HC Deb 18 March 1925 vol 181 cc2282-359

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time."


I beg to move. "That the Debate be adjourned."

I do so for the reason that we have not the Bill in its final form as it left the Report Stage. We are still in possession of the Bill as it passed through Standing Committee B. Substantial Amendments were made yesterday, and I submit that without the Bill in its final form we are not in a position to pass it on Third reading.


That is not a Motion which I can accept. I must assume that hon. Members were following the proceedings of yesterday, and are aware of the alterations that were then made.


I think, before the House proceeds to the Third Reading, it is fitting that a word should bo said, particularly on the attitude of. the Labour party towards this Bill, seeing that, we have been spoken of as its authors last autumn. Our view is not the same, not at all the same, as the prevalent view on the other side of the House. I suppose that most hon. Gentlemen on the other side would have desired a much larger measure of support by direct subsidy, judging by the fact that they did in their day give very much larger support to sugar, and presumably (hey would have continued that support. Our view is a radically different one. We take a quite different view of the whole of the functions of the agricultural industry of this country. Our idea is to promote the maximum use of the land for national resources and for the maintenance of the largest population. For that reason, we do not want agriculture to remain in the rut of slack farming in which it is to a very great extent to-day. We do not want to see it in any sense or in any part of the country the appendage of sport, or hampered by excessive attention to sport. I want to carry every one of my hon. Friends with me in adhesion to that principle, and I aspire to a unanimous Vote on the Third Reading, though I know that in other parties there are different views representing the industry of refining, and so on, which affect us in quite a different way.

What was the situation as we found it when we brought in the sugar proposals We had the arable area declining; we had extremely low wages—wages falling—we had a terrible degree of unemployment; we had slack farming, which is estimated perhaps by the best experts as represented possibly by 20 per cent.—some experts put it at a much higher percentage—of the farmers of (his country, and we found ourselves with no power at all to control that slack farming, no power whatever to interfere with the interests of privileges or the interests of slackness. We have been charged as a party with indifference to the interests of agriculture, and that is profoundly an untrue charge. If it be the fact that urban interests govern some members in contradistinction to agricultural interests, it would be true to say that those hon. Members are guilty of indifferene to the agricultural interest. That is not our point of view at all. If there be opposition on the part of two or three of my hon. Friends to this Measure, it is because of their adhesion to the doctrine of freedom of trade, and I am glad that they feel so strongly the necessity of adhering to freedom of trade. I want to endeavour to show them that we did not for a moment forget the profound truth of the doctrine, that free trade is the most paying trade.

We found that situation in regard to agriculture. We found in regard to sugar a particular situation. The question had been raised at the election in 1923. The Farmers' Union approached every candidate on the question of sugar, and a great many Members of the Labour Party replied that, in view of the facts of the case, they were prepared to continue the help that was given by the Conservative Government. I was not willing to pledge myself in that direction, because I thought it infringed true Free Trade, and that another plan ought to bo devised. We could not leave the question of sugar alone, because it was our proper business to reduce the Sugar Duty. When we came in we found an immense sugar tax and a correspondingly large sugar subsidy.

We could not end either the tax or the subsidy at one stroke of the pen. We had to consider what would be the effect on employment, on wages, and on the operation of Free Trade. There were two factories then running. One of them, the Kelham Factory, absorbed the whole of the unemployed of Newark. All those would have been thrown on to the dole, and they would have remained on the so-called dole if nothing had been done beyond the rejection of the Sugar Duty. If nothing had been done, that factory, as we estimated, would this year have made a very heavy loss, a loss of £8,000, and it would undoubtedly have been closed. It is quite possible that the Cantley factory would have been closed too. It performed a peculiarly interesting function. It enabled one of the largest settlements of small holdings—one of the most successful if not the largest—to prosper. Smallholders in the neighbourhood of Cantley grew beet for the factory, and, having grown beet, they got good work in the factories for the months of the late Autumn and Winter. They would have been ruined, too.

Then it was our particular desire to remedy the universally admitted evil of scandalously low wages in agriculture, and we proposed the Wages Board. If, at the same time, we had abandoned the sugar industry, let the factories lie idle and men be turned off, and those who ran the factories correspondingly ruined, it would have been something contradictory to our avowed desire to benefit wages, while more land would have been laid down to grass, there would have been more unemployed, and lower wages would have resulted in agriculture. I believe what we did promise in the autumn to the sugar industry has already had an effect on agricultural wages. The position of some East Anglian counties was, in all conscience, low enough, but I think it might very well have been lower, if there had not been any prospect of success owing to the growing of sugar. Were we to sanction a subsidy or not? At the previous election, I declined to commit myself that I would, but, on further inquiry, it became perfectly evident to me that by far the cheapest way of maintaining the industry, in the circumstances, would be by the method of the subsidy. But it was essential to combine that with a plan for bringing to an end the enormous, irregular, veiled subsidy, which was already in existence, and the plan now in charge of the Minister of Agriculture is just as much a plan for ending a subsidy as a plan for giving a subsidy.

I felt profoundly that in proposing this subsidy there was no infringement of the general principle of Free Trade. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer should be a sufficient guarantee for that. Among my Liberal friends there were ardent supporters of the Sugar Subsidy, including one they would recognise as their agricultural leader, Mr. Francis Acland, who would have been a valuable contributor to these Debates. I think the subsidy plan is only justified by the extraordinary need of education in our agricultural world, and by the extraordinary value of the beet industry in promoting education. Hon. Members more familiar with urban things forget that individually, and by long tradition, agriculture is not treated as other industries in this country. The State provides it with a Ministry, and with gigantic sums for education and for research. Every State finds that agriculture cannot get on without such help. I do not know of any Government which is able to keep clear of that kind of help. In this country, though behind other countries, it has a very large sum indeed, and in that sense agriculture is subsidised by educational advantages. Research is also subsidised.

Nine-tenths of the difficulty in our agriculture is not to make successful research, but to get the farmers to pay attention to it, and even where the county organisations, whose business it is to impart knowledge to the farmer, are most successful, it is an extremely small fraction of the farmers who pay any attention to the great advantages offered to them. As there is no power to control the farmer, or compel him to use these advantages, you have to consider how you will best induce him, and at the least cost. This form of educational grant brings the idea of modernised farming to his notice in a way no other does, inasmuch as it is combined with the idea of business, and I should say, comparing pound with pound spent in one way or the other, you might, perhaps, with advantage knock off something like an equivalent sum, and if you could not find it in both ways, this would be the most profitable way in which that amount of money could possibly be spent in agricultural education.

That is partly because there is something about the beet industry, the difficulty of growing beet, and of treating beet in the factory, which has an almost magical effect upon the cultivator, and, in view of that effect, it was worth, in our judgment, an abnormal method to bring about the result. Great skill is needed. It, therefore, takes time to acquire that skill, and, in an industry conservative by nature, you have to change not only the character of the cultivator, but the other industry of the manufacturer. To do both at once requires very abnormal means, and the fact is that no State has established the sugar industry without Governmental help. On the other hand, no State has gone hack on its sugar-encouraging policy. In Holland, a Free Trade country, you have got an industry which is, on its own basis, a paying Free Trade industry, and therefore providing Holland with cheaper sugar than otherwise it would have. For those reasons, we were firmly convinced that we infringed no principle of sound economy in proceeding to treat the subsidy as a matter of most valuable educational progress, especially from our point of view, holding as we do that we have not taken agriculture seriously enough, and that we must strenuously promote modern methods in farming.

As a small illustration of the need of getting over the period of learning, it is a fact that in Prussia, in 30 years, the yield per acre of raw sugar was very nearly doubled. It is still the fact that there is not a very large area in Continental countries actually under sugar, but an area vastly greater is affected by the actual area under beet. You may, perhaps, grow in a rotation course one-eighth or one-tenth of your area under sugar. Therefore the area of farms affected amounts to a large figure. But the area affected is far greater than that, because you introduce into the country a new atmosphere. You get a modern industry brought into rural parts. You induce a habit of better manuring, of deeper cultivation, of pioneer farming. You provide for cattle a new food arising from the residue of the beets, and, altogether, you educate perhaps nine-tenths of the agriculture of the country. For that reason, the tribunal that lately reported to the Government on the needs of agriculture, said that it was the peculiarity of the sugar industry that had actually made the farmers want education, which no other measures had hitherto done.

One or two of my hon. Friends, I think, have only been affected in their hesitation in regard to the Bill by the feeling that we had been too generous in fixing the terms. I would like to say a word on that, because I was responsible for the degree of inquiry which was made. There was, of course, an inquiry as to what the sugar beet society and the growers themselves said would be required by way of price to induce the farmers to grow beet. They put the necessary figure at a very far higher level than the figure upon which we pitched. In addition to that, there was a very careful inquiry by the Treasury, which exercised its usual ingenuity in trying to bring the figure down. I, myself, thought it very likely that the figure we were fixing was too low. Indeed, I think it was just adequate to get the farmers to grow beet, but, speaking for myself, I do not think the investment offered resulting from the subsidy is a particularly attractive one at all, and I think that we have done very well to get just sufficient factories put up—it is true, costing an immense sum of money—to have the experiment tried in various and typical parts of the country. I think the event justifies the scale that was adopted. Remember, also, that we have brought the term to an end, and the Minister has made it absolutely clear to all concerned that there is no prospect of a prolonged or a permanent subsidy, and the investors are not relying on its prolongation.

I think one of my hon. Friends said that when we spoke of preferring a State system I, at least, was rendering lip service to the Socialist idea. I would like to tell my hon. Friends what, I think, would have been a very great improvement, and a great economy. If we had the power to control agriculture, we could have done the thing very much cheaper. Supposing all the land fit for growing beet were Crown land, I certainly believe the very capable land agents who manage the Crown land could get the necessary quantity of beet at a lower figure, and that because the owner, without actual compulsion, can very easily get his tenant, at least, to give an open mind to a thing. But if you have no power like that, such as would arise from State control or ownership, or State leasing, superior leasing, of the land, you undoubtedly have got to pay more. I do not think the State is paying too much, but there would be advantages in the method of dealing with the land which we advocate. Hut we had no power to put in force the measures that would have given us that degree of control, and if we had said, "Well, in spite of that, we will have State factories," could we have got the money? Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer have found £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, perhaps, which would have been required to build an adequate number of factories, and if he had, which is more than doubtful, the House would certainly not have allowed him to put the loan, as it would have been, into existence.

Therefore, we had, as every one of my hon. Friends will realise, a choice, in which it was not very doubtful what we ought to do. In view of what we did up and down the country for education, employment, wages, we had to consider, naturally on the other side, the advantages of maintaining the appearance of doctrinal purity and allowing things to go downhill in wages, in employment, and in education. We were not prepared to sacrifice our ideals of efficient agriculture or to sacrifice the workers in favour of what would have been merely crying for the moon ! There are differences of temperament between the reformists and the intransigents. On these benches I think we are all reformists. We seized the opportunity in this case to show that we were practical Free Traders rather than doctrinaires. Our method, which, fortunately, the Minister is following out, was most decidedly in the interests of labour as well as in the interest of our national resources, and therefore of the maximum of population in the long run. I hope we shall have that policy carefully considered, sustaining the maximum population on the land with the highest standard of life, as attributes to really serious agriculture. In the end it will benefit the town as well, because it should prove to be an economic industry producing in the end cheaper sugar. It accords with the Labour party's view of its duty to use the land to the fullest possible national advantage.

