HC Deb 12 February 1924 vol 169 cc766-7

The Government propose to support, either by loans or by guarantees, co-operative enterprises controlled by the agricultural community, organized and directed mainly to deal with agricultural produce, the buying of the raw materials, seeds, manure, the buying of implements of cultivation, the supplying of markets, and all those processes necessary to make agriculture a paying and prosperous concern in this country. The Government feel perfectly convinced that all extraneous aids to agriculture are only likely to result in a further deterioration of the agricultural mind, and an increased tendency and process on the part of farmers to trust to the power of the State and their influence in Parliament to get doles from the public purse, instead of solving their own problems by applying their own energy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Undiluted individualism."] The organisation of farmers' co-operative enterprises by farmers working as a function of the community, founded, encouraged, ex tended by State credit, is a form of individualism which the founders and the defenders of individualism would not know from Socialism. Under agriculture, and in connection with the idea of stimulus, the Government propose to set up again the Wages Boards. [An Hoer MEMBER: "For agricultural labourers?"] Yes, for agricultural labourers. In some parts we are informed that wages are again falling below the 25s. a week minimum. How any farmer can imagine that he is going to get value from a labourer whose income in these times is under 25s. a week I do not understand. [An HON. MEMBER "He does not! Well, if he does not, the stimulus to compel him to regard labour as the first charge on industry will enormously improve him as a farmer, and increase the efficient cultivation of his land. There is nothing that is more uneconomical, even on bad land, than sweated labour, anti by the re-establishment of Wages Boards, which will work in districts, we shall create a stimulus which, instead of being more hampering to the farmer, will compel the farmer to use more efficient expedients than he has used hitherto, in order to make good use of his labour and land. The whole point. is—and this is the general idea of the Government—that, until we get the farming community stimulated to organise itself, and to function as it has done in Denmark, for instance, nothing else is going to be of real and substantial benefit to the agricultural community of this country.