few days ago, expects a famine in corn? The industrial majority wants corn, and therefore they bring in this Bill. There has been plenty said, but I canot recall that a single thing has been done on any considerable scale to induce agriculture to believe that the industrial majority will ever realise its responsibilities, and the sacrifices that must be made by it, and not only by agriculture, if increased production is desired in this country.
Those three items which I have mentioned, I accept in principle. I accept the guaranteed price in principle; I accept better cultivation, as to which I will say a word later; and I also accept better security for the tenant farmer's capital. The guarantees introduce what is, to my mind, the best feature in this Bill, and, if they were put on a different footing, something which would do more than any other one thing could do to secure permanency and confidence. I agree with my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Lambert) that this guaranteed price is so indefinite that it will produce no confidence. We do not know what figures it is based upon, nor even what wages it is based upon, nor whether hours as well as wages are going to be taken into account. I take it that, when this figure of 68s. was fixed, the number of hours being worked for a wage of approximately 32s. or 33s. was 56 per week. Now £2 2s. a week is being paid for 50 hours. The proper way would be to consider what it would cost now to get the same 56 hours' work which was obtained for 33s. in 1919. We do not know whether that was the basis, but I hope it was.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
There is nothing in the Bill which shows us that. We do not know what items of cost are going to be taken into account. We see that three gentlemen are appointed to settle this 464 price, but we notice that only one of them is appointed by three agricultural Departments jointly, and that the other two are appointed, one by the Board of Trade, and the other by the Treasury. Neither of these two Departments is interested in keeping up agricultural prices, but both are interested in keeping them down. It has been suggested to me by the representative of a large number of farmers that the three agricultural Departments should each appoint one Commissioner, so that there would be an agricultural majority on the Commission instead of a majority against agriculture. Although the minimum prices are themselves indefinite, however, they do contain a germ, and I believe that if this Bill were amended in that sense we might get something of value. If, instead of this indefinite minimum price, we had a real sliding scale of wages and prices, it would do more to secure permanency than any other thing that could possibly be done for agriculture. At the present time this minimum price is made the foundation and excuse for all kinds of burdens which are put upon agriculture. It must have its production controlled; it must pay whatever wage is laid down by the Wages Board, which is of an industrial character at present, and is not agricultural at all; and it must put up with whatever control is imposed upon cultivation. It is said that that is all perfectly fair, because agriculture has been given a minimum price. But has anyone ever got one farthing out of a minimum price? The minimum price has to be imagined; the other things are grim realities which are forced upon the farmer to-day, and the farmer's position is that he has to meet a maximum price. That is the answer to the question asked by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lambert) as to why the railway porter should get the 67s. which he hopes he will get, when the agricultural labourer, who is a more skilled and, at any rate, an equally deserving man, has to put up with 42s. It is simply because the State is subsidising the railways to enable them to pay that wage, whereas the State is imposing a maximum price upon the farmer and preventing him from getting the money which he would otherwise naturally get to pay a higher wage. It is the State in both cases. The State is finding the money for the railways and pinching the money from the farmer. The farmer is as willing 465 as the railway companies are to pay 67s. if the State will allow him to get the natural price for his corn. The railways were getting the natural fares, and now they are up 50 per cent., and we are told they are going to be put up another 40 per cent., while, besides that, a big subsidy is to be found to pay these wages. Give similar conditions to the farmer and he will pay 67s. with the greatest pleasure. The position now is that the minimum price is absolutely valueless to the farmer; it will not give him a sixpence. No one can suggest that the farmer is gaining any ability to pay one penny of wage through the minimum price. He has to take his chance in the market. He is not left free to settle the wages of his own labourers; he has the wages imposed upon him by the Wages Board, and the Wages Board cannot and ought not to leave out of account, when they are considering these questions, the porter's wage and the industrial wage, and they say, and we all say, why should the agricultural labourer be put off with 42s. when the porter is to get 67s.? Therefore they try to split the difference, and they go on putting up the agricultural labourer's wage, but not a farthing is given to the farmer to help him to pay it, and the consequence is that even with the present wages in large areas of poor land there is not the money to pay that wage, and there will not be the money to pay it when the extra 4s. is put on, and what must happen—and nothing else can happen—is that the farmers who cannot pay that wage will discharge the men, the land will go out of cultivation, and the men will have no employment.
That is the result of opposing forces. The farmer is helpless. When we have to fight Nature and natural forces we do so with good courage, because Nature imposes no limitation upon any man's brains, and does not put a man in prison and impose penalties on him when he does his best under the conditions in which he finds himself. We are tied and bound. A man cannot do as he wishes. He is not free to make a bargain with his man, but he has a Board outside which has to do this under conditions pressing in two opposing directions. It imposes an average wage in average conditions which can be, and ought to be, paid by many farmers who can afford to pay it 466 with good land, but which with poor land cannot be paid, and, therefore, it creates impossible conditions, and then a Bill like this is introduced which is supposed to put things right. it will not put things right, and the only thing in the Bill which can be of real permanent help will be if the Government will amend this first part of the Bill, which imposes a maximum price in the future, and will make it into a real, operative sliding scale between wages and prices which will operate now and at once, and under which they will be interdependent, and under which the farmer will know that if the Wages Board here and now puts up wages, automatically here and now the price that he receives for his produce will be raised. That is the only way. My right hon. Friend will get a much better element of permanency there than he will with a twenty years' guarantee, which some future Parliament might upset, and which you cannot possibly prevent it doing. I feel very deeply on these questions. When one has spent one's whole life in struggling to keep poor land under cultivation and keep people employed upon it, and do one's duty upon it, a Bill like this comes very near one's heart. I want to reinforce what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Acland) said about barley. Barley ought certainly to be put in if there is to be a sliding scale of prices, and it ought to be most carefully considered in Committee how far other things besides barley ought or ought not to be included. The matter should not be argued now. It is obviously a Committee point which requires the closest and most careful examination.
I come now to compulsory production. Very large powers are given to the county committees. I cannot add anything and I could not put it half so well as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lambert) has put it. Taking what he said as the position and what the farmer will feel as to his liability to interference from some outside official body, it behoves us, at any rate, to take the very greatest care, if we are to give these powers, as to who is to exercise them, and how they are to be given. My right hon. Friend has done his very best in the previous Bill to create a new kind of agricultural committee which will be appointed partly by his Department and partly by the county councils to whom 467 he proposes to entrust these powers, and he has put in the further safeguard that members of these committees should all have practical knowledge of agriculture. On the face of it, that is a very desirable thing; but can he enforce it? Where does he stand. This child is hardly born, and it is in its teething troubles already. I have the particulars of a case where one county council has appointed four members to an agricultural committee to carry out this Bill. The Board was of opinion that those four members, although otherwise admirably qualified, no doubt, had not got the agricultural experience which he has in mind, and which we all think, at any rate, is desirable if you are to decide questions of how land ought to be cultivated. You must know one crop from another. The Board of Agriculture communicated with the county council and told them they thought these members had not the necessary experience. The county council, after considering the matter, said that, in their opinion, no more suitable members could be found, and they adhered to their decision that these four were to be the gentlemen appointed. That is the kind of thing that happened, and I think these powers either ought not to be given at all, or ought to be given to some body which can do better than the farmer will do if he is left alone, and whether such a body can be found is extremely doubtful. In any case, whatever body is appointed, to whomsoever these powers are given, I have the strongest objections to powers which are to be taken, not only to see that land is cultivated according to the rules of good husbandry, but as to the kind of cropping and the system of cultivation which is adopted. I most strongly protest against that.
It is obviously impossible that a man can cultivate his land to any advantage when he is liable to interference and to be told that he is not growing the right kind of crop and that he ought to grow more or less of some particular crop notwithstanding that he might be farming admirably according to his own system. Everyone has fads. We have only to go into any rural area. For instance, I know a case where a local sanitary inspector said every ash-bin in a cottage was to have a cover, and everyone had to go to the expense of putting on a 468 cover. The next inspector said no ash-bin ought to have a cover, and they all had to be taken off again. All these authorities will be swayed by some secretary or official. They cannot give the time to it. They are not paid. In the nature of things you will have in most cases some permanent officer who will keep their records and will really direct and guide their policy, and is his particular fad or fancy to be reflected in the method of cultivation all through the district, or is it to be left to those who are really responsible? That is a wholly different matter from good husbandry. Let a man choose his own system, and if you can find the right kind of authority I should be perfectly willing. The landlord now no longer has the power he used to have to see that the land is properly cultivated according to the covenants, and where the tenant does not carry his duty out, I quite agree there ought in the interests of the nation to be someone who will be able to go down and say, "Your land is foul; your ditches and drains are not properly cleaned out; your fences are untidy; your are harbouring vermin and weeds and that must be altered." I disagree most strongly with the prosecutions and penalties which are to be enforced. It is ridiculous to make people criminals. In nearly every Bill that is introduced some new offence is created by which people are made criminals with no earthly object. Do you want to make criminals or do you want to have the land clean? If you want to have the land clean it is perfectly simple. Do as they do in the Colonies, where there is some common-sense. If a man grows weeds and thistles, if he does not clean out his drains and injures his neighbours they order him to do it If he does not do it they do it for him and charge him. That is the commonsense thing to do. If my right hon. Friend takes power to do that, that is all he wants. He does not want to have people into the police court and make them criminals because they have not cut their thistles. All this interference is unnecessary.
Part 2 of the Bill purports to give security to the tenant farmer. I am not quite sure whether he will regard the additional securities that he gets under Part 2 as compensation for the insecurity which he may think he is going to get under the Cultivation Clauses of Part 1. 469 He will look at the matter as a whole, and I am not sure that he will not be more afraid of being interfered with by officials than of being interfered with by the landlord in a good many cases. But putting that aside, the whole point was security. We all know my right hon. Friend's heart is in the business. He has devoted himself to agriculture, and there is no one in whom we have greater confidence. He is a very honest man too. His honesty prevented him from saying something which I think many a man in his position would have thought it necessary to say. When speaking of security he said, "The key-note of this Bill is security. The farmer is to be secured by guaranteed prices; the labourer is to be secured by the Wages Board; the State is to be secured by good cultivation, and the farmer is to be secured by getting a second form of security under Part 2 of the Bill." He did not say a word about the owner of the land getting any additional security whatever. He said, "All the parties concerned," and he enumerated them as I have read them. A less honest man would have attempted to say, "Yes, the owner is getting some little security through the Clause which enables a local authority to enforce better cultivation." He did not suggest that. He knows perfectly well that it would be an absurdity to suggest it; but many a man in his position would have attempted to do so.
He used one phrase about the landowner, and that also was absolutely accurate and honest. When he was discussing the necessity for the introduction of the Bill, and for Part 2 of the Bill, he gave as the main ground for it that landlords under present conditions find it impossible to make both ends meet. The real cause of the insecurity is the sales of land. It would not be proper for me as a landlord to stand up and say what the reputation of the old type of landlord in this country is, but the opinions which have been expressed in the House have paid a tribute to the way they have managed their properties, and it comes very much better from them than from me. I am sure any of us who heard or have read what has been said, and the sympathy which has been expressed, value it most highly. The whole of this tenant farmer's insecurity is rightly attributed by my right hon. Friend to the fact that the landlord can no longer make both ends meet. That is the root of the 470 trouble. Normally, when you are going to try to remedy an evil you go to the root of it, and try to eradicate it, but in this case I am afraid it is impossible to do so. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman or the Government for not trying to cure this evil by maintaining the old system in agriculture of large estates intelligently managed for the benefit, as far as possible, of the people. You cannot restore that; I realise that it is quite impossible; but I think the elements of the situation ought to be realised, and that no more should be done than need be done to destroy that particular security which can be maintained, where the tenants are happily living under such conditions to-day, and which govern a very considerable area of this country. This Bill requires some alteration from that point of view.
I will give some figures in regard to a particular farm which show the relative position as to the different interests in the land now. I had to look into the figures of this farm of 400 acres of poor land, which is typical of thousands of other farms. This farm is let at a rental of £300 a year with the shooting, so that there is no sporting interest brought into it. The tithe is £127 at present value. There is a small fee farm rent and land tax which brings the total outgoing to £150, leaving the landlord £150 receipts after paying these sums. Out of this amount £50 at least will be required—that is, one sixth of the total rent—for repairs and maintenance, leaving him £100, of which the State will take anything from £30 to £50 in Income Tax, leaving him £50 or £70 according to the tax which is levied upon him as his actual receipts during one year from that farm. The State and the local authority in the matter of public burdens take in rates and taxes almost exactly £200. The tenant, we will assume, gets the £600 which the Income Tax Act credits him with. That is twice the rent. I cannot say whether he does get that or not. The labour on that farm cost somewhere between £1,200 and £1,500 a year. Let us see how the various interests stand. There is between £50 and £70 for the landlord; there is £600 for the tenant; there is £127 for the tithe owner, and there is £1,200 or £1,500 for labour, and £200 to meet the burdens of the State. Who can wonder when land has to be sold? What is the use of getting up in 471 this House and telling a man who owns a farm like that that he has to make improvements? Where is the money to come from to make the improvements? It cannot be done. That is why sales take place.
Let us follow this matter further, for this is a very interesting case. In regard to this farm, there is an offer to buy at the price of £9,500. It may be said, "Here is the case of a man who is only getting £50 or £70 profit out of his farm, and he is offered £9,500 for the farm. That is a plum." What does that £9,500 represent? On that farm there is a very good farm-house, excellent cottages in a very good state of repair, and there is an excellent set of farm buildings. The man who wants to buy the farm wants to occupy it himself. If he has to put up these farm buildings, the house and the cottages, he could not do it for less than £12,000 or £13,000 at the least. He is going to pay £9,500 for what would cost £12,000 or £13,000. What is the owner to get? He will get £2,000 or £3,000 less than it would cost to equip the farm, and there is not one single penny for the land. That is an actual case. The offer is there, the farm is there, the figures are there, and they can be verified by anyone who likes. I give this as an illustration of what is the position on poor land. There is endless variety. My hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Royce) can give figures different in every respect in connection with farms in the rich district which he represents, and which I know very well. You have the two extremes, and there is everything between.
If you want increased production, it is not the rich land you have to consider so much as the poor land. Rich land will always be cultivated. There is a big margin of profit over and above the cost of cultivation. The curse of poor land is, that when the cost of cultivation is high there is no margin of profit to pay for it. If you can grow eight sacks of wheat on an acre, you can afford to spend seven sacks in growing it, and have a good profit on the odd quarter at present prices. When we are dealing with land which will only produce seven sacks we cut our coat according to our cloth, and only spend six sacks on it, and we have managed to keep a contented population on the land all through the bad time. Now the State says, "You will be a 472 criminal and will be prosecuted if you do not spend seven sacks in cultivating the land." Whether or not the land can produce seven sacks. That means that the man who cannot grow seven sacks cannot cultivate the land. He is not left to make the best use of his opportunities. He is made by law to spend seven sacks whether he can get seven sacks from the land or not, and that means that where his produce is below seven sacks that land will go out of cultivation. I have had to throw land out of cultivation which is capable of growing food, but is not growing food to-day. All through the bad time of the eighties and nineties I farmed that land, but it cannot be cultivated now because the State say I have to spend seven sacks in cultivating that land. Therefore, at the behest of the State, I have to throw that land out of cultivation, however much food it might be capable of producing.
Under this Bill the tenant is to have security by being given much fuller compensation when he leaves a farm. I agree in principle, but I think this is a Clause which wants most careful handling. I make one root criticism upon it, and that is that the year's rent penalty where notice is given to the tenant consistently with reasons of good estate management is an impossible proposition. I am not speaking from the landlords' point of view but from the national point of view. In this respect my right hon. Friend has very largely departed from the recommendations of the Selborne Committee. He claims that in introducing the Bill he is following very closely the recommendations of the Selborne Committee. but the Committee in this respect did not recommend, as the Bill does, that one year's rent should be the penalty for recovering possession for reasons consistent with good estate management, and four years for capricious eviction. What it recommended was one year where it is capricious, which is an absolutely different proposition. After what has happened this Session I cannot help contrasting the national attitude when its own pocket is in question, and its attitude when the pocket of the landlord is in question. The State has found it necessary to resume control of a good deal of the land which was in the hands of the owner. It was taken from the owner through no fault of his own, and when he was very anxious to keep it. Under the existing law 10 473 per cent. penalty was allowed where land was taken through no fault of the owner. We have recently passed legislation on this subject. Everybody is agreed that the penalty is to cease; but when the State wishes to take land from the owner, who is thereby deprived of a large measure of security in the land, it has to pay no compensation for disturbance at all. It has to pay not one penny more than the actual value of the land, and in addition to that the owner has to be saddled with considerable risks and expense. Where the tenant farmer is given notice it is not the State, but the landowner, who has to pay. The State says it is a wicked thing to interfere with the security of the tenant, and it now proposes to impose a new penalty of one year's rent on any owner who resumes possession of his own land for reasons perfectly consistent with estate management. I do not think that principle can be insisted upon. I am afraid we have rather done with justice now, and that it is expediency and not justice.
It is the commonest thing on any considerable estate, or on any estate where there is any considerable population in the neighbourhood, for applications for land to be made to the owner of any large farm near to these large centres of population, and he has to go to the tenant farmer constantly and ask him to give up a field or part of a field and to divide it among several small men or put it into allotments for the benefit of the community as a whole. I own land in a growing district, and it is a matter of monthly almost weekly occurrence for someone to come to me or my agent and say, "Can you let me have two acres of land"? One man may want three acres. Somebody else wants an allotment. The local authority wants other land. That has been going on for 20 or 30 years, and there has never been any friction. There has been no trouble. There has not been one farthing of expense in bringing in the county council, or any officials to settle differences between one man and another. I have had the power to resume possession of the land, and with that power behind me I have gone to the tenant whose goodwill has been perfect and I have said, "Here are a dozen or 20 men who want this field. Can we not arrange it?" Everybody has been satisfied, and everything has gone on smoothly. But it cannot go on smoothly and the 474 thing cannot be done if every time a landlord, not in his own interests but in the interests of the community has to take land from a tenant he is penalised. It costs him a great deal of trouble, because instead of getting one lump sum from one large tenant he has to get rents from perhaps 30. In my own case, hundreds of small rents have to be got from hundreds of small occupiers. It is much better for the landowner from the financial point of view to get the rent from one tenant. Now if he goes to his tenant and tries, without the power behind him, to get the tenant to give up a piece of land, he will have to pay one year's rent as penalty for taking the land. That is absolutely wrong, and clearly against the interests of the whole community. What will happen when the local authority or the Government come and want the land? What will be the position then? I take it under this Bill that, if the local authority takes the land, they will have to pay the year's rent too. Clearly, when the valuer comes down to value the land for the local authority he may say, "This is land which is worth 20 years' purchase." But if we have to take land under the circumstances I have related, we shall have to pay one year's fine to the tenant; therefore, instead of the land being worth 20 years' purchase, it is only worth 19 years' purchase, and the valuer will take it at 19 years' purchase instead of 20. So that the man who has land compulsorily taken from him will have to be fined one year's rent, because somebody, the State, wants the land. That is an absolutely intolerable state of things, and I suggest that the year's rent has to go.
I thoroughly agree with the suggestion about the Evesham custom. I congratulate my hon. Friend below me on representing a constituency where there is so much common sense shown. It is grossly unfair that a man should be compelled to let his land for market gardening, to have large sums spent upon it, and then if it happens to fail and no other tenant can be secured, that he should be made to recoup the whole expense of the outgoing tenant. But if the outgoing tenant can find another man to come in and take over the place, that should be done, but I desire only one safeguard—that this power ought not to be conferred upon anybody where the land is in a developing neighbourhood. Where development is going on, where the landlord may have to 475 resume possession of the land for some other purpose of development, he ought to be allowed to make the condition in letting the land that it is not to be used for market gardening as, in view of the probability of its being required for some other purpose as development land or otherwise, that money would be wasted. Clause 17 I think wants careful watching. It is a rather serious matter that these costs of compensation should be made a first charge on the land. You are already driving land into the market and now you are telling the mortgagee that you are creating a fresh charge of indefinite amount, possibly a very large amount, which is to be prior to his charge. Therefore you are giving the landowner no additional security, but you are going a long way to drive him out of the security which he already possesses.
Now as to the position of the labourer. The labourer is clearly the most important and indispensable of the people in the cultivation of the land. The owner can transfer his capital elsewhere. He is doing so. He is selling land because it does not pay, but the land is not cultivated by him, and cultivation does not cease because that land is sold. The occupier can buy his farm or somebody may be found to take his place. It has been suggested that the land should be nationalised. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. W. R. Smith) began his speech, as in duty bound, by recommending the nationalisation of the land, but when he got into his subject, and was dealing with it from the experience which he had gathered about agricultural land, he resented greatly the interference of officials. I think that the latter was really his mind in representing the facts. If there is one thing which cannot be nationalised and must be the result of individual effort it is the cultivation of the land. Therefore I am afraid that nationalisation is hopeless, but even more dangerous to the labourer and everybody else is the kind of semi-nationalisation which we have at the present time, because the position at present is the nation claims the right to interfere and dictate as to how land should be cultivated, what wages should be paid, and what price should be paid, but it takes none of the responsibility of finding the capital which is necessary to develop the land and which by its action it is drying up.
476 The land, whatever may be done by the new owner and whatever may be the position of the tenant cannot be cultivated without labour and I resent very much the statements, which are so commonly made, that before the War the labourer was disregarded, badly treated and wholly neglected by those who were interested in the land. The statement does not agree with what is common knowledge, namely: that many labourers say that they would rather go back to pre-War days than be where they are now with Wages Boards and everything else which they have got. So far as agricultural land is concerned, it has been the custom with landlords, in most cases at any rate, to look upon the requirements of the estate as coming in priority to their own interests. Where cottages were required they have always been provided, and, though wages were low, in other respects the conditions in which agricultural labourers lived, particularly on well-managed estates, compared most favourably with the conditions in which people were living in towns before the War. Anyone who cares to look into the facts will see that we have a record of which we are not ashamed in the matter of housing and dealing with the interests of the agricultural labourer. But now we have an enormous increase in the cost of living and huge increases in industrial wages, nobody would be more willing than farmers and landowners in this country to see the labourer receiving as good a wage as is paid on the railways or in any other great industry in this country, but that cannot be done unless the money is there to enable it to be paid and on the poor land, at any rate, any attempt to increase wages further until money is provided out of which those wages can be paid and until the employer is put into a position to pay them, will not result in larger wages but will only result in unemployment.
Responsibility must be taken by the Labour party in this matter. They are going round country districts telling the labourer one thing which is perfectly true, that he deserves better wages. That we are all agreed They are also telling him, which is not, at any rate, universally true, that the farmer is making large sums of money and can easily afford to pay an industrial wage. The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that farmers would not produce accounts. Only about a fort- 477 night ago one of the leading labour organisers came down to my district at Ipswich and made speeches of this character, and enlarged upon the enormous sums of money which farmers made and how easily they could pay higher wages. I wrote him a considered letter and gave him figures showing the position in my district, and offered to place at his disposal my farming accounts for 30 years, which he might put before anybody he liked for investigation and that he could draw for himself any conclusions which he liked, and he has not even answered my letter, and yet since that letter was written pamphlets have been circulated all round the country making exactly similar statements. I tell that gentleman and his colleagues that they are taking a grave responsibility on on themselves. I tell them that on the poor land the money is not there, and cannot be there in present conditions, to pay those increased wages. I invite them to examine those accounts for themselves, to co-operate with the farmers in trying to get better wages for the labourers and in producing the money with which they are to be paid. We are as desirous as they are to give the labourer the wage to which he is entitled, but we have got a responsibility which they have not got, and it is an important one. We have got to find the money. They have only got to find words. It is much easier to find words than money, but if we are to have even the same amount of cultivation as we have now, I tell those who are agitating among the agricultural labourers in the poor land districts, that the result of that agitation, with or without this Bill, will not be more corn, but less corn and trouble of which no man can see the end.
§ Major COLFOX
It is with great trepidation that I rise to address the House this evening for the first time on a subject which everyone must admit is a very difficult one to tackle, but it is one which is of very great importance both to the industry of agriculture and to the nation as a whole. I consider that as representing a purely agricultural constituency it is my duty to say how cordially we welcome the introduction of this Bill, but I think it a very great pity that the Government should not have introduced this Bill long before now. At the time of the last General Election the rather vague announcement 478 of the Government's agricultural policy was welcomed very much by agriculturists as showing that our greatest industry was not going to be overlooked in the general scheme of reconstruction, and then later when the Prime Minister made his speech at the Caxton Hall, last November I think it was, he again raised the hopes of the agricultural industry, but yet it has taken all these months for the policy of the Government to materialise in the form of this Bill. Now we know that the Government have decided that the cries of the industrial population demanding cheap food are not going to be allowed entirely to drown the just demands of the farmers, who assert that the price of the things which they have to produce must bear some definite relation to the cost of production. The Corn Production Act purported to establish this relation between cost and price, but since the passing of that Act costs have risen considerably, and the returns of the industry have not risen in the same relative scale. One of the great items in the cost of production is the wages bill. No one connected with the industry would ever grudge a fair wage, but still it does need to be emphasised, as this Bill does emphasise it, that the only fund from which wages can be paid is the fund which is obtained by the farmer when he sells his produce. Therefore, the cost of production, wages, and the price of produce are all inter-dependent.
It has been shown all through that it is necessary that the farmer should have greater security for the capital which he has invested in this business. The necessity for this has been emphasised particularly of late by the sales of land and the speculative buying all through the country. It has also been shown to be necessary that we should maintain a high standard of husbandry throughout the country. The Bill attempts to meet all these objects. I welcome the provision for protecting the improvements carried out by the outlay of the tenant, and also the provisions for compensation where a specially high standard of farming has been adopted continuously. This must help the farmer in thinking that he has security for his capital. I welcome also that part of the Bill which compels the occupier to keep in order his fences and ditches and hedges and gates, and to 479 destroy weeds on his holding. All of us know many cases where a man is considerably injured by the neglect of such things on the part of his neighbours. It has been said that this is a Bill promoted simply in the interests of tenant farmers. Surely that is not the case. So far as the landlords are concerned, the Bill contains very few, if any, provisions which are not already observed by good landlords. If a man has been a good landlord and continues to be a good landlord, he has nothing to fear from this Bill. Bad landlords, certainly, do not need or deserve the sympathy of the House. The labourer has his Wages Board made a permanent institution. It is therefore wrong to say that this Bill is simply for the benefit of the tenant farmer. I would like to ask one or two tentative questions. Where the Bill speaks of repairs necessary to secure proper cultivation, does it include the proper upkeep of the labourers' cottages? That is a very important matter, affecting as it does the health and happiness of the whole countryside. Under Clause 7 a tenant who is turned out of his holding, except under certain conditions, is entitled to compensation. In his speech on Monday the Parliamentary Secretary spoke about the new class of landlords who are buying merely to sell again with vacant possession, and he said that these men had caused a great deal of damage and injustice to deserving tenant farmers. Surely the way they have caused the damage and injustice is by turning tenant farmers out of their holdings. Could not the provisions of Clause 7 be extended to cover those men who are at present under notice to quit in September? If that could be arranged it would mitigate some of the harm which is being done by these land speculators.
If and when the guaranteed price comes to an end by an Order in Council, does the minimum wage also come to an end automatically? It seems to me that the two are absolutely dependent the one on the other, and if you remove the one you should remove the other, not because the farmer will not wish to pay the wages, but for the reason that if you remove the guarantee and pre-suppose that the price of agricultural produce falls very considerably, the labourer will not only not get his minimum wage, but he will be 480 without employment and will get no wage at all. In the interests of the labourer the minimum wage should be wiped out if and when the guaranteed price is wiped out by Order in Council. I have tried to show very briefly why I consider the principles of this Bill deserve support, and I have offered one or two very mild criticisms with very great deference. In supporting agriculture I believe we are supporting the true interests of the nation as a whole. Agriculture not only provides the food of the nation; it also provides the recruits of industrial life. Holding, as I do, that this Bill will help the agricultural industry, I maintain that it will help the nation as a whole, and that therefore it deserves support.
§ Major BARNSTON
I hope the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down will not think me presumptuous if I ventured to congratulate him on the very excellent maiden speech he has delivered. As I represent a purely agricultural constituency and as practically every penny I possess comes from agricultural land, I would like to make a few remarks. We must admit that there has been a certain amount of severe criticism of some provisions of this Bill, but I believe that the agricultural community as a whole wants the Bill, and I am grateful to the Government for taking the Second Reading so soon after the Whitsuntide Recess, because I take it to mean that, however great a slaughter of the innocents there may be later on, the Government are determined to pass this Bill through all its stages this Session. The War taught us by bitter experience many things, and if there was one thing more than another that we learnt, surely it was our dangerous dependence on foreign food supplies. During the War the Minister of Agriculture, with the assistance of agricultural committees, got thousands of acres which had gone to grass put under the plough. An hon. Member speaking on Monday said that the agricultural committee had made a certain number of mistakes, and had ordered land to be ploughed which was not suitable for the purpose. I expect they did make mistakes. Does anyone suppose that when you plough up thousands of acres in every county there will not be mistakes? What was the reason for the mistakes? It was that the whole thing was done in a hurry. We had no agricultural policy. One of the advantages of this Bill in future will 481 be that we shall have a real agricultural policy. Every quarter of grain grown in this country, of course, reduces our dependence on foreign supplies, and improves the exchange. As regards the principle of the Corn Production Act, I am perfectly certain it is sound, but I must confess that I very much doubt whether the minimum price suggested is sufficient to enable the farmer to resist the temptation of putting his land back to grass. He has the memory of an experience which was not always happy, and he has also the difficulty of labour. By that I do not mean the cost of labour, because I for one very much rejoice that agricultural labourers to-day do not get the miserable pittances they received some years ago. In some counties even to-day it is very difficult to get anything like a sufficient amount of good agricultural labour.
Exception has been taken to-day, and no doubt will be taken in Committee, to some of the powers which these agricultural committees will have. A good many farmers and a good many landowners would like to cripple those committees. As a matter of fact, I believe their powers are somewhat mitigated by this Bill. But of course they will not be the same committees—they will be the committees appointed by the Act passed by this House last Session. Although I think the powers of the committees ought to be very carefully scrutinised, yet at the same time, if you have a guaranteed minimum price, you must in justice have some guarantee that there is to be good husbandry also. I will make one or two comments on the second part of the Bill dealing with security of tenure. In agriculture you want three kinds of security. First, you want to secure the farmer from a hard a rapacious landlord. Secondly, you want to secure the landowner from a rotten farmer; and, thirdly, you want to secure the State from the possible slackness of an indifferent farmer. Most people will agree that in these days there is no room for an indifferent landowner or a bad farmer. I believe we are giving protection to the farmer by giving protection to the capital he has placed in the land.
Under Clause 7 there can in future be reasonable increases or decreases of rent. I do not think, as a matter of fact, that many farmers, certainly in the case of 482 the big old estates, will want to have any arbitration on the matter of rents, and those of us who know country life know perfectly well that a great many of the big old estates are very lowly rented to-day. Still, if a farmer is being rack-rented he has his chance of getting the rent made fair. As I understand this Clause, if a landowner gives notice to his tenant, not for bad farming or for breach of condition or refusal to have an adjustment of rent or for bankruptcy, that landowner will have to pay to the tenant certain compensation. I think in the interests of all agriculturists and of incoming tenants those compensations should be carefully scanned. There is a provision as to payment of compensation for unexhausted improvements, and I do not suppose that anyone will object to that or would wish that any tenant farmer who has improved his farm should not get every sixpence by which he has improved it. I thoroughly subscribe to that principle, and I remember many years ago pledging myself to such a reform. The tenant would also possibly get compensation for continuous good farming. I entirely support that, but at the same time I think it should work the other way and that there should be compensation to the landowner for continuous bad farming because after all bad farmers are like bad sailors on shore, you never meet in this world a bad farmer. I have as much acquaintance with farmers as any Member of the House, or possibly more than most Members, and I am very fond of them. I have got a property of my own, and I am a trustee of another property. Whenever I talk to any farmer he always tells me, "When I took this farm it was a desert, but by my own exertions I have converted it into a garden." With regard to compensation for capricious eviction I think that is a case which very seldom occurs and no reasonable man would take any exception to a farmer getting three or four years' extra compensation if the notice was served in a capricious way.
I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Pretyman) on the question of the year's rent, and I think that should be left to the discretion of the arbitrator. After all, landlords very often sell only because they cannot carry on. I remember a case near my own home of an estate with a name very much respected there and very much respected here, that is the Glad- 483 stone estate. A few years ago the trustees of that estate had to sell their property, and they did what I thought was an exceedingly wise thing. They sent a statement to all their tenants explaining exactly their charges and their outgoings, and expressing regret that the time had come when they could not carry on. We must also remember that a tenant on his side, if he sees a better farm or what he considers to be a more commodious and prosperous place, can go at the end of a year's notice. Therefore I think the question of this year's rent should be left to the discretion of the arbitrator. One can conceive cases in which it would be perfectly fair to give the year's rent. Take, for instance, the case of a man who takes a farm at a somewhat high rent and that the farm is what we call in Cheshire a very rough place. He spends money and an amount of time and energy on it, and the farm is then suddenly sold and he cannot buy it. In a case of that sort it might be quite fair for the arbitrator to give him a year's rent. Take the other case of a man who has been on one of the old estates and has had a cheap farm for a great number of years. He is getting on in life and would probably soon retire. In many of these estates, what has happened has been that with every acre of land the man has been given a present owing to the rent. In that instance, is the man to have an additional year's rent simply because he has to leave, when in a year or two he would have left in the ordinary course? Clause 14 deals with the constitution of the panel of arbitrators, and the farmers are very properly represented by the National Farmers' Union, but there is no direct representative of the landlords. I would suggest that possibly the Land Agents' Society or some such body should represent the landowners. There is one point which is not touched on by the Bill, and that is as to the tenant who buys his farm in open auction. I have always felt it would be fairer and more satisfactory if the compensation was agreed on before the auction took place, and then he should know exactly where he stood, and how much compensation he was going to get. For my part, I warmly approve of the main features of the Bill. No doubt, in details it will have to be altered, and possibly farmers themselves would differ on it. I believe the Bill is an honest 484 desire and a sound attempt to encourage farmers. I believe it is a sound attempt to enable us to grow more wheat in this country, and that it will encourage the farmers of the country to farm on a high standard of cultivation, and in that way improve agriculture, which is to-day not only our greatest industry, but the industry upon which all others depend.
§ Sir ROBERT THOMAS
I do not propose to address the House as a farmer, which I am, or as a landlord, which I also am, but as the representative here of the Welsh National Farmers' Union. I regret that the Welsh National Farmers' Union was not represented on the Royal Commission for the reason that Wales is a nation of smallholders. There are in Wales 40,000 farms under 50 acres. Wales is not a grain producing country, and you cannot legislate for and consider in a Royal Commission the case of the smallholder at the same time as that of the large farmer. In the first place, the smallholder has no accommodation on his farm for the storage of grain. That is the position in Wales, and that has been the difficulty during the years of war. When the orders for cultivation were made the Welsh smallholder, under the ploughing order, had to turn over land and grow grain. He had to sell that grain regardless of the condition of the market at the price obtainable as quickly as possible after harvesting, for the reason that he had no storage accommodation. In this Bill there is provision as to repairs to farm buildings, but there is no provision whatever for the building of granaries; and what is the use of formulating proposals for a nation of smallholder without the necessary accommodation for the storage of grain. Another reason why Welsh farmers object to this Bill is that you are forcing them to become grain growers where the climate of the country is not suitable for the growing of grain. Wales cannot grow wheat; we grow a little oats, but we cannot grow wheat to advantage. That aspect of the matter has not, I submit, been properly considered by the Royal Commission. There was one member from Wales on the Royal Commission, and I understand he signed the minority Report. If there had been a Royal Commission for Wales alone, I think it would have been found that the representatives of Wales would have been against the recommendations put forward by the right 485 hon. Gentleman. We do not want control, and we do not want prices fixed in Wales. The Welsh farmer is a thrifty individual, and he has always been able to make a little money. Therefore, we do not want any prices fixed, and We prefer to depend upon the ordinary supply and demand. We certainly do not want control with these vexatious regulations and penalties. I think there are five of them. There is a penalty for paying wages less than the minimum of £20 and £1 per day, and for not complying with notice to cultivate in the manner prescribed £20 an £1 per day, and for false statements in claiming minimum six months or £50. Regulations of that sort for smallholders who are deacons in chapels and who are men who would not willingly commit an offence absolutely bewilder and dismay them, and they cannot understand them.
Perhaps it is not recognised, but it ought to be recognised by my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who happens to be one of my constituents and who lives in Wales, that many of these Welsh farmers cannot speak the English language. I hope these numerous orders and penalties will be printed in the Welsh language, so that they may understand them at all events, but we do not want prices fixed, and we do not want control. If you are going to have these controls. let us have nationalisation and be done with it; either let us have freedom, or let us go the whole hog. According to the Bill, there are three Commissioners and another multitude of officials, of course. There is to be a Commissioner for Ireland, a Commissioner for Scotland, and a Commissioner for England, whereas there is not to be a Commissioner for Wales at all. If you are going to have all these Commissioners, why leave Wales out? Why not have a Commissioner for Wales who can speak the Welsh language and who understands the Welsh people, and not be governed by an English official and molested by an English official who knows nothing about Wales at all? And why not have a separate Wages Board for Wales? That is another important matter about which Wales is deeply concerned, but we are absolutely disregarded. We are made to do things we are not suited to do, and when we are made to do these things we are controlled by other people who know nothing at all about us, and it is really high time that 486 the Government should pay a little attention to sentiment. In Wales we are chockfull of sentiment. We cannot live without it in Wales, and, if I may respectfully say so, if a little more attention had been paid to Irish sentiment, we should not be in the difficulty with Ireland that we are in now. Welsh people are very much like Irish people; we are all Celts, and we do not like to be disregarded, and we do like attention being paid to our little fads even if they are not believed in by our Saxon friends.
There is one thing which I will say in conclusion, and that is in regard to the question of security of tenure. I recognise under the Bill that there is to be compensation for a man who is turned out of his farm. I doubt very much whether that can be enforced, and I think a form of agreement could be contrived whereby the farmer would be done out of his compensation; but compensation will not satisfy the man in Wales who for centuries has lived on a small holding—the man who has been born, whose father was born, and whose great-grandfather was born, on a small holding. No compensation will suit that man if he has to clear out; and, therefore, I think this Bill ought to be amended in the sense that a man ought not to be turned cut of his farm unless it can be proved either that he has not paid his rent or that he has failed to cultivate his farm in a satisfactory manner. Otherwise there should be absolute security, and unless you get security, and unless you get the farmer absolutely satisfied that he is going to remain on his holding, you cannot expect him to put capital in the holding and develop the farm as he should do. This guarantee against a serious loss is really laughable. What man wants to be secured against a serious loss? If it was to secure a man for a serious profit I could understand it, but to secure a man against a serious loss, what inducement is that to any farmer to increase his production? I submit that this is trifling with a great and powerful industry, and I think that in the interests of production, of the farming community, and of the labourers, the Government had better withdraw their Bill altogether and leave well alone.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
I feel sure that after the speech of the hon. Gentle- 487 man who has just sat down, his constituent, the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary, will have some hesitation in voting for him at the next election. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied with the course of this Debate. So far as I have listened to it, it has resulted in a chorus of disapproval in reference to most of the provisions of the Bill. I agree that all of us who take part in this Debate should approach it from the national standpoint. We all of us know how serious is likely to be the food situation in this country during the coming years, and it is essential that every effort should be made to increase the production of food, and it is from that standpoint that I propose to examine this Bill, and I do so with particular reference to the Scottish interests concerned. I regret, in the first instance, that there is no separate Bill for Scotland. Scottish conditions are in many instances different from those obtaining in England—Scottish customs, Scottish habits, Scottish procedure, Scottish tenure—and I venture to say that there are other Scottish Members who agree with me that we ought certainly to have had a separate Bill for Scotland. I ventured to press that myself on the Secretary for Scotland, and I believe that other Members did the same, but I am surprised that there is no Scottish representative of the Government on the Treasury Bench to-day. We have had the Lord Advocate to-day running in and out, but giving no attention to the Debate, and I suggest that it is not treating Scottish Members or the interests of Scotland with respect.
The demands of Scottish agriculturists are different from those of English agriculturists. The last speaker pointed out that the views of the National Farmers' Union of Wales were different from those of the National Farmers' Union of England, and that is equally so in respect of Scotland. What is the most important essential to increased production? I venture to say that it is complete security of tenure to the farmer, and that is the view held by the Scottish National Union of Farmers, who were not as a body consulted, so far as I am aware, about this Bill. I venture to suggest to the Government that this Bill does not give the com- 488 plete security of tenure to the farmer that is demanded by the farmer. The right hon. Gentleman in the course of his remarks in introducing the Bill, said that the keynote of the Bill was security and that there should be complete security to the farmer, and in answer to a question that I put him in the course of his speech, he gave what were his reasons for assuming that this Bill gave the farmer complete security of tenure. The National Farmers' Union of Scotland expected complete security of tenure in this Bill, having regard to the speech that was made by the Prime Minister at the Caxton Hall on the 21st October, 1919, and if the House will permit me I will read a sentence from that speech in order to support my argument. The Prime Minister referred to cases where the farmer required special protection, and he said:The first is where the farm is sold over his head to another landowner and where the new man may either want it himself or may want to sell it and make money out of it.He goes on to say:In those cases the farmer needs protection and must get it, and therefore it is proposed that he shall be secured in his tenancy unless the land is sold either for public purposes or a case can be made that he is a bad cultivator.The right hon. Gentleman, the Parliamentary Secretary, referred to these particular cases in his speech in introducing the Bill, and said:We are dealing with new landowners, and we are dealing with the land speculator, who does not want to cultivate at all, who wants to buy and sell again with free occupation, and that gentleman is doing a great deal of harm, and is inflicting the very gravest injustice on many most deserving tenant farmers. In that way the disturbance is capricious, and, where it is contrary to good estate management, where we should say it was thoroughly unjustifiable, in those cases the arbitrator may give, not only loss or expense directly attributable to the quitting, but as much as four years' rent in addition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th June, 1920; Cols. 88 and 89; Vol. 130.]That is the security of tenure suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, but not that suggested by the Prime Minister at the Caxton Hall. The Prime Minister said quite deliberately that in that case the tenant farmer would be secured in his tenancy. Within the Bill, so far as I have been able to study it, there is not that security of tenure which, in the opinion certainly of many of us and of the 489 National Farmers' Union, is essential to good farming in Scotland. When I asked the right hon. Gentleman where the security was in that case, he replied that the security which the farmer had is first of all that most people would hesitate before turning him out, and in the second place that he could walk off with a considerable sum of money and very likely get a better farm than he had before; but not even the right hon. Gentleman would suggest that that is securing that farmer in his tenancy, and it is on that account that I submit to the House that the promise made by the Prime Minister in his Caxton Hall speech has not been fulfilled in this Bill. I venture to say that amongst the bulk of Scottish farmers there will be deep disappointment with the contents of Part 2 of this Bill. If Part 2 of the Bill had contained the real security of tenure that they were promised by the Prime Minister, there would unquestionably have been much more likelihood of increased production than under any of the provisions of Part 1 of the Bill. What is to be the effect of Part 1 in Scotland? Hon. Members have shown that it is very unlikely that any additional number of acres will be brought under the plough. So far as the poor and doubtful land in Scotland is concerned, I venture to say that this Bill will have no effect at all. It is not even logical. As has been pointed out, if wheat and oats are to be guaranteed under this Bill, why not guarantee the prices of other farming? What about sheep-breeding, or stockbreeding, or dairy-farming? If this Bill is to be logical, and particularly so far as Scotland is concerned, all these other farm products ought to be guaranteed at the same time. The right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) said that we could not count on the continuance of the guaranteed prices. If that is so, what is the use of Part 1 at all? What is the use of proceeding with a Bill which, in the view of experienced agriculturists such as the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and in the view of ex-Ministers who have spoken from this side, is in no way likely to achieve the object it sets out to do?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I suggest that if it were converted into a sliding scale of wages and prices, it would be effective at present.
I agree; but there is no suggestion at all in this Bill that that particular method should 490 be carried out, and I doubt very much whether it would be possible to amend the Bill in that respect. At any rate, it is not the suggestion of the Government. They have not had it in mind in framing this Bill. I venture to say that it would be much better for the Government to drop the guaranteed prices and to introduce—I am speaking so far as Scotland is concerned—a real system of security of tenure, which my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate, whom I am glad now to see sitting on that Bench, has advocated so consistently in his Division in Scotland throughout a considerable number of years. This Bill introduces an army of inspectors. They are bound to increase more and more in number every year—inspectors who would be enriching the country very much more if they were tilling the land themselves, rather than introducing and maintaining a system of control which cannot be beneficial to agriculture. The Government, I presume, intend to proceed with this Bill. So far as Scotland is concerned, there are certain Amendments which some of us will endeavour to introduce into the Bill in order to make it more acceptable and more workable than it is. I do not propose to detain the House with any reference at length to any of these Amendments, but there is one to which I think I might draw the attention of the Lord Advocate, and it is this: There is a feeling that in all cases to be settled on appeal, the Land Court should be the final court of appeal, and not the Court of Session. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take that into consideration, and that an Amendment will be put down to that effect. It is too late to ask the Government to withdraw this Bill and proceed with a simpler Bill with no system of control, but with real security of tenure. Had they done so, I feel perfectly certain that a Bill of that nature would have been received with unanimous support by the tenant farmers of Scotland, and that every effort would have been made under a Bill of that nature to increase the food production of Scotland.
§ Major O'NEILL
The right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill has been made the target for a great many criticisms from all quarters of the House, and I congratulate him upon the tranquility and calm complacency with which he has 491 received them. While I am on congratulations, may I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Irish Department of Agriculture upon his elevation to the Irish Privy Council, which took place the other day? All of us who have the interests of Ireland at heart know what excellent work he has done in the conduct of his Department since he was appointed to it a year or so ago. I remember only last year that Members of this House interested in agriculture were getting up day after day and week after week asking when the Government's agricultural policy was going to be brought forward, and they were urging—and rightly urging—upon the Government the vital necessity of having a large and comprehensive agricultural policy for the country. The Agricultural Commission was appointed, and it is largely upon the recommendations which that Commission put forward that this Bill is based. Yet, when the Bill has come before the House, there has been heard, particularly from the agricultural experts in the House, nothing but the severest criticism, if, indeed, it has not been condemnation. I am no expert in agriculture, and I shall deal with the Bill purely from the point of view of some of its larger considerations. I am not going to refer in detail to the necessity for a Bill of this kind. As many hon. Members have stated, it was the War which proved the necessity for a comprehensive agricultural policy in this country. It was the War and the German submarines, and the fact that these submarines very nearly starved this country out of existence which make a Bill of some kind absolutely necessary and vital. I welcome, personally, the guaranteed prices and the continuance of the Agricultural Wages Board. We had a fine old conservative speech this afternoon from the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert). From beginning to end, it was redolent of the land, and I must say when I listened to it—and I listened to it with very great pleasure, and with a very great deal of agreement—I could not help thinking that it was curious that these staunch old Tory doctrines should have been put forward by a right hon. Gentleman who is a member of the Free 492 Liberal Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon.
§ Major O'NEILL
I think, possibly, that that gives greater weight to any remarks he may make in this House At any rate, he did speak good old Tory principles so far as the land is concerned. And the only comments of a very advanced type which have appeared in Debate have come rather from those who belong to the old Conservative party, and who, of course, have among their number many who are experts in agriculture I, of course, am going to speak upon this Bill primarily in so far as it affects Ireland, and, before I come to a few details, I should like very strongly to remind this House of the enormous importance of Irish agriculture to the United Kingdom, when we are considering the question of whether or not this country is to remain self-supporting in any future war. Ireland is, you may say, the most powerful agricultural part of the United Kingdom, and if the country is to be self-supporting, it must largely be from the produce of the great agricultural districts in Ireland. And they did serve you well as regards agricultural produce during the War. I would warn hon. Members opposite, who are inclined sometimes to consider the question of the complete independence of Ireland with equanimity, to remember that, in any future war, quite apart from any military considerations, you will have the very vital fact, that upon the agricultural districts of Ireland the great population in the country depends to a very large extent for its food supplies. But Ireland is chiefly a cattle-producing country. Personally, if it were possible, I should like to see Ireland producing more wheat. There was a time, many years ago, when parts of Ireland were great wheat-producing districts, and where the milling industry was a great and powerful industry. I am afraid I cannot say that I think this Bill will have the effect of encouraging wheat production in Ireland. At the same time, by giving these guarantees, it will, I hope, to a certain extent lead to greater tillage in that country, and I cannot see why there should not be more production of wheat in Ireland.
There is one point to which I should like to draw my right hon. Friend's 493 attention, and that is with regard to guaranteed prices so far as they affect Ireland. I think it is the fact that prices of agricultural produce in Ireland are always somewhat lower as quoted in the "Dublin Gazette," than they are as quoted in the "London Gazette." The prices in this Bill, upon which eventually payment may have to be made, are quoted from the "London Gazette." That being so, the Irish producer might find himself in this position, that the London prices upon which the guarantee becomes operative may be just on the limits which will mean that no subsidy will have to be paid, whereas the Dublin prices at that time will be below the limit on which the subsidy becomes payable; consequently the Irish producer, although his produce will only fetch the Dublin prices, will not come in for any subsidy, because the equivalent price on this side of the water will be upon a line which will make it illegal to pay the subsidy. I hope in Committee it may be possible to rectify this matter.
This Bill, as a matter of fact, only applies to Ireland in regard to Part I. The Clauses which have been so severely criticised, the Clauses which enjoin proper cultivation and which give these very large powers of entry and the management of estates—to which so much objection has been taken—do not apply to Ireland—and I cannot say I am sorry. I do not know why they do not apply to Ireland. When my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary speaks again perhaps he will tell me why this is so. But Part II., although it does not apply to that part of the country from which I come, is so important, from an agricultural view-point, that I intend to say a few words upon it. In so far as the matters with which Part II. deals are important, we, in Ireland, are miles ahead of Great Britain. Few Members of this House probably remember all the Irish Land Bills which have passed through Parliament in past years. In Ireland to-day they have got what used to be called the "Three F's"—that is to say, fixity of tenure, freedom of sale, and fair rent. All these things, which were agitated for in years gone by, have been granted to Ireland. I should be the last to say that anything of the kind could be extended to this country, because, if it was, it would inevitably have the result of that which has happened in 494 Ireland, namely, that the very granting of the "Three F's" would lead automatically to a system of dual ownership. From dual ownership would flow one of two things—I take only the good results—either there would be nationalisation, or schemes of land purchase.
What happened in Ireland was that owing to the intolerable and impossible position which was created under dual ownership the only alternative, and the only solution, was the solution of a large and widespread measure of land purchase which has had this beneficent result—in my opinion it is a beneficent result—that it has transferred the agricultural land of th country from the old landlords to the tenants, and it has created, and is still creating, peasant proprietorship. I would not like to say whether or not such a state of affairs would be desirable in Great Britain. The hon. Gentleman, who represents a Scottish constituency, and who spoke on Monday, said he was a tenant farmer himself, and further that he would like to see the establishment of occupying owners as a general principle, at any rate, throughout Scotland. If ever it came to a question as to whether there should be nationalisation of land in Great Britain, or a scheme which was to make the occupying tenants the owners of their land, such as has been done in Ireland, personally I have no doubt whatever that a scheme of land purchase which created a proprietorship of the actual occupiers of the soil would be in every respect infinitely preferable, infinitely better for agriculture, and infinitely better for this country as a whole than any system of nationalisation. Whether that will come or not the future can only tell. But I do see in Part II. of this Bill the thin end of the wedge of a system which in Ireland has led inevitably to land purchase.
Some hon. Members have offered criticisms that this is purely a tenant farmers' Bill and that the occupying owner is in some way penalised by it. I cannot see that. Surely all these Clauses which deal with improvements and attempt to set up fair rents, compensation for disturbance, and so on, are not necessary in the case of people who are themselves occupying owners? If a man carries out improvements on his own land, there is no question but that those 495 improvements go to benefit him and him alone. He does not pay rent, so there can be no question of settling the rent for him. As he is the owner of the soil there can be no question of giving him compensation for disturbance. One further point in Part II. I should like to mention, and that is the provisions containing the powers of a receiver who takes over property which is badly managed. I know that such a provision was in vogue in parts of Germany before the War, and so far as I know, so far as the country is settled and free from the revolutionary upheavals through which it has gone, it still remains in force. In parts of North Germany it was the custom for the Government to take over control of landed properties where it was clear they were being hopelessly mismanaged. I know of one case in Mecklenburg where a large landed property had been badly managed and was overburdened with debt and mortgages. The Government receiver stepped in and managed that estate for the owner for many years, the result being that he pulled it round, and that certainly did not only benefit the property of the landowner, but it helped the food production of the country. I wonder if the President of the Board of Agriculture has considered this aspect of the matter. Presumably a receiver would only be put in where the property was in a thoroughly bad state, but it is nearly always the fact that when a property has reached a stage of this sort, where repairs are not kept up, cottages allowed to go to ruin, fences unrepaired, and so on, the reason is there is not enough money for the landlord to pay for these things. How is it proposed that a receiver put in by the Government shall pull round property when there is no money with which to do it? Is there to be any charge upon the State? Are the Government going to advance money for these receivers to manage these derelict properties, or how is it to be carried out? I do not know. If this is properly carried out, and if money is available to make these derelict bad estates better under a receivership, then I do think, from experience in other countries, there is something to be said for it.
I should like to add a word of warning in regard to guaranteed prices. To-day by this Bill here, in this House, we are promising to pay a subsidy on agriculture 496 in certain events in future years. This Bill does not secure that subsidy for ever. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. G. Lambert) very aptly stated that the subsidy was terminable after four years. Whether it is terminable or not, to-day, when the prices of produce are fair and above those contemplated by the Bill, there is a very great deal of very determined opposition to that principle. But do we realise what may be the attitude of this House if and when the prices of produce have fallen below the prices mentioned in the Bill, and when the Government possibly have to pay many millions in subsidy to the farmers and other occupiers of land in this country? We have heard a great deal of criticism—and proper criticism—as to the railway subsidy, the bread subsidy, and all the thousand and one subsidies that have been paid, and I can very well foresee that when it comes to a question of actually paying this guarantee, which we are now undertaking, a much more difficult position may arise in this House. I would, therefore, in view of such a contingency, where this House might be unwilling actually to part with money—though to-day it is willing enough to guarantee it—in view of a possible position of that sort, urge agriculturists throughout the United Kingdom to remain prepared and ready to meet such an emergency—if it should arise! I myself am greatly in favour of the creation of farmers' unions throughout the country. I think they have done very good work. Knowing in my own part of the country the farmers' unions which have arisen only during the last year or so, and since the War, I can say that they have secured for farmers and agriculturists generally a good many advantages, which, so long as they were not united, they were unable to obtain. So it is, in my view, extremely important that farmers and all engaged in agriculture, in spite of the promise of the subsidy we have in this Bill, should remain upon their guard, organise themselves to be ready and prepared, whatever difficulties and possible dangers to their position the future may bring forth.
§ Mr. ROYCE
I am not surprised at the general expression of opinion with regard to this Bill on the side of its probable fulfilment and the principle reason for its promotion, which is a greater production of corn. I have not heard one hon. Member say that he thought it would 497 result in a greater corn production in this country, although I have heard a good many speakers say that it will not result in the production of one single extra acre under corn. I hope it will. It has my very best wishes, and anything that can be productive of good to the agricultural industry will have my warmest support. In connection with Part I of the Bill, a good deal has been said with regard to a minimum price. I am not sure that the 68s. mentioned in the Bill is a minimum price. I can see the possibility of that 68s. being placed at a lower figure. It forms a basis for computing the cost of production, but if the cost of production falls then no longer will the 68s. be paid.
I regard the position, from the farmers' point of view, as very unsatisfactory in- deed, because if, as at present, the farmer is receiving so much less than the world price to-day—I think I am right in saying that he is receiving something like 37s. a quarter less than the price the farmer receives in America—if that is so and if the price is based on the 68s., and he remains in the same relative position he does to-day, he will be just as much hurt as the taxpayer would be by the reference that the hon. Member has made should the world price fall. We want a system which would bring the poor lands into arable cultivation, a method by which the good farmer on poor land would benefit equally with the good farmer on good land, and that could be secured by the substitution of something in the nature of a bounty on acreage grown. It seems to me that that would ensure great arable cultivation. It may be possible, in conjunction with the Bill now before the House, that a system of acreage bounties may be introduced in addition, but I feel quite certain that a bounty on acreage would be more certain to produce corn at the present time than the fixed minimum price laid down in this Bill.
It would also have the advantage that it would remove much of what is now regarded as obnoxious control. Under the system I suggest the farmer would be paid in January for the corn or other cereals he had sown in the autumn of the preceding year, and after that he would have a perfectly free market. He would sell his corn, and conduct his business generally in his own way, and thereby I 498 am quite sure that not only would it result in a greater production of cereals but also in much greater satisfaction among the farming population, because, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), who knows as much of farming as any man in England, said, the farmer on poor land would have an opportunity, if this bonus or premium was fixed for a period that would be at all commensurate with the risk of breaking up the land, of bringing some of those poor lands under arable cultivation.
I am sure the Bill will pass a Second Reading as it stands, and the efforts of hon. Members will probably be concentrated on improving it in Committee. So far as I am concerned, I could find considerable room for improvement in this respect, under Part II. especially, and I should like to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that there are certain omissions that he might very well take into consideration and have them introduced into this Bill. One of them relates to agricultural transport. I know quite well that the right hon. Gentleman will tell me that that is a subject for the Minister of Transport, and so it is, but he has made no provision in this Bill for the purpose of obtaining land to build any light railways that may be decided upon. I would like to bring to the right hon. Gentleman's particular notice that it would be well, when he is taking such care to guard the interests of tenants, to insert provisions by which, at any rate at a reasonable cost, land can be obtained for the purpose of railway construction. This question has a very important bearing in my part of the country.
Then there are the powers under the old Defence of the Realm Act administration, under which certain powers were given to county agricultural committees to make monetary advances to farmers, and, so far as the experience of my part of the country is concerned, it was a great success, because every penny advanced was repaid, and those advances were of great benefit to the farmers who were not in a position to cultivate their land as they ought to have done. Something of that kind might very well be pursued further in the absence of the institution of Land Banks, because the county agricultural committees would 499 never lose the Government's money. Certain powers might be inserted to enable such advances to be made, subject to the approval of the Board of agriculture.
There is another provision which might very well be put in as an Amendment, by which premiums shall be made illegal paid by those rich men who desire to get possession of farms. In your Housing Bill you have made it illegal to pay key money, and certainly premiums ought to be abolished. My reason for making this suggestion, and the others I have introduced, is that I want to see more men on the land. I want to see the tenant farmer protected, and everyone does, because we all realise his value and the great benefit he has been to the nation during the recent severe trial, but do not protect him at the expense of stopping progress in other directions. What will be the effect, for instance, of this Bill on the obtaining of land for small holdings and allotments? I can see the effect upon any possible extension of small holdings and allotments if, when you seek to obtain a piece of land, you have to pay the man anything that he may decide he has suffered in a pecuniary sense, and, in addition, you have to give him a bonus of a year's rent at least, and it may be four years. That is a very serious matter, because the necessity for small holdings is very great.
I know that a great deal of agitation has been going on throughout the country of late in consequence of the alleged, and, in some instances, the real, injury done to farmers by speculators buying land, although I think this has been a little overdone. I for one do not regard the transfer of land from huge blocks into the hands of numerous holders as being altogether disastrous to the country. I should like to see the land held by more men. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down outlined what the system of present proprietorship has produced in Ireland. I do not say that it should be produced by the same means here, but if it brings a greater number of people on to the land, it seems to me it can only be for good. This Bill will not do anything in that direction, but it will prevent it. A county council desiring to obtain land for ex-service men will be subject to all the fines and penalties of 500 a bad landlord. A county council desiring to create small holdings or allotments will be subject to these penalties.
Let me give a case to illustrate how dangerous this legislation is that is now being introduced. A piece of land 50 acres in extent was held by an old bachelor, who held, in addition, several other farms. The land came into the market, and a philanthropic farmer, who had not lost anything in consequence of the late War, bought the land. Probably he wanted to make some restitution, and he purchased it with the philanthropic intention of cutting it up into smaller lots, and selling it at the cost price to ex-service men. The tenant in possession of this land was quite able to buy it if he had desired to do so, but he did not, and it was bought for these ex-service men. Under this Bill the sitting tenant, the man who did not buy the land when he might have bought it, will be able to claim damage for interference and also 12 months rent. Who is going to pay it? Are the returned soldiers, who are going to benefit, to pay this money? Is the philanthropic gentleman who bought the land or the man who sold the land without any knowledge of this legislation going to pay it? I would suggest that Clause 7 of the Bill should not apply in any case where the land under notice has been sold.
I would like to give another case as a further illustration. A farm was sold to a county council for soldier settlers. The notice expires on the 6th April next. The price has already been arranged, and I may say that the tenant, who has been dispossessed, farmed the land very indifferently. Under this Bill this farmer, who has farmed the land badly, and who has had to give way for the sake of introducing soldier settlers, and who was a bad farmer, will be able to demand compensation for disturbance, and in addition to that a year's rent. Is that the sort of legislation we are going to pass? I hope not. There is another subject in the Bill with which the House would hardly be in general agreement, and which constitutes a very great danger in itself. The Evesham system has been eulogised in this House. I daresay it works well under certain conditions, especially when the fruit industry is in so prosperous condition as it has been during recent years. Farmers generally have been very prosperous, at any rate, 501 all except those on the extraordinarily poor lands described by my hon. Friend opposite. Generally speaking, farmers have been very prosperous during recent years, but their prosperity has been small by comparison with that of the fruit farmer. Under this much eulogised Evesham system a tenant who desires to plant fruit trees can do so, and possibly at the time of planting, and certainly after a year or two, the fruit trees will have greater value than the land itself. The position of the landowner who happens to have a mortgage on his land and to have that mortgage called in, would be very unhappy indeed, for he could not sell, he could not buy the tenant out, and he would be beneath the upper and the nether millstone. Consequently, before the right hon. Gentleman makes this the law of the land. I hope he will take this matter into consideration and adopt such steps as will prevent a man being forced into a position such as I have attempted to describe.
There are other matters in the Bill with which I am not in accord, and in regard to which I hope there will be some improvement. Section 16 practically asks the tenant to plough up grass land. I have no doubt there are quite a number of tenants very anxious to plough up grass land, especially some of the rich grass land with which the right hon. Member for Chelmsford is very well acquainted. No doubt we shall be told by the Minister that if a tenant does plough up such land the matter will be referred to arbitration. Quite so. It might be possible to get judgment in favour of the man to whom the grass belongs—land which may have been under grass for hundreds of years, but it does not follow that even if you do get judgment against the tenant that that judgment can be executed. Therefore I say this is a very dangerous Clause. There are other reasons why it is dangerous. In a country largely arable, such as that in which I live, the difficulty of supplying children with milk has become very acute. A great deal of grass land has already been ploughed up and in country districts where one would expect that this great necessity for children would be obtainable there is no milk at all to be got. I suggest in this connection that some limit should be laid down, and that no tenant should have a right to plough up grass land unless the amount 502 of grass upon the farm is greater than 10 per cent. of the whole. I am not sure one ought not to make 10 acres, at any rate, the minimum that should be allowed for any farm, because some of the small holdings need this grass very badly indeed and in any sub-division of the farm it would be absolutely necessary that the grass should be there.
Reference has been made to the advantages that have accrued to the agricultural labourers from the Corn Production Act. I am not so sure that they have received any advantage from that Act. Most of the speakers in this Debate have, no doubt, been very kind in their references to the Agricultural Wages Board, but some people think that that Board may have acted as a deterrent to the rapid increase of agricultural wages effected during the period through which we have just passed, and that it may have had something to do with preventing too rapid a rise. Altogether I think the Agricultural Wages Board has been as great a blessing to the farmer as it has been to the agricultural labourer. When we consider what reference the Corn Production Act has to agricultural wages, then I am forced to the conclusion it is very little indeed, as on an average farm the amount of corn produced would never make any great advance in agricultural wages. I think it will be found that other agricultural products have been a big factor in enabling the industry to maintain the wages which have been paid up to the present time. In connection with these other agricultural products I hope the Minister will take into serious consideration whether something cannot be devised by which they also to some extent may benefit by the paternal solicitude which has been exhibited by his Department in connection with the production of cereals. It may be the case at the present time that the farmers do not want it and that there is no necessity for it. For myself I do not think they want the Corn Production Act. They would much rather have the benefit of the world prices now ruling, as they would probably then be getting from 35s. to 37s. per quarter more than they are receiving at the present time. My right hon. Friend shakes his head at that, but I am inclined to think that that would be the effect and, possibly, the figure might be higher. While I am not in favour of allowing prices to go too high in connection with 503 an article which is a necessity for everybody, I would point out that when the time comes that prices are lower, then the farmer will justly point to the fact that during the period of high prices he was not able to benefit by those prices, especially as regards wheat, while in the lean time he is thrown on his own resources. If this Bill can do anything in that direction I shall be very pleased. So far as the general principle contained in this Bill is concerned, it will not affect the land in my part of the country. The Corn Production Act has very little influence there. Mine is an arable county. If you guaranteed a minimum price for potatoes some benefit might accrue to us because, as has already been mentioned by the Member for Kinross (Mr. Gardiner), we can produce all the potatoes this country wants. We do not, however, need control. The controls that have been exercised in the past have irritated the farming community more than the other difficulties which they have had to face, and I say, therefore, that so far as is possible, and as is consistent with a guaranteed minimum, or any other guarantee which the Government may propose to give, let the control be as limited as possible in its application.
Under the Bill it will be possible for a busy executive officer of the County Committee to go to a farm and prescribe what the farmer shall grow. I wonder what would happen if the Board in its wisdom were to decree that the rich lands of Holland should be turned into corn-growing lands. I think that would be greatly resented. We have no guarantee, however, that such an order may not be given under this Bill. It is absolutely necessary that the control should be as little as possible, and that the Bill should more clearly describe what are the functions and powers of the Government under Part I. In the case of the mining industry a man works his mine to what he thinks will be to his best advantage, no matter what type of minerals he proposes to extract. When a farmer farms his farm he wishes to be allowed to do so in the way he thinks will be to his best interest. Therefore, when it becomes a question of defining whether interests will suffer by the imposition of this particular portion of the Act, it will prove a very difficult task under the Bill as it stands at present. The question whether a farmer is 504 injuriously affected or not is a very delicate one. Anybody, no matter what his system of farming may be will claim, if he is interfered with, that he is thereby injuriously affected. The Bill wants considerable overhauling, and I hope that it will emerge from Committee in such a condition as to ensure that it will be productive of benefit to the farming community as a whole.
We want the greatest possible production. The Labour party have been very frequently singled out as a party opposed to the production of food. I think they have been wrongly singled out. I do not believe they have said, at any period of their existence, that the State should not assist in securing greater food production. It would be a suicidal policy if they did that. While they are not in favour of maintaining monopolies, they are in favour of the greatest possible amount of food production both in this cuntry and abroad, as anything which could possibly stop the importation of food would be detrimental to the best interests not only of the urban population, but even of the farming community itself. I trust that the Bill when it leaves Committee will be found to be one that we can all heartily support on the Motion for its Third Reading. In any way in which it may benefit the real interests of agriculture I wish it every success. I trust that the points I have raised, especially those affecting the acquisition of land for small holdings and for allotments, particularly by public authorities—for county councils are concerned in this—will receive serious consideration. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not forget that entry upon the land for railway purposes is necessary in the interests of agriculture, and, further, that he will not forget the advances that have been made by County Committees. In my district, at any rate, they have been a success, and I think he might take into consideration whether he cannot even include such a Clause in the present Bill.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
There has been a good deal of criticism of this Bill, and I think we may welcome as valuable that of the hon. Member who has just sat down, coming, as it does, from a member of the Labour party. I hope that in Committee he will persuade other members of the Labour party to join with him in supporting some of the Amendments he has 505 suggested. There have also been some gloomy predictions, but we have to remember that it is the privilege of the agriculturist to take a gloomy view, and that he is not accustomed to fail even in looking a gift horse in the mouth. I would remind hon. Gentlemen who have been criticising this Bill that it is not consistent at the same time to complain of State control and to look for extended guarantees. If you accept the principle of State guaranteed prices, you must accept State control. I dislike very much the idea of agriculture being controlled, but that is the only means by which guaranteed prices can be given, and in the present position of the country, where, above all, it is necessary that the farming interests should be given sufficient confidence to make certain of continuous food production in the future, I see no other way that can be suggested but the giving of some form of State guarantee in regard to the price of the farmers produce. This Bill offers that guarantee, and tries to obtain the further confidence of the farmer by putting in statutory form the old customs which have existed for so long between landlord and tenant. It may be a clumsy process to try and put in the language of the Parliamentary draughtsman all the systems and all the old customs which have not depended upon any written agreements or definite statutory law, but which have been the result of mutual trust and confidence for many generations. I maintain, however, that some sense of security and some further confidence has to be induced in the farming community, and, so far, no one in the Debate has shown any better means of doing that than by giving some form of guarantee.
It is no use pretending that either landlords or farmers as a class will in every respect like this Bill. It is not, however, made for a class, but is necessary in the interests of the nation. Classes have to go under, and the nation must be thought of first. There are many things, in various parts of the Bill, which I personally, and probably other Members, regret, but that seems to me to be the one answer that can be given; if the general result is going to be a good one, these things have to go. I would warn some of my hon. Friends who have made these criticisms that, if this Bill be not proceeded with, it is possible that they 506 may have another which they may like very much less. Their criticisms may have to be directed against something far more drastic even than this Bill. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. W. R. Smith), who made an able and interesting speech on the previous occasion, contended that, instead of giving guarantees, we ought to improve agricultural education, and that the Government ought to be in a position to increase research and activities of that kind. I did not hear the rest of his speech, owing to the fact that I had to attend a meeting, held in this House, to consider the question which has arisen between the University of Leeds and the Ministry of Agriculture owing to the increased activities of the Government in this very direction. At the very moment that the hon. Member was making his speech I was engaged in dealing with a matter which has arisen directly from the increased activities of the Government. Everyone who has considered the matter knows that this Session we have passed a far larger Estimate for these services than we have ever passed before, and we hope that the Ministry of Agriculture will develop into fuller activity than it has ever before had the opportunity of doing. As regards the statement that it is not necessary to restore the confidence of farmers, which the hon. Member backed up by pointing out that farmers are now buying their farms, I am perfectly certain that all who really understand agricultural problems will agree that farmers have not been buying their farms, at any rate in any large numbers, because they wanted to have them as a commercial proposition, and had confidence in the future of agriculture. It is not a sign of their confidence, but rather of their want of confidence, They have been buying their farms, because they represented the homes in which their families have lived for many generations, and from which they did not wish to depart. Many of them bought most unwillingly, but it was the only way that they saw of getting any sort of security. That is the reason for many of those sales, some of which were on disastrous terms.
There undoubtedly have been good years for farmers, but no one can deny that there is a very considerable uncertainty in the future of farming. One sees the old-fashioned landlords going down; one sees the activities of the land 507 speculator; and one sees the constant rise in wages and shortening of hours. One does not, however, see any certainty unless some form of State guarantee is given as to the price the farmer is going to get for his produce. The uncertainty must be met, and this Bill seems to me to be the only way of meeting it. Mention has been made of the settlement of soldiers on the land. What right have we to tell men that we are going to settle them on the land and open up a career for them, unless we give them some prospect that they are not being deluded into taking up an occupation which will eventually mean disaster for them? As I have said, I regret the amount of State control which these guarantees will involve. No one can pretend that, in accepting them, the farmer is not bartering away his liberty. He will be under the heel of the official at every turn and every point. It is, however, the price he has to pay, and it is the only price on which the country is prepared to give these guarantees.
As regards the prices themselves, as has already been said, they seem to be too low. Of course, we understand that the prices named in the Bill are merely a datum line for fixing the figures for future years. I think the Commissioners have been given an impossible task in being asked to state what the cost of production is year by year. I think it would be far better to do what has been suggested already, namely, to fix a definite datum point—it could be done at once, and could be got more closely now than if it were done year by year—upon which you could base a sliding scale in the future definitely related to the cost of labour. If you could ascertain definitely, as I believe you could, what proportion the cost of labour bears to the cost of growing corn in this country, you would have a definite scale which would give some sort of certainty to the farmer. I do not wish to be disrespectful to the Agricultural Commission, but I attach no value whatever to its opinions. That may be impertinent, but it is my view. We know very little about it, because it debated with closed doors, and therefore is liable to criticism. From what one can hear, it spent more of its time in a sort of rather sleepy dog-fight, the two parties being far too busy making points against each other to arrive at general conclusions 508 of any great value. Personally, I quite understand that there are many farmers in this country who are discouraged by the prices which they see in this Bill, firstly, because they have no confidence in the Agricultural Commissioners; and, secondly, because the prices seem to them to be too low. If this Bill is going to give them that confidence which alone will make for increased production of corn, I suggest that it would be better to set up a Commission to go definitely into the cost of growing corn, perhaps at a rather later date, and to give a line from which to start.
As regards a great deal of what has been said about the right of the Ministry to demand change of cultivation, and also repairs, I think the Bill would be strengthened if it were insisted that, in doing that, the Minister should act in consultation with the Agricultural Commissioners. Obviously, great unfairness might be involved by that Clause, either to the landlord or to the tenant, or to both. As regards putting in a receiver, I think everyone will agree that there are some cases in which that is necessary and desirable, but it must be done with care, and I think there should be some time given before the Order is made definite, and that, if the owner can show sufficient cause, the Order should lapse. In the matter of improvements, it is not safe to leave to the Agricultural Committee the duty of deciding by itself whether the landlord's consent shall be given or not. The Agricultural Committee may be dominated either by one class or by another. I have heard of Agricultural Committees on which there is a large majority of landlords, and also of Committees on which there are a considerable number of tenant farmers. A body of either of those kinds might be called upon to decide a question of this sort, and it would be unfair to them, and certainly might be unfair to the individual whose case was being considered. I do not quite understand the provision under which compensation is charged upon the land. There is an obvious difficulty in seeing where the money is to come from. I do not see, moreover, how that is to be charged on the land in the case of a settlement scheme. I hope some arrangement will be made, otherwise I do not understand how the provision is going to be carried out. Nor do I see why, if a tenant for 509 life has involved himself in a dispute with his tenants, he should be able to saddle that upon his successor. I agree with what has been said about one year's rent. I do not see why, if a tenant farmer is given full compensation for all his loss, and if the landlord has committed no wrong in giving him notice, there should be a time limit. This is a matter on which we shall not have much dispute. I want to see him amply compensated for any loss he may have suffered, but I do not see why there should be anything beyond that. I regret the necessity for a great deal of the Bill. I would far rather see the old customs maintained and the old principles acted upon, but we must realise that circumstances have changed and that conditions are changing every day. To meet this and to get confidence some Measure of this kind is absolutely necessary. It will be the duty of many of those who criticise to try to make the Bill more satisfactory and more complete. I only hope the Minister will give every opportunity of proper Amendment and careful consideration to every part of the Bill. I believe it to be urgently needed and I believe with proper Amendments it will be successful. We cannot have successful food production unless we give confidence to those skilled farmers who have carried on in the past to enable them to remain on their farms, and unless you make it possible for them to do so with success.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WHELER
I agree with my hon. Friend in regretting that this Bill has had to be introduced, but it was a necessary result of promises made and of the situation in which agriculture now finds itself. It has met with an enormous amount of detailed criticism, and that is not in the least to be wondered at considering the subject on which it is based. Our system of agriculture is built up on years of experience under very difficult conditions in every part of the country in which it operates, and the process has been gradually going on of its being brought more under State control, and when we have these Regulations, and we realised during the War that they were essential, we realised that gradually the State was getting a certain control over the land which it had not in the past, we realised that there must be very difficult situations to face because land varies so much in quality from one end of a field to another, and therefore a situation which may be 510 equitable in one part of the country may be entirely unsuitable to another. And yet, of course, the Bill is endeavouring to deal with the situation as regards questions of prices and to regulate prices, and by so doing to give security and confidence to the agricultural community. At present I cannot see in the Bill that there is any great prospect of any increase of arable land. I cannot see what part of the Bill is going to produce it. Taking the question of prices, I do not understand in the least how those prices have been got at, and I would ask my right hon. Friend whether he could give some explanation as to the standard of wages on which they were fixed by the Agricultural Commission, because from all I know the standard of wages at the time was very much lower than to-day or even last year, and I am already getting, in common. I am sure, with many others, questions from agricultural bodies asking what the rate of wages was taken at before they discuss the question themselves. If we are going to get the confidence of the agricultural community in the Bill, which is so essential, it is very necessary that, at any rate, those preliminary points on which farmers undoubtedly want to know so much should be quite plain and that we should have the basis, whether we agree with it or not, on which these minimum prices were fixed.
I want to add a few words to the admirable remarks made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Pretyman) as to the serious conditions which exists to-day on poor land. It was undoubtedly owing to the increased cultivation of that large amount of land, which was really unsuitable in many cases for the purposes it was put to during the War, that we got the increased production of foodstuffs, and a large amount of that land is rapidly deteriorating and going hack to a state which is most unsatisfactory Further than that, the agricultural labourers in those districts, uplands most of them, are rapidly getting out of employment. Even in parts of Kent I know little villages in the uplands where there are two, three, or four young men who would willingly take wages below the standard rate allowed by the Agricultural Wages Board. That, of course, cannot be done. I only give that as an instance of some of the difficulties which we are facing to-day. The reason is perfectly plain, that the land cannot produce per acre anything like the amount 511 that better and lower lands are producing, and, therefore, when you get one standard of wages applied to every part of the land it operates very hardly on inferior qualities of land which, whatever you do in the way of manuring, will not produce the amount that the better lands are producing in other parts even of the same county, with the result that there is a small percentage undoubtedly at present of labouring men who cannot find that permanent employment we all want to see them find. It is a situation which will grow as time goes on, because we can regulate agriculture by law and by regulations, but those uplands which I have in my mind come ever more and more under the influence of weather. They get scorched in the summer very rapidly, and even now the prospects of the crops are not good. The hay crop is probably going to be light, and the man-gold crop a complete failure. Naturally the farmer with an increased wages bill, which I want to see paid, is looking ahead as to the capital he will have from his crops between now and Christmas, and he realises that if this crop and that is a failure he will not have the capital with which to pay the increased wages.
I mention this because I do not see in the Bill anything that is going to do any good to help that sort of land, and that is the land I want to see helped. I believe the good land can hold its own. It can afford to pay high wages. It gets heavy crops and high prices, but there is this large percentage of inferior land which wants special attention from the Ministry of Agriculture if you are going to keep up that increased production and keep the people in those districts, and keep the general industry going in the way you want to see it going. Therefore while I am going to support the Bill, and do all I can to see that we get Amendments which will strengthen it, at the same time, as far as Part 1 is concerned, I have serious doubts as to what good it will do for agriculture as a whole, to bring about that increased production which we all realise is the reason for the introduction of this Bill. We hear reckless people talking of agriculture as if everybody in agriculture were making enormous profits out of it. You may find people who have made money out of agriculture in prosperous districts, but if you are going to include in those pro- 512 sperous districts the inferior land in the bad districts and treat the whole of agriculture as one industry on the same lines as a manufacturing industry, which is under cover and not affected by the weather, it will be found that the land for which I am pleading will go out of cultivation. It will be no use talking about social amenities in those villages, and about doing all we can to encourage people to live there when the land is going back to grass. It is no use bringing to that land the ex-soldiers, because I know of cases now where the county council have bought land and handed it over at a price of only 10s. or 15s. an acre rent to the returned soldiers, and these men are having a very hard time. I do not see how they are going to carry on if this year, as seems likely according to the reports from many parts of the eastern counties, we have a dry summer, and they do not get a bountiful crop in order to make ends meet.
In deference to the Labour party, I would urge them to do what they can to help us to educate town opinion which is often so hostile to agriculture as a whole or, at any rate, looks upon agriculture with a very rosy view. I would ask them to do something to make the town population realise that it is in their own interests that agriculture should receive inspiration. The agricultural landowner—I want to distinguish between the landlord and the agricultural landowner—the tenant farmer, and the agricultural labourer are three persons who must work together. Therefore, in attacking the agricultural landowner, as he is often attacked, and very unfairly attacked, they are not only attacking him, but the tenant farmer and the labour in those districts. What is wanted more than ever in those districts is confidence. Confidence will bring capital, and if we get more capital spent on the land in these poor land districts there is some hope of keeping up cultivation. At the present time capital is not going to those districts. The landowners in those districts are men who are at the present time under heavy taxation and they have to sell, not willingly, because they cannot carry on. There is a point in this Bill which hits them very much. If a forced sale comes along, because in order to meet the requirements of the State they cannot carry on, it seems to me very hard that they should be called upon to pay the tenant 513 farmer one year's rent on any farms they have to sell, in addition to other charges put upon them. That must depreciate the value of agricultural capital in the eyes of anyone seeing that land and realising what is happening, and it means that the future prospects of getting capital into the industry in those districts is depreciated. Therefore, the capital which is essential for the welfare of agriculture in these poor land districts is stopped, and with it the general trend of agriculture must depreciate.
One cannot too strongly realise that the land of England is not raw material. Many people think it is. Moorland may be, but not agricultural land, which has been cultivated. This land has been brought to its present condition and is kept in its present condition by the application of fertilizers and so on, and if the matter is considered on a fair basis one must realise that the cultivated land of England to-day is a manufactured article and as such it must be treated. Beyond that conclusion, we must all remember that there has to be expenditure not only by the tenant farmer but the landowner in improved buildings, improved drainage, and so on, and the man who has put his capital into the industry in this way has as much right to get his capital back as any man in any industrial business when he sells that land to some other person. I hope we shall have the point cleared up in regard to the basis on which the figure of 68s. for wheat and 46s. for oats is put in the Bill. It is essential that we should know how those figures are arrived at. Though two members of the Royal Commission have spoken we have not had any definite explanation how the 68s. was arrived at. The general control of estates is a serious question which must be carefully considered, because it means an official control which may be irksome and serious. It is an entirely new departure and as such must be dealt with in a very careful way. I realise that there is a great difference of opinion as to whether we should have security of capital or security of tenure. I have never yet been able to find out how we can have security of tenure without something in the shape of a Land Court. I cannot speak for the farmers of Scotland, but the bulk of the farmers of England do not want anything in the nature of a Land Court at the present time. 'Therefore some security of 514 capital in the case indicated is essential, and so far as that part of the Bill is concerned I shall give it my support, but I hope at the same time the Clause all round will be carefully considered.
I realise that the Bill is an attempt to deal with a very difficult situation. It has been brought forward, possibly after anxious and difficult times in the Cabinet before a final conclusion was reached. I realise that it is an endeavour to do something to produce a policy for agriculture, though I confess quite frankly it is not as good a policy as one hoped; but it is a policy in which we know where we are better than we know to-day. Judging it as such, I am prepared to do my best, if I happen to be a Member of the Committee, to improve it by Amendment. No doubt, we shall get Amendments from every society interested in agriculture, in addition to the Amendments put down by hon. Members of this House to help to frame the Bill in the way we want to see it framed. I do not see how it is going to increase production. On the other hand, I do see from the increased control a danger of diminished production on poor land. I hope my fears may be groundless, but I am speaking as one who has been farming poor land for many years and who has come through trying times, when we sold wheat at 26s. a quarter. We could not do that to-day. It would be quite impossible on that price to pay wages. I realise the difficulties of the Bill, and I will do all I can to improve it. At the same time, I hope the Minister in charge will give favourable consideration to the Amendments which we consider necessary.
§ Sir HARRY HOPE
The introduction of this Bill is a proof that the welfare and development of agriculture was recognised by the Government to be a matter of pressing national concern. The right hon. Gentleman when introducing the Bill told the House that the land under cultivation in the United Kingdom has decreased by 5,000,000 acres between the years 1870 and 1910. It was no wonder that there was this large decrease when we remember what the prices of produce were in the 'eighties and 'nineties. The worst time was about the year 1894. At that time wheat fell to about 22s. per quarter and oats to about 18s. The economic effect of those prices un- 515 doubtedly was that land went into grass. That great reduction meant a very serious loss to all classes in the agricultural industry. Farmers, workmen and owners all suffered, and the number of men employed on the land showed a decrease of 900,000 according to the census of 1911 as compared with the census of 1871. The right hon. Gentleman also told us that the production of wheat had decreased from 13,000,000 quarters to 7,000,000 quarters in the period from 1879 to 1906. There again there was a tremendous loss, and when we see how those men were turned adrift from the land and sent into the unhealthy conditions in many of our towns, it is no wonder that, when the gigantic War broke out, and the great struggle was thrust upon us, so many of our men came into the C 3 group, and in that alone there is ample justification for the introduction of this Bill.
When we come to consider Part 1 of the Bill, there are two points of view. The first is the farmers' point of view. I represent a Scottish agricultural constituency, and I know perfectly well the farmers of Scotland have not asked for Part 1 of this Bill. They look upon this proposal to guarantee prices with a great deal of suspicion. The Scottish people are a practical people. They always look at both sides of the shilling, and they are not wrong, because they recognise that if prices fall and money has got to be given to make up for this guarantee, it would be very dearly got money. This may come in many directions. We may have questions raised about local rates, railway rates, and other matters mostly connected with the agricultural industry, and therefore they feel that if they ever get any public money under this Bill, their interests will suffer in other directions. Then when farmers come to look at this proposal in Part 1, they see what a very partial method it is of guaranteeing produce. They see that when they consider the conditions in well-known courses in agriculture, for instance, in what is known as the six-course shift. There are only two of the six years of that shift which come under any guarantee according to this Bill. In other words, it is only going to be one-third of the area on which any guarantee can be given, and yet they are going to be responsible for all the expenses of the six years. The 516 other four years of the rotation will be taken up with turnips, potatoes and other crops, and no compensation, no guarantee, is to be paid for the produce of those years. Then when we consider any of the other rotations, we find that under the five-course shift pretty much the same state of affairs exists, and as regards the four-course shift, there, again, there is not more than one-fourth of the area which would come under this guarantee. Then, as we know, roots take about two and a half times as much expense to grow as a corn crop, and under all those methods of agriculture as practised in the country there is to be a subsidy given only in something like 20 per cent. of the area.
No wonder that farmers, as practical men, look upon this particular part of the Bill with a great deal of suspicion. Some people may say, "Let them miss out those parts to which a guarantee is not applicable." We know that in practice the green crops are the difficult crops of agriculture. It is by the cultivation of those crops that the fertility and productivity of the land are maintained. Some of those crops are leguminous crops. There, again, we find that the nitrogen of the air is converted into fertilising agents. Then we find that these crops are the only means by which the land is cleansed. When we see how small is the proportion of the area to which the guarantee is to apply, it is no wonder that an hon. Member, looking at it from the farmer's point of view, said that if there are to be guarantees there should be guarantees for all the crops. I do not say it would be very easy to carry that out in practice, but I do say that barley should be included, as the Royal Commission recommended. Farmers, of course, look with a good deal of fear at the procedure for control. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech on Monday, said:We take the right to take action, first of all, if a farm is not being cultivated according to the rules of good husbandry, and I do not suppose anybody could object to that.I do not think any reasonable man can object. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:Then we propose, secondly, that we may take action if we are satisfied that the production of food on any land can be increased in the national interest by the occupier, by improvement or change in the manner of cultivation or using of land.517 Farmers say that outside people are not as well aware of all the peculiarities and properties of the land as they are, and that to have these outsiders dictating on matters of detail would have a most ruinous effect on the industry. Farming is no haphazard business. It is an industry which has to be carried on in direct touch with the laws of nature. The farmer has to sow before he reaps, in more ways than one. Unless he understands the laws of nature, unless he carries on experimental work for his own instruction—perhaps he may make mistakes and learn better methods—and unless he takes advantage of scientific research, he cannot develop his land to the highest pitch of production. In all that work he fears the interference of outside bodies of men. And no wonder! In all this procedure great care will have to be taken that the work of the skilled agriculturist is not interfered with unduly. I have stated the farmers' view of the position. There is another view, the national view. In the past we have seen prices and production fall to an enormous extent. We have seen rural depopulation take place. The nation must face the facts and guard against any repetition of that state of affairs. With regard to one of the provisions of the Bill, I do not think it can with accuracy be said that the proposal is to guarantee prices. As a matter of fact, what is proposed is a system of insurance, an insurance of the nation against a repetition of the disastrous results of the past. When we see how this is to be carried out, I think all classes in the country will recognise that it is wise to take this step. Just as every prudent individual insures his property against fire or other mishaps, or insures against workmen's compensation claims, so we recognise that it is wise for the country to insure itself against a repetition of the disaster which occurred in the eighties and nineties.
Part II. of the Bill provides for security of tenure. In the past we have had large estates owned by old families. Tenants on those estates have had what you might say was ample security of tenure, and the owners held the estates in a manner not only creditable to themselves but most beneficial to the nation at large. They deserve all the credit and all the thanks of the community for having held their land in such an unselfish manner. This Bill provides for giving statutory security 518 of tenure. I have always been in favour of security of tenure. Next to occupying ownership it is an ideal to be aimed at. Nine years ago I introduced into this House a Bill for setting up, by a system of arbitration, a scheme of tenure which would have enabled all occupiers of land to obtain security. Therefore I look with quite friendly eyes upon a proposal that security of tenure should be given in a direct way. But we have to consider this question from all points of view. It will never do to give security of tenure to anything such as a Land Court. We do not want to close the door against new men becoming occupiers of farming land. I think the proposals in the Bill on the whole may be considered as amply fulfilling the words and the spirits of the Prime Minister's speech at the Caxton Hall. A practical result, of the passing of the measure will be that arbitration will be greatly encouraged between the landlord and his tenant. The Bill provides also for a system of compensation. What we want is to encourage the putting of capital into the land. There is one point to which I would like to direct attention. In many cases where the buildings were in poor condition the leases were renewed to the tenant at very low rents because he had to put up with those faulty buildings. I understand that this Bill does not interfere with agreements which have been made on lease. I think it would be very unfair that a tenant who got his lease renewed at a low rent should then be able to come under this Bill and continue to pay the old rent and force the landlord to renew the buildings. On the whole, I think the Government have carried out their pledge in this Bill, which should be looked at, not from the farmers' point of view, but from the national point of view, and looked at that way I think it may do a great deal to help production, and we know how necessary that is. I shall certainly give my support, looking at it from the consideration of the common welfare.
§ Mr. JESSON
I desire to approach this question from a point of view that has not, in my opinion, received sufficient consideration so far in this Debate, and that is from the point of view of the urban worker. I am not going to criticise the provisions of the Bill with regard to farming, as I do not sufficiently understand the subject. My knowledge of agriculture is limited to the information which 519 I acquired in cultivating a plot in Battersea Park during the War, and I came to the conclusion from that experience that agriculture was about the best imitation of hard work that I had come across. I calculated at the end of the War that every one of the carrots and potatoes I had grown cost me about half-a-crown each, and I concluded that I had paid for whatever experience I had got. As to the urban workers, some of us have a rather vivid recollection of the industrial disputes in the late 'Eighties and early 'Nineties, particularly in the dock districts, and we know that the men who came to take the places of those who went out on strike came very largely from the rural districts. They were being driven off the land because it was impossible for them to get a living on it at that particular time, and they took advantage of the industrial disputes during that period to come into our towns and fill our slums, depress the labour market and force down the wages of the workers in the town to a very considerable extent. That went on until the South African War, and after that war things began to improve. But there was a steady drain of workers from the rural districts into the towns until a few years before the late War. That War brought it home to us that that is a state of things which has got to be stopped if we are going to improve the lot of the urban worker at all. The War also brought home to us that there are in this country, roughly speaking, about four hundred thousand young fellows who arrive at the age of eighteen every year, and those have got to be absorbed into industry and to find employment. It is obvious that those young fellows intend to get the best opportunities they can, and they naturally and very properly want to get better opportunities than their fathers had.
That is the problem which we have got to face. It is impossible for industry to absorb all those young men every year, a sheer impossibility, and we have got to look for other avenues of employment. The only other avenue we have in this country is to bring back the land to cultivation. We know that every thousand acres of land cultivated properly employ eighty-three persons, and every thousand acres of land put down to grass only employ about sixteen per- 520 sons. That means that if we can get 30,000,000 acres of land cultivated in this country we ought to find employment on the land for approximately 2,500,000 workers. That is a very important fact as far as employment is concerned, but the next point we have to consider is, as to what is going to be the effect and what inducements we are going to offer to these young fellows to go upon the land and earn a livelihood. First of all, they will naturally compare the employment on the land with that in other industries, and one of the first things they will run up against will be employment as coal miners. The coal miners are getting very good wages—anything, I understand, from £4 to £6 per week. I say, without any disrespect to the miners, that it is an occupation that a man of ordinary intelligence could learn in several months. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Then there is the case of the dockers. The dockers have just got an award of 16s. a day, and, again, I say that that is an employment that a man of ordinary intelligence could very easily acquire. Again, there is the railwaymen, who have just got an award, and it is going to be amended further still, but the point I want to make is this.
The young fellows that we want to take up agriculture have got an opportunity of crowding into these other industries, and they are going to choose their occupation from the point of view of what suits them best. The opportunities that are given to a young fellow to go upon the land are not particularly promising. The wages at present being paid for the ordinary agricultural labour, a very skilled trade and certainly more skilled than any of the industries I have mentioned, are only about £2 2s. per week, and that offers no attraction so far as those people are concerned. In addition to that, the amenities of country life are certainly not to be compared with the amenities of town life. There are no facilities for enjoyment and pleasure in country districts such as exist in all our great urban districts, and therefore that is a very great drawback. That is the position we are faced with, and the workers in the town districts, if they want to prevent all these young men crowding into our towns to depress the industrial system, to compete with them for employment, to lower wages, and to fill our 521 slums again, have got to be prepared to assist the worker on the land to get a good living. I believe the workers generally will rise to the point later on that if they want to retain their present high wages and decent conditions of employment, and to prevent competition bringing down those wages, they have got to guarantee to the agricultural labourer that he is not going to be sweated any longer on purpose to provide them with cheap food. The agricultural labourer is going to have the best living that he can possibly get, and we have got to make it worth his while to stay on the land and to produce the food that we require.
From the national point of view, we have got to produce as much food from the land of this country as the land can possibly give. We know that land that is not properly cultivated is not only not producing wealth, but is not employing labour, and therefore those two things must go together. Recently I have been going through country districts speaking to farmers and to agricultural labourers, and the farmers whom I have met tell me that the prospects of this Bill seem almost too good to be true, as far as they are concerned. I want to see not only a guaranteed price for all the farmer can produce, conditional upon him giving the very best wages possible to the agricultural worker, which can be settled by arbitration, but I want also to see markets so organised that everything that the farmer can produce can, without anxiety to him, find a market, on the understanding that the more he produces the more he will earn for himself. That is the kind of Bill that I hope this Bill is going to develop into. In conclusion, I want to say that unless we can offer decent conditions for the workers to go upon the land, conditions that will compare favourably with those of workers in other industries, I am afraid the town worker will be making a rod for his own back. I hope the town worker will realise what this Bill means. It may mean that his food is going to cost him more than it did in the old days. That he has got to regard as an insurance against unemployment; that to me seems inevitable. You cannot have the two things. Either you must protect your employment, and if you do that you 522 have got to be prepared to pay a fair rate of wages for the man who provides your food, or you must leave your employment unprotected. I believe that, if we can grow the £200,000,000 worth of food on the land of this country that we were importing before the War, that wealth would add enormously to the resources of this country.
§ Mr. W. COOTE
I wish to offer some comment on this Bill from the point of view of the Irish farmer. Several hon. Members have said that this Bill is not going to produce any more corn than has been produced in the last couple of years, but if we can under this Bill retain the high tide of production which we have maintained in Ireland during the last few years, then this Bill will have done a great deal of good indeed. I do not know how we should compare with other portions of the United Kingdom, but since the Corn Production Act came into force in Ireland in 1917, the output of production has been increased by a very high percentage indeed. There are some points of criticism which I should like to offer to the Bill, and, in the first place, the farmers in Ireland are a little bit chary about the way these Commissioners are going to be appointed. I understand that there are three members who will form Commissions, and one of them is to represent the Treasury, another the Board of Trade, and the third is to be selected by the three Boards of Agriculture, namely, of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Rightly or wrongly, the Irish farmer thinks he will not have a show in the appointment of these Commissioners, that is to say, that it is hardly likely that an Irishman will be appointed.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the conditions of agriculture in Ireland differ much from those in England and Scotland, and in order that this Bill may work very successfully, and that all may be accomplished which we wish from it, nothing should occur to mar the confidence of the Irish farmer in the operation of the Act at the present time, or to cause him to think his interests are not properly looked after. We have to look at matters in Ireland from the Irish point of view. Our cultivation is very intensive in many parts of the country, and if you adopt that which is suitable to England and Scotland, I am 523 afraid in some cases it would have disastrous effects. However, this is really a Committee point. Then I should like to point out that the time limit, from our point of view, is too short, and that to attract farmers to break up more land, I think you will have to increase the time limit to at least ten years, if you are going to produce the crop of food which is necessary to this country.
There is another matter which, I think, will be to some extent harmful. I think, so far as Ireland is concerned, we ought to be very careful about imposing irritating restrictions on the people. These are to be imposed largely through the county agricultural committees, and, as I understand the Bill, the county committee inspector is to go round and see if farming is properly carried on, and, if it is not, he has to bring the matter before the county committee, who are to sit in judgment. From my point of view you are restricting the area too much that will come under the purview of this committee. The men who form these county committees will be taken from among the farmers themselves. You may have petty jealousy between one farmer and another, and you will make the farmers outside rather suspicious of the acts of the committee, and they will not have that respect for the decisions of the committee which they ought to have. I think it would be very much better if this were dealt with by the Department of Agriculture itself. If the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture were to form an advisory committee, I think the farmers would have more faith in the judgment of the Board of Agriculture itself, or the head of the Department, than in these local committees. My reason for pressing this matter is this: We have now cropping up in all parts of Ireland farmers' organisations, and these are doing excellent advisory work. May I take this opportunity of congratulating the Department on taking a step forward which is very popular in Ireland, and that is in linking-up these agricultural organisations for the purpose of advice to the Department of Agriculture? It is unifying the whole principle of agriculture in Ireland. It is popularising the Department and giving it more confidence in the country. For this reason I deprecate relegating to county committees the question of de- 524 ciding whether farming is not being done in the interests of better production.
These are the points which I would offer by way of criticism of the Bill. In Ireland, we look upon the Bill as a step still further in the right direction. It is a guarantee that the interests of the farmer are being looked after by the State, and, while we should very much like to have seen a wider sympathy, and some form of guarantee, for instance, for the raising of potatoes in sufficient quantities, I wish to congratulate the Minister in charge of the Bill, and I hope that we shall be able in Committee to have some of the improvements which I have suggested introduced into the Bill. If, along those lines, Amendments are inserted, I believe the people of Ireland will welcome this Bill very much.
§ Mr. H. T. BARRIE (Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture,) Ireland
I intervene at this point in order to reply to the two speeches we have heard from Irish representatives, and I desire at once to say, in answer to the last speaker, that it is not the view of the Department of Agriculture for Ireland that any work should be cast upon the county committees. We have, under the Corn Production Act, set up a small appeal tribunal, which has done admirable work in this connection, and I am quite sure that, with the assistance of some of my friends from Ireland in the Committee stage of this Bill, we shall be able to settle this to the satisfaction of all interests concerned. May I take this opportunity of saying that I believe this Bill will receive in Ireland a most cordial welcome? We are not here to dispute the suggestion that, during the last five years, agriculture on the whole has been profitable in Ireland, as well as in many other parts of the world; but we regard this Bill as a prudent man regards an insurance policy. We think it will have the effect of giving confidence in agriculture—a confidence which, for good reasons, was lacking for a great many years. That is the spirit in which this Bill will be accepted, I think, by all classes of farmers in Ireland—I mean the smaller as well as the larger. We shall welcome any assistance in Committee in order that the Bill may be moulded to the special needs of Ireland.
Reference has been made to the importance of agricultural education. We have even had the wish expressed that the 525 money involved in the State guarantee might have been better spent in developing forms of agricultural education, and marketing and transport. We have been doing all these things in Ireland for almost a generation, and we think that, from the fact that in this very important matter Ireland has led the way, one reason may be found why Ireland has been prosperous, especially so far as agriculture is concerned, in recent years. It is a remarkable fact that, despite all the circumstances of Ireland at the moment, which may have been expected to retard agricultural education, we have had something like 5,000 more students in our agricultural and technical classes during the last 12 months than at any previous period of our history. I think that should be mentioned here, because it is a matter which has given the Department over which I have the honour to preside the greatest satisfaction. As to the question of transport, we have also been able to give valuable help to the farmers in adopting the very latest developments in that connection, and with regard to marketing of produce, on which emphasis has been laid by an hon. Member who has spoken, we have had in the Irish Department for many years a Marketing Section, with officers for dealing with all kinds of agricultural produce, and we have gone so far that we have also on this side of the Channel another set of officers to see that the goods arrive in proper order and find their way to the proper market. I think that when this Bill is passed through the Committee stage it will be found by the Irish farmers to be another great boon coming from this Parliament which has done many generous things for Ireland during the past quarter of a century.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day three months."
There are very few parts of this Bill with which I have any sympathy. One turns from one to another of the various objections which one could raise to its passage into law. In the first place, I think it has been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, if he will pardon me for saying so, on false pretences. He urged as the principal reason why the Bill should be passed into law the alleged fact that we did not know where to turn for 526 our daily bread. He said in effect that Russia as a wheat-producing country is dead, and Hungary as a wheat-producing country is dead, but curiously enough on the same day we had a pronouncement from the same box by the Prime Minister telling us that vast stores of wheat were in Russia only waiting for trade and exchange, to be liberated for the use of this country. I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that it is not the shortage of food in the world at present which has led him to introduce this Bill; it is more his sympathy with the interests of those people who produce food in this country. The Bill may be divided into two parts which have very little in common between them. I will deal first with the second part which establishes the beginning of dual ownership in this country. The second part, in Clauses 7 and 8 particularly, is designed to secure a large addition to the compensation granted to tenant farmers if their tenancy is closed by the landlord. That gives the farmer a tenant right in effect, and it is the commencement of the establishment of proprietary ownership of the soil by the tenant farmers of this country. I have no particular love for the old landlords of England, but I certainly prefer them to the new ones. The old landlords, whom we have had with us for many centuries, knew how to do their duty. The old families fought in the War, they lost members of their families in the War; they have done their duty by England. I do not think the same can be said for the new landlords whom we are now establishing by this Bill. The tenant farmers of this country were not particularly forward in fighting for their country. Many of them sent their farm labourers to fight, and kept their sons at home. [An HON. MEMBER: "A lot lost their sons, too!"] There are two sets of landlords, and I think we on the Labour Benches prefer the old to the new. Now we are going to establish what is really tenant right; we are going to make it more difficult to change the ownership of the land, and by doing that you are going to stereotype for all time the existing farms and the farming system of the country.
The county councils of England are not doing very much now in the way of setting up small holdings. Before the War they were doing more in that way than they are doing now. The county 527 councils are still trying to purchase land and to break up the big farms into small holdings. You are going to make that process more difficult. If you make it more expensive to change land from one hand to another, the establishment of small holdings will be made more difficult. If you want the land more fully used, you should make it more easily marketable. All this agitation that we have for registration of title had the object of making the land more easily marketable, so that the men who want land for intensive agriculture should get it more easily than under the old system. We want to increase the marketability of what land there is in the country. But under this Bill the selling of land is to be more difficult, and the buying of land will be made more difficult and expensive, and the acquisition of that which is necessary for all men to live will be increased in difficulty instead of diminished by the passage of the second part of this Bill. I object to the establishment of dual ownership, because it makes land more difficult of access to the people, and it will perpetuate the system of big farming which now exists, instead of breaking the farms up into smaller ones and so helping the farm labourer to obtain an economic basis by acquiring a house and cottage which he can call his own and enabling him to stand face to face with his employer and get the wages which is his due. The other part of the Bill is even more disastrous than the second part with which I have dealt. The prices of wheat and oats are to be guaranteed. They are not to be guaranteed by way of a subvention now, but the hands of Parliament are to be deliberately tied so that it will become an annual subvention for a series of four years, whatever this House may say. At present nothing is to be paid, but as freights fall and the production of wheat in the world increases, that portion of this Bill will take effect, and when that happens the taxpayer will be paying a certain class of farmer this subvention for the growing of wheat. It is protection of agriculture by means of a bonus instead of by means of a Protective Duty. As a Free Trader I prefer, and I think every Free Trader will prefer, this sort 528 of protection in the Bill to the other sort, but still it is protection to give an annual subvention, and it is not only for the farmer, but it is also for the landlord class. It will have a direct effect upon the tenant farmer, but it will also apply to others who are interested in the land as well.
The effect of the guaranteed price, which we may assume will be above the market price of the day, will increase the letting value and the selling value of agricultural land, particularly of wheat-bearing land. It is therefore not only a subvention to the farmer, but also to the landowner, when it comes into effect. And that is to go on, no matter what change may come about in the composition of this House. You are attempting to tie the hands of Parliament, even when there is no longer a Conservative majority in this House.
Suppose that at the next election we get a Labour majority, or suppose it is a Labour and Liberal Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not such a coalition!"]—I do not want either to prophecy or to lay down the law. But suppose that it is a majority of this House which is still in favour of Free Trade and against the protection of the farming interest of this country. Even then by the passage of this Bill, as I understand it, you will have tied the hands of that Government, of the House of Commons. You say under this Bill that by a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament this Bill may be brought to an end in four years' time. Even if we get a Free Trade majority in this House it is too much to imagine that we should ever get a Free Trade majority in the other place, and therefore it would be hopeless to expect agreement. Even if we get a majority in this House and passed a Resolution here that this system of protection was to cease in four years, still, under this Bill, we are unable to carry that into effect because the other place would not pass any such Resolution. I do not know whether the framers of this Bill have imagined what would happen if under these circumstances this House, which after all has control of the purse refused to vote the money for this subvention. It seems to me that not only the Bill, but even this four years' limit, would fall to the ground, because, after all, if the money was not voted it could not be paid out to the farming class. It seems to me, therefore, that 529 this Bill is a direct infringement of the rights of this House to control the public purse and the expenditure of the money of this country.
What I want to emphasise again is this: If this first part of the Bill comes into operation the whole body of the taxpayers of the country will be paying an annual subvention to a particular class of the country. That, to my mind, is fundamentally wrong. Parliament ought not to exist—I do not say it does exist—as a body to give subventions to any particular class of the community. We who represent the body politic, and not any particular class, when we deliberately vote the payment of money, as we do in this Bill, for the subvention of a particular class, are acting contrary to the best traditions of this House, and indeed to the traditions of Parliament as it has existed since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1848. It is not merely that the prices which have to be paid for wheat and oats that are fixed by this Bill, but the Bill provides that these prices shall vary according to the cost of production. I should like to see the figures of the cost of production upon which the prices named in the Bill are framed. The right hon. Gentleman informed me that rent did not enter into the cost of production. I hope that may be so, but I strongly suspect there is some rent entering into the figures given in the Bill as the cost of production of wheat at the present time.
The Bill does state that in varying the prices rent shall not enter in. Good! But how about rates entering in? I understand that any increase in agricultural rates will be treated as an increased cost of production. [An HON. MEMBER.: "Why not?"] I will tell the hon. Member. In any case agricultural rates are an increase of the subvention given to the growers of wheat. Is it quite fair to make all the rest of the community pay the rates of a particular and a very small class? It is not all the farmers, mind you, who will benefit by having their rates paid for them. It is only those farmers who produce wheat and oats. An increase in their rates—what does it matter? By the increased price of wheat you have got it back! These people have votes, votes for the county council, for the local bodies, and they know quite well that they can increase their rates as much as they like, and that they will escape. It really means that the rest of the community 530 have to pay the increased subvention in order to make up for the increase in the rates. That, I submit again, is a thoroughly unsound doctrine. That there should be a few ratepayers in the country who, if the rates move up, immediately and automatically get an increased price for their produce, seems to me to be a thoroughly vicious system. The whole of this guaranteed price is wrong. If there had to be a subsidy, if I were a protectionist, and believed it was necessary because of the prospect of future wars to increase the wheat production in this country, I would certainly plump for an acreage bonus on wheat farming, which would be definitely increasing the wheat production, instead of having merely guaranteed prices which would do nothing whatever to increase production, and which might hereafter either involve this country in a breach of promise—because I do not believe you will get the House of Commons indefinitely to pay a very large subsidy to the agricultural interests—or else involve us in a system of protection which the vast mass of the people are opposed to, and will have nothing whatever to do with it when consulted on the matter.
In speaking as I have done I realise that I only represent a very small minority here. I do not speak even for the Labour party. I am quite certain, however, that I do speak for a good many people in this House who will not vote with me to-night, but who know that sound finance and sound economics are the basis of any real reconstruction in this country. There is no man here who does not hate this idea of fixing prices. If you go to Germany you see a country now in which the price of everything is fixed. Consequently in that country reconstruction is impossible, and the country is going daily more backward. Here, thank goodness, we have not got very many fixed prices. We all know what we have got and we want to get rid of it. In this Bill you are perpetuating this idea of fixed prices. I ask every sound economist to think twice before he supports this measure in the lobby, and before he shares definitely in putting upon the Statute Book, a Bill which probably every man believes to be unsound, but which they are voting for out of sheer desperation and sheer opportunism. I do not know whether I shall get a seconder to my Amendment, 531 but I am quite certain that all people who believe in free trade, and those who are economists, will agree that this Bill is a Bill which runs contrary to the traditions of Great Britain, and which ought to be thrown out to-night by an overwhelming majority.
§ Mr. ALFRED DAVIES (Clitheroe)
I beg to second the Amendment. It is with a certain amount of reluctance that I subscribe to the rejection of this Bill, but I do so because I feel that the solution of the agricultural problem submitted by the proposal of the Government is totally inadequate. During the course of this Debate reference has been made to the Corn Production Act. I would like to remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that when the Corn Production Bill was introduced it was justified on the ground that during the years between 1875 and 1895 the price of agricultural produce had been reduced to such a low point that it was necessary that the Government should give some guarantee for the purpose of getting the farmer to encourage the productivity of agricultural produce. The very opposite applies with regard to Denmark, because from 1875 to 1895, when we were going down to zero, Denmark had reached its zenith, with an admittedly worse climate and soil.
It is our duty to ascertain why Denmark should touch the apex of its prosperity at the time we were touching the rock bottom. Until we introduce a Bill which will aim at the breakdown of land monopoly in this country it will be impossible to get the best results from the land, and it is from that standpoint that I associate myself with the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) in this Amendment. I think we all realise that a monopoly in land is the worst form of any monopoly, and if we can free the land so as to give free access to it by those who are eager to work on it, then we can not only produce sufficient for our national life, but an amplitude to meet the requirements of any future occasion. Any temporary measure of this character is bound to perpetuate this land monopoly, and it is from that standpoint that I support the rejection of this Bill.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
The hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. A. Davies), in seconding this Amendment, said that in 1895, when Danish agricul- 532 ture had reached the zenith of its prosperity, British agriculture was at its nadir. I do not think the greatest prosperity of Danish agriculture had been reached up to 1895, but I ask the House to note the inference that is sought to be drawn from that fact. The hon. Member said it was the system of land tenure which is responsible for this result, by which I imagine he inferred that nationalisation was to be the solution.
§ Mr. DAVIES
No, I suggest that in Denmark they placed taxes upon the land instead of upon the improvements, and they established a system which enabled small farmers to take advantage of the co-operative movement to assist them in the production and delivery of their products.
§ Mr. SCOTT
May I point out that rather more than nine out of every ten of the farmers in Denmark are the occupying owners of their own farms, and I agree that that has a great deal to do with Danish prosperity? In regard to Danish co-operation, I agree that the principle of co-operation is vital in the interests of agriculture, and as Chairman of the Agricultural Organisation Society of this country and the Agricultural Wholesale Society, and being at the head of the agricultural co-operative movement in this country, I say, "Thank you" to my hon. Friend for the testimony he has given to the value of co-operation. The hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Wedgwood) who moved the rejection of this Bill said that the effect of this measure was that it was an infringement upon the principle of Free Trade. A measure which does not impose any import duties at all and which merely gives a measure of insurance against disaster to an industry which every one of us regards as vital to national prosperity cannot be regarded as an infringement of Free Trade. I think one lesson we have learned in the War is that certain industries are rightly regarded as key industries, and agriculture, of all others, is the industry which carries the key that unlocks the door to national health, prosperity, and well-being.
The hon. Member suggested that it was contrary to the traditions of this House that a measure should be proposed enunciating a permanent policy which might affect the finances of the country for a period of years ahead. I am sure my hon. 533 and gallant Friend will forgive me if I say that he is wrong in his recollection of the traditions of this House. The first Income Tax Act, which was proposed provided for the imposition of the tax three years ahead, and in 1854 the same Act provided for its imposition seven years ahead.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Yes, but the House of Commons could repeal that, but here we are tying our hands.
§ Mr. SCOTT
The House of Commons can repeal any Act, but an Act passed for the purpose of introducing a permanent policy in order that the country may have the advantage of permanence is an Act which has definite advantages, and which the House of Commons would be slow to repeal, although it has the power. I submit, therefore, that there is nothing in that point. There is no question here of the privileges of this House, and there is no possibility of them being infringed by this House passing any Act which it thinks fit to pass. This is simply a red herring which has nothing to do with the merits of this question. It is a question whether it is or is not desirable, in the interests of the country and the nation and the body politic, that this country should have an agriculture established for a period of years and be able to make its plans, which must necessarily be plans to last over a number of years ahead, with some security as to where they will stand in future years.
The big question of principle involved is whether it is right or wrong in the interests of the nation that the agricultural industry should be told to-day the conditions under which it can look forward to conduct the industry for a number of years ahead. That is the essential question. Every agriculturist in this House for years past has complained of the difficulty of conducting this industry because of the uncertainty of the political climate, so to speak, in which it has had to carry on its operations. The farmers of this country have been used to dealing with the vagaries of the English climate as well as the vagaries of the English House of Commons, and they have complained, and now when agriculturists have asked with increasing persistency that a permanent policy should be adopted on certain definite lines, when the Government come to this House and propose a Bill which is per- 534 manent in its character, or, at any rate, has some measure of permanence on the very lines which the industry has asked it should be applied, it is complained that this proposal is objectionable because, forsooth, it looks ahead for more than a day, and makes provision so that the agricultural industry may conduct its operations in something like reasonable security. I venture to think that arguments against the Bill based on these lines will receive scant sympathy from a House which, in my belief, has made up its mind to give to the industry of agriculture that degree of security which the nation requires it should have in the national interest.
Indeed, the fact that this Bill has been introduced shows a very great advance in public opinion as compared with a comparatively few years ago. Take the year before the War. It would have astounded the country had the Government then come forward and said, "We recognise that agriculture is an industry which conducts its operations on a rotation system which makes it necessary for those who invest their capital in it to know years ahead approximately where they will be, and for these reasons we propose to introduce a Measure of insurance for the industry which will last for years." The Government have done that to-day and that fact marks the greatest advance which has ever been made by a Government towards an industry upon which the social well-being, happiness and health of the race depends, more than any other industry. The hon. and gallant Member for Daventry (Captain Fitzroy) the Chairman of the Unofficial Agricultural Committee of this House, who presides over that Committee with high success and, as its Chairman, has obtained the confidence of all the Members to a remarkable degree, said, in his speech two days ago:The principles underlying this Bill are perfectly sound. Those principles are four in number. First, there is the guaranteed minimum price; then there is the principle of the guaranteed wage; thirdly, there is the principle that the country will be secure of good cultivation; and, finally, there is the proposal to give greater security for the capital of those engaged in the industry.That was a perfectly fair and in my view absolutely true statement of the general characteristics of this Bill. I venture to think that these big features of the Bill—these four features—have largely been lost 535 sight of during this Debate. Many interesting questions have been discussed, but most of them have been merely Committee questions, while the broad features of the Bill have hardly been touched upon by the majority of the speakers. These four principles, my hon. and gallant Friend said were perfectly sound and he went on:If we can be quite sure that those four principles will really be carried out in the provisions of this Bill, I think we might be content to believe that it will do something to put agriculture on a sound footing and to increase the food supply of this country.The right hon. Gentleman who Moved the Second Reading of this Bill, enunciated these four principles and said he believed they were sound and that the Bill put before the country a sound agricultural policy, and he added that if in Committee Amendments in detail were proposed the Government would consider them sympathetically. That shows that the Chairman of the Agricultural Committee of the House, representing some 100 Members, is in complete agreement with the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill as to the main principles of the Bill. Then my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for the Daventry Division, went on to say this:But as far as I can understand it, none of these four principles will be secured by this Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th June, 1920, Vol. 130, Col. 104.]I have the greatest respect for my hon. and gallant Friend, but I profoundly disagree with him in that comment. In my view, these four principles are successfully embodied in this Bill. Let us take them one by one and deal with them in their order. The first is the guaranteed minimum price. The essence, as I understand it, of a guaranteed minimum price is that it should be an insurance against disaster. It is not put forward as a Government subvention out of which farmers are to make large profits. Many of the speeches have treated it as an offer to the farmers to enable them to make profits. That, however, is not the proposal of the Bill. It is not the principle of the Report on Agricultural Policy of the Committee presided over by Lord Selborne, nor, for that matter, is it the principle of the Report which I and the Member for Norwich and Mr. E. Strutt were the signatories a year before the Agricultural Policy Report, which was 536 embodied in the Corn Production Act, 1917. The essence of that policy was that agricultural labourers should be paid a really decent wage, which, in many cases, before the War they had not been paid. Perhaps I may, without undue pride, remind the House that my name was on the back of the first Bill to provide a minimum wage for agricultural labourers which was introduced before the War. In order that farmers should be in a position to pay this wage, it is essential that they should be guaranteed against disaster.
It is not the business of the State to provide profits for farmers. It is for the State to enable them to carry on their industry as any industry is carried on, on the merits of the case, having due regard to all economic conditions, making their own profits in their own way, but to prevent such disasters overtaking them as overtook agriculture in the '80's and '90's in the last century. The fear of bankruptcy, the fear that capital invested in arable farming may be lost, anxiety as to the future, and the desire to know where they are—these are the things that prevent farmers from investing much money in a type of farming that involves considerable capital, and which can only be conducted if you have some reasonable knowledge as to what the risks of the future are. That is what I call an insuring policy, and I venture to think that that is a sound policy, for it enables the farmers to cultivate their farms on the arable system of farming, to employ the number of men required in arable farming, and to pay the wages involved in the system of minimum wage legislation. If the community says to the industry, "We will undertake that you shall not be destroyed by world conditions over which you have no control, that you shall not be faced with sudden disaster," then it is reasonable and right that the nation should say to the farmers, "In return for that, we expect you to regard your holding as a holding in trust, in a certain sense, for the nation; and to recognise that you have a duty of good cultivation, a duty to make the most of the land, possession of which is entrusted to you." Thus, we come to the third main principle, the recognition of the duty to the public of good cultivation.
Lastly, we have the principle of the security of the tenant farmer's capital. In regard to that, I invite the House to compare agriculture for a moment with 537 any big manufacturing business in this country. There are many manufacturers in this House. Would any one of them like to carry on his business on the terms that he might get a year's notice turning him out of the factory where he is carrying on his business? A friend of mine, who was an American, but is now a British subject, and who has had great experience of farming in America, has told me that the one thing that strikes him about British farming is the astounding fact that our farmers are not in absolute control of the permanent possession of the farms on which they carry on their industry. It is an astounding anomaly, and the only way of meeting it is either to give them fixity of tenure or to secure them their capital. The Bill adopts the latter method, and, in my judgment, absolutely rightly, for the reasons mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Mid-Antrim (Major O'Neill) and others. To give fixity of tenure is to introduce into this country a double system of ownership, which has attendant upon it unimaginable drawbacks. The moment you agree that double ownership of the soil is an impossible system, you are faced with the position that the only solution of this difficulty, in which farmers are in the conduct of their industry, that in many cases they are only tenants of their holdings, is to give them security of capital. I agree that some of the detailed provisions of Part II may be open to criticism on the ground that owners may be prevented from spending money on improvements and otherwise. That, however, is a Committee question. The broad feature of the position is that you can only give tenant farmers security by one of two methods—either fixity of tenure or security of capital. Ex hypothesi, fixity of tenure is ruled out, and the only alternative is security of capital.
Therefore, I say that this Bill is right in regard to all its four main propositions, namely, insurance against disaster by a system of guaranteed prices, a minimum wage for agricultural labourers, a duty of good cultivation, and a system of security of capital. If you once concede that those four principles are right, the only questions before the House are questions appropriate, not to a Second Reading Debate, but to the Committee stage. It may be that there are minor alterations which will have to be made, but I venture 538 to submit that it is vital to concentrate on that broad aspect of the Bill which makes it a Bill put forward in the national interest, in order that agriculture may be carried on efficiently in this country, and that we may have a larger population upon our soil. That being the broad position, let me deal quite shortly with one or two of the criticisms. The main criticism that has been made against the Bill has been expressed in two ways. My hon. Friend the Member for the Holland Division (Mr. Royce) said that the Bill would not produce any more corn. The hon. and gallant Member for Daventry (Captain Fitzroy) and the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley) said that not one single acre more would be brought under the plough, or under wheat—I forget how they put it exactly—by reason of this Bill. With great respect, that is a complete fallacy. If you give an owner of a ship an insurance, you enable him to conduct his enterprise in a sense of safety, and he would probably refuse to take his ship to sea unless he had the insurance. It is not, however, out of the insurance that he makes his profit; it is not for the sake of the insurance that he makes his voyage; and it is not for the sake of the insurance that he will get under this Bill that the farmer will go in for arable cultivation.
§ Mr. SCOTT
If the hon. and gallant Member likes to deal with the matter by way of casual interjection, I will answer him on the same terms. At the beginning of the War, how many ships would have gone to sea unless the Government had introduced at once its system of Government insurance against war risks?
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SCOTT
The Government paid three-quarters of the premium. The answer is that this Bill does enable the farmer to get his industry on to an economic basis. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Smith) two days ago complained that the Bill put the industry on a political basis, and that some future Government might withdraw it. That either amounts to this, that no Government of this country should ever have any agricultural policy, or it is no objection to this Bill. The whole industry has asked that a permanent agricultural policy 539 should be followed by the Government of this country, and to suggest that, because the Government introduces a Bill which will carry out that undertaking, therefore it must be wrong, because it puts the industry on what the hon. Member calls a political basis, is, I venture to submit, an idle, captious and foolish criticism. Under this Bill the industry will be able to carry on its business on the ordinary terms of making the most it can out of the market conditions and prospects at any given time, with this tremendous additional advantage, that, in making his calculations, the farmer will be always able to say to himself, "At any rate I am secured from the danger of those disasters that overtook my father." That is the substantial point of the whole Bill. To complain of the Bill on the ground that it does not itself in its provisions give the farmer any additional profit is to misunderstand it. It does not profess to give the farmer any additional profit; it leaves him to make his own profit out of good farming, and with the assistance of all those other advantages and aids to which the hon. Member for Wellingborough referred, such as agricultural education, research, the development of transport facilities, and, particularly, organisation and co-operation. The hon. Member complained because this Bill did not include within its four corners all those other subjects. That is no objection to the Bill, for the simple reason that it does not profess to deal with them. They are being already dealt with in other Acts and by administrative measures, with, I think we may say, a great degree of efficiency. On the Estimates for the Ministry of Agriculture we criticised the Ministry in many respects, but the right hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Vote made a very good case as to the assistance which was being rendered to agriculture by the Ministry. In regard to agricultural co-operation I am at the head of the movement in this country and at least one-third of the farmers are already in co-operative societies, and a very large number of allotment holders also, and that organisation is being pushed very strenuously and is making very rapid strides, and I absolutely agree that the prosperity of British Agriculture in the long run depends upon the real effective development on business lines of agricultural co-opera- 540 tion. But that has nothing to do with the Bill and it is no complaint against the Bill that it does not deal with it.
It is of the first importance that in considering this Bill we should remember its main principles, particularly on the Second Reading. No doubt there are one or two questions of importance which will have to be dealt with in Committee. A suggestion has been made, for instance, that the sliding scale of guaranteed prices should be based directly on wages instead of on the cost of production. Primâ facie, I think there is a great deal to be said for that, but I think the criticism of opponents of the Bill is to some extent based upon a misapprehension of what is really intended by the Bill. I think it is rather a natural misapprehension, because I do not think the wording of the Bill is very clear. In Clause 2, Sub-section (1) (a), it is provided that the sliding scale shall be based on the cost of production of wheat and oats in any years as compared with the cost in 1919. That sounds like an extraordinarily elaborate calculation every year as to what the cost of production is. I do not think a very elaborate calculation is involved. What is wanted is to see what change there is from year to year of a comparative kind in the cost of production. That is the only thing that is necessary. Supposing the cost of production in 1919 was 100, what you want to see is what in 1920 or 1921 is the percentage change. Is it 5 per cent. up or 5 per cent. down? You apply that percentage change to your 68s. That percentage change can be arrived at by a comparatively simple calculation. All you have to ascertain is the chief elements in the cost of production—wages, fertilisers, cost of cultivation, rates and the rent, which is a fixed item under the Bill.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I was in error in saying it was left out in the original calculation. It was not left out in the original calculation, but it is left out in considering the variation.
§ Mr. SCOTT
Clause 2, Sub-section (1) (b), says:In ascertaining the variation in the cost of production, no account shall be taken of any variation of rent.541 So that it remains as a fixed item. If the rent is £2 or £1 or 12s. an acre, that is a permanent factor. It is an element in the cost of production, though it is a permanent element. That calculation is one which most farmers can make approximately with accuracy. Any farmer, in any given year, will know approximately how much wages, fertilisers, and so on, have gone up, and he will not be left in ignorance of what the guaranteed price is going to be after the Commissioners have arrived at the result. He may be 5 per cent. out, but no more—not 5 per cent. of the original 100, but 5 per cent. of the change. He may make an error of one-twentieth in his estimate of the variation up or down. That is the proposal of the Bill. If the language of the Bill does not quite accurately express that, I am sure my right, hon. Friend will be willing, in Committee, to put that right, if I am right. Perhaps he will say, when he replies, whether my understanding of the provision in that respect is right or wrong. That is a perfectly simple system, and for practical purposes there is not much difference between a sliding scale based on that kind of average rise or fall of costs and an average rise or fall.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
One would be made and would be easily understandable, and the other would not be made and would have to be made by the farmer.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I agree that we are only concerned with calculations when the minimum price is to come into operation. That is a fundamental fact of the Bill. The whole question of guaranteed prices does not come in at all until the market gets down in the neighbourhood of or below the guaranteed prices. In the circumstances the real gist of the matter is that the industry is left free to work in the ordinary way with this at the back of its mind.
§ Mr. SCOTT
Of course, but I cannot say more than one thing at once. What I meant was that the question of guaranteed prices does not come in and the industry is left free qua guaranteed prices, merely with the knowledge that that is left in the background, but the wages go up and down. Does the right hon. Gentleman want to abolish the Minimum Wages Boards? If so, he is out of harmony with modern life.
§ Mr. SCOTT
Those of us who are always glad to find ourselves in harmony with the right hon. Baronet no doubt will share that view. Now, as to the duty of good cultivation. I advance the proposition that we cannot honestly expect any Government to introduce a permanent agricultural policy which does not contain as a cardinal tenet the doctrine that the owner and occupier of land has a duty to the nation of making the most of his land. The moment you concede to that you arrive at this position. You admit the obligation and inferentially you admit the duty and the right of the nation to enforce that obligation. Then the moment you concede that it becomes a question of detail as to the way in which you are to carry it out. On this subject of course there are many cases of land to which you cannot possibly apply a rigorous rule of arable cultivation or insist upon any particular method of cultivation. There are cases of light land where arable cultivation must inevitably produce a loss. The scheme of this Bill is not to impose upon the occupier of such land as that the duty of arable farming. It would be ridiculous if it did, and it will be the business of the House and the Committee to see that there is no chance of any such principle being imposed. When you have arrived at a principle that there is a duty, the question then arises as to the method of enforcing it. Those who say that we should drop that portion of the Bill are asking the House to drop an essential principle of the Bill which must be preserved. During the War we heard a great deal about Orders and we had a very large number of complaints as to the unreasonableness of ploughing orders. I 543 believe that out of 2,000,000 acres compulsorily ploughed up, of which 1,700,000 acres were ploughed up in the early spring months of 1917, from February onward, when the unrestricted submarine campaign had been announced by Germany, complaints were received only in respect of 7½ per cent. of the 2,000,000 acres. That shows how an exaggerated idea can get abroad. Out of the 7½ per cent., the 150,000 acres which it represented, I have little doubt that a great number of the farmers in the following year made very good crops because of the fertility stored up in the soil.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Is the hon. Member aware that when an attempt was made to complain the Local Agricultural Committee always came round and asked you not to complain? They did it with me.
§ Mr. SCOTT
My right hon. Friend is a typical farmer, and we may assume that he, like many other farmers, may have resisted, but did not complain. My point is, that we do get a good deal of exaggeration. Since 1917 we have had a rule that good cultivation should be insisted upon, and methods of husbandry have to a certain extent been changed. There have been cases of mismanagement of estates, but I believe that the Ministry of Agriculture have received during the War and up to now, practically no complaints in regard to that part of the Corn Production Act and the enforcement of the D.O.R.A. Regulations. Certainly they have had astonishingly few complaints. I agree that farming cannot possibly be carried on under continual interference from a horde of inspectors or Committees. It is an impossibility; but, whilst recognising that, I ask quite definitely, by way of challenge, how are you going to insist on this duty of good cultivation unless you give some powers to somebody? In Committee, no doubt, those who object to this part of the Bill will have constructive proposals for enforcing the duty of good cultivation which will obviate the possibility of any interference by any inspector or any county committee, but I do say that the burden is on those who complain of these proposals to suggest a better system than that which is contained in the Bill.
I have dealt with the broad principles of the Bill. The hon. Member for New- 544 castle-under-Lyme dealt with Part II., and he said that one great desideratum in this country was the increased marketability of land. I completely agree. I believe that this Bill will tend to make more owners anxious to farm their own land. That will be an advantage to the nation. On the whole it is better that the man who owns the land should farm it and that the man who farms the land should own it. If this Bill has that indirect effect it will be all to the good. I recognise, and I hope that something may be done in Committee to deal with the point, that under this Bill there will be many cases of very great hardship upon owners. It will make the ownership of estates very difficult in many cases. I hope that something may be done in Committee to modify those drawbacks. On those broad lines and without discussing the question as to whether the figure of 68s. is the right figure, and without referring to any other details of the Measure, I submit that the Bill is one which it is in the national interests to pass in order that we may have a permanent policy, recognised by all the farmers as such, and which indirectly will result in greater enterprise by farmers, because they will know they are insured, and consequently will lead to greater arable cultivation and a larger population on the land.
§ Mr. TOWNLEY
Those of us who have the interests of agriculture in our hearts and bones could undoubtedly devote a very long time to addressing the House on this subject. I propose to speak briefly on one Clause only, not because I am not deeply interested in the rest of the Bill, but because I know the House wishes to hear the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary. I heartily congratulate him on the very lucid exposition of the Bill he gave to us, and I, as one who has been interested in agriculture all my life, am prepared to give him hearty support on the main principles of the Bill, taking into consideration the fact that he has asked for criticism and amendment in Committee. I want to deal with Clause 16. I take it as a direct invitation to tenants to plough up their pastures. The last speaker said there were practically no complaints from farmers or owners against ploughing up orders under the Defence of the Realm Act. There were very few complaints, because farmers and landowners realised 545 that they were acting in the interests of their country in producing food during a time of need. Further than that, farmers who ploughed up their land were guaranteed against loss by the country. Now it is different. There is no guarantee against loss. There are three sorts of farmers. There are those who have high land and few water meadows. It will be very disastrous to those farms if the water meadows are ploughed up. There are farms which have no pasture whatsoever. They will not be affected. There are farms which have no arable land, and have no buildings, and are all pasture. What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do with those farms which are now all pasture, when orders come along for a change in the methods of cultivation and for the ploughing up of the grass? You cannot cultivate much of the old pasture land of England with profit unless you build above ground and underground, that is to say, drain, and building is very expensive. You cannot keep up fertility unless you have buildings. Any man can plough up pasture land and make a big profit for four or five years, and, when he has exhausted the fertility of the soil, can hand the land back to the owner. That owner has been called upon to put up expensive buildings and to drain, and who is going to compensate him for the loss of money he has invested in those buildings on land which has been robbed of its fertility? You are only going to have a four years' guarantee, which, I maintain, is nothing like sufficient for the purpose of pasture land. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot see his way to alter this Clause so as to provide that no pasture land shall be ploughed up without the consent of the owner and the Agricultural Committee.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I would ask the permission of the House to be allowed to reply to some of the very many points which have been raised during this Debate, even though I am conscious of the fact that I spoke at very considerable length when I moved the Second Reading of the Bill. Speaking generally, I am very gratified at the reception which this Bill has had. It is quite true we have had a good deal of detailed criticism. We have had a good deal of criticism of an important character which has been very largely the sort of criticism which can be 546 dealt with in the Committee stage, and much of it has really been mutually destructive. For example, many of my hon. Friends on this side have objected to Part 2 of the Bill as going too far in the direction of security of tenure and dual ownership. On the other hand, my hon. Friend the Member for Kinross (Mr. J. Gardiner) and other hon. Members have criticised it for not going far enough. Therefore I think we may claim that in this matter as in a good many other matters we have succeeded in holding the balance fairly even between the parties interested. Apart from that we have had very little criticism of the main principles of the Bill. We have had some very excellent speeches delivered enthusiastically in support of the Bill, including very good maiden speeches by the hon. Member for Basingstoke A. Holbrook) and the hon. Member for the Northern Division of Dorset (Major Colfox). We have, had no attempt to move the rejection of the Bill until the very last moment.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Nobody else took the chance when they might have done so. I admit that my hon. Friend objects to the whole Bill. There is nothing very unusual about that. It might have happened in the case of any other Bill. His position, I candidly confess, leaves me entirely cold. Let me deal with the main points, but before I do so may I say there is one speech I did regret and that was the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Daventry (Captain Fitzroy)? I know he has done splendid work for agriculture, and in referring to his speech I do so more in sorrow than in anger. I do think he opposed the Bill in a manner which certainly was not what I expected and which appeared to me to be somewhat inconsistent with the remarks he had previously made. I would put it at all events to my hon. and gallant Friend and to those members of the Agriculture Committee, some of whom have appeared to oppose the Bill, or parts of the Bill, rather severely, that they have repeatedly asked me in this House when we were going to introduce our Bill, and they have pressed me time after time. I am not going to complain of that; I think they had reason for complaining of the delay; but they knew the sort of Bill we should have to introduce; they knew it would be 547 based on the speech of the Prime Minister at the Caxton Hall, they must have anticipated practically what the proposals would be; and I put it to them that when we produce our Bill it is hardly up to them to object to the Bill in the manner that some of them have, especially as I venture to say they have not put forward any constructive proposals of their own. The Bill at all events is the Bill that we were challenged to produce, which we now have produced, and which I venture to say follows the lines that must have been anticipated. I do appeal to them in the fullest spirit of comradeship. I have made them a very fair offer; I have said I am not wedded to every clause or detail of the Bill; I have said I am prepared to consider it in detail and to take full account of every reasonable amendment which is moved; I have asked them to co-operate with me to improve the Bill as far as we can; but I must appeal to them to enter into that bargain in the same spirit and not to try to destroy the Bill by a shower of destructive criticism.
Let me very briefly go through the principal objections that have been raised to the Bill. We have been told by the hon. and gallant Member for Daventry and others that the Bill will fail because it will not add a single acre of arable land to this country. That is a mere prophecy, and if that sort of prophecy is made, I would ask why there has been this persistent demand for guaranteed prices for cereals coming from the very Members who are now making this prediction. The Bill follows precisely the lines that were recommended by the Selborne Report and by the Report of the Royal Commission that sat last year, not that we should guarantee a profit—that is not the duty of the State—but that we should try to give confidence to the farmer to plough up his land and to maintain as much land as possible under the plough by guaranteeing him against the serious loss that overcame his predecessors in the disastrous years of 1880 to 1906. We believe, as the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool (Mr. L. Scott) said, that if we give that amount of confidence he will go forward to enjoy prices which we believe for some years to come will rule considerably above these guaranteed minima, knowing that, 548 if there should come a break in prices, that disaster which overtook his predecessors will not overtake him, and I believe that will give the necessary confidence to produce a great deal more arable land in this country than we have had in the past.
That was the policy of the Corn Production Act, and I venture to claim that that Act was successful. A great deal of land was ploughed up and a great deal more wheat and oats were grown, not necessarily entirely in consequence of the Corn Production Act, but as part of the policy to which the Corn Production Act contributed materially between 1916 and 1918. I find that the tillage of this country between those two years increased by 1,750,000 acres, and the acreage of wheat was increased by 750,000 acres, and of oats by 1,500,000 acres. Then I am sometimes told that it was all done wrong; that the wrong land was ploughed up; that the result was absolutely ridiculous. If you take the increased produce between the years I have just mentioned you will find that the wheat grown in this country increased from 7,500,000 quarters to 11,500,000 quarters, and oats from 21,000,000 to 31,000,000 quarters, and although I am not going to pitch my case too high and say that that admirable result was all due to the Corn Production Act, I do emphatically say that the confidence induced in the mind of the farmer by the knowledge that we were standing behind him, and would not let him down—would not, at all events, let that great disaster overtake him which overtook him in years gone by—certainly contributed largely to the increased production during that period. I certainly think myself this Bill will have the same kind of effect, and the prediction, which is a mere prophecy based upon nothing, that this Bill will not produce another quarter of wheat or oats in this country is a prediction which will not bear a moment's investigation.
I will come to the next point—the objection to the amount of the guarantees and the objection to the method of fixing the guarantees. With regard to the amount, of course, I quite expected we should be asked for more. It would never do for farmers in this country to say they were satisfied with the amount put in a Bill. Certainly, I could hardly expect they would. But when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grin- 549 stead (Mr. Cautley) tells me that the amounts we have put in are wrong, and the amounts he suggested are right, I can only say he was a member of the Royal Commission and eleven members of the Royal Commission recommended the amount we put in the Bill, and he alone recommended the figure he would have put into the Bill. Although I have the greatest respect for his knowledge and experience, it is really asking too much to suggest that we are to take his figure as necessarily the right figure, in view of the fact that eleven of his colleagues—the only other colleagues who recommended guaranteed prices at all—suggested other figures altogether. No, Sir, we cannot go back upon the figures which have been suggested by the large majority of the Royal Commission. But there is this further point, and I realise this is a difficulty. It is said that, because in the Bill we say 68s. for wheat and 46s. for oats, therefore the farmers are running away with the idea that those are to be their guaranteed minimum prices. It is not so. They were the prices arrived at by the Royal Commission for the year 1919, and the way it was arrived at was this: It has been said that they took the figures for 1918, that they did not take into account the undoubted increase in the cost of production between 1918 and 1919, that they did not take into account the fact that wages went up considerably in the interval. That is not the case. This is what they said:We have arrived at these figures after considering a large body of evidence as to the actual costs obtaining in 1917–18, that being the last year for which adequate data were available. We have then applied to our estimate of the average bare costs of production in that year the increase which the evidence indicates as having accrued between the costs of production in 1917–18 and 1918–19, in this case disregarding any increase or diminution in rent. The guranteed prices for each year should be published by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries not later than the end of the calendar year, on the necessary information being supplied to them by the Agriculture Costings Committee.This figure, which was arrived at by taking the costs in 1917–18 and adding on the estimated increase for the following year, is the datum line. Each year the Commissioners will ascertain, as my hon. and learned Friend said, what has been the proportionate increase of cost since the year 1919, and if the cost has gone up, say, 5 per cent., the guaranteed price will 550 go up 5 per cent. If the cost has gone down 10 per cent., the guaranteed price will go down 10 per cent. As a matter of fact, we know pretty well that the cost has gone up very considerably since 1919. I am not going to give any figures—it would be most improper if I attempted to do so—but it is quite untrue to suppose that 68s. is the guaranteed price for wheat or 46s. the guaranteed price for oats. It is quite true that the farmer will not know the figure until after the harvest. We realise that fact; and we realise the difficulty. We knew that it might create some uncertainty. I do not mind saying that in the first draft of the Bill we adopted a different plan. We said that we would take in each year the ascertained cost of production and the guaranteed price for the year before. What would have been the result? At a time like this, when costs are going up, the guaranteed price would have lagged behind, and immediately we should have had an outcry that the guaranteed prices were insufficient. We were obliged, therefore, in order that the actual cost of the year should be reflected in the guaranteed prices, to adopt this system, though I admit that it has the inconvenience that the farmer will not know the actual figure till after the harvest.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I think that I am right in saying—I speak entirely from memory—that the average minimum wage at the time that the Royal Commission was sitting was 39s. 6d., but, after all, that really is not a matter of importance, because whatever rise there has been since will be reflected in the guaranted prices of subsequent years. Some hon. Members—I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), who speaks with great authority on these questions—have suggested that, instead of taking cost of production, we ought to take merely the question of wages. Is that a sound thing to do? What are wages? I do not think that anyone would say that they are more than 40 per cent. of the cost. I should say that 40 per cent. is about the figure. There are other things the prices of which may go up or down. The tendency of modern ways is for a more extensive use of machinery, 551 and it is a very good thing, too. The result may be that the percentage of wages may go down and the cost of machinery go up. If you tie your guaranteed prices only to wages, you may bring about results that will not be at all what the farmer desires.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
That is not what I proposed. I did not propose a guaranteed price depending only on wages. I proposed a sliding scale whereby up-and-down wages and price would go together. That is quite a different thing.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I may be very stupid, but it seems to me that is the same thing. If the price goes up as wages go up and if it goes down as wages go down, then you are taking wages only into account and leaving out other important considerations. May I say that I am not necessarily wedded to the plan in this Bill. When we were drafting the Bill, we considered various plans. On the whole, I prefer this plan, and I think it is the best. There, again, I am quite prepared to go into the matter in Committee, and certainly we will adopt whatever appears to those most experienced in these matters to be the best plan.
Another point has been raised. Why, we have been asked, did we leave barley out of the Bill? The Royal Commission, it is said, recommended its inclusion. We left it out, first of all because we wanted to limit our liabilities. Secondly—and this is the main point—our object is not so much the production of wheat and oats as the maintenance of a large amount of arable land for the general purposes of farming—for the dairy, for potatoes. As was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland)—and it could not have been put better—the idea of picking out wheat and oats is that they are essential ingredients for arable rotation. You do that in the belief that it will make arable rotation reasonably profitable, and not unreasonable for farmers to maintain. We think we can maintain a large amount of tillage in this country by confining the guarantee to wheat and oats, and having regard to the very large commitments of the country, we feel that it is only right to limit our liabilities by not including barley in the Bill. My hon. Friend opposite, the Member for Welling- 552 borough (Mr. W. R. Smith), objected altogether to guaranteed prices. I do not think he objected to the establishment and permanence of the Wages Board. I tell him, and I tell the House, that if you are going to interfere with agriculture by the existence of the Wages Board—which I do not object to—I think it is right—as a corollary, you must give guaranteed prices—
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
What other industry is there where a Government Department is fixing wages in the manner suggested here?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
At all events, I stand by my position. I am quite content to have the opposition of my hon. and gallant Friend; in fact, I am glad to have it.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
If you interfere with farming to the extent of having an Agricultural Wages Board it follows of necessity, to my mind, that you must give guaranteed prices to the farmers. I link that point with another objection made by several hon. Members—the objection to the control of cultivation. If you have a Wages Board you must have guaranteed prices. If these latter involves a liability to the State, you must give the State a certain amount of control.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
At all events, we establish a tripartite position. There is the wages guarantee—that is for the labourer. There is the prices guarantee—that is for the farmer. There is a certain control of cultivation—that is in the interests of the nation. What is this control? This part of the Bill dealing with control has, I should think, been probably more denounced by some hon. Gentlemen in this House than any other part. It might be thought that for the first time 553 we were imposing a heavy, severe, and disastrous control upon the farming industry, but we are doing nothing of the kind, because, as a matter of fact, we are largely freeing the industry by this Bill. The control we put in it is not only very much less than the control under D.O.R.A., but it is a great deal less than the control that exists under the Corn Production Act. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was a temporary war measure."] Yes, but it goes on for another three years, and many of my hon. Friends have frequently asked me whether I could not get it made permanent. It is common knowledge that Members of the Agricultural Committee have frequently asked for the making permanent of guarantees.
It never was suggested that they meant to drop out of the Act those measures of control which exist at the present time. There are three kinds of control mentioned in this Bill. First of all there is control to ensure good husbandry. I am sure nobody objects to that. If the State gives guarantees, the least the State can do is to see that the land is cultivated according to the rules of good husbandry. Secondly, there is an obligation upon owners to execute such repairs as are absolutely necessary for the proper cultivation of the farm. Does anybody object to that? If the farmer cannot properly farm because his landlord does not execute those repairs, surely nobody can defend that position? As I have stated before, we do not propose in this Bill anything in the nature of new buildings or improvements. This measure deals simply with repairs to existing buildings and the equipment necessary for proper farming.
Then there is the third point, the change of cultivation. As regards that the proposals we are making are very much milder than the proposals in the Corn Production Act under which we can demand a change of cultivation of any kind in the national interest, but in this Bill we limit it and say that it shall only be such change as will not injuriously affect persons interested in the land. That is a very great modification of the present system and so far from tightening up control we are loosening it in that respect. Another point raised is that we no longer give compensation. No, because there is an appeal against the order. When we gave compensation it worked unjustly to the State in many cases. If the farmer, 554 under ordinary circumstances, makes a loss through the weather he has to stand by it, but we had to give compensation, and there are lots of cases where, through purely accidental reasons, we ought not to have had to pay, because under ordinary circumstances the farmer would have to bear the loss. Now we say we will not insist on a general change of cultivation unless it is proved to an independent arbitrator that the change proposed will not injuriously affect the owner and occupier of the land. I venture to say that that is a really very moderate proposal and so far from tightening up the control which exists at present we are really loosening it in this Bill.
I must say one word about Part II., which deals with tenure. Nobody knows the difficulty more than I do. Nobody realises more than I do that under the old order of landlords there was in practice the finest security of tenure possible, but, as my hon. Friend said, owing to hard times, owing to heavy taxation, owing to Income Tax and Super-tax, owing to the cost of repairs having trebled, owing to all these things, it is impossible for landowners now to retain their estates and to make both ends meet. The result has been these sales all over the country, which have caused almost a panic among farmers in some parts of the country. The old feudalism, the old paternal system, has largely been destroyed. We have to deal with a new condition of things and to secure to the tenant farmer that his capital shall not be confiscated as a consequence of these changes in ownership. I am not saying that the change in ownership is in itself bad; in some ways it may be very good. In some ways it may mean the introduction of new capital to the land which is most valuable. In other ways it will mean the purchase of farms by the tenants and the creation of what I hope will be a splendid race of occupying owners. For the time being there is all this uncertainty which has to be removed. The question is a most difficult one. I entirely agree with the statement made by my right hon. Friend opposite the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) in the course of his most interesting and admirable speech this evening. We must try to steer a middle course. We must not injure the just owner of the land. We must not 555 allow the unjust owner to despoil the tenant. We have tried in this Bill to hold the balance as evenly and as fairly as we can between landlord and tenant. We have most deliberately put on one side what is called security of tenure, because we do not believe in the dual ownership which operated so disastrously in Ireland. We do, however, think that by securing to the tenant farmer his capital, by securing that if he has to leave his farm for no fault of his own he shall not lose in fact by the transaction, we go as far as we ought to do. It may be we have gone too far. My right hon. Friend raised the question of one year's rent. I am quite prepared to consider that. I am quite prepared to consider all these questions on their merits. I want to hold the balance perfectly fairly and squarely. I do not want to see the tenant despoiled; neither do I want to deal unjustly with the landlord. Nor do I want to stop the flow of capital to the land.
There are, of course, many other points I could deal with. A great many other questions have been raised, but the House will not expect me to deal with them at this late hour. What I do say is this. I ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading. I believe it is based on principles which are unassailable. It aims at placing agriculture on a basis of permanent security, not specially for the benefit of agriculturists, but in the interests of the nation as a whole. Whatever alterations can be made to improve the Bill in detail will receive full consideration. In the meantime I claim that this Bill of the Government, and this policy, hold the field. I ask the House to endorse it, and, in view of the fact that we have already had a long Debate, I would appeal to the House, especially in view of the fact that there will be other opportunities of debating, in Committee and so on, to give us the Second Reading as soon as possible.
§ Major M. WOOD
This is a Bill which applies to Scotland, and only three Members from Scotland have been able to take part in the Debate. Therefore I
§ think I may take a few minutes to place before the House one or two matters particularly pertaining to Scotland. In my part of the country—in Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, and Morayshire—the farmers in the higher districts are continually in the unfortunate position of having no crops to harvest. The seasons there are very late, and there are continual frosts before the crops are able to ripen, so that it would not matter to them whether you gave them a guarantee of £100 a quarter for oats instead of the 46s. proposed in the Bill. This is to me an example of the dangers of setting up guaranteed prices for one crop. There is no reason why you should confine your guarantee to wheat and oats, and not extend it to other crops. It may sound an extravagant demand, but it will undoubtedly be made by these farmers, that they should participate in the guarantee which is going to be given to farming in the near future. They will ask that they also should be guaranteed against loss every year, just as the large farmer in the South is guaranteed in the matter of his wheat. The demand is bound to come, and is logically right. There is no real difference between the one case and the other. Another question which affects Scotland particularly is that of security of tenure. We complain that the security of tenure offered in this Bill does not carry out the pledges given to the nation by the Prime Minister at Caxton Hall. We have already a form of security of tenure in Scotland which would satisfy the agricultural interest there. It is the security of tenure which is given to the smallholders in Scotland under the Landholders Bill of 1911. That is all that farmers in Scotland would have asked for. There is one part of this Bill on which particularly I congratulate the Secretary for Scotland, to whom, I suppose, its inclusion is due. That is the provision by which the arbitration under this Bill is going to be undertaken in Scotland by the Land Court.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 190; Noes, 42.557
|Division No. 130.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Baldwin, Stanley||Barrie, Hugh Thom. (Lon'derry, N.)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Barnett, Major R. W.||Bennett, Thomas Jewell|
|Atkey, A. R.||Barnston, Major Harry||Betterton, Henry B.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Barrie, Charles Coupar||Billing, Noel Pemberton-|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel D. F.||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Rae, H. Norman|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Rankin, Captain James S|
|Brassey, Major H. L. C.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hinds, John||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Reid, D. D.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hope, H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n, W.)||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Rogers, Sir Hallewell|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Howard, Major S. G.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hudson, R. M.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hurd, Percy A.||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Seager, Sir William|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Jesson, C.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Johnson, L. S.||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Courthope, Major George L.||Johnstone, Joseph||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Stanley, Major H. G. (Preston)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Dawes, Commander||Kenyon, Barnet||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Kidd, James||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Edge, Captain William||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Lloyd, George Butler||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Elveden, Viscount||Lynn, R. J.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Waddington, R.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Wallace, J.|
|Fildes, Henry||Moles, Thomas||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Foreman, Henry||Morison, Thomas Brash||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Morrison, Hugh||Wigan, Lieut.-Colonel John Tyson|
|Forrest, Walter||Mount, William Arthur||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Nail, Major Joseph||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Neal, Arthur||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Green, Albert (Derby)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W)||O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.||Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Greer, Harry||Palmer, Charles Frederick (Wrekin)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Parker, James||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Peel, Lieut.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l,W.D'by)||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Hancock, John George||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Hanna, George Boyle||Pratt, John William|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hirst, G. H.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Lawson, John J.||Swan, J. E.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Lunn, William||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Finney, Samuel||Myers, Thomas||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Royce, William Stapleton||Major Mackenzie Wood and Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Sexton, James|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House."—[Mr. Billing.]
§ The House divided: Ayes, 45; Noes, 185.559
|Division No. 131.]||AYES.||[11.12 p.m.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Holmes, J. Stanley||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Johnstone, Joseph||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Sexton, James|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Kenyon, Barnet||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Lawson, John J.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lunn, William||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Swan, J. E.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Finney, Samuel||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Myers, Thomas||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Newbould, Alfred Ernest|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||O'Grady, Captain James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hirst, G. H.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Mr. Pemberton Billing and Mr. Palmer.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Green, Albert (Derby)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Greer, Harry||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Greig, Colonel James William||Pratt, John William|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gretton, Colonel John||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Purchase, H. G.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l,W.D'by)||Rae, H. Norman|
|Barrie, Hugh Thom (Lon'derry, N.)||Hancock, John George||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H (Devizes)||Hanna, George Boyle||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Reid, D. D.|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel D. F.||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hinds, John||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hope, H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n, W.)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Seager, Sir William|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Moseley)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Howard, Major S. G.||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Hudson, R. M.||Stanley, Major H. G. (Preston)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hurd, Percy A.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Jesson, C.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Colvin, Lieut.-Colonel Richard Beale||Johnson, L. S.||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Courthope, Major George L.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Kidd, James||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.)||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Dawes, Commander||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Waddington, R.|
|Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Wallace, J.|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Lloyd, George Butler||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Edgar, Clifford B.||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Edge, Captain William||Lynn, R. J.||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Wigan, Lieut.-Colonel John Tyson|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Moles, Thomas||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Elveden, Viscount||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Morison, Thomas Brash||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Morrison, Hugh||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Fildes, Henry||Mount, William Arthur||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Nall, Major Joseph||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Foreman, Henry||Neal, Arthur||Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Forrest, Walter||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Oman, Charles William C.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Parker, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Peel, Lieut.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)|
Question put, and agreed to.