Major the Marquess of TITCHFIELD

I want to wish this Bill the very best of luck during its last stage through this House because I believe it to be a Bill which, if put on the Statute Book, will be one which will benefit very much a class of the community which requires all the help that can possibly be given to it—I refer to the agricultural labourer. I know from experience what a great boon a sugar factory is to the countryside, because I am lucky enough to have situated in my constituency at Kelham a sugar beet factory, and I can tell hon. Members this, that this factory, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite himself said just now, has practically solved the unemployment problem in that district. It has solved it also at a most difficult time for the land, during those months when work is at a standstill; then is the time that this factory has come in, and it has been the greatest boon to the countryside. I hear, and am very pleased to hear, that under the admirable measures of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture that there are other sugar factories springing up all over the country. I can only hope that these sugar factories will be as useful to the countryside as the. Kelham factory has been to the country round about my neighbourhood.


Has the factory to which the Noble Marquess refers solved the unemployment question in the town of Newark?

Marquess of TITCHFIELD

This factory for the last two years has taken up practically every man unemployed in Newark. It has done even more than that, for many men employed have come from as far afield as Grantham. Let us see how in a very few years this infant industry is going to help, first of all the agricultural labourer, and, secondly, the farmer. When you grow sugar on a farm, for every 100 acres you have under beet you have to employ 10 extra men. If we are going in this country to produce a quarter of the amount of sugar imported by us in 1922, we will have to employ 40,000 more men on the land and 30,000 men in the sugar beet factories. I think hon. Members will agree with me that this would be a great boon to the working man to-day. Then, again, a sugar factory is a help to another industry. It helps the coal mining industry. If we could produce 3,520,000 tons of sugar it would involve the sending to the factories an amount of coal no less than 300,000 tons, and 120,000 tons of limestone as well. Also if we could produce in this country the amount of sugar which we imported in 1922 it would involve from £15,000,000 to £25,000,000 of capital, and £10,000,000 to £15,000,000 paid in wages to the workmen. I just want to say one more thing, and that will be a few remarks to the managers of these sugar beet factories. I do not believe that the sugar beet factories are paying enough to the farmer for his beet. I think at the moment they are paying the farmer 44s. a ton. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, perhaps it is 54s.: I was told it was 44s.


What is it?


54s. now.


I understand, on the authority of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bye (Colonel Courthope) that it is now 49s. per ton.


The prices ruling at present, to which reference is made, is that for a three years' contract the average is a minimum of 49s. for the first year, and 54s. for the second and the third years.

Marquess of TITCHFIELD

I hear that it is 49s. In any case I do not consider that the farmers are paid enough. The sugar beet factories ought to pay the farmer 54s. or 55s. a ton. I believe if they did that the farmers would be keen to grow bee!., and the sugar beet industry will become really a flourishing industry in the future. I have here a balance-sheet of the sugar which we are growing on our own estate which is about 20 miles from Kelham, but I am afraid it would not be much use, seeing that it is based on 44s. a ton. I hope hon. Members of all parties will vote for this Bill. I believe that the Liberal party as a whole will vote for the Bill. Their deputy-leader the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), when Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a statement which showed that he was in favour of this infant industry being helped along. I am perfectly certain also that hon. Members on this side of the House will vote for it. I cannot see how the majority of my hon. Friends of the Socialist party can vote against the Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Agriculture has supported it here to-day, and on previous occasions. I end up what I have to say by hoping that the Bill will got its Third Beading by a large majority.


This is the one great Measure that has appeared between this and the last Parliament. it has beer, greeted with great enthusiasm in many parts of the House, and apparently it is likely to have a smooth passage. It is a very interesting combination—that of the ex-Minister of Agriculture and the present Minister of Agriculture, because the ex-Minister spoke with great pride that this Bill was his own Bill, his own off-spring, of which he was not ashamed, while the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill now will be willing, I expect, to give him every credit for it. It is a very curious combination. We have heard to-day the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Minister telling us that one of the main purposes of this Bill is that it is going to be a great help to the farmers, and revolutionise the spirit of the countryside. I hope that may be so, but it is rather an expensive price to pay for departing from sound economic principles and committing the nation to very heavy financial liability. If we desire the education of the farmer in the methods of agriculture suggested, i do most respectfully submit that some more suitable and some more economic means might be found than by a subsidy of this kind.

A subsidy on sugar has always been an attraction to Governments desirous of stimulating the agriculture of this country or indeed any other. All parties have been more or less guilty, but I think all the arguments which have been applied so effectively, to giving a subsidy to sugar can quite effectively be applied to almost every branch of agriculture. I remember not so very long ago a campaign being organised in favour of stimulating the growing of tobacco in this country. We were supplied with literature and many arguments, and even in one or two parts of the country vigorous attempts were made to establish tobacco-growing as a commercial proposition. If this subsidy achieves its purpose we will have from parts of the country not suited to the growing of sugar, petitions, deputations and every effort made to get the subsidy extended to other branches of agriculture. A strong case was not so very long ago made out for giving a subsidy on corn growing. That was abandoned because it was proved to involve the country in unlimited liability. It was one of the victims of the Geddes axe.

Is the right hon. Gentleman who brought in this Measure sure that this sugar industry, with its subsidies, might not also involve us in a very large liability, if the scheme were a success, if it achieved its purpose and proved profitable both to sugar growers and to the sugar factories? Inevitably, factories will spring up all over the country, and we will find that our liability is something very much larger than half a million, and may be of such a character that it will be a. heavy drain on the Exchequer. If, on the other hand, it is a failure, we have thrown our money away without benefiting the farmer or anyone concerned. In my view, this is a thoroughly bad principle.

In starting agriculture in this country on the slippery slope of subsidies we are avoiding the real issue. There is no reason why agriculture in England should not prosper, as in other parts of the Empire. It is sometimes forgotten that in New Zealand, Canada and Australia agriculture is able to stand on its own legs. There it is industry that is protected; agriculture is subject to free importation. Nearly all the farmers in other parts of the Empire are Free Traders. The reason they can make agriculture prosper is because they have a satisfactory land system. That is the root cause; and until there is a satisfactory land system in this country none of these makeshifts will relieve agricultural depression.

If the sugar industry prospers, if beet-growing is stimulated by this Bill, the assessment of the land will be immediately increased. We have in this Bill no guarantee that rents will not be increased, but, supposing the landlords are benevolent, at least one of the effects of sinking this large amount of capital in this industry with the purpose of making beet-growing an integral part of agriculture here will be an increase in assessments. If assessments increase the amount payable in rates will go up, and a large part of the advantage of the subsidy will go not into the hands of the farmers or the landlords but into the pockets of those responsible for raising money for local purposes in the form of rates. In my view we are establishing a wrong principle in a wrong way, and with very doubtful advantage to agriculture in the long run.

One curious feature to which I would like to draw the attention of the House is the large amount of foreign capital which, apparently, is being invested in this industry. The right hon. Gentleman the ex-Minister of Agriculture seemed to doubt whether the subsidy was large enough. He told us that a committee which inquired into the subject recommended a very much higher level, and he went on to say that he considered the subsidy too low. Apparently foreign investors do not think it too low; apparently they think the subsidy offered is likely to give them a very satisfactory return for their money, and that makes me doubt whether the State is not making a bad bargain.

Whether it is making a bad bargain or not, when we start on subsidies it is almost impossible to protect the public, and, what is worse, when once subsidies are started it is very difficult to stop them. The subsidies under this Bill will ultimately come to an end, but one can imagine the outcry that will be raised and organised when that happens. One can imagine the deputations sent by farmers and by workers in factories: one can imagine the people who have invested their money in this infant industry—the widows and orphans—Hocking to their Members of Parliament, and making out a strong case for the continuance of the subsidy to keep the industry from ruin. We saw what happened in regard to the McKenna Duties and the motor industry, and it is not an unfair thing to prophesy that when we approach the date when this proposed subsidy is to end every effort will be made to continue it, and to make it part of the permanent system of the country. In passing this Bill we are creating a vested interest, which is bound to be organised, like the licensing trade, very difficult to destroy, very powerful, and for that reason, and if for that reason only, I myself am going to protest against legislation of this kind as being against the general well-being of the country, against sound economic principles and against the interest of the finances of the nation.


I would like to make quite clear to the House what price the factories are paying for their beet. I endeavoured, in a sentence, to explain it when my Noble Friend the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield) was speaking, but I have since had an opportunity of getting one of the most recent contracts, which I now hold in my hand, and I think it may interest the House to be informed on this point. The minimum price in the up-to-date contracts which are being signed now, contracts for three years' cultivation, is 49s. a ton for the first year of a new beet factory only, and for the subsequent years the minimum price is 54s.


Are those figures contingent on this scheme going through?


If the subsidy is not paid, certainly these prices will not be paid either. These contracts are based on the assumption that this Bill passes. The 49a. a ton as the minimum applies only to the first year of new factories. In the first year of new contracts for old factories the price is 54s. per ton. In addition to that minimum, which is based on 15½ per cent. beetroot, 2s. 6d. per ton is paid for every 1 per cent. above the basic 15½ per cent. Last year, I may remind the House, the average right through the 114,000 or 115,000 tons which were dealt with in the Cantley factory was a full 1 per cent. above the basic figure, and on the average everyone got an extra 2s. 6d. There is a further bonus on the total tonnage—a bonus of 1s. per ton on every 10,000 tons above 50,000 going into the factory. At Cantley this year we have had 100,000 tons, and everyone got an additional 5s. per ton on the top of the other price. The average price paid for beet by Cantley was within a halfpenny or so of 61s. 6d. per ton, which, I think everyone will admit, is a very substantial price. There is also a provision in these contracts that if the price of sugar rises there is to be an additional 1s. per ton for beet for every 1s. above 44s. per cwt. in the price of sugar. The farmer not only gets the advantage of any improvement in the quality of his beet, but he also gets the advantage, or a large share of the advantage, in the case of an improved selling price of sugar.

I do not think I should be justified in wearying the House with more details of these contracts. I think I have said enough to justify my statement that the price paid is a very good one, and that the factories are fully carrying out the intention of both this and the preceding Ministry in ensuring that the benefit of this subsidy should go to the agricultural industry. I would like to make one reference to what the hon. Gentleman who spoke just now said as to the cost of this subsidy. It is calculated—I did not make the calculations myself, but they were made by reliable people, and I believe they are on the conservative side—that the additional employment given by these factories will reduce the expenditure on unemployment dole by a sum considerably in excess of the amount that can become payable as subsidy; so that from the actual point of view of cash payments the State stands to be a gainer, and not a loser, by the establishment of these factories through the assistance given by the subsidy.


In what period is that—the first four years, or the 10 years?


The calculations, I believe, were made for the first four years, and the effect will be even greater in the subsequent years.


Can the hon. and gallant Member say what was the price paid at Kelham in the last two or three years?


I have not got the full details of Kelham, but the price was on the same contract as at Cantley, only Kelham did not get 100,000 tons of beet, as Cantley did, and, consequently, the additional 5s. a ton was not paid. The average sugar content was, I believe, practically the same, and the growers got the 2s. 6d. a ton above the minimum, so, presumably, they got about 50s. or 57s. a ton; but they did not get the 5s. bonus for the 100,000 tons.

5.0 p.m.


I propose to offer one or two words of criticism to explain that, while I accept the object which this Bill has in view, I share the fear expressed by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) as to the danger of this Bill creating a great vested interest. None the less, I think the policy of this Bill, as far as its practical effects are concerned, is the most useful contribution made to agriculture for many years. The figures given by the Noble Lord the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield) as to the effect of this sugar industry in absorbing the unemployed are in themselves a great testimonial to the practical utility of this scheme. There can also be no question as to its value in extending the area of arable land. In 1919 there were 4,000 acres in this country under beetroot crops, and last year there were 41,000 acres. As the Minister of Agriculture suggested, it is possible that if the assistance now being given to the sugar beet industry had not been continued, at least 20,000 acres less would have been grown, and that would have been disastrous. None the less, I regret, as a previous speaker has done, the lack of safeguards in this Bill with respect to the money devoted from the public purse. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) said that one of the results, owing to the lack of safeguards in this Bill, will be that in the course of a few years a considerable proportion of the benefits which it is intended to give to agriculture will find its way by means of increased rents and increased land values into the pockets of the landowners. That is my main objection to this Bill. I regret that the Minister cannot see his way to insert in this Measure, as was done under the Corn Production Act, some provision which would make it illegal on the part of the owners of the land to increase their rates while this subsidy continues. That safeguard is not in the Bill, and consequently there is a great danger that a considerable proportion of the benefit will find its way into the pockets of the owners of land. Those are the facts.

The Minister of Agriculture said that last year something like £265,00 was due under this policy to be paid to three or four companies manufacturing sugar, and that in the coming year something like £500,000 will be due to those three factories. I understand that in the current year an additional eight factories are going to be erected. The three factories are now entitled to something like £500,000 a year, and there are eight-new factories to be erected; and therefore, when they are all in operation, there is every likelihood that by next year the liability of the taxpayer will be over £1,000,000. This not only means a larger annual subsidy and an increase in cost owing to the extension of these operations, but it also means an increasingly large amount of agricultural land being placed under arable cultivation for beet-growing purposes. Last year, we are told that 41,000 acres were under beet cultivation for the requirements of three factories only, but with 11 factories in operation it looks more than probable that there will be at least 150,000 acres of arable land placed under beet cultivation. One of the effects of that will be that a considerable amount of land is going to be improved in regard to its cultivable value.

The Minister of Agriculture has already told us that it is common experience that a beet crop makes arable land much more productive than ordinary crops. I notice that the main society concerned in advocating the extension of beet sugar growing states that sugar beet is a valuable crop which increases the yield of all other crops with which it is grown in rotation, and they state that in Germany it is estimated that a sugar beet crop increases the yield of wheat by 15 per cent. With regard to cereal crops it is claimed that the development of sugar beet growing increases the yield at less cost per acre, and will no doubt encourage more arable farming. Therefore my deduction is that it is inevitable that this new industry will add to the increased value of the land, and will give a reason to the owner in the course of a few years for asking for an increased rent.

It may be said by hon. Members opposite that landlords will not do that. May I remind the House that in recent years we have had a most striking illustration as to what this policy does without proper safeguards. Under this Bill not only is there a subsidy to the manufacturers of sugar but there is a definite guaranteed price to the farmer for growing beet.

We have heard the figures which have been given in this Debate and we are told that the guaranteed price never sinks below 44s. per ton. In principle that is exactly what took place under the Corn Production Act of 1917, which fixed the guaranteed price. In 1923 the Minister of Agriculture in the Conservative Government of that year admitted that from 1919 to 1921, when the Corn Production Act was withdrawn, rents in agriculture had risen 25 per cent. in this country. I recall not only this effect of increasing rents, but I would like to remind the House of the statement made by Sir Richard Winfrey on the 5th December last, in which he referred to the effect of the Corn Production Act of 1917 as increasing the value of agricultural land and the price farmers had to pay when they bought their holdings. One of his statements was: In my own constituency farms which were changing hands before the War at £40 per acre have recently changed hands at £70 and £80 per acre due to the conditions prevailing under the Corn Production policy. I want to suggest to the Minister of Agriculture that there is a lack of safeguards in this Pill to protect the public interest and public money, and that is a great defect in this Measure. I hope that in any further proposals, although I admit this is a matter of public policy, if assistance is to he given for various purposes of this kind we must have in measures of this character public safeguards to protect the public in regard to the money that is being spent.


I have noted with much pleasure the smooth passage which this Bill has enjoyed in its progress through the House, and I am sure there are many hon. Members on the Government side who will be grateful for the constructive criticisms which have been made by hon. Members opposite. We welcome the spirit which has animated hon. Members in endeavouring to place on the Statute Book a Measure which we feel cannot fail to be of considerable advantage to the agricultural community. We on this side of the House who recently sat on the opposite side can claim that we assisted the late Minister to establish the Wages Board, and that Board together with the Fair Wages Clause in this Bill will, I hope, ensure labour receiving adequate remuneration for the services which it renders for the industry. There can be no doubt that this Bill will add to the volume of employment in agricultural districts, and I feel myself that it is better business to do all that is possible to increase the production of land which is reasonably good and suitable for farming rather than to try and bring into cultivation those marginal acres which cost so much and which can never be made to yield good and profitable results. Those marginal acres may perhaps sometimes give a fair return when trade is good, but when there is a slight slump their cultivation becomes unprofitable, and those who have been directing operations lose their capital and labourers their jobs.

It is said that farmers are unable to foresee the market return they will get from the seed they sow because agricultural operations extend over so long a period and markets fluctuate greatly. Few crops achieve their cycle in less than 12 months, and in the case of fruit and other special crops sometimes a period of years is involved. Therefore farmers are under a special disability as compared with other trades. Under the provisions of the Bill, however, that difficulty is solved so far as this one crop is concerned, because when farmers put in the sugar beet seed they know that the market is assured to them. One difficulty is thus swept away, and their problem is reduced to one of production, and optimum production only. In many areas situated in close proximity to the factories where the land is good and not excessively rich, the beet crop will be found the most productive and remunerative that can possibly be grown on that land. I hope producers and farmers will take note in good time of the facilities which this Bill provides. I hope they will do so during the period that the subsidy runs at its highest point, because it is by doing this that they will be able to obtain the maximum advantage. I suggest to the Minister of Agriculture that he should take immediate steps, because the season is practically upon us, to broadcast and disseminate information regarding the advantages to be derived from this new crop, and above all as to the best method of cultivating it.

Another point to which I would like to direct attention is that we require better beet. We want beet which will give a heavier yield per acre in proportion to the amount of labour expended upon it, and also a beet which will give a heavier and larger content per beet grown. In the same way that we have been able to increase the milk yield of the cow in a short number of years from 400 gallons annually to nearly double that figure, so ought we to be able to do something to get the beet to increase its yield of sugar. I am reinforced in this view by a resolution recently passed by the Royal Agricultural Society, inviting the Minister of Agriculture to direct his attention to this matter. The resolution suggested that genetic research and field trial experiments should be undertaken to improve sugar beet. If we could increase the yield of sugar in beet from 15 per cent. to 20 per cent.—by no means an impossible attainment—we should add, on the basis of the ordinary crop, approximately £5 to the return obtained by the farmer, and something like £750,000 to £1,000,000 more would be paid to agriculturists who grow the beet. I hope the Minister will use his great influence with his Department, and, above all, with the Development Commission, because it seems to be a matter which they might properly take up, to see that action is taken on these lines. I believe that by broadcasting information on the question of sugar beet, and by scientific research, the Departments can do, perhaps, even more than we in this House are able to do by placing this Bill on the Statute Book.


I should like to ask the Minister what his opinion now is in regard to the last Amendment, which was moved last night, relating to the price of 35s. per cwt., in view of the remarks which have just been made by an hon. Member on the benches behind him. The right hon. Gentleman's answer last night was that he could not accept the Amendment because it would be practically impossible to say at any time when the standard price of sugar was 35s. per cwt. He said that it might be one figure in Liverpool, another in Manchester, and another in London. But the hon. Member behind him has distinctly told him now that the farmers will be able to say when it is 44s., and will be able to regulate the price of their beet by that standard. It must necessarily follow that if the farmers put a clause in their contract saying that when the price of sugar reaches 44s. they are to have another 1s., it must be possible to ascertain the corresponding standard if the price were 35s.; and yet the right hon. Gentleman last night could not accept my hon. Friend's Amendment, the effect of which would have been that, when the price of sugar was over 35s., there would be a reduction in the subsidy. If the argument I have mentioned is correct, I think it follows that the Amendment could have been accepted last night, and that the Department would have been able to carry it out. I commend that to the right hon. Gentleman as a beginning.

For certain reasons I do not desire to oppose this Bill, but I think it may be said that, if any party ought to have opposed it, it is the party opposite. They are constantly twitting us on this side that, if ever the principle of Socialism is applied to industry, it is bound to fail. This Bill is a strange mixture of Socialism and private enterprise, but the party opposite is ready to accept Socialism when it is going to foster private enterprise. Do not let us disagree any more as regards the efficacy of the principle of Socialism when it is applied. By this Bill you say that Socialism is all right, and that you believe in it to a certain extent, but you only believe in it when it is going to be used for the further fostering, protection and upholding of the principles of private enterprise and capitalism.

So far as we are concerned on this side, our wish with regard to this Bill would have been that, while it fostered this new-industry, the industry, if it proved a success, should be owned and controlled by the State and in the interests of the State. I quite agree that, as has been already said, we have to meet a serious problem in agriculture, and probably at this stage we cannot afford to differ seriously as to the principles we are going to apply in order to foster the success of agriculture. If I were asked whether I desired to have Protection, or whether I desired to see agriculture pass away as one of the foundation industries of this country, or whether I would accept the third alternative of applying a subsidy, I should unhesitatingly say that I would rather apply a subsidy than adopt either of the other two alternatives. We on this side of the House want to foster agricul- Cure, but I agree with the opinion that has been expressed by an hon. Member below the Gangway and by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley), that there are not sufficient safeguards in this Bill with regard to the public interest, and I am certain also that there are not sufficient safeguards with regard to the interests of the agricultural labourer.

When the Noble Lord the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield) spoke on this question, his chief point was that hitherto the beet-sugar factory in the neighbourhood of Newark had been able to absorb the whole of the unemployed in Newark, and had been able to pay the standard rate of wages for that district. I think, however, that everyone will agree that, so far as the agricultural labourer is concerned, whether upon farms in general or upon farms where beet is grown, the wage that is being paid to him now is not an adequate wage to sustain him. There are two interests which are going to be safeguarded by these proposals. Undoubtedly, those who put capital into the factories are going to be safeguarded for a certain period: they are going to be assured of a return on their capital; and the hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Colonel Courthope) has distinctly told us that the farmers have been strong enough to ensure that, if this Bill goes through, the prices under their contracts will be remunerative to them. The only interest that is not safeguarded in this case, although public money is going to be lavishly furnished to foster this industry, is the interest of the agricultural labourer. Can anyone say—


There are the Wages Boards.


There is no safeguard whatever. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a question which I put to him last night, said that the machinery that is set up—whether it be wages boards or councils—for ascertaining and deciding what the wages shall be, affords no power under this Measure to enforce the decisions arrived at. Suppose you have a number of farms on which beet is grown which is sold to these sugar factories, a Whitley Council is sot up, and, probably, eight out of ten of the farmers say, "Yes, we will accept the decision of the council and pay the wage they have fixed." If two of those farmers refuse to pay that wage—


It is not the farmers; it is the factories.


I mean the factories—there is no power to force those factories to pay that wage. I put that to the right hon. Gentleman last night, and he agreed, and he promised—to what extent he is going to be able to carry it out I do not know, but ho said he was not sanguine— that, if it were possible, he would put something into the Bill in another place to give the power we require. Seeing that public money is to be given to the extent that it is, and that the other two interests are to be fully protected, I think we have a right to ask that the interests of labour in the factories for the period during which the subsidy is given shall be equally protected. I agree that the result of these activities will be, as has been said, to improve the land considerably, and that it will go a long way to improve agriculture; but are we sure that, when agriculture has been improved at the expense of a State subsidy, a considerable proportion of the subsidy will not find its way into the pockets of the landlords? If that is going to be the net result of this Bill, it is not going to be finally in the interests of agriculture, and, much as all of us desire to see the countryside awakened into life and activity, and to establish as far as possible factories of this character which will give work in the rural districts, we are desirous at the same time of seeing that, so long as public money is devoted to this object, this interest shall be fully protected.


Before the Debate closes and this Bill passes to another place, I should like to intervene for a few moments to express the view which I and some of my Friends are disposed to take as to what is, undoubtedly, a very important legislative Measure. My own attitude towards this Bill is not in the least determined by purely abstract considerations. I quite agree with what was said in more quarters of the House than one in the Debate that we had only last night, namely, that you have to judge of these matters, not simply by saying you are a Free Trader or you are a Protectionist, but by getting closer to the practical effect of the Measure in question. Although I do not for a moment pretend that my own sympathy, and, it may be, my own bias, is not strongly on one side in that historic controversy, at the same time I am perfectly willing to see an experiment made, if the circumstances are shown to be such as to justify a departure from what might be preconceived theory.

Therefore, the view which my Friends and I take in this matter, although it may be suspected of being coloured by our general economic principles, is formed from a desire to consider the Bill on its merits; but, while that is so, I want to point out that it is really quite impossible to regard a matter of this sort as though it has not in fact a Protectionist effect. The late Chancellor of Exchequer, whom all Free Traders gratefully recognise as a stout supporter of their principles, made a most gallant effort, when he first suggested Government support for these proposals, to make out that somehow a subsidy on beet sugar was quite consistent with Free Trade principles. With great respect to that most eminent man, that is a perfectly impossible proposition. Such a proposal may be right or it may be wrong, but to say that it is not Protectionist in effect is really to fly straight in the face of perfectly obvious considerations. To mention only one, Protection, whatever else it means, means, I suppose, a system by which you impose duties at the ports upon imports from overseas, without having a corresponding or countervailing excise duty on the same product when it is made within your own shores. As we all know, one of the methods which was at one time proposed for encouraging the beet sugar industry was to have an import duty on sugar coming to this country from overseas, and to have no Excise duty on sugar grown here. That may be right or wrong, but what is the good of saying it is not a Protectionist proposal? You do not thereby condemn it by calling it by that name. You do not thereby approve it by admitting that that is its effect. But to say that the proposal to put a duty on an imported article, and to have no corresponding Excise duty upon the article which is made in our own country, is not in principle Protection is quite inaccurate. The new proposal is intended as a substitute for that. It proposes on the one hand to grant this very substantial subsidy, and on the other hand it proposes to impose an Excise duty. The circumstance that you are putting the thing in a different way—it may be in a better way; it may be with larger results to this interest or that—does not in the least alter its effect. Therefore, while for my part I am very willing that this should be considered apart from abstract theory and on its merits, it really is a very unsatisfactory way of approaching the subject to dispute that really it is in itself in the nature of a Protectionist proposal.

The real truth is, of course, for good or for evil, whether you proceed by the method of tariffs on imports, whether you proceed by the method of remission of duty on home-produced goods, or whether you proceed by the method of bounties on home production, these things are different ways of giving effect to the same economic principle. Therefore it is quite plain that this must be regarded as a Protectionist proposal. I am quite willing to concede, and I quite frankly admit, that if you have to choose between different methods, some considerations which may be regarded as objections to a tariff do not attach to the same extent and with the same force to a bounty or a proposal of this kind. For one thing—and it is a very great thing—no one can dispute what is the extent to which public money raised out of the taxes is being devoted to this particular purpose. It is a great thing to have in black and white and in plain terms what is the price you are paying as far as the taxpayer is concerned. One of the greatest objections to the method of tariff undoubtedly is, as every candid controversialist will admit, that it is so extremely difficult to calculate what really is the burden that is being borne by the community. At any rate here we have it fairly plain, and it is a very substantial sum. It works out at something like £500,000 in the first year, working up I daresay to £2,000,000 in the year following. I do not think any Member of the House of Commons is open to rebuke or reproach because he expresses, as I express, a very grave concern that so large a burden should be deliberately put upon the taxpayers.

Then I sympathise very much with what has been said by the hon. Member who has just sat down, and others, that if you are going to do this surely you ought to take the most abundant steps to secure that it is done under conditions under which the public interest is protected. I wish to be candid with hon. Members above the Gangway. I do not very greatly admire the Amendment that was moved from their ranks yesterday, which would have provided that after 10 years there should be an issue of shares by these companies which were to bo allotted to the State, and which would then make the State, as I understand, a holder to a very substantial amount in the companies, because it seems to me they were not perhaps distinguishing between two very different things, one of which is the capital of an enterprise of this sort, and the other is its revenue expenditure. I do not imagine for a moment that in 10 years' time any one of these subsidised companies will really have a capital which represents as much as half the subsidy they have received. The subsidy, of course, goes in relief of working expenses I do not know any body of public opinion which ex-presses more powerfully and with more justification its abhorrence of watered capital and of excessive capitalisation than hon. Members above the Gangway. I do not admire the form of their proposal, but in so far as they were putting forward a claim that if you are going to use public money to subsidise and promote a particular interest you are bound to see that the public interest itself is concerned. I think they were absolutely right. If it had been possible, for example, to devise a method by which the rate of profit made by these subsidised companies was strictly limited, it seems to me that would be a good and perfectly just thing to do. We do it in the case of gas companies, not because they are subsidised by public money but because they are entrusted with the administration of a monopoly in which the public interest must be allowed to prevent excessive profits being made, and I think it ought to have been possible for those who propose schemes of this sort to devise some practical control, not necessarily in the form suggested yesterday by some hon. Members above the Gangway, but still practical control, to prevent the possibility of this all inuring in improper and preposterous proportions to the special advantage of particular interests.

There is a second consideration, which I think was very inadequately dealt with on the Report stage. I acknowledge frankly that it was the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) and those associated with him who raised the question in Committee. They are all, I hope, anxious to co-operate honestly in securing that if this public money is going to be granted to these private enterprises, there should be the fullest opportunity for the representatives of the taxpayers to know how it is used, and how it is spent. It really is quite preposterous that any other view should be taken. I regret very much indeed that it was not thought possible yesterday to secure, not merely that the balance-sheet should be made public, which really is going to provide no one with very adequate information, but that there should be a perfectly frank disclosure of the particular items of profit and loss year by year. What is going to happen? The late Minister of Agriculture has said, if I am rightly informed—I am sorry I did nor hear his speech—that he thought it possible that the subsidy was not sufficient. If the right hon. Gentleman already thinks that, what are we going to be faced with in three or four years' time? Nothing is more certain than that if we once adopt a policy of this sort the appetite will grow with eating, and we shall find, those of us who are here in two or three years' time, beyond question these enterprises, having had the advantage of the shelter of a subsidy, coming forward with a piteous talc that they are not able to do what they hoped to do unless the subsidy is prolonged or increased.

How are the representatives of the taxpayers going to check that? There is only one way to check it. It is not to be done by a Minister, however capable. It has to be done by the House of Commons itself, and the only way to check it is to say, "Let us have these things openly upon the table, and let us have an opportunity of examining how those people have spent your money, and why they have not succeeded." It may be that even this will not in fact plant in this country a beet sugar industry. We shall then be faced with the question, "Are we going to go further in the effort to do it, or are we going to refuse to put a further burden on the taxpayer?" It may be, on the other hand, that the present proposals will really start the industry, but it is certain that an industry once started under a system like this will not 'be very willing to give up the special protection it has. We had it all the other day in the well-known instance of the motor cars of Messrs. Morris. These gentlemen were quite honestly satisfied that if you were once to take away the special assistance which Parliament had given them their industry would fall to pieces, and we are quite certain to have a similar contention put forward again. Apart altogether from questions of abstract theory, I beg to call the attention of the House of Commons to the fact that we are here committing ourselves to a very heavy expenditure indeed without, as it seems to me, those securities and safeguards which the country and the taxpayers have a right to expect. The old Development Commission, at any rate, did endeavour to impose those safeguards, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman who is conducting this Bill through the House can fairly say that as the result of the framing and the discussion of the Bill in the last two months, he has really got a Measure which is conditioned, as it ought to be, in a way that protects the public interest.

The last observation I have to make is this. It is curious how in the whirligig of time we gradually find ourselves working round to a point of view which appears to be the very opposite from the point of view which at one time was so stoutly maintained on behalf of the country. It is about 20 years ago that the Brussels Convention was signed. What was the object of it? It was signed as the result, amongst other things, of the most diligent and skilful action of the late Joseph Chamberlain. The Brussels Convention was signed, and then there was the most active agitation for the abolition of the bounties on Continental beet sugar granted by foreign Governments because it was said, as long as the system of bounties prevails, there are interests in this country which cannot in the circumstances get a fair chance. I regret that we should so easily slip into the system of bounties. If it is to be justified at all, it can only be justified if the conditions are most thoroughly and carefully laid down. The amount that is to be raised and spent here is very large indeed. It is quite impossible to dispute that this is really Protectionist in effect, and while we all want to see practical steps taken in order to mend practical grievances and promote great public objects, there are, as it seems to me, dangers involved in this scheme which abundantly justify the protests which are being raised against it.


The right hon. Gentleman's speech has left me in some doubt whether or not he means to vote against the Bill. I rather conclude that he does, because in his final observations, if I heard him correctly, he invited the House to agree with his view that the policy contained in the Bill was only justifiable if it was accompanied by the most rigid and adequate safeguards. In the earlier part of his speech he developed with great force the view that those adequate safeguards were not so included. Therefore I presume that his conclusion on the whole matter is that the course which we invite the House to take, of giving the Bill a Third Reading, is not justifiable. If that be so, I think it is both a difficult and, from his own point of view, a regrettable conclusion at which to have arrived. It not only puts him in rather startling antagonism and intellectual opposition with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), but it also denies him and his party the opportunity of taking their share in what has been the first solid constructive effort which has been made, initiated by the party opposite, on behalf of the agricultural industry. It will not escape his recollection, or that of the House, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was, I think, Prime Minister when the Excise was first remitted in favour of home-produced sugar. As he truly said, it may be maintained and, indeed, it may be generally assumed, that action of that sort did savour of Protection. I have no cause to quarrel with him in the definition that he gave of Protection. He, at all events, should realise that a policy which was thought to be suitable by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs in these circumstances, cannot be so very harmful from the Free Trade or the Protectionist political point of view when it is recom mended in slightly different form a few years later.

With regard to the general attitude of hon. Members below the Gangway towards these agricultural proposals, I am bound to say that they seem to me to be very willing to wound but somewhat afraid to strike. The hon. Member for South-west Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris) said that he could not believe that these proposals have any agricultural merit at all, and that no permanent good would be done to agriculture until a new system of land tenure had been adopted. That remark seemed to carry my mind back to the rural programme of the exiguous party below the Gangway at the last Election, when they appealed for the suffrages of the rural voter on the ground that they stood for a land system that was going to combine the advantages of ownership and tenancy, with the disadvantages of neither. That policy, however attractive, was not such that any country dweller could readily understand and, therefore, I was not surprised that it failed to get the active support that hon. Members anticipated and hoped. I am left in some doubt as to which side hon. Members below the Gangway opposite will record their votes this evening. Apart from that, the Bill has during the Debate had ascribed to it some very astonishing and very pleasant qualities. It was assuring to me to learn from the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) that it was a Bill that apparently could be described as acceptable to the Socialist party by hon. Members opposite, and that it could be welcomed as a Bill for the encouragement of private enterprise by hon. Members on this side, and that therefore, it could, in that way, bring consolation to men of all parties and of all opinions.

I am not in the least concerned to deny that in doing that it does, as the right hon. Member for Spen Valley said, and it, may indeed impose a very large and heavy liability upon the State. The references which have been made to the extent of that liability call for one qualification. The right hon. Member for Spen Valley spoke about £500,000. He said that it was quite possible and, indeed, probable, he should think certain, that that liability would be largely increased in the forthcoming years, but neither he nor any other Member of this House ought to forget that what we pay in subsidy we recover as to about half by Excise. Therefore, if the House wishes to form an estimate of what is really the outgoing, it must bring into the credit side of the account what will be received by Excise, as well as putting on the debit side what will be the outgoings in the way of subsidy. A good deal of the criticism, as far as there has been criticism in this Debate, has been directed to the absence of safeguards for this great public experiment. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley), who made, if he will allow me to say so, a speech, although I disagreed with it, that carried the whole House with it, in its intellectual consistency and sincerity, astonished me by saying that the Bill emerged with an entire lack of safeguards. I think he will recognise that that was somewhat of an exaggeration.


I said a lack of safeguards as regards rent and the increased value of the land.


The last thing I wish to do is to strain the words of the hon. Member. I thought that that must be an explanation of his phrase. There has been introduced into the Bill two very definite safeguards. In the first place, we have gone a long way to meet the demand of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen with regard to securing control by the Minister and this House on the question of accounts. The right hon. Member for Spen Valley moved an Amendment, which we accepted last night, which strengthened the safeguard, and he and the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) were of opinion that it might have been further strengthened. We argued that on the Report stage last night, and I do not think it will be profitable to restate the argument. It will, perhaps, suffice to say that under what we have clone this House and Parliament will be able year by year and factory by factory to know what I conceive it would be desirable to know, namely, whether these factories are making a profit or a loss, and if so how much. That is the real vital substance of what we ought to know, rather than knowing the precise expenditure in the factory on this or that item which it might be improper to have made public.

In the second place, we have introduced a safeguard in the matter of wages. The hon. Member for Rochdale said, quite truly, last night, that I had said in reply to a question that as the Bill stood the Fair Wages Clause when it was introduced, even with the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall), which I accepted, still remains in a more or less ineffective stage, being devoid of an effective penalty. I am glad to be able to tell the hon. Member that I hope I have been successful in finding words that will have the effect of attaching a penalty to make effective and make recoverable an award of the Industrial Court when given. I think that will go a long way to meet the perfectly forcible objection of the hon. Member opposite as to the stage in which we left the Bill last night.

There is a third direction in which the hon. Member for Dewsbury said that this Bill lacks safeguards, and the point is of sufficient importance to merit a reply. He made the case that here we are giving a great deal of public money away in order to stimulate the sugar industry and the growing of beet, and he asked what guarantee have we that we are not in doing that increasing the value of the land and thereby putting money into the pockets of landowners? I considered that argument when he developed it, with great care, and my answer to it is this. It is perfectly true, it is undeniable—I should not wish to deny it—that as a result of this policy, land may be. and probably will be, better to let. It is, therefore quite likely that the result of this policy in certain cases may be to maintain rents, or even to permit rents to be raised. I think that is quite possible and even probable, but I am bound to say that that does not shock me as much as it shocks hon. Members opposite.


Of course, it does not.


It does not shock me as much as it shocks hon. Members opposite. They approach any question in which landowners are concerned very much in the way in which, they will remember, Lord Macaulay said the puritan approached the question of bear-baiting. He said they wished to stop it, not because of any suffering which it gave to the bear, but because of the pleasure it gave to the public. Hon. Members opposite are really so much imbued with the danger of the possibility of one penny finding its way into the pocket of the landlord that it really warps, distorts and vitiates their outlook. I would suggest this to them, if they can divest their minds of this rather irrational point of view, that it is true that the landowner at the present time is performing, whether they believe it or not, a very valuable function in the agricultural world. He is supplying the agricultural industry with very cheap money, much cheaper money than the Treasury are able to supply. I make bold to say that the agricultural landowner to-day who is drawing rents from an agricultural estate is seldom receiving more than the equivalent of, say, 3 per cent., not on the value of the land, but on the value of the capital sunk in equipping the land—putting in drains, water supply, and so on. Therefore, what hon. Members call rent, or what shocks hon. Members as rent, is hardly ever, if ever, in the strict sense of the word, rent at all. It is a very modest rate of interest upon capital sunk in the industrial equipment of the soil, without which the land is, of course, perfectly valueless, although it is in the state of the virgin soil which the Almighty gave to man.


Are we to understand that, assuming that we agree to the right of the landlord to an economic rent—if new industries start and they are subsidised by the British Government—that the landlord has the right to take some of that money for rent. If so, that is subsidising the landlord.

6.0 p.m.


My mind has the misfortune, or the good fortune, I am afraid, of being much more sternly practical and much less affected by abstract considerations than are the minds of hon. Members opposite. I am afraid that I see it in a much more simple form. If the landowner and the tenant, who are partners in a common business, working together in a common business, are able to say that the State for its own national reasons has decided to try to make that common business more prosperous, or less unprosperous, I must confess frankly that I am not shocked by them agreeing together as to one having a little share of the profit and another having a little share of the profit in order to enable both more efficiently to discharge their economic duties. I assure hon. Members opposite that they will not cut any ice in their constituencies on that point.

I think that that answers most of the points which have been put by way of criticism of the Bill, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will not think that I have avoided any of their strong points. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir D. Newton) made an appeal to me that was, I thought, very sound and very forcible. He emphasised the necessity of using these 10 years for the stimulation of genetic research. I am sure that in that he is absolutely right. Those 10 years must not be regarded either by the factory or the farmer or anybody else as a period during which they can go to sleep and let the State money come in and just carry on. These 10 years should be used to make the industry efficient from the bottom to the top, and by that I mean principally what the hon. Member had in mind when he emphasised the importance of encouraging farmers to avail themselves of all the scientific devices they could in order to pursue better cultivation and arm themselves with the ideal form of seeds. I can assure him on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture that no efforts will be spared on our part to put ourselves, either directly or through the Development Commission, in the way of giving all assistance we can for developing that side of the business.

I think that my noble Friend the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield) on the whole would agree, if he heard the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bye (Colonel Courthope) that the claims of the farmers have been fairly met. It is the nature of every farmer, as of most of us, to want all he can get and sometimes a little bit more. I think that on the whole we can judge by results, and I am advised that contracts for beet have been placed fairly satisfactorily, and, speaking generally, the factories can look forward to a fair supply of the raw material. I apologise for saying so much, but that is all I need say, except to conclude by pointing out that it has been an easy task for a Minister to pilot this Bill through its stages, because it appealed to me as the deserted child of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"]—deserted through no fault of his, but, none the less, deprived of its natural parents, and it has been a great pleasure to me this afternoon to see the affection with which parent and child have been reunited, and to be a party to listening to the benedictions that the parent has pronounced upon what I hope is a promising child.


I think that those who are going to be interested in the financial contribution which is to be made under this Bill must count themselves fortunate in having two such advocates as the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Agriculture and the. present Minister. They have conducted their advocacy of the Bill in a very persuasive way, against which none of us who have views against the Bill can make any complaint. But some of us who do not agree with the principle of the Bill, are rather surprised that Liberal Members below the Gangway should have delayed their entry into the Debate so late on the Report stage last night and to-day—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"]


We took part in the Second Reading Debate and in the Debate on the Financial Resolution, when it was first brought in and on the Report stage.


I think that, if the right hon. Gentleman will examine the OFFICIAL REPORT, ho will not find that there was any real criticisms of the Bill until we had the speech by the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) this evening, and I think that the Minister was justified in the remark which be made in that connection. The only possible exception was the principle raised by the hon. Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins). In other respects no real point was made throughout the whole business from the Liberal Benches. Although it may appear that some of us are not in quite such harmony with our colleagues on this Bill, as in the majority of Measures which come before the House, they themselves would be the first to acknowledge that those of us who took steps to raise objection on the Money Resolution, and on the Second Reading, have been the means of reviving Amendments to the Bill which have saved the principle of fair wages for the labourers, and although we may not see eye to eye with them as to other parts of the Bill, they will give us credit in that respect. It would have been kind for the Minister to tell us what is the actual form of words.


I have not got them.


I hope that, in pursuance of the promise which he made to me last night, we may have the chance of seeing those words before they are submitted for addition to the Bill in another place, because we regard it as most important, in dealing with the Fair Wages Clause, that, whatever form of words are accepted, we should secure finality in the words adopted in regard to the wages of the workers under this particular Measure. In entering my final caveat against this Bill may I say, first, that any State subsidy like this always leads to what we see happening to-day. It leads to the setting up of vested interests. We are having produced before our eyes, as the result of this policy of subsidy, what turns out to be a very large trust in an important food commodity of the people of this country. It is rather extraordinary—and I am going to repeat in spite of what the Minister said upstairs—that until my right hon. Friend met the interests concerned last year and laid down the foundations of this Bill some of the financiers and industrialists of the country let sugar severely alone, but as soon as there was a possibility of a stabilised subsidy out of public funds, then we find Lord Weir and the right hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir J. Baird) and other interested persons coming in to take, what was described in a perfectly plain way by my hon. Friend upstairs as their share of the plunder. I do not think that it can be described in any other way than that.

Here we have the Anglo-Scottish Sugar Beet Corporation with Lord Weir and the right hon. Member for Ayr Burghs as members of the board of directors, and factories are being built, ostensibly by separate companies, but the majority of the shares are held by the Anglo-Scottish Sugar Beet Corporation, and the majority of the directors will be under the control of the board of directors of the Anglo-Scottish 'Sugar Beet Corporation. I hold the view that whenever you begin to use subsidies of this character, in regard to an industry, you will get people coming in like that to take their share of the swag. That will have, in my judgment, a very important effect on the representations which many of us will desire to make to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reference to his next Budget, and also perhaps succeeding Budgets, with regard to direct taxes on the food of the people. It may even affect Budgets brought in by a Labour administration.

By whomever they are introduced, this is the point. The Minister, in reply to criticisms, said: "You say that we are going to spend over £500,000 a year on this subsidy. That is not the case because we are going to get £260,000 back in the Excise Duties." What will be the position in regard to that as soon as the factories which, he has reminded the House during the Debates on the Bill, are to be erected, are functioning? We know that the amount that will be due to the State, the amount from the Exchequer will be something like £2,000,000, if the factories that are outlined in the speech are actually built and are producing. What does that mean? When we come to ask for a reduction in direct taxation on sugar that, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have created a vested interest, if he desires to remove the tax he will have to face the loss of the duty that is provided out of the subsidy under this Bill for the revenue of the country. So under this Bill we are creating a vested interest against making the food of the people free from direct impost by the State.

Coming to the principle of the Bill, it is an amazing thing that we should say to agriculturists, who are in need of help: "We cannot help you directly, but we may help you by giving a bounty or subsidy to some other industry." Where is that going to lead' I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will be approached within the next few weeks to take some action with regard to the position of the growers of hops. You have had a form of hop control. They have given, in fact, some protection to the growers of hops in this country. What would the House say to the right hon. Gentleman if, in order to help the growers of hops in this country, he came down here and said: "I am very sorry that we canot give you any help direct, but we propose to subsidise the brewers so that you may get a better price for your hops"? We know that any such policy would be ruled out by the House. Yet that is the very essence of the policy which is laid down in this Bill. It seems to me to be utterly unsound and uneconomic.

When we are voting public money for a subsidy of this kind we ought to have some reference as to whether there is any veal hope of making an industry pay, even with the subsidy which is voted. I do not think that anyone can say, on the figures available for this industry, that there is any real ground for saying that they will be able to make it pay. This Bill gives a diminishing subsidy on the face of it, over 10 years, and that subsidy is to be wiped out altogether. I suggest that you would never be able to wipe it out, because the industry will never pay without the full subsidy.

In 1923, in moving the repeal of the Sugar Duty, I was informed by the present Prime Minister, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he could not take the duty off sugar because the world supply of sugar was such that, an increased demand growing up, the taking off of the tax would mean that the price of the raw article would go up. Since then, in 1923–24, the world's production of sugar increased by one and a half million tons, and in 1924–25 it increased by another three million tons. The estimates of those who are acquainted with sugar production go to show that within the next two years there will be a still further increase of another two million or three million tons of sugar in the world output. I put the point that this greater subsidy was put into the Bill based upon the price of sugar last summer, when it was about 34s. and 35s., and, judging from what my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, it was doubtful whether the greater subsidy offered was sufficient on that price. Yet there is every indication from the figures of the world's supply of sugar and the increase in the last three years that the price of sugar on the wholesale market will come down instead of going up. How, then, can we hope that the subsidy, reduced at the end of four years and wiped out at the end of 10 years, will leave the industry in such a position that it can become a permament economic proposition? I believe that, as a matter of fact, unless the interests come back at the end of four years and at the end of seven and at the end of 10 years, and say, "We cannot carry on unless you give us the full subsidy," and this House then gives them the full subsidy, all this money will be wasted and of non-effect. When the world's supply of sugar was only 18,000,000 tons—now it is over 22,000,000 tons—with a subsidy of 25s. 8d. a cwt., there was a loss on the factories existing in this country. Therefore, it seems to me to be uneconomic from that point of view.

There is one other point I want to mention. My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley), who was rightly complimented upon his speech, referred to the question of increasing the value of land to landlords. I wonder whether the House has realised the extent to which that is possible. In the Debate on the Money Resolution I referred to the fact that there was a Committee, presided over by Sir William McLintock, appointed by the Treasury in 1922 to inquire into the position of the sugar industry. That Committee reported that their view was that permission should not be given to the company to raise further money to rank before the existing second mortgage, and that, having regard to the subsidy, which was then 25s. 8d. per cwt., its remission would amount to a subsidy on beet growing at the rate of £24 an acre. At the present rate of 19s. 6d. as subsidy, to which has to be added a preference of 1s. 11d. which the growers of beet will still receive, that means that on the showing of the Treasury Committee we are giving to the growers of beet for sugar production in this country a subsidy at the rate of over £20 an acre. In 1923, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister put forward two propositions: first, a general tariff, and, secondly, a guaranteed wage of 30s. to farm labourers, with £l an acre subsidy to arable land. In this particular Bill we are proposing a subsidy to the growers of beet of something like £24 an acre.

For all these reasons I have felt bound to disagree with this Bill. I have to acknowledge that the Minister of Agriculture, with great courtesy, has made us concessions on the Bill, and it is a great satisfaction to myself that in particular he gave us a Clause which will mean that there will be presented to the House some statements of accounts, some statement of profit and loss, and there will be some security for the wages of the workers in the industry. I hope the House will note that on the Third Reading of the Bill it is setting up a pre- cedent for a subsidy which is of a very dangerous kind, and that we may yet find other sections of the agricultural industry, and other industries as well, coming down with the same request, with the same precedent for their request.


I propose to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. I have opposed this Bill since its inception. I am not opposing it on any question of Free Trade or Protection. I believe that it is an infringement of the principles of Free Trade, but it is not on that ground that I propose to oppose it. I oppose it because I think it is an infringement of sound national finance. I lay it down as a general proposition that no public money ought ever to be voted to private interests unless there are paramount over-riding considerations which make that necessary. I have listened very carefully to the discussions on this Measure, and in my opinion it has not been established that in connection with the sugar beet industry there are those paramount and over-riding considerations present. That being the case, those of us who really want to see public finance kept clear of corruption and of pernicious influence ought to vote against this Bill. The Labour party gave the Government an opportunity of declaring its intentions on this matter. It put forward certain proposals in Committee. We laid it down as a principle that if the Government paid money into a private enterprise of this sort it was entitled to participate in any profits which might accrue. We asked that the nation might be awarded certain shares of the value which will be produced by the national subsidy. That was refused to us in Committee. We also asked that the nation might have upon the Boards of Directors of these concerns which are carrying on the sugar industry certain representatives, in order to look after and protect the public money which had been granted to these businesses. That also was refused to us.

It shows clearly that what is behind the people who are promoting this Measure is a desire to take this vast sum of public money and to put it into the pockets of certain private interests. We have had Members opposite standing up in the most naked and unashamed fashion and saying that they wanted to participate in the result of this Measure. We have had landowners who are directly affected by the Measure standing up and saying how much they welcome it. We have had company directors who are directly affected by the Measure and knowing they are going to profit by it, standing up and welcoming the Measure. That kind of thing is a very unpleasant feature in connection with legislation. We ought not to have people who are going to benefit financially and definitely by a public Measure getting up in this House and using all their influence to promote that Measure. I am a moderate man, and I have a temperate habit in my language, but when I look back over the history of this subsidy project, when I remember its genesis and the way in which it has been worked for, lobbied for, and the influences that have been brought to bear, I cannot help saying, moderate and temperate in my language though I may be, that this is a most unpleasant piece of political jobbery; and in the interests of financial purity, as in the interests of the great mass of the taxpayers of the country. I shall record my vote against the Third Reading.


My hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander), in the opening remarks of his speech, made a claim to having opposed and criticised this Bill on behalf of bis party without any assistance from the Liberal benches. Indeed, he said that, until last night, nothing whatever had been done from these Benches in criticism of the measure. I hold in my hand the OFFICIAL REPORT of Wednesday. 18th February. In Column 1165 there is the beginning of a speech which I delivered. That speech extended over six columns. In it I offered to the Government suggestions which were taken up by the Labour Party in the Standing Committee, although they found no place in the original draft of the Bill as the Labour Government themselves brought it in. Now they claim credit for the very proposals that I made at that time.


May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that no draft Bill was submitted by the Labour Government?


The right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. N. Buxton) regards himself as the father of this Measure. Indeed, it was so referred to again and again OIL Second Reading. For the information of my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough let me point out one Amendment of which he is undoubtedly, and has every reason to be, proud, because it has been inserted in the Bill in Committee. The Minister of Agriculture said this afternoon that the position of the wage-earners was safeguarded, a Fair Wages Clause having been inserted in the Bill. From where did the suggestion come? Did it come from the Labour Front Bench? Not at all. It was first made in this Debate in the first discussion on this Measure, on 18th February, and it was as made by myself. I do not want to quarrel with my right hon. Friends as to the credit for these proposals, but it is a little strong of the hon. Member for Hillsborough to come down here and say that nobody but his own party had taken part in the discussion of the Bill, when the only valuable suggestion which has been adopted came from the Liberal benches. Let me refer to the case that was put forward on the Second Reading, for it ought to be emphasised again to-day. I opposed the Bill on Second Reading almost entirely on financial grounds, but I also did so on other grounds, and those grounds were that, by this system of assisting industry, we laid the House of Commons open to the kind of pressure of which we had already seen an example, and which will increase as subsidies increase, this House being used for the procuring of public money for private concerns.

I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has not put forward this Measure as a means of enriching private proprietors. I know that quite well. But the effect of it he could not avoid. He himself quite frankly said to the House that if this subsidy has a good effect upon the beet growing industry it must bring benefits to the landlords and to the farmers. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk was reminded on the Second Reading that it was very natural that he, a Norfolk man, should bo glad to see assistance given to Norfolk industries. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Sir G. Collins) very naturally pleaded the cause of the refiners, and so we have in the case of these two hon. Gentlemen, as well as in other quarters, examples of the very thing which is to be deprecated, and which is the natural result of taking public money for private ends. Members come down to this House, one to plead for a subsidy because it will be popular in his county, and another to plead against it because it will be damaging in his constituency, and it is very natural that they should do so. But can we imagine a more degrading way of lowering the standard of the House of Commons than that Members should have to get up on opposite sides and plead for and against proposals merely on the ground that one course or the other was going to put money into the pockets of certain of their constituents. It was on those grounds, as well as others, that I opposed the Second Reading of the Bill.

There is a further objection to it. The Exchequer as it stands at present cannot afford this money. We shall be faced very soon with a new Budget, and the reductions in the Estimates so far are not sufficient to bring about any very drastic reduction in taxation. The Chancellor of Exchequer will plead that he has to make ends meet. He will find on every hand the spending Departments doing their best to keep their Estimates up while he is doing his best to keep them down. One of the claimants that will come against the Chancellor of Exchequer will bo the Ministry of Agriculture, and the only reply that will be made by the Minister of Agriculture when he is asked to bring the subsidy down will be that it cannot be done, that the companies cannot carry on without the subsidy. Indeed, I am not sure that there will not be other influences at work as well. It will be said the county constituencies will not stand it. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the chief Government Whip will obviously have to say that the withdrawal of this subsidy would mean grave unpopularity in the county areas, and he will be afraid of endangering some of his county seats. So we shall find political pressure being used in order to push up the Estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture for the provision of subsidies which are to go to private companies, while the State is not retaining any concern in the profits made by these companies except what is got out of the Income Tax. Obviously Members in various parts of the House will have to bring to bear on their public actions here the pressure of private interests outside. If these are not sufficient reasons for voting against this Bill I do not know what such reasons can be. I should very much like to know what line the hon. Member for Hillsborough is going to take on the Bill. He condemned it utterly. Is he prepared to endorse that opinion in the division lobby?


signified assent.


I am very glad to know that he is going to do so. I presume his neighbour, the late Financial Secretary to the Treasury and one of the authors of the Bill, is going to vote for it, and the spectacle of the Labour Front Bench divided on this Measure is one which will naturally cause a great deal of interest in other parts of the House. [Interruption.] I agree that it may not be without precedent. The only comment I make at the present time is that those of us who believe this proposal to be unsound, whether on account of its extravagance, or because it starts a system of subsidy out of public money for private concerns, or because it has absent from it the necessary safeguards which were laid down by the Development Commission when they granted money for this purpose, are prepared to do our duty and vote in the Lobby against the Bill. Let me make one reference to the Development Commission to show how different that Commission's scheme was from the present scheme. The Development Commission advanced money for the purpose of beet experiments in Norfolk, but they did so on the strict understanding that they were to receive 5 per cent. on the money advanced to the company. There is nothing of the kind in this Bill. There are no definite safeguards in it from beginning to end, except the publication of the balance sheets. I know the Minister of Agriculture has able men in his Department who will scrutinise the balance sheets with great care, but we must remind him again, as we did yesterday, that this money is not solely in his keeping. We are all, as Members of this House, specially charged with the financial affairs of this country and it is to this House these companies should be answerable for the expenditure of the money which is provided by this House.


It is not for me to intervene in the domestic squabbles and differences which have developed above and below the Gangway opposite, or in the claims and counter-claims which are being made in respect of damages which may have been inflicted on this Bill in Committee, or which are to be inflicted on it in the Lobby. My part in the Debates which have taken place on this question has been severely limited by my misfortune in being unlucky in connection with your attention, Mr. Speaker, on each of the occasions on which I have risen. My excuse for taking part in these discussions in their closing stage is that I am, perhaps, unique in this House in having been closely connected for a period of 25 years with the growing of sugar, the manufacture of sugar, the refining of sugar, and the production of machinery for this purpose, and yet at the same time I have no axe to grind, as suggested by the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle). I do not stand up to recommend this Bill because I am likely to get anything out of it myself, except in a very humble way as an experimental farmer who intends, in his own Division of Somerset, where it is proposed to erect one of these factories, to see if it be possible to grow sugar beet at a profit. I wish to join my voice to the others which have welcomed this Bill, and to congratulate the Minister on the skill with which he has piloted it through its various stages, and on the support and assistance which he has received from hon. Members on the opposite side of the House.

There are two features which I should like to emphasise, and to which I think sufficient attention has not been directed. The first is that this industry is not primarily and merely an agricultural venture. It is a very highly scientific manufacturing industry and, for that reason, it is peculiarly suitable for assistance from the State. The average agricultural crop is to a great extent a finished product when it is grown. With regard to sugar, whether cane or beet, it is raw material, in a very raw state, and it has to go through a very highly developed process before it is a marketable commodity and enters into the food of the people. Therefore, it affords the State an opportunity of assisting the industry as a whole from the growing of the crop by the farmer to the manufacture of the finished product. Therein lies one among many of the advantages which I see as likely to accrue to the country from the establishment of this industry. The erection of these factories in itself will give much needed assistance to the stagnant iron and steel industries.

Another feature which has not been touched upon is the chemical and scientific control which is necessary in a modern factory. We said in the past, especially during the years of the War, how we paid the price for the enormous strides which Germany was able to make in practical and applied chemistry. In this industry we shall have opportunities and openings for the young men who are passing through the chemical courses in our universities enabling them to apply the scientific knowledge which they are receiving. The advantage is not confined to the industry itself; we have thus a potential reservoir of trained scientific minds, with a knowledge of applied chemistry, of which we can make use to recover that position in the chemical world which we lost in times past and which was held by Germany to our detriment.

My last point is this. I have not searched the pages of "Dod's Parliamentary Companion" to learn the exact age of each Member of the House—not merely because I have not the time to do so, but because I realise that Membership of the House is not confined to the male sex—but I venture to state there is not one Member here during whose lifetime there has occurred an opportunity, not of developing an existing industry, but of starting an entirely new industry in this country. One of the great differences between the lives of the pioneering inhabitants of the newer parts of the world, such as our Dominions and the United States, and the older settled countries like our own is that there are no opportunities open to people at home to take up entirely new lines of activity, commercial or otherwise. In the outlying parts of the Empire, men are surrounded by opportunities for utilising their energy and applying their abilities to the development of some industry which up to that time has not existed in that particular country. We are accustomed to run along the grooves laid down and indicated by our forefathers, because there has not been an opportunity, owing to the congested population of this little island, to develop new industries.

Here we have a proposal which we hope is going to set on its feet, what is to all intents and purposes, an entirely new industry. As one who has seen a sugar industry fostered by the State and developed in its early days by State assistance, I must class myself among the optimists with regard to the potentialities of this new industry here. I believe we shall find its advantages far-reaching, and if, at the end of 10 years, when this subsidy is gradually approaching vanishing point, we see that the alternative to cutting it out is to lose the benefit of the establishment of this industry, I am confident, from my experience in other parts of the world, that we shall have found it of such far-reaching and material advantage to the people as a whole that we shall think not once but twice before we withdraw entirely the State support—supposing that the inevitable result of such action is to be the disappearance of the industry. For these reasons, I welcome the Bill, and I hope when it comes to the Division we shall have an overwhelming majority in favour of placing it on the Statute Book, with what, I anticipate, will be most satisfactory results to agriculture and to the manufacturing industries of this country.


I intend to vote for the Bill, and I wish to remind hon. Members on this side who are opposing the Bill of its real authorship. The authorship of the Bill does not belong to the Minister of Agriculture. I wish to carry the minds of hon. Members back to a speech made by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer on certain questions relating to unemployment. On that occasion, the Labour Government were being criticised regarding proposals to deal with unemployment, and the late Chancellor of the Exchequer—quite rightly—made a statement to the following effect. He said he was a convinced Free Trader and that much against his will he had been forced to the conclusion that one of the best schemes to stimulate employment was the setting up of the sugar-beet industry. That was the real origin of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman's grounds for that statement were very serious. It is not sufficient for hon. Members in any part of the House to say merely that this is a bad Bill. The Bill may be bad in parts, but the question we have to consider is; Is it by any chance likely to employ a certain number of men more than are employed at present? If it be proved that it is going to give a certain amount of employment, then we should not oppose it unless we have some alternative to offer.

I want to say to the right hon. Member who, I think, leads the Radical party, one of the wings of the already small Liberal party, and who stated, in a very fine passage, his condemnation of subsidies, and even twitted our Front Bench on its divided character, that that applies to his party also, for last year I watched the then right hon. Member for Camberwell (Dr. Macnamara), a Leader of the Liberal party, and the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn), also a leader, and in every Division we had on this matter those two were in different Lobbies. Even this Session, for all that our party is three times the size, we have a far more united division record than the party below the Gangway. The difference is that our party and even his party are not quite the patient oxen that the Front Bench on the other side are.

My own view is that here is a Bill that is calculated to give employment. Hon. Members on all sides have different theories in regard to agriculture, and my view is the Socialist view. Hon. Members opposite have some sense, and some cure, but hon. Members below the Gangway come along and say that the Socialist view is wrong and that the Tory view is wrong, but I have yet to learn what is their alternative theory for the creation of employment. After all, all parties are agreed, no matter what their view of national life may be, that agriculture today is going from bad to worse. Something has to be done. Hon. Members opposite, in addition to the sugar subsidy, would impose Protection, but they have wisely, I think, from their point of view, gone away from that idea, and they come along and say that some form of subsidy has to be introduced. Even my right hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) has to remember that he allowed Bills in which exactly the same principle was involved to be passed without protest, and even Bills for which his party have been responsible. The Trade Facilities Act is the subsidising of industry, and who invented that but certain friends of his? The Trade Facilities Act raises the same issue, but the right hon. Gentleman, because he is interested in ship-owning, denounced shipbuilding grants under that scheme, speaking on behalf of certain interests with which he was associated, on public grounds.

The Trade Facilities Act guarantees certain credits to private enterprise, and refuses them to certain other forms of private enterprise, and I cannot see the logic of introducing such a Measure and then refusing to apply it when it is a question of helping agriculture. My own view is that the agricultural worker is a tied slave at the present time. He cannot seek any other alternative form of work. He is tied to the land, and usually he is tied to a particular industry, and if this House can, even by means of a subsidy, devise an alternative form of employment for the agricultural worker, which will employ him in the winter time, I am sure it is the duty of every Member to support such a proposal. I am against subsidies as a general principle, but in so far as we are now concerned with a million men out of work, and with unemployment rampant from one end of the country to the other, you and I, no matter what our views may be, have to face the situation.

I regret one feature of the Bill, and that is that our Amendment allowing the Government to have a say or a representative on the board of directors of a company which is subsidised was not agreed to, and that the Government are not having any capital assets in the running of this industry. I regret that the Bill was not improved by the acceptance of our Amendments. On the other hand, I am glad that the Minister of Agriculture insisted that the contracts for machinery should be given, to the extent of 75 per cent., to British manufacturers. I listened to the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander), who made a well-informed speech, and I read the criticism of the late Minister of Agriculture, with regard to the 75 per cent. condition. That is nothing new in public life. The co-operative societies, for instance, always give preference to other co-operative societies in the making of goods, because they say that money raised by co-operative societies ought to be giving a preference to other co-operative societies. Here are we, allied with the co-operative movement, and this money is to subsidise the beet sugar industry. It is raised by British people and, therefore, the preference ought to be given to the people who have to raise the bulk of taxation.

We have an industry in Glasgow employing tens of thousands of workers. Have we to see them helping to raise this money, and the work being given to some other country? Who has not been on a town council, and hundreds of times, without thinking it a violation either of Free Trade or of Tariff Reform, said: "Give the job to a local man, rather than to others"? It is a common occurrence, and I am glad that we have included that provision in this Bill. I remember criticising the previous Tory Government, because they raised money under the trade facilities scheme, and then placed contracts in Belfast instead of giving them here. I cannot see any valid reason for voting against the Bill, which is to help the agricultural industry, and I think that anything that is calculated to improve the conditions of the workers on the land ought to have the heartiest co-operation and assistance of those who represent industrial seats, but who have, nevertheless, a kindred feeling and a desire to see those poor people getting some decent chance to improve their conditions.


As a representative of an industrial area, and as one equally concerned with the question of unemployment, I cannot see why we should tax the unemployed, where the rate of unemployment is 40 per cent. and more, for the benefit of those where unemployment is very much less. It seems to me that you are putting a burden on the industrial worker, who is already suffering tremendously from unemployment, in order to help the rural worker. whose lot, bad as it may be, is not really as bad as that of the industrial worker. That is the protest that I want to make. If once we begin this policy of subsidies, where shall we stop? If we are to subsidise agriculture because of unemployment, what about shipbuilding, with 41 per cent. unemployed on the North East Coast? What about engineering, with 30 per cent. unemployed? What about the iron and steel trade, with 23 per cent. unemployed? If once we begin on the slippery slope of subsidies, surely there is no end, and I submit that if we subsidise every industry where there is unemployment, the last state of the country as a whole will be worse than the present.

Subsidy is no answer and no remedy. You are only going to make this House the cockpit of various vested interests, all pleading with their Members to get them subsidies and special treatment. We want rather to regard the community as a whole, and to look at those things which will be for the benefit of the commonweal rather than for the benefit of any particular interest. Therefore, as the representative of an industrial area, where unemployment is now, in certain districts, 40 per cent., I protest against those workers being taxed in order to subsidise an industry in which employment is much less.


I shall find no difficulty whatever in supporting the Third Reading of this Bill. I am rather tired of those generalities which go upon these lines, and say, "If you once start subsidising, where are you going to end "? I am interested in the specific case that is before us now, and what we have to do is to consider whether the condition of certain industries, or the absence of certain industries, does not justify a positive policy on the part of the State, rather than a negative policy, because half a century ago a certain very respected politician and economist laid down certain doctrines. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are coming on beautifully!"] Not at all. I disagree. That is the profound mistake that hon. Members make who imagine that they understand Protection. I should find the very greatest difficulty in supporting any form of State activity, or positive State policy, if it was only one-sided. My right hon. Friend made certain remarks about the sharing of the landlord and the tenant. I confess—it may be on account of differences of starts in life or differences of experiences in one'6 earlier days—that I am far more interested in the sharing of the tenant and his workpeople than in the sharing of the tenant and his landlord, and if this Bill did not give the working men, the labourers, some share in any prosperity or any benefit that might accrue from the positive State policy, I do not think I could have supported it.

7.0 p.m.

In that respect, I should like to ask the right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) whether he was quite right in the very dogmatic statement he made regarding the way in which this Amendment found a place in the Bill now before us. I do not want to raise these small points—I understand the difficulties in which my hon. and right hon. Friends below the Gangway find themselves, and that they have to scrape up a few votes here and there—but this is the second time that the right hon. Gentleman has done grave injustice to colleagues of mine on the Front Bench. He said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Northern Norfolk (Mr. Buxton), the late Minister of Agriculture, was responsible for the drafting of this Bill. He was nothing of the kind. He did not draft the Bill. He is not responsible for the details of the Bill. He is responsible for the policy, and I am perfectly certain that he is not at all sorry that that responsibility should be placed upon his shoulders. I am certainly not sorry, as a colleague of his, that he did start the policy. He tells us that nobody ever thought of this; apparently nobody ever thought of the safeguarding of wages of the labourer until he mentioned it in a speech of six columns in column 1,167 of Vol. 180 of the OFFICIAL REPORT during the Second Beading of the Bill. I do not know what Liberal mathematics are; I know what Labour mathematics are, and Labour mathematics are this. This is a good, sound Cobdenite doctrine, that column

1,131 precedes column 1,167. A speech reported in column 1,131, 1,132, 1,133, must have been delivered before a speech reported in column 1,167 and 1,168. At 1,132 my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (W. Graham) stated quite categorically that a rate of wages, settled by a Wages Court, should be obligatory or binding upon the employer, and announced that we were going to see to that later on. It is really a small point. I am almost ashamed to refer to it, but this is the second time that has happened, and I can remember how perfectly grievously injured my right hon. Friends here were in certain newspapers the next morning which attributed to me a deliberate attempt of pursuing that sort of propaganda. As soon as I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea repeat this afternoon his mistake as to what had happened regarding wages. I felt it was my duty, and I hope the House will not object to my having done so, just to put the matter perfectly straight, because the safeguarding of all wages, the safeguarding of the interests of the labourer, as well as the interests of the tenant farmer and the landlord, must be regarded by us as having been essential to the Bill, and it is only because that safeguard has gone in that we are in a position to vote for it.


I am very sorry if I misrepresented the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham). I certainly had overlooked the fact that he had mentioned it, and I certainly do not wish to claim any credit at his expense, of all others.

Question put, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

The House divided: Ayes, 346, Noes, 56.

Division No. 48.] AYES. [7.4 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Balniel, Lord Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Barclay-Harvey, C M. Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Barnston, Major Sir Harry Briggs, J. Harold
Albery, Irving James Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Briscoe, Richard George
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Broad, F. A.
Alexander. Sir Wm. (Glasgow. Centr'l) Beckett, John (Gateshead) Brocklebank, C. E. R.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool,W. Derby) Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James Bennett, A. J. Broun-Lindsay, Major H.
Ammon, Charles George Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C. (Berks,Newb'y)
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Berry, Sir George Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)
Atholl, Duchess of Bethell, A. Buchanan, G.
Atkinson, C. Birchall, Major J. Dearman Bullock, Captain M.
Attlee, Clement Richard Blades, Sir George Rowland Burman, J. B.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Blundell, F. N. Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Boothby, R J. G. Calne, Gordon Hall
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Campbell. E. T.
Cassels, J. D. Hammersley, S. S. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hanbury, C. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Harrison, G. J. C. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Hartington, Marquess of Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.) Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Nelson, Sir Frank
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Hastings, Sir Patrick Neville, R. J.
Charleton, H. C. Hawke, John Anthony Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hayday, Arthur Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Christie, J. A. Hayes, John Henry Nuttall, Ellis
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Oakley, T.
Clarry, Reginald George Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)
Clayton, G. C. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Clowes, S. Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Palin, John Henry
Cobb, Sir Cyril Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Paling, W.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Henn, Sir Sydney H. Pennefather, Sir John
Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Conway, Sir W. Martin Herbert, S. (York, N.R.,Scar, & Wh'by) Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Cooper, A. Duff Hilton, Cecil Perring, William George
Cope, Major William Hirst, G. H. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Couper, J. B. Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. C. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Courthope. Lieut.-Col. George L. Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Pleiou, D. P.
Cove, W. G. Holt, Capt. H. P. Pilcher, G.
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington,N.) Homan, C. W. J. Pilditch, Sir Philip
Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim) Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Hopkins, J. W. W. Preston, William
Crook, C. W. Howard, Captain Hon. Donald Price, Major C. W. M.
Crooke. J. Smedley (Deritend) Hudson, R.S. (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n) Radford, E. A.
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Hume, Sir G. H. Raine, W.
Curzon, Captain Viscount Huntingfield, Lord Ramsden, E.
Dalkeith, Earl of Hurd, Percy A. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel
Dalton, Hugh Hurst, Gerald B. Rawson, Alfred Cooper
Davidson,J. (Hertfd, Hemel Hempst'd) Hutchison,G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's) Reid, D. D. (County Down)
Davidson, Major General Sir J. H. Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Remer, J. R.
Davies, Maj. Geo F. (Somerset,Yeovil) Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Jacob, A. E. Rice, Sir Frederick
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Dawson, Sir Philip Jephcott, A. R. Richardson, R.- (Houghton-le-Spring)
Dixey, A. C. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Ritson, J.
Doyle, Sir N. Grattan Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Drewe, C. Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Duncan, C. Kelly, W. T. Ropner, Major L.
Dunnico, H. Kennedy, A. R. (Preston). Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Eden, Captain Anthony Kennedy, T. Salmon, Major I.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Kidd, J. (Linlithgow) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Edwards, C (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Kindersley, Major Guy M. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Ellis. R. G. King, Captain Henry Douglas Sandeman, A. Stewart
Elveden, Viscount Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Erskine, Lord (Somerset,Weston-s.-M.) Knox, Sir Alfred Sanderson, Sir Frank
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Lamb, J. Q. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Fairfax, Captain J. G. Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Col. George R. Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Scrymgeour, E.
Fanshawe, Commander G. D. Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Sexton, James
Fielden, E. B. Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)
Finburgh, S. Loder, J. de V. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Fleming, D. P. Lougher, L. Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Ford, P. J. Lowth, T. Shepperson, E. W.
Forestier-Walker, L. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Foster, Sir Harry S. Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony Lumley, L. R. Sitch, Charles H.
Galbraith, J. F. W. Lunn, William Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Ganzoni, Sir John MacAndrew, Charles Glen Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Gates, Percy MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Smillie, Robert
Goult Lieut.-Col Andrew Hamilton McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Smith, R.W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Gibbins, Joseph MacIntyre, Ian Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Gillett, George M. McLean, Major A. Smithers, Waldron
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Glyn, Major R. G. C. Macmillan, Captain H. Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Goff, Sir Park Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Stamford, T. W.
Gower, Sir Robert Macquisten, F. A. Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)
Grace, John Mac Robert, Alexander M. Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Greenall, T. Makins, Brigadier-General E. Stephen, Campbell
Greene, W. P. Crawford Malone, Major p. B. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) March, S. Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Greenwood, William (Stockport) Margesson, Captain D. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Maxton, James Sutton, J. E.
Gretton, Colonel John Meller, R. J. Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Grotrian, H. Brent Merriman, F. B. Taylor, R. A.
Grundy, T. W. Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Thomson, Sir W.Mitchell- (Croydon,S.)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Moore, Sir Newton J. Tinker, John Joseph
Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)
Titchfield, Major the Marquess of Webb, Rt. hon. Sidney Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Turton, Edmund Russborough Wells, S. R. Wolmer, Viscount
Varley, Frank B. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J. Womersley, W. J.
Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P. Wheler, Major Granville C. H. Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
Viant, S. P. Wignall, James Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W.R., Ripon)
Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen Wilkinson, Ellen C. Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Warns, G. H. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern) Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).
Warner, Brigadier-General W. W. Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay) Wood, Sir S. Hill (High Peak)
Warrender, Sir Victor Williams, David (Swansea, East) Wright, W.
Waterhouse, Captain Charles Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly) Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley) Williams, T. (York, Don Valley) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle) Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)
Watts, Dr. T. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda) Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield) Colonel Gibbs and Captain
Douglas Hacking.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Barnes, A. Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Barr, J. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Batey, Joseph John, William (Rhondda, West) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Bromley, J. Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Snell, Harry
Compton, Joseph Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)
Connolly, M. Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Thurtle, E.
Crawfurd, H. E. Lansbury, George Wallhead, Richard C.
Day, Colonel Harry Lee, F. Watson, w. M. (Dunfermline)
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) MacLaren, Andrew Wedgwood. Rt. Hon. Joslah
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) Murnin, H. Welsