§ 3. "That a supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Post Office, including Telegraphs and Telephones."
§ First Resolution read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Major WHELER
I do not propose to say anything on the major question of foot-and-mouth disease, beyond asking my right hon. Friend whether, if he has any further information as to the disease, he will, when the opportunity arises, give us that information, because we see from day to day that the notified reports are not getting fewer. There is a case near London now, and the longer this goes on, the more anxious the whole agricultural community feels as regards this disease, and the extraordinary expenditure in 1022 addition to the serious loss of stock being caused, day by day, by its ravages. But I would like to come to the other Vote which, as far as these Supplementary Estimates are concerned, is only put down as a token Vote this year, and that is the Vote dealing with grants for co-operation, though that is a word which, as the Minister said the other day, we do not welcome very much, and the right hon. Gentleman talked about the word "combination" as being more suitable. Reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debate the other day, I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman said that this was only a token Vote for this year, and that as regards next year a sum possibly of £200,000 would be wanted for this purpose.
I am going to say at once, if that is all the Minister can do under this head, I am exceedingly disappointed. I do think that we want to examine this question rather carefully, because while I do not want to say one word against the good work that is done by such societies as the Agricultural Organisation Society, and societies in other parts of England, and also the organisations which are set up in such fruitful and fertile districts as Wisbech, or the fruit-growing districts, or in Pershore, in Worcestershire, and so on, where, owing to the special qualities of the soil, you can have organisation and combination for special products, I want to know how this system is going to favour the rank and file of farmers. Take the case of a farmer who may be farming, say, 80 acres, two-thirds of which is arable, and he is farming on the ordinary four-course system, with a certain amount of stock—not very much, probably, in these days—and a considerable amount of arable. I have looked at a statement that came out in some of the newspapers on Saturday giving some of the particulars of this scheme which the Minister of Agriculture outlined in regard to agricultural societies, and the more I look it through, the more I am convinced that that scheme is not going to help the type of farmer we want to help most, because the situation in agriculture to-day is surely, that there are these very large tracts of two-thirds arable and one-third grass farms run by 40 per cent. of the farmers, who, at this time, at any rate, are exceedingly hard up for money. They have probably sold all their corn, they may have a few sheep, and may 1023 look, perhaps, in four months' time for an increased price for the wool they may have to sell, and they may have one or two bullocks they hope to realise, out of which to make a little money, but not much.
That is the type of man for whom I cannot see any benefit coming from this scheme, but it is the type most in need of help. We talk about combinations of these people, but what benefit are they going to get from it? I want to get down to the bed-rock of this matter, and see if we cannot do something for what I may call the bottom dog, the farmer and his men. He may have a certain amount of poultry, but with the best possible system of combination for poultry, that is not going to carry him through a difficult time. Then there is milk. There are hundreds of farms which, from their situation, are not suitable for any great progressive scheme of developing milk, so you can wipe that out. Take pigs. The pig industry varies greatly, the price at any moment is subject to fluctuations, and we are competing with the outside world, such as Denmark. Moreover, if we are to make bacon factories pay, we shall have to standardise much more than we do to-day, and that will take time. But taking these three items on the farm, what hope is there for these 40 per cent. of the farmers of England to get any benefit under this scheme of co-operation, or whatever you like to call it? Yet that is all we are offered at the present time. Because I cannot see any hope for that kind of farmer, who wants more help than any other type of farmer in the country to-day, I say most frankly I am exceedingly disappointed with this scheme. One reads the proposals outlined in the papers, how the money is to be got, and the various Regulations. That does not appeal to the ordinary rank and file of farmers to-day. They want help, but they are not in the position to take advantage of it. They are not in the position to subscribe to that sort of thing. What they want is capital to help them along. That being so, where does the benefit come in, and I want the right hon. Gentleman to deal with this type of farmers, who are the large percentage.
That is the main point for which I have risen, because I do think this is a vital question to the agricultural community. 1024 In a word, it is on corn—and corn alone—that these men are dependent. At the present time, I venture to say, on every one of these farms, under the best cultivation, probably four quarters of wheat a year in and out is the most for which the farmer can hope. In his own local market he can be quite depended upon to get the best price for his corn, and, therefore, this scheme of combination holds out nothing to him. The more we look at this situation, the more we realise the scarcity of capital there must be on that type of farm. Until his corn is thrashed, as some has to be in August, how is that type of man to get the necessary capital to carry on? In speaking of these farms, I have, of course, included farms where the farmer has two, three, or four men depending upon him. That is the type who are absolutely going to get no benefit from this scheme at all. It is not that I do not want a scheme of this sort. I know great benefit has been derived from this kind of thing in some parts of the country, but it does not touch the percentage of men who are struggling to-day, and who will continue to struggle unless they can get some sort of help—a little money, instead of being on the verge of bankruptcy. If nothing-be done to help that type of man, what will be the result? As fast as they can buy seeds, down will go their land to grass, and, therefore, we come to the fact that those arable districts will suffer, unless something better is done to help that type of farmer. It is because of that, and because I feel so very strongly that all these great ideas of co-operation—excellent in themselves—do not touch the fringe of the difficulty under which we are suffering, that I am disappointed the Minister of Agriculture cannot bring forward, or has not up till now brought forward, some sort of scheme which will meet the needs of this forty per cent. of agricultural farmers and their workers, and do something to help them carry on in the difficult times before them.
§ 4.0 P.M.
Lieut.-Colonel LAMBERT WARD
On a point of Order. I desire to ask your ruling, Sir, as to whether I should be in order in referring to an item which appears in the Supplementary Estimate. This is a Supplementary Estimate for the amount required in the year ending 31st March, 1924, to pay the salaries and expenses of the Minister of Agriculture and 1025 Fisheries and for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. There dos not appear to be any of this money definitely allocated to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and therefore I am not certain whether I should be in order in asking the Minister one or two questions on that subject.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
No. That point can be raised on the main Estimates for the year. Discussion on this Report must be confined entirely to what is contained in this Supplementary Estimate. The hon. and gallant Member has referred to the heading, but the heading is a general heading taken from the main Vote. He must not look at that, but at the actual items for which money is asked.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I do not like to intervene on the Report stage of a Vote which has been so well discussed in Committee as this was, but I was unable to be here last week, and I can undertake that what I say shall not be long or in any sense disputatious or argumentative. I have had rather a long experience in connection with agricultural co-operation. It dates from the time when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture suggested that I might join the executive committee, as it then was, of the Agricultural Organisation Society, of which he was a member. That was twenty years ago. As he reminded me the other day, the reason why he made that suggestion to me was because he thought it would be a good thing if there were one or two Liberals on that committee. It is no doubt that, because I have taken his advice so seriously, I have remained a Liberal since that time. Doing that work, one has had a good deal of experience of the joys and sorrows of agricultural co-operative organisation and of its encouragements and disappointments, and although the disappointments have been many and the work has been very hard, I am hoping that under the policy of my right hon. Friend we are beginning a new era which really may be very helpful to agriculture in this country. I am glad he proposes a scheme under which credit may be given to societies mainly engaged in the sale of produce. So far as I can realise the details of the scheme, I think they are a distinct improvement on the scheme under consideration by the late Government. Although the late Government had gone some way in a discussion of some of the ways leading towards a 1026 scheme of this kind, they were not under their scheme going to help societies needing more than £5,000 and there are many types of societies which need rather more than that if they are to be taken in hand successfully. I think even now there is a chance of certain rather good types of societies—bacon factories for instance—falling between two stools. It is not quite enough, so far as our experience goes, to say to those societies that they will be looked after under the Trade Facilities Act schemes. The Trade Facilities Act Committee does not take any living interest in anything involving less than an expenditure of £100,000, and these co-operative societies, even though they are of fair size, are therefore liable to fall between two stools, not being helped by the trade facilities scheme and finding themselves just outside even the extended limit of £10,000 which my right hon. Friend has proposed.
Hon. Members who have joined in the discussion were right in indicating that co-operation ought not to be regarded as an agricultural panacea. But our system of marketing agricultural produce is extraordinarily chaotic, more so, I think, than that of any other produce in this country, and, though it be slowly, a very great deal can be done by careful planning to help both the consumer and the producer. I venture to lay stress on the consumers' end of the matter, and to say that agricultural co-operation ought to be regarded, not simply as a scheme to help the farmer, but as a thing to improve the general methods of trading in agricultural produce, so as to help the consumer also. Although it is too long a matter to go into to-day, I believe that under really scientific organisation we could considerably improve our methods in the manufacture and sale of bread. I believe it is really possible to sell bread at 1d. or 1½d. a loaf less than the present prices usually charged, and at the same time to use 75 per cent. or more of British wheat in the making of that bread. That would be a double advantage—to the consumer in the price and to the farmer by giving him a better market for his wheat. Those who have read the Final Report of the Linlithgow Committee, which very much repays reading, realise that to some extent the consumer is himself responsible for the prices he pays. As long as 1027 the consumer insists that tradesmen shall call for orders, that they shall deliver milk, bread and other things of that kind from house to house, and give long credit, they cannot grumble very much when these services are reflected in the prices they have to pay for the articles. The whole thing wants "looking at very big," not simply as a problem affecting the interests of the producers, but as affecting the whole of our society.
This brings me to my first main point. We should be wrong if we assume that the mere provision of money is going to settle these questions. The provision of money on reasonable terms will often be the least part and the least important part in the problem. You require a very long, thorough and careful planning and exploration of all these different trades—bread, meat, milk, bacon and all the rest of them—before you can give your credit on lines which are likely to be most successful in the interests of the producer and the consumer. In this country we ought to have something in the nature of a central directing brain in this matter, a certain number of men working whole time at the subject, some of them, no doubt, paid I for the work they give, with statutory authority and power over this credit which they will administer; and on that body you would want the very best business brains as well as the best agricultural brains to be found in the country. I should like, for instance, to bring in one of the very best brains in the industrial co-operation movement to help in organisation. I do not feel that the real planning and consideration of these intricate commercial problems will be sufficiently done by the advisory committee which my right hon. Friend the Minister has foreshadowed, and which would, presumably, exist mainly, if not wholly, to consider particular applications for credit as and when they were brought forward. Recently I have had to do in detail with planning out a bacon factory scheme for Devon and Cornwall, and if I were a member of an advisory committee before whom an application for credit for such an organisation came, I should want to know a very great deal about it, and want to go into a great many fundamental matters before I agreed to grant money. One would want to have in one's mind how that factory was related geographically 1028 to others, so as to ensure no unnecessary overlapping. One would want to be certain what arrangements were going to be made for dealing with the bacon through some central trading agency, so that co-operation could be obtained between that factory and others. One would want to know that it was going to be properly equipped, because it is very important to avoid the wrong type of equipment; one would want to know how it was going to be managed; and what obligations members would be under to supply the right type of pig. Further, one would want to know, and this is almost the most important point, judging by such experience as I have had, whether the Society was going to put itself under periodic expert review by some body to see that it was really conducting its affairs on business-like lines.
Personally I would not grant State money to any agricultural co-operative concern which would not, as a condition of receiving the money, put itself periodically under such review. It is so easy for a body of farmers to settle down, with the best intentions in the world, as the managing committee of a society olfactory and, not being themselves trained business men, allow things to drift on. They do not realise what departments of the work are losing money, and nothing but a real expert business review and inspection will show them where they are going wrong. If they do not get that, then, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir Leslie Scott) said last week, they appeal, in extremis, to some parent body to help them when it is almost too late to do so, and when, very likely, the help cannot be effective. It seems to me, therefore, that a body in charge of credit needs to be something more than an Advisory Committee. They want to work out what the policy ought to be in these different departments of trade, and they want to be certain that they have taken advantage of the lessons which have been learnt. In the last 20 years agricultural organisation societies in this country, in Scotland, in Ireland, and in Wales have been amassing experience. I do not wish to put it too high, but they have learned how not to do a great many things—of course, they have learned more than that—and their negative experience would be extraordinarily valuable and I should like to 1029 have, not merely an Advisory Committee which would consider applications but a whole-time directing brain on which the very business brains in the business world as well as in the agricultural world, could combine in order to direct policy.
In connection with milk, I should like to follow up what my right hon. Friend said last week. There is no reason in the world why we in this country should not consume as much milk as they do in the United States of America, or more for that matter, because the distances to be covered here are much less than there. It would be an enormous advantage to our public health and lead to an enormous decrease in our infantile mortality. It can be done, and it ought to be done, but if you are to do it you will need a carefully combined and worked out campaign. It is not enough that farmers should be urged to produce better and cleaner milk, and it is not enough to have the best system of milk recording, though that is very good in its way. It is not enough to gain greater economy in the distribution of milk. I, for one, do not at all put out of consideration the making of the milk supply in some towns a municipal matter. It is very likely that might be quite a good thing to go into. It is not enough for doctors and medical officers of health to do what they are prepared, and anxious to do, that is to try and popularise the consumption of whole milk, particularly by women and children. That is not enough at all. The railway companies should be asked to do their share. You have got, too, to go into, at any rate, one other important matter, and that is the way toll at present is levied on the milk industry by the great wholesalers—that which is generally called the milk combine, the United Dairies.
The Linlithgow Committee makes valuable suggestions in regard to that. They are very moderate in their character. They say quite clearly that that combine is now levying a great toll upon the consumers of milk. They make the perfectly definite recommendations that the reports, balance sheets, and accounts of these subsidiary industries, which that great concern have swallowed up, should be separately published, so that they can be open to the inspection of the public. When applications are made from co-operative societies who wish to buy their 1030 milk I should like there to be, as I say, a statutory body on the lines, it may be, of the existing Development Commission or the existing Forestry Commissioners, which will have some ruling authority, to look at the thing big; at a great public plan of popularising milk consumption; not simply isolated applications by isolated co-operative societies, or the isolated granting of certain credits, or something of that kind.
There are other big things that ought to be looked at. The first is the law under which these co-operative societies work. My right hon. Friend suggested registration; but that is not an alternative plan to that of the industrial and provident societies. That is becoming rather old-fashioned now, and there are modifications of it which industrial societies themselves would desire. It is not enough to plan from the point of view only of the feeding necessities of these agricultural co-operative societies. There are many points which need careful consideration and review. I am not sure that we ought not to do to-day in this country what is being done with good effect in South Africa and other countries, which have special laws for societies and organisations of this sort, apart from all the laws which might be suitable for the industrial and provident societies generally. There, again, I want to have a central directing brain over the movement, and not simply an Advisory Committee. Another point, if I might make it—seeing that hon. Members on the Front Bench seem to be interested in the matter—is that there could surely be some better connection than there is now between the agricultural co-operative movement and the industrial co-operative movement. There is no reason at all why good work and good planning should not result in good results if the question were regarded big and in a statesmanlike way by both sides. The help of those people whom I have suggested might be asked to tackle questions of this sort.
I pass to one other point. My right hon. Friend used a phrase which was the only phrase in his speech with which I did not quite agree. The Government now propose to help the societies in regard to loans but not in regard to propaganda, I venture to say that you need both propaganda and educational work, as well as loans. For instance, in the West of 1031 England one has worked in the inspection of sites, and the making of rather detailed and tedious arrangements with the railway company for sidings, etc., and the prospectus embodies the best results of experience one can collect in trying to arrange a system under which the farmers supply their pigs, and that sort of thing. If the farmers are to be expected, as they ought to be expected, themselves to produce a considerable amount of the capital that is required, there remains the necessity for a very considerable propaganda and educational campaign in every market town in the two countries. This is needed if there is to be success with many farmers. We all of us know very well what they are like. It is not enough to suggest and put before him a certain business proposition. They listen in absolute immobility; they act alone. They think a lot, and they do not say much. They never come to a decision at once They say they will think it over. That means that between one market and the market the following week they are trying to find out what Mr. So-and-So or Mr. Somebody-Else thinks of the matter, and is going to do, and whether or not he, or they, are going to put their money into it When they again come home they think it over again, as to whether they will or will not do the same, and if they invest their money, how much! Propaganda work is needed in a market town and there are 20 or 25 of them in each of the counties somewhat of the size of Devon and Cornwall. It needs three or four real educational meetings, and very often that has to be followed up by actual visits to the individual farms before you can get the individual cultivator to take a share, and see what is the use of a co-operative body. That is really educational work. It seems to me that a term of years is required to tackle and to educate the farmer into agricultural co-operation, and until it is more firmly established than now this sort of work will have to be continued.
It is not an easy thing, after all. You need to be a successful co-operator. You need combination and, if I may so, what is expressed by faith. You need faith and discipline, and enthusiasm and regulation, and these are not the qualities which you easily find in combination. 1032 A man may be enthusiastic, but he may not be disciplined. A man may have the idea of rule, but he has not got faith and enthusism to make him take up and apply-any general idea. It is very difficult. I do not in the least blame the farmers, but it is very difficult to make the farmer realise that only by trading big can he trade well, and that in order to trade big he must be willing to forego the odd shilling per ton extra price on his fertilisers and the shilling per quarter extra price when he sells a quantity of grain, which the dealer is willing to offer him, simply in order to keep the co-operative societies weak and undermine his loyalty in it. Therefore, you need faith, but that is only got by continual and steady education. You need a standard of discipline, too. That is a thing which we learn from other countries, and which we learn from the United States, where the farmers have a very much greater care about the business side of their operations than is general in this country, and where they themselves control the business end of their organisation instead of handing it over to other people-as mostly happens here. They have to learn by experience that the only way to make co-operative organisation successful is to subject themselves voluntarily to very stiff rules and a system of discipline, in regard, for instance, to the proportion of the output they are allowed to sell to the society, and things of that sort. We shall have to come to the same thing in this country.
There is a great deal of human nature about which has got to be overcome before you can make a good co-operator of anyone, and the farmer is not very different from other people. I remember in the very early days when we tried to give the farmers in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, an idea of the elementary proposition that they were very likely to do better in buying their fertilisers and get them cheaper if they would buy by the truck-load in combination, than individually and from different agents. The answer that I got from one of them was very characteristic. It was to this effect: "I know perfectly that if I try to combine with the man on the next farm that all the time he will be trying to Yorkshire me and I will be trying to Yorkshire him!" I do not know that I need explain that observation. It is fairly clear. But what the man meant 1033 was that if there was in the truck, say, a number of tons, that the first man would take a couple of tons, and the other would take his couple, and perhaps a third his couple, and whereas there ought to be left four tons for the next two men they would find subsequently that only a ton and a half had been left. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] Every county does it in just the same way. In other words, right away from the top of society to the bottom, I am afraid we have not got—this is one of the greatest and strongest arguments against nationalisation—we have not got the same habits of honesty and the same power of trusting one another in combination, say, that would be expected if it was a question simply of man to man. That is one of the great difficulties in getting real loyalty to co-operative societies. For one thing, the worst of the man's stock is good enough for the society! He does not realise that in that way he is really swindling his brother farmer. Unless you get the proper habits of agricultural co-operation so as to meet this great difficulty, there will be needed not only educational work, but it will be justifiable for the Government to provide in some way or other—I do not here suggest what—for the continuance for a few years, at any rate, of propagandist work, as well as simply granting credit facilities.
My last point is the part which it seems to me farmers themselves might be asked and expected to play in this matter. I have nothing but praise for the help that is given constantly by many of the leaders of farming in the county branches of the National Farmers' Union as to co-operative enterprises; whether bacon factories or wool societies, or whatever they may be. But in some cases the leaders are not very friendly, and one then generally finds that the leading man himself is a trader, or has relatives who are traders, and, therefore, has more interest in the success of the traders than in the success of the farmers. Generally there is very little to complain of in the attitude of the National Farmers' Union in the counties; yet at headquarters there has hitherto been, I am sorry to say, no great enthusiasm in tackling the commercial organisation of industry. A very able representative of the industry, Mr. Bobbins, was a member of the Linlithgow Committee, and agreed to their reports. 1034 These series of reports set out the sort of ways in which the commercial organisation could be tackled, preferably by the farmers themselves; but so far as I have seen hitherto very few of the leading farmers have really referred either to co-operation or to the recommendations of that Committee without almost a sneer, if they have not really taken up a different attitude.
These indicate lines of work for many years to come; yet I think that they maybe very fruitful if individual farmers would look at the thing big and play their part. There seems, for instance, if they know, as they do, that in the ordinary small auction marts throughout the country—in almost every one—there are probably now butchers' rings making special profits at the expense of the farmer, and taking out of the hands of the farmers the real value of the stock they sell; yet I have not noticed a single leader of the National Farmers' Union indicating that they have any policy or any idea of working out a policy to tackle that real evil, and that real piece of dishonesty, as I think, at the farmers' expense. In so far as they do indicate an interest in co-operation they indicate at the present time that they would be prepared perhaps to take over the bacon factories which happen to be doing very well, but they make no sort of suggestion that they might be able to take over what is a much more difficult matter, and that is the organisation of the milk factories, or try to do something with the auction marts, the slaughter houses, and so on. I shall not believe in their willingness to do what they might do unless and until they attack some of the more difficult aspects of this matter.
I am sorry for that, because in this question of agricultural co-operation it ought to be the farmers themselves who take the lead. A few of us have done the best work we can on the Agricultural Organisation Society to promote the interests of agriculture, but it will never be the real success which it could be made in this country so long as any considerable portion of the farmers are willing to sit back and say, "We are quite willing for other people to do the work, and if it is successful we shall give it our approval." I think they must take up the work themselves if it is to be a real success. I am the chairman of the 1035 Agricultural Organisation Society, and I think this is the moment when the Rational Farmers' Union, with more keenness, knowledge and enthusiasm, should come forward and take their proper place as the parties responsible for the organisation. If they would do this, my colleagues and I would be content at once to give place to those who ought to be the actual developers of this work. Up to the present they have not quite developed that spirit.
In this country, in the long run the prosperity of agriculture depends very largely on the good will and sympathetic consideration of the urban population. As our marketing committees are organised now, every single one of them has a majority of members from the towns and not from the country. The Farmers' Union have done many things, and there are many other things they wish to be done for them by the Government, but in the long run these things will not be effectively done, and the appeal made by those engaged in agriculture will not be effectively listened to, unless the ordinary man in the street, the ordinary urban voter, is convinced that agriculture is doing the best it can to help itself, and that it only comes to this House when it has done what it can to help itself, and puts its own industry on a satisfactory basis without constantly appealing to the rest of the taxpayers for assistance. I thank the Minister of Agriculture most heartily for what he has done. I apologise for intervening so late in these Debates, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will receive in a friendly spirit such teachings of experience as I have been able to offer, based as they are on long years of work of which he was the original inspirer.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Noel Buxton)
Perhaps I may be allowed to intervene now at this stage to answer one or two points which have been debated. I would just like to point out that this Vote is not dealing with the whole of the Government's agricultural policy, but only with one item, and, indeed, only with part of the co-operative question and not even the whole of that. It is not claimed that this is a panacea, and therefore to go outside this particular proposal would not be relevant. The only question now is whether this Vote 1036 represents a desirable object. Lest me say here that I should like to inform the House how gratified I am that so much favour has been shown from all quarters of the House towards this Vote.
I have been asked what will this proposal do for those things in which the farmer is interested. A large number of societies have been concerned with the purchase of farmers' requisites, and there is not a single member of those societies who has not received more benefit, financially than he would have done without the society. More help will be given in the direction of the formation of those societies. That is leaving out sale, mar keting and grading which were referred to in the Linlithgow Report. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland) has made an enormous contribution to this question, and since the days to which he has alluded, there has been progress made which is really astonishing in comparison with the very small part that was played by the society when he was good enough to accept my invitation to join the Committee. The progress has been very great and it shows that there is an opening to make it greater. I am extremely gratified that the right hon. Gentleman sees no more to criticise in these particular methods than those to which he has referred.
In his very interesting speech there are suggestions which I shall study most carefully. He speaks of the Advisory Committee as not covering the ground completely. I would like to say that I feel that an Advisory Committee, on which those who have worked in co-operation with the farmers will accept a place, will certainly cover a larger area than that of merely giving advice as to whether a particular application for a loan should be agreed to or not, and the Committee will find itself interested and occupied with the whole question of co-operative policy for which he suggests there should be another body. I think we shall find the Ministry calling in volunteers because in that way we can meet the case. If not something further might be done, but this plan should be tried first of all.
As for propaganda, the Committee will do a great deal in that direction because it will become known that there are skilled men who can offer advice, and their services will be applied for so that they will, to a great extent, fulfil the task which is 1037 called propaganda. I am seeking advice from all quarters. I have just had a long talk with Sir Horace Plunkett, and I am sure I have more to learn. I am a great believer in consultation upon certain kinds of business, and any advice we can get will be extremely welcome. I am glad that what has been proposed is regarded as an honest attempt to help the farmers.
The spirit of general helpfulness is very welcome, and if we do not approach this question in a partisan spirit, I am sure the House will agree we can do some good and in many directions farmers will find we have put our finger on the right way to help them. Perhaps after the rather lengthy talk we have had on this question, I might now ask the House to allow this Vote to go through. I might add that if we are to keep in touch with agriculture, as we all want to do, we had better take care that we get an Easter holiday, and I am just a little afraid of our encroaching far too much on the few days which I, at all events, would like to get at Easter, and on these grounds I ask the House to allow this Vote to pass.
§ Mr. EDWARD WOOD
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is no desire, as far as I know, in any quarter of the House to protract this Debate, and even if there had been, the Minister's appeal in regard to the prospect of an Easter holiday would have taken away any such desire. At the same time, I think he will recognise that, although this afternoon he has adopted rather a subdued note with regard to these particular proposals, there is some disposition amongst hon. Members to express their opinion shortly on a matter which is not without considerable interest to the whole agricultural community. As far as we are concerned on these Benches, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman there will be no attempt to continue this Debate beyond the necessary limit.
I think the general sense of the House is the one which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland) expressed, and the right hon. Gentleman can be quite sure that he need be under no obligation of offering any apology to the House for his intervention in the Debate. Indeed we all agreed with the Minister of Agriculture when he expressed the gratitude of the House to the right hon. Gentleman 1038 the Member for Tiverton for his extremely valuable and instructive intervention. I intervene for rather a different purpose. The unanimity with which these proposals have been received has been so comparatively complete that I noticed in some quarters after the Debate last week a certain tendency to get the matter with which the Debate dealt a little out of its real perspective, and it is with that object that I wish to offer a word of caution and warning. First of all, I will offer a word of caution, if I may, with far less experience than the two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in the field of co-operation itself. It is quite true there is no magic in the words "combination" or "co-operation." Furthermore, any attempt to translate that word into practice will be likely to meet with very strong opposition from other interests, and therefore that path is not likely ever to be an easy one to tread.
I would emphasise the need for greater circumspection in regard to the subject with which these societies will be invited to deal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton devoted some of his observations to bacon factories, which loomed rather largely in the discussion we have had. In the judgment of one right hon. Gentleman who spoke, in order to run a bacon factory properly he said you must have at least 500 pigs a week as a minimum. I have no claim to much experience on this question, but I have always heard the figure placed much higher than that. I have heard it placed at very much nearer double that figure. I have no doubt, therefore, that, if and when these proposals come to be considered, those whose duty it is to examine them, with a view to the lending of State money, will be right to have the fullest possible regard to the kind of consideration which the right hon. Gentleman emphasised, as to the radius over which they can draw, in order to keep down the charges for railway transport, and so on, so that they may, as far as possible, be set on the line towards prosperity.
There is another vital difference, when a comparison is made between us and Denmark, and I have not yet heard any reference to it in this Debate. I believe is is true to say that the Danes established no bacon factories until—I speak generally—they had covered the country with a network of co-operative 1039 creameries. In other words, they deliberately, and, I suppose, from their point of view, wisely, followed the policy of organising their pig industry as a subsidiary industry to dairying. Of course, I know that the conditions here and in Denmark are quite different, but we, apparently, are starting on other lines. We are trying to organise our bacon factories as a first-principal product, and, when we have done that, we shall hope, with that first-principal product, to compete against the Danes in a line which is to them a by-product. I only mention that as an example of the extreme need for circumspection and caution in the broad organisation of the policy in these matters which ft is ultimately intended to pursue. I will only give the House one figure, which, in that connection, is not without interest. I believe that in Denmark, at the present time, there are 1,650 co-operative creameries. In this country, if my information is correct, there are 38—a most astonishing disparity. I only mention that because I so cordially agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said, in the course of his remarks relating to milk, as to the low consumption per capita of the population, and, I am afraid, too often, its low grade of quality and cleanliness. I should, if it were possible to accomplish it, greatly like to see a large development in regard to milk in this co-operative field, and I believe that in that we should not only be contributing to social health, but should also be working on sound economic lines.
May I, in a sentence, suggest the importance of two other directions that are both simple and encouraging? One is that of co-operative milling. At the present time the farmer has often to pay more for his offals than the miller pays him For his corn. If we had co-operative milling, he would have the advantage of getting his offals on reasonable terms. The same thing applies to co-operative slaughtering, under which he would get the advantage of the offal, which, at present, goes out of his hands. I am certain that if any of these developments are to be made a success, the plant of combination will only flourish in the soil of liberty. While it is very nice for the State to be willing and able to assist in the provision of the money, I am sure that, as the right hon. 1040 Gentleman the Member for Tiverton said, it may very often be the case that the provision of money will be the least important part. I welcome what the Minister said, in introducing this Vote, with regard to the measure of control that he proposes to exercise, through the Ministry, over these societies. It seemed to me that he had reduced that control to the minimum necessary to afford proper safeguards, and I have no ground for complaint on that score, but I would utter this word of warning. When we talk about co-operation, or combination, and are told that the grant from the Government is to be limited to £10,000 to each society, I occasionally ask myself, where is the rest of the money coming from? I suppose the answer would be that it is going to be put up by farmers who believe in co-operation and who want to push it. But the whole trouble, or one of the principal troubles, at the present moment, is that farmers have not got the money, and if, indeed, they had got the capital—
§ Mr. WOOD
I am not sure whether my Noble Friend would agree that farmers have got a lot of money, but, if he does, he must be thinking about his own part of the country, where they grow hops. I am afraid that in the main it is true that farmers have lost much of their capital, and all their spare capital ought to be, if it is not already, employed in the land. I must confess to a certain measure of doubt as to the amount of spare money that' here is knocking about in the farmers' pockets for the immediate development of a co-operative movement. In any case, I am quite sure that combination or co-operation is no short cut to give every farmer a bulging bank balance. For the same reason, it really cannot be claimed—and I do not think the Minister would claim—that this is a contribution to the real root problem of agricultural economic conditions and employment. Indeed, that was expressed and felt in every quarter of the House during the previous Debate. The idea that, by lending £10,000 to a co-operative society which farmers have not yet formed, any benefit is going to be brought to the agricultural labourer, is an idea that is obviously repugnant both to the hon. Member for the Holland Division (Mr. Royce) and to the 1041 right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), as well as to a good many of my friends on this side of the House. I am a little afraid of the public thinking, "Oh, here is substantial help given to the principle of co-operation," and that the public, who, as has already been said, are very ignorant on agricultural matters, may be in danger of drifting off, thinking that an agricultural policy has been introduced, and that the Government have done all that they can reasonably be asked to do by way of a solution of agricultural difficulties. I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not hold that view, and, indeed, last week he said so, but I do venture to tell him that the agricultural community, while not anxious to press him unduly, is yet getting a little unquiet, as it sees one alternative after another ruled out by the Government, one possibility after another cast aside, and a considerable amount of attention given to what it knows cannot be even a partial solution of the underlying causes of the difficulty. Therefore, I hope it may not be very long before the right hon. Gentleman is able to lay more fundamental proposals before the House. It is certain that there is, at the present moment, a definite, steady and regular shrinkage in the area of cultivated land in England, and the next returns that this House has will show, unless I am very much mistaken, a further extension of that shrinkage. While, therefore, I welcome these proposals and this Estimate as far as they go, and associate myself with the wishes that have been expressed that the farmers' organisations throughout the country may lend all the help they can to this and any other similar effort, I cannot pretend to the House, or to any of those interested outside, that I have, or can hope to have, any confidence that these proposals, by themselves, will do anything to reverse, or even to retard, the great movement of economic forces by which agriculture is at present threatened.
§ Sir ROBERT THOMAS
While one wishes God-speed to this proposal in regard to loans to agricultural co-operative societies, I would point out that this is not the main Vote which we are asked to pass to-day. We are asked to pass a vast sum of money, amounting to not less 1042 than £3,000,000, for expenditure in connection with foot-and-mouth disease. I maintain that a great deal of this expenditure has been unnecessary and grossly wasteful, in consequence of the importation of Irish cattle into this country. The Minister has no control over the importation of Irish cattle. These cattle are sent to places like Birkenhead and Mode Wheel, on the Manchester Ship Canal, where licences are granted for the animals to be sent to all parts of the country. The hon. Baronet the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) asked a question to-day whether a case of infection which occurred at Farnsfield was attributable to animals shipped from I reland. I rise to protest against the continuance of that system, and against the Voting of money by this House for expenditure to stamp out foot-and-mouth disease, when the Ministry of Agriculture are taking no steps to prevent cattle coming into this country from foreign countries—because, to all intents and purposes, Ireland is a foreign country—without any control, and infecting the cattle here.
Apart from that, I want to refer to the injustice that arises. There are to-day, in England and Wales, areas where there is no infection. I represent a small county through which Irish cattle pass. They are brought to Holyhead and landed there, and cattle men in Holyhead rub against them, the manure from the lairages at Holyhead is sold and put on the land in my county, where, up to the present, there is no foot-and-mouth disease at all, and the trucks that carry these animals to Birkenhead are brought back again to the county to be cleaned. I say that until this sort of thing is stopped there is not going to be any stoppage of expenditure in connection with foot-and-mouth disease in this country. Therefore I have a right to protest against the passing of this Vote so hurriedly as the Minister asks, without raising this very serious question. There has not been a single case of foot-and-mouth disease in Anglesey or Carnarvonshire for the last 40 years, but still we are not allowed licences to send cattle from either of those counties to what is called a pitching ground, that is to say a ground, say at Salford, which is the market for the cattle which we export from 1043 Anglesea and Carnarvonshire. He told me this morning when I had the honour of taking a deputation to him and of drawing his attention to this matter which is of the most vital importance to the farmers of my county that he has no remedy to offer. He knows that there is no infection in my county, but he will not give a licence for the animals from my county to go to a pitching-ground where butchers can come and examine them and buy them before they go into the slaughterhouse. These permits are given to the Irish farmers. Irish farmers have a pitching-ground at Birkenhead and at Mode Wheel, near Manchester. I hope my right hon. Friend will explain before the conclusion of this Debate why he is prepared to give those privileges to the Irish farmer and deny them to the British farmer. I do not think that is an unreasonable question. If Irish cattle, without inspection by the British Board of Agriculture, are allowed to come on to pitching-grounds in Lancashire, why is not the British farmer allowed a similar privilege, particularly in the case of my county where there has been no foot-and-mouth disease for 40 years? If my right hon. Friend will give a reply to that, I am sure he will give great satisfaction in all quarters of this House.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WRIGHT
I rise to take part in this discussion for one or two reasons. In the first place, a long part of my life was spent in the co-operative movement. On the last occasion when I had an opportunity of speaking here, I came into unpleasant conflict with the right hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland), and it gives me great pleasure to say now that I am largely in agreement with what he has said this afternoon. I have tried to do the particular kind of work which he suggests should be done. I have combined enthusiasm with the actual work of trying to convert a very large section of the retail co-operative societies in Scotland to the value and importance of combining agriculture with co-operative industrial organisations. If I may say so without seeming to make any boast, I have been instrumental in inducing certain retail societies in Scotland to add to their enterprise the farming side of the business. The society at Brechin, which was formerly two societies and at my suggestion combined 1044 into one, are already farming from 150 to 200 acres. They commenced a few years ago and they are highly pleased with what is going on. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) a night or two ago was somewhat doubtful of the success of agricultural co-operation. There are quite a number of societies in Scotland, and while some have failed a number have been successful. I would point to two instances in particular There is the Walkerburn Society, in the. Border district, and there is the society of Tranent, in East Lothian, who had Mr. John Cairns, one of the directors of the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, as their manager, and who carried on very successfully for some years in farming. Therefore, I think, despite the scepticism and some of the drawbacks which have been experienced in Scotland, there is a great future so far as co-operative agriculture is concerned. It has been a matter of great regret to me how much agriculture has fallen into decay in modern times within our own land. I agree that this is not merely a question of money. We have to find, among other things, the type of key man who understands this question, and who is able to bring enthusiasm and practical knowledge to bear on the question.
It has been suggested that certain lines of literature might be pursued. If I might make a suggestion to the Minister, with all due respect, I would ask him, and those who are interested in this question, to obtain a book, published a few years ago by Dr. J. W. Streeter, in the United States, called "The Fat of the Land." Dr. Streeter hit upon some novel ideas of working what is called a co-operative factory farm, and he met with extraordinary success. Any hon. Member of this House who is interested in co-operation in agriculture, and what to me is perhaps the more important point of developing the industry so that it will give the men employed on the land a wage upon which he can live, ought to obtain and read Dr. Streeter's book. He proves beyond the shadow of doubt that on land which was derelict when he took it over, it is possible to establish a new system and to pay to the people he employed on the land very much better wages than they had ever been paid before. He redeemed 350 acres of land and made it an eminent 1045 success. Only a few days ago I was speaking to a friend in Worcestershire who until a few years ago was working as a railway signalman and had been an agricultural labourer. He took over 18 acres of land, where he is now employing six people as a market gardener and paying them £2 a week winter and summer, wet or fine. The right hon. Member for Holland (Mr. Royce) said there were agricultural labourers working for 15?. a week in England.
§ Mr. WRIGHT
If there are men working as casual labourers for 15s. a week, it supports my argument. It has been said that the agricultural labourer's wage is not more than 24s. a week.
§ Mr. WRIGHT
My hon. Friend agrees with that. I submit that it is impossible for any man to rear a family on 24s. a week. If the agricultural industry cannot give a better standard of living than that, to me it stands thereby condemned. If the Minister of Agriculture and the Government, or this House, cannot devise some better means whereby men would not be condemned to live under such horrible conditions as this, it is time we adopted a system of discovering some other part of the world where it can be done.
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Mr. Young)
I am afraid the hon. Member is getting away from the subject of co-operative societies.
§ Mr. WRIGHT
I notice, when we are debating this subject, that as soon as we get down to the agricultural labourer and the low-paid workmen we are out of order. There is this to be said, that they succeed very admirably in Denmark upon this question. I disagree with what has been said in this Debate, that you cannot get more than four quarters to the acre from the land in this country. We are assured that money is being lost on wheat grown in this country. I do not accept these statements. I asked 1046 for a return a few days ago, which was supplied by the Minister of Agriculture, and it shows that the average yield in Great Britain for 1921, I think, was 37 bushels to the acre, while the yield in Denmark, with inferior soil and climate, was, on the average, 54 bushels to the acre. Therefore, I say there is something radically wrong with the farming system of this country, which has remained stationary for 40 years. Then I take the question of the possibility of bacon factories being established. Fifty years ago, in 1870, the pigs in this country numbered 2½ millions. In 1922 they were 2¼ millions and in 1923 2,750,000, so that it virtually remained stationary, although during that period our population increased from 22,000,000 to 39,000,000, or 60 per cent.
I must call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the subject that we are discussing, which is loans to agricultural co-operative societies, and he must relate what he is saying to agricultural co-operative societies.
§ Mr. WRIGHT
I am willing to abide by your ruling, but it is extraordinary to me. I sat through the discussion of this matter last week, and the question of pigs and bacon factories has been referred to over and over again. I will be obliged to you if you will tell me how I am out of order.
The hon. Gentleman is quite entitled to refer to bacon factories, but it must be agricultural bacon factories.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I desire to associate myself with the hon. and gallant Member who opened the discussion, and who said the main need of the farmer is not co-operation but capital. This Vote proposes to try to establish two things. It proposes that money should be given to co-operative societies to organise production. On that point I do not desire to make any comment, but with regard to the 1047 question of distribution, I suggest that there is not much hope for the farmer in that direction. Quite recently a friend of mine who was a distinguished Member of the House for many years, who was keenly interested in the question and apparently shared the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, was brought into contact with one of the gentlemen responsible for one of the biggest distributing houses in London and was given all the information at their command. At the end of the discussion, he frankly admittted that the whole of his case had been knocked down. On the whole, I am inclined to say that while co-operation may and probably could help the large farmer, he belongs to that class of people who least need our help. I am afraid in this House it is forgotten that by far the larger number of farms are small. For instance, two-chirds of all the farms in England and. Wales do not exceed 50 acres. In some of the Welsh counties the percentage is as high as 75 and even 80 per cent. Even if you exclude from that calculation farms of under one acre, it works out at an average in England of only 70 acres and in Wales 50 acres. I submit that the first and essential need of these farmers is not co-operation at all but capital. They lack credit. One hon. Member the other day was told across the House that the banks advanced money. I do not think there is any doubt that the banks have advanced money lavishly, and, in my opinion, often recklessly, to farmers for buying their land, with the result that in competition on the market they put up the prices against themselves. The difficulty experienced by the farmer at the present time is to get capital for his business. Take the position of the small firmer. He buys his seed on credit. He very often has to borrow money, and the sheep farmer has to sell his wool before the sheep are sheared in order to pay rent. Too often the farmer buys on credit at a credit scale and sells the next day for cash in order to get capital. To that class of people this Vote does not appeal at all. It will not assist them in any shape or form.
During the course of the War, on the other hand, guarantees were given to the banks for loans to farmers for the purchase of seed, stock and agricultural 1048 implements. In Ireland to-day that is the settled policy of the Board of Agriculture, and the real and efficient assistance which could be rendered to farmers would be to enable the Government, either through these co-operative societies or by the establishment of some other system, to advance money to tenant farmers to buy seed, stock, and, if necessary, agricultural implements. Take the case of Ireland. According to the last figures, I can find no fewer than 3,354 loans were made to farmers to buy agricultural implements, The Scottish Board of Agriculture is advancing money at 2 per cent., including principal and interest, for settling ex-service men upon the soil. I do not quite understand why, if that money is obtained from Imperial funds, it should not also be available to the farmer and the agricultural labourer. The question, may be asked, I think rightly, can that assistance be given to the co-operative societies? I realise the difficulty. It lies in the fact of the very natural reluctance of the farmer to give to other farmers particulars of his financial position, particularly if that position is a weak one. Failing some assistance being rendered through the co-operative societies, I suggest that an effort should be made to establish an agricultural bank by which credit facilities should be given to the farmer. There are one or two other remedies, which I should not be in order in discussing because they need legislative action, such as security of tenure and a reduction in rates.
There also remains the position of the agricultural labourer. It has been suggested that by improving the position of the farmer you would at the same time improve the position of the labourer. The labourer is entitled, either through the co-operative society or otherwise, to a cottage and to a piece of land in connection with it, and to assistance to stock the land so that he may obtain the produce for the use of his family. All this has been done through the co-operative societies and district councils in Ireland, and if we are anxious, as we say we are, to keep the labourer on the land assistance of this kind must be given. We say, and perhaps rightly, that agricultural labourers are moving into the towns. Having lived on the land, I can say that they are not attracted by the glare and glamour of the towns. They 1049 are driven to the urban centres by sheer necessity. There is no future for them except poverty. There is no prospect except a low wage, a tied cottage, and a servitude like that of the feudal system. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider the small farmer and to ignore for the time being the Farmers' Union, a union of large farmers and capitalists who are quite capable of looking after themselves, and to render assistance to the smaller man, who has no capital and no security to offer the banks, and who, under present conditions, finds life exceedingly difficult. If the right hon. Gentleman will do that he will do something to keep the labourer on the land and will do an effective service to the State.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I am glad the Minister, in giving the assistance of co-operation, does not put it forward as a panacea to cure all ills. I have had much to do with co-operation among farmers for a great many years and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland) will agree that there has been nothing more disappointing, after the attitude one has taken up and the endeavour one has made to stimulate co-operation amongst the farmers. It may be the fault of the individual or it may be the fault of those who endeavour to stimulate co-operation. I have been connected with two societies. One of them became fewer and fewer in numbers and the turnover did not materially increase. The other was a co-operative butchery business which was started with a great flourish of trumpets in order to bear down the middleman. It finished its inglorious career after about 12 months, and so far has not paid any dividend on the capital that was subscribed. I also know of a co-operative market fairly near my neighbourhood but it has hardly been a success, to say the least. The first reason of this is that British farmers unfortunately have not got the spirit of co-operation which they have in other countries. There is another point which is even stronger. Nearly every farmer has a great friend who is a dealer in corn, and very likely he owes him a good deal of money. It is very difficult for the farmer to break away from a dealer with whom he has always been associated and to whom he owes money and to go to the co-operative 1050 society and pay cash. I am not at all sure we ought not to look at it a little from the dealer's point of view. I know it is the fashion to abuse the middleman but, after all, many of these middlemen have lost considerable sums of money and they are out of their money sometimes for six months or a year, or even more, and it is therefore difficult for them to carry on business at all. I have always thought that co-operation would be of real benefit to the farmer in enabling him to buy at a reasonable price, and I believe he should deal co-operatively also. I hope this will be the means of stimulating co-operation in spite of the two causes I have mentioned which may militate against its successful operation.
§ Major OWEN
I rise to emphasise the point with regard to the admission of Irish cattle into this country. It is a question of very great importance to farmers generally, and it is arousing a great deal of indignation amongst them. It is well known from official information that as late as 1921 there were cases of foot-and-mouth disease in Ireland. Attempts have been made by officials of the Board of Agriculture to establish whether there is any disease in Ireland at present. It is well known by the Minister and his officials that, whatever attempts they make to secure information on this subject in that country, it is impossible to obtain it, because Ireland is no longer within the control or under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture. It is perfectly well known amongst the farmers of this country that wherever Irish cattle are brought, foot-and-mouth disease makes its appearance very quickly. We know from experience that cattle from Ireland are brought to Holy head by boat—
§ Mr. REID
When the hon. Member refers to Ireland, he is, of course, referring to the Irish Free State. The Diseases of Animals Act in Northern Ireland is administered by the English Board of Agriculture.
§ Major OWEN
I am, of course referring to the Irish Free State. Northern Ireland is still under the control of this country.
§ Mr. HANNON
I hope that the hon. Member has actual evidence in support of the statements he is making?
§ Major OWEN
There is ample evidence to show that not a single official of the British Government can obtain any definite information from the Irish Free State as to whether there is foot-and-mouth disease in that country. It is well known that this disease follows in the wake of the importation of Irish cattle. The matter is made very much worse by the fact that certain privileges are granted to importers of cattle from Ireland, which are denied—
§ Major OWEN
This question as to the special privileges that are given to the importers of Irish cattle, and the fact that British farmers are refused and denied the same privileges, is a matter of serious importance. In the county which I represent, and the neighbouring county of Anglesey, there has not been a single case of foot-and-mouth disease for the last 40 years, and yet cattle dealers in those counties are denied the privileges which are allowed to the importers of Irish cattle of opening a pitching ground near the place where they can market their animals. The lambing season will be coming on very soon, and the House knows perfectly well that once a lamb is fat it is never fat again. In other words, it ceases to be marketable after a certain time.
What does the Minister propose to do? Is he going to continue to give these privileges to Ireland to enable the importers of Irish cattle to market their cattle in this country, and to take markets away from the farmers of this country, when we know by experience that these Irish cattle bring in their wake the disease which is costing such an enormous amount of expenditure to this country? We ask the Minister to give a satisfactory answer to the British farmer with regard to this question. We are entitled to ask it before voting this big sum of £3,000,000 in respect of this disease. It would be a far more 1052 efficient way of dealing with the question to put an entire stop to the importation of Irish cattle.
§ Mr. G. EDWARDS
I am not very much concerned in regard to co-operation so far as the big farmer is concerned, but I would say, in reply to the hon. Member below the Gangway, that, while we have a large number of small farmers, we ought to have a very large number of big farmers of from 1,000 to 2,000 acres. I very much doubt, as far as this class of farmer is concerned, whether he would avail himelf of co-operation, for he has capital enough and can purchase his cattle, his seeds and his implements from the manufacturer direct. What I am concerned about is the smallholder, and that is why I am particularly pleased with the proposal for co-operation. The small man is handicapped from the very first. The first thing he wants is seed, and through lack of capital or the want of proper organisation he is compelled to go to the middleman and get his seeds on credit at the most expensive rate. He is also handicapped in regard to his tools and machinery. Here I can see where co-operation can benefit this class of farmer, provided it is worked properly and that it is managed properly by men with business capabilities. In that way I can see how the smallholder will be benefited to a very large extent.
If the smallholder is to hold his own, and if the smallholding movement is to be a success and not a failure, something in the direction of co-operation must be brought about very speedily. That is greatly needed amongst the smallholders. On account of his being handicapped through lack of capital in the purchasing of up-to-date machines, implements, etc., it costs him a great deal more to produce his goods. If co-operation can be properly established and properly managed, and if elasticity is allowed in the rules, the smallholders will be able to co-operate to purchase their machines, and to use them by the principle of organisation. They will be greatly helped, in spite of prices going down, in carrying on their industry, and will be prosperous in the times to come. Therefore, I am anxious about co-operation as far as the smallholder is concerned. I hope the Minister of Agriculture will be able to go a little further, and induce the Treasury to grant a little more than £10,000 1053 for this object. The smallholder is terribly handicapped when he wants to buy his (stock, and to get rid of his produce. When he wants to thresh his corn and put it on the market it costs him a great deal more than it costs the bigger man.
I accept this co-operation proposal as an instalment to help agriculture, but it must be borne in mind that it will not be a solution. If agriculture is to be benefited, the great problem will have to be tackled, and very much more will have to be done in rendering aid to the industry. The agricultural labourer will have to receive a much better wage. I accept this co-operation proposal as an instalment, and I hope the House will accept it in principle and that the smallholders will be able to get to work and have these societies established at the earliest possible date.
§ Viscount WOLMER
"We have had a practically unanimous Debate. There is a consensus of opinion on all sides that, whilst the Government proposals in regard to co-operation are excellent in themselves and praiseworthy in their object, they are in no sense a solution of the agricultural problem. While we are all willing and anxious to help the Government in this particular act, we are under no delusion that we are making any great contribution towards a solution of the problem before the country. One could go further, and say that not only will co-operation not solve the agricultural problem in itself, but that the agricultural problem will prevent a solution of co-operation. What I mean is, that so long as farmers are impoverished and in financial difficulty, we should find more difficulty in getting them to take part in co-operation than would be the case if the industry was in a more prosperous condition. At the present time thousands of farmers are in debt to dealers and middlemen. A man in that position is not free to break his connection. He is not free to trade with a co-operative society. How is the Government going to get over that difficulty?
There is the point touched upon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. E. Wood). He pointed out that the Government are only going to contribute £10,000 to any one society, and he asked 1054 where the remainder of the money was to come from. You are not going to get large sums out of the pockets of the farmers under present conditions. A great many farmers have already burnt their fingers in co-operative societies, especially those that have been started during the last two or three years. "Once bitten, twice shy," and the farmer at the present time is in no mood to try further experiments. Therefore, I warn the Government that if they think that what they are now proposing is going to be either successful in itself or a solution of the agricultural problem, I am afraid that a very bitter disappointment awaits them. That, I think, is the general view on all sides of the House. I hope it will not be very long before we have further instalments of the Government's agricultural policy, and we know how they are going to tackle the real root of the question which makes agriculture unprofitable at the present time.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland) raised a very important point in his speech to which the Minister did not refer in his reply. I think that it is a good instance of the difficulty that faced us in the whole problem. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the question of co-operative creameries and co-operation in the milk industry and pointed out that in the Linlithgow Report there were some very strong remarks in regard to the milk combine. I would ask the Minister of Agriculture how he thinks in a co-operative society any combination of farmers, with only £10,000 assistance from the Government, can possibly hope to fight the milk combine? The Minister of Agriculture knows that the milk combine has over £4,000,000 capital behind it and controls 60 per cent. of the entire wholesale milk supply of London and 30 per cent. of its retail trade, and it is impossible to think that any co-operative society can effectually compete against an organisation like that. I would ask the Government what they intend to do with regard to the milk combine? Do they intend to give effect to the recommendations of the Linlithgow Report in that respect? When I was at the Board of Trade we had a draft Bill which was going to be presented to Parliament to force the milk combine to publish its accounts and have those accounts examined. I would like 1055 to know if the Government are going on with that Bill because, as recommended by the Linlithgow Committee, I think that it is the first step to be taken in dealing with a vast combine of that sort which has such powerful influence over one of the vital articles of food of the people. Therefore while I wish the Government God-speed in this enterprise I hope that they will do something that is going to prove more beneficial to agriculture as a whole.
The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. G. Edward), who has just spoken, anticipated that the large farmers would not avail themselves of co-operation, but that possibly something might be done by the small farmers. I think that the large farmers are more likely to avail themselves of this at present than the small farmers, for the reason that I have given that the small farmers are worse off than the large farmers and are more harried and, generally speaking, are less intelligent and less educated men, and the larger farmers are more likely to avail themselves of any scheme that is a good one. In order to get the great number of small farmers that exist to co-operate loyally with the co-operative societies I believe that a vast amount of propaganda is necessary. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has not at any rate turned down propaganda altogether, though he rather discounted it, in his remarks the other day. I believe that propaganda is essential to any scheme for getting small farmers to come in, but in all these things there is a vicious circle. Unless you get the results the people will not come in, and until they do come in you will not get the results.
§ Captain FITZROY
The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Major Owen) has raised the question of Irish cattle in reference to foot-and-mouth disease. I know that the opinion is very prevalent among some people that foot-and-mouth disease is being, and has been, imported by Irish cattle. I believe that there is no evidence which the Ministry have at present to support that theory, and I believe that the Committee set up two years ago, when we had the previous large outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, came to the same conclusion. All the evidence is to the effect that here is no foot-and-mouth disease either in the North or in 1056 the South of Ireland. What I believe has given rise to this impression in reference to foot-and-mouth disease is that the disease has broken out in this country among Irish cattle, and that leads people to suppose that, if the cattle have not come with the disease from Ireland, they have contracted it in their journeying about this country. Of course, Irish cattle do a great deal more travelling than cattle which are reared in this country before they come to their final destination. I would ask the Ministry are they quite satisfied at present with the methods of disinfection of cattle trucks and railway sidings. [HON. MEMBERS: "And ships."] Further, have they any power over the railway companies to effect this disinfection and deal with the methods at present adopted by the railway company for the disinfection of the trucks? Because it appears to me, and it is the opinion of a good many agriculturists, that the Irish cattle, and, indeed, other cattle, which now contract the disease, have got it in the railway trucks in the course of transport.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Mr. Clynes)
I do not rise to take part in the Debate, notwithstanding the important questions which have been asked, but rather to draw attention to the fact that the general subject of agriculture has received a great deal of the attention and of the time of the House since we began our work some few weeks ago. I do not begrudge a moment of this time. It is time that has been very well spent, and I agree that we must give even more, time in due course to this very important subject, but I would remind hon. Members that they are making inroads on the time which I am certain many of them would like to be given to other subjects which must claim some, share of the attention of this House. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) drew attention to the unanimity of the views which have been expressed on all sides of the House as to the proposals of the Government so far as they go. It is not suggested that these proposals are offered as a complete solution of what is termed the agricultural problem, but there seems to be general agreement that they may be regarded as contributing towards meeting many of the difficulties of the agricultural situation. I would ask the House as speedily as possible to get through this 1057 Vote and to get to the next business, that being in the interests of the Members as a whole who are interested in the other subject to be considered.
§ Mr. REMER
While I am not insensible to the appeal which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman, this question of foot-and-mouth disease so vitally affects many of our constituents who have suffered very severely that I must plead with him to allow a certain extension of time so that we may obtain a little more information from the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote. I would like to supplement the remarks of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Daventry (Captain Fitzroy) in reference to Irish cattle. I have heard a great many stories, such as were related to-night by the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire, in my constituency from people who seem to be, determined to make up their mind that Irish cattle are the source of foot-and-mouth disease, but when they came to be investigated by people connected with the National Farmers' Union, they were found not to be correct. I know a secretary of the National Farmers' Union in Cheshire itself who at one time thought that foot-and-mouth disease came from Ireland, but is now strongly of opinion that it does not come from that country, but I do not think that the Minister of Agriculture has taken the steps which he might have taken to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. For example, I might tell him what the American Government are doing at present in reference to straw. In the pottery trade they have to use a great deal of straw, and the pottery people in England who are exporting pottery to America packed with the British straw are obliged to have that straw disinfected before it leaves this country.
I do not think that our Board of Agriculture are so thorough as they might be in disinfecting in every possible way both the trucks to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred and in other ways trying to prevent the spread of this disease. Many farmers believe that this disease is spread by the feeding stuffs which are sold in this country, particularly the foreign feeding stuffs, and I wonder whether the Ministry has taken adequate steps to see that foreign feeding 1058 stuffs are kept thoroughly free from infection. It might be a good thing in present circumstances if foreign feeding stuffs were prohibited from coming into this country. There is one point in reference to foot-and-mouth disease which has not been dealt with. I understand that if foot-and-mouth disease occurs on the farm the farmer receives compensation, but when a butcher or cattle dealer has cattle with the foot-and-mouth disease he does not receive any compensation. What is the reason for that distinction? Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information as to why these people, who suffer just as much as the farmers, are treated in a different way?
I desire also to refer to the question of the co-operative societies which it is proposed to set up. I view the proposal as it has been explained to us with a great deal of misgiving. I have some experience of this matter, because there are a present two agricultural co-operative societies in my constituency. One of them is solely for the purpose of enabling farmers in that locality to purchase farming materials, feeding cakes, etc. It is purely a buying co-operative society. That particular society is a financial success. Side by side with that is a co-operative society, which is a much, larger concern, which deals with milk, and while I cannot say that that co-operative society has been a failure, if has resulted in very serious financial loss to the shareholders. I think that the reason is not difficult to see. The one society has been very ably managed, while the management of the other has not been so able and so efficient. Are the Ministry going to be satisfied that the management of these co-operative societies to which they make advances is efficient and capable?
Are they going to satisfy themselves that the people who control the societies are likely to make the concerns a success? Secondly, what kind of security do they propose to take from these co-operative societies for the money advanced? Is it proposed that they shall advance debentures, and, if so, will they be a portion only of the amount, which has been subscribed in the form of ordinary shares, and will ordinary capital or preference capital be subscribed before any sums are 1059 advanced by the Government? I see it states in the Estimate that this has to be approved by the Treasury first.
We are entitled to some definite information as to the exact form in which these sums of money are advanced. They may run into very large sums, once the ball is started rolling, and we may wake up some morning to find that the money has been lost. I want to ask a question with reference to the bacon factories which are proposed under this co-operative scheme. Have the Government any way in which, before they deal with these bacon factories, they can take adequate measures to deal with the great scourge of swine fever? Unless swine fever is dealt with adequately before the factories are dealt with, the factories and pig producing will not be a success. While these schemes have been received with approval on all sides of the House, there is a great deal of misgiving about the spending of considerable sums of money in our present straitened finances, and I ask that some more detailed information should be given to the House on the subject.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. ALLEN
I had not the slightest intention of taking part in the debate but for the references to Ireland and Irish cattle. I would be a very poor class of Irishman if I did not rise to resent the insinuations, wholly without foundation, regarding Irish cattle. I know that in this House and in this country there is a general feeling that the expenditure which we are now discussing is largely attributable to the importation of this disease, but the insinuations made, both at Question time to-day and in speeches just delivered, call for more than an ordinary reply. They are distinctly to the effect that Irish cattle have brought the disease into this country. I want to read one or two quotations from speeches made in a debate on the Importation of Animals Bill in December, 1922. One of my hon. Friends from Northern Ireland made this statement on that occasion:What do I find has happened in England since 1900? Between 1900 and 1912, 2,200 foot-and-mouth disease cases have happened in England. In Ireland we have not had one solitary case detected. What do we find from 1912 to 1920 in England? 1,079 cases of foot-and-mouth disease. What do we find in 1919? 3,463 cattle slaughtered. 1060 In 1920, 11,373 cattle slaughtered; in 1921, 3,085 cattle slaughtered; in 1922, 55,238 cattle slaughtered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1922; col. 2512, Vol. 159.]Not one solitary case of foot-and-mouth disease emanated from Irish cattle. That is a statement made at that tme, and not a Member of the House, nor anyone representing the Ministry, contradicted the statement. I will quote a statement made by a gentleman who was then a Member of this House, and was looked upon as one particularly interested in the farming and cattle industry. He had sat on committees and commissions dealing with the matter. I refer to Mr. Pretyman. He said, in reference to a committee on which he had sat for the purpose of ascertaining whether the disease came from Irish cattle:The outbreak was spread entirely, as stated in our Report, by the herds of Irish cattle which were distributed from Newcastle and Gateshead markets. Not one of these cattle introduced the disease into this country. They came into this country free from it. They went to the markets and picked up the disease there, and spread it from one end of the country to the other."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1922; col. 2081, Vol. 159.]The House will not require any move evidence with regard to the importation of the disease from Ireland. The statements I have referred to made in 1922. You have had a great many more cattle slaughtered during the past year than ever before, and your veterinary surgeons have gone to my part of the country and have found that there were no cattle infected.
§ Major OWEN
According to the information supplied to me by the Minister of Agriculture, there were cases of the disease in Ireland in 1921, and that is all I said.
§ Sir W. ALLEN
It is most extraordinary that the Ministry did not contradict one of the speeches I have quoted, and more particularly the report of the Chairman of a Committee that was specially set up to inquire into the disease. That was in December, 1922. The report distinctly states that no disease came into this country from the cattle imported. If the late Minister of Agriculture had only extended the law in England as we asked him to do then, there would have been very little trouble in England during the past year because 1061 of the disease. It will be remembered that it was purely a six days' detention Order in the port of entry, or, if they were sold, at the farm to which they were taken. Our request—I believe I made it myself—was that he should apply the same detention to cattle going from Southern England to Scotland, and he replied, "Surely we ought to be able to do that in our own time." Unfortunately, as has happened very frequently with Governments here, "their own time" was too late. If they had granted our request then, a great deal of this expenditure would have been saved. So far as the Diseases of Animals Act was concerned, that is still a reserved service between this country and Northern Ireland. Your inspectors, therefore, are at liberty at any time, and it is their duty, to make inspections in Northern Ireland.
§ Sir W. ALLEN
The quotations I have read refer to all Irish cattle. The Committee which was presided over by Mr. Pretyman took evidence with regard to all Irish cattle, and the statements made, covering the period from 1900 to 1922, included all Irish cattle. I am satisfied that Irish cattle do not bring over the disease. They catch it, as has been said, because necessary precautions are not carried out in this country. I refer to the proper disinfecting of all railway trucks and markets. Those things are properly attended to in Ireland, and as a result we have no disease there. If in this country you would look after the disinfection both of trucks and of the places where the cattle are housed, you would probably have less of the disease than there is now. In any event, I hope that in future there will be fewer insinuations that Irish cattle bring the disease.
§ Mr. BUXTON
If I might have the permission of the House to speak a second time, I would be glad to answer some of the questions put to me.
§ Sir GERALD HOHLER
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, can he tell me something about the new outbreak at Chatham? When I raised the question last week he had no information.
§ Captain TERRELL
I would also be glad of some information with regard to the very serious outbreak in Oxfordshire.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Had these points been raised by my hon. Friends a little earlier, I might have been able to get the latest information, but the House will not expect me to know by instinct about all the outbreaks which have occurred. I will, however, get the fullest information at the earliest possible moment.
§ Captain TERRELL
The outbreak in Oxfordshire is a week old, and can the Minister not give the information now?
§ Mr. BUXTON
If I may, I would prefer now to answer the questions which have been put in the course of the Debate. Firstly, with regard to the co-operative societies, some pertinent questions were put as to whether sufficient security will be obtained for good management, and again as to what security would be available against the failure of societies. These will be matters for the Advisory Committee, and it will be for the experts who voluntarily serve on that Committee to deal with them, and not for the officials of the Ministry. It is to these gentlemen we shall leave these questions, and in them we shall trust. A question has also been asked with regard to the disinfecting of railway trucks. The railway companies are under a legal obligation to disinfect railway trucks, and very detailed instructions are laid down in an Order of the Ministry of Agriculture. Cases of slackness that might occur are one of the questions which will be gone into by the Committee on administration, which is to be presided over by Mr. Pretyman. It is not shown that there has been any negligence, but, in any case, the question will be gone into fully. The question of Irish cattle is another one on which I should like to say a few words. Irish cattle cannot go to markets which are forbidden to English cattle, but they can enter certain ports, for instance Bristol, where special arrangements are made. These are not their normal markets, but special arrangements have had to be made, and many ordinary channels of trade are diverted in these days, owing to restrictions which are unavoidable. In times like these certain selected places are accepted as markets for the time being. I am aware there is considerable doubt and suspicion in the minds of some hon. Members as to whether Ireland is clear of the disease, and as to whether a pre 1063 ference is given to the Irish farmer, or whether there is any unequal treatment of the Irish farmer compared with the English or Welsh farmer. I am in a position to say there is not any unequal treatment or any preferential treatment. A point that has not, perhaps, been fully apprehended, is that Irish cattle, entering a port in this country, are under a very close inspection and very careful supervision. On landing, Irish cattle are required to be detained at the landing place, and are subject to veterinary examination. There are inspectors of the Ministry at the selected ports where they enter, and not one passes without careful examination. Then they are licensed to proceed, either direct to the slaughterhouse or to farm premises, where they must be detained for 28 days. These are very stringent Regulations, and the cattle cannot be distributed direct from the ports to the markets. There still remains in the minds of some of my hon. Friends grave doubt as to whether the disease is, or has been in Ireland, and whether, particularly in connection with the outbreak near Nottingham, the disease in this country is not traceable to Irish cattle. There is no evidence at all that the infection came from Ireland, and I am assured, and I am convinced, that the very able officials of the Ministry have satisfied themselves upon full and ample grounds that there is not, and has not been since nearly three years ago, any case identified as of Irish origin.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
Is it not the fact that the Minister has no power to examine these animals in Ireland, and is it not as much as a veterinary surgeon's life is worth to condemn any cattle in Ireland? Is it not also a fact that these animals are brought right through to the pitching-grounds at Mode Wheel and Birkenhead before licences are granted?
§ Mr. BUXTON
There is a provision as to detention at the ports, and there is examination by experts which should be ample to ensure that the disease would develop, if it had originated in Ireland, before the animals are passed on. It is certainly from other sources that the Nottingham outbreak spread, as far as can be traced, and I think my hon. Friend is absolutely mistaken in thinking it is traceable to Ireland.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
Will my right hon. Friend say is he allowed to examine the cattle in Ireland? I think that is a fair question to ask him. Has he, as Minister, any control whatever over Irish cattle in Ireland?
§ Mr. BUXTON
I think a much greater security and assurance against public danger than would be gained by inspecting in Ireland, is gained by the long detention of the animals after they arrive from Ireland. I hope I may be allowed to urge on the House that the time has come when the Vote might be passed.
§ Sir G. HOHLER
I rise, after having vainly endeavoured, on several occasions, to catch the eye of Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to protest against the failure of the Minister of Agriculture to give attention to a very simple and clear question. I am not concerned about Irish, cattle, but about what has been reported in the local Press as to a new outbreak at Chatham. The outbreak was said to have occurred a week ago, and I raised the point on that occasion, when I was informed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry that he had no information. So far as I understand the facts of this case, they would seem to indicate culpable negligence on the part of the Ministry. The outbreak is not said to be traceable to Irish cattle, but it is stated a number of cattle were, imported from an infected area in the North, and on arrival at Chatham were found to have foot-and-mouth disease. I think I am right in saying that for 30 or 40 years there has not been an outbreak in that neighbourhood, and the result is that the disease seems to have been imported into a hitherto unaffected area. I quite appreciate the I Minister's assurance that he will give the information, but I wish to see if I cannot help him in obtaining the information by putting some additional questions. Will the right hon. Gentleman state specifically from what district these cattle came; how long were they within the borough of Chatham before the disease broke out; how many cattle were infected; at what interval of time the disease broke out after the cattle had been delivered to the 1065 consignee; have the trucks been fully disinfected, and by whom, and what is the knowledge of the Ministry in this matter? I understand the railway companies make a charge for this, but whether it is done properly or not, it is difficult to know.
I urge upon the Ministry the great importance of this matter. The Minister, who is, I understand, acquainted with agricultural matters, will realise what this outbreak means to farmers at the present time of year. There is no use starting co-operative societies if something cannot be come to check this disease effectually. As I drew attention to this particular outbreak last week, and had an answer on the subject from the Parliamentary Secretary, I thought at least the Minister would have prepared himself with some facts and taken some interest in the matter. I mentioned that these cattle were said to have come from an infected area, and the Parliamentary Secretary said it was not possible. It may be that all these statements are untrue, but we should know the facts, and what I complain of is, that the two Members of this House who are responsible for the Ministry, do not seem to have taken the least interest in the matter, although these statements were published in the Press and I mentioned them in this House. Surely, we are worthy of more attention and a matter which has been raised in the House should be inquired into. The Minister suggested that I should have risen earlier in this Debate, but it is not a case of my rising earlier, although, as I say, I sought to catch Mr. Deputy-Speaker's eye sooner. I would prefer to have the information which I seek given to me direct, across the Floor of the House. Agriculture cannot sustain in continuance of the losses which it is suffering, and the present outbreak will mean all kinds of trouble to cattle owners at this season of the year. We should have some definite information from the Minister, because those who take an interest in the matter are deeply concerned, and supposing the right hon. Gentleman were a cattle-owner himself, or had a few sheep, I cannot help feeling he would take more interest in the case I have brought forward.
§ Captain TERRELL
I ask the Minister if he can give any explanation of the serious outbreak which has recently 1066 occurred in Oxfordshire. Only a short time ago we had a long Debate on foot-and-mouth disease, and since that Debate the outbreak to which I refer occurred in very extraordinary circumstances. It first broke out on a farm several miles away from any affected area, and, I believe, the cause of the outbreak was that some cattle were moved from a market many miles away when they were already suffering from the disease. It seems to me there is some serious neglect on the part of the Minister in this connection. If cattle are sold in the markets to a trader, the Ministry should take precautions to see that they are not moved into a district which is free from the disease until it has been positively ascertained that they are not infected. What precaution do the Ministry take in cases of this kind? Are dealers in any way supervised by the Department of the right hon. Gentleman? I am told that in this particular case these cattle were in the market. A trader had bought them, and rumour has it that an Order was going to be issued the next morning by the Ministry forbidding the removal of this cattle, but that before the Order was issued the trader was up first, with his trucks alongside the market, and that he had the cattle removed to various parts of the country, and through that neglect or lack of supervision by the Ministry a very large number of fresh outbreaks occurred in various parts of the country I should like to know if the Minister can give us any explanation at all as to why it is possible for this sort of thing to occur.
I would like also to refer to the question of assisting agricultural co-operative societies by loans. Like the majority of Members of this House, I am in entire agreement with this movement, although I regret to find that such a very small sum of money, namely, £200,000, is intended to be spent in this direction. We have in the county of Oxford one or two very good illustrations of what can be done in the way of co-operation, and I hope the Ministry will give good attention to all co-operative societies, especially those which encourage and embrace the smallholders and the allotment holders. The right hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland) raised what I take to be a very important point, namely, that of supervision, and he did I not seem to be quite satisfied with the fact 1067 that the Advisory Committee was to have control of this public money. I am in entire agreement with him in that respect, and I think that some business authority, somebody with a knowledge of trading, should be appointed by the Government to supervise these grants of public money and to see that the money is not wasted. We are told by the Government that this is simply a contribution towards solving the problem of agriculture. We have also been told by the acting Leader of the House that the industry of agriculture has had its fair share of time since this Parliament reassembled. We may have had a good deal of time, but we have not had many concrete proposals yet from the Minister of Agriculture as to how he intends to improve this industry. This is called an instalment, and it is an instalment, but a very small one, and I would press the right hon. Gentleman not to deal with this important industry by small instalments. It is about time that he made up his mind and came forward, with his courage in both hands, with a proper, definite, comprehensive policy, one which will place the industry on a paying basis, and one which will place the unfortunate agricultural labourer in such a position that he can live in some degree of decency and comfort.
§ Mr. BUXTON
In reply to questions put by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Sir G. Hohler), I do not think it is my business to spend the day learning the details of every outbreak. I am called upon to attend to other matters of perhaps equal importance. I should like to make it quite clear that the information which he requests shall be obtained in as full detail as possible, and I shall be happy to send it to-morrow to my hon. and learned Friend. I hope it will be possible to give a full explanation of the extraordinarily obscure means by which infection is conveyed, because there are many obscurities which are not yet cleared up, but which we hope will be cleared up.
The matters raised in regard to the co-operative societies are covered, as I have already stated, by our decision to establish an Advisory Committee on all those points.
§ Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
§ Second and Third Resolutions agreed to.
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. ROBERT YOUNG in the Chair.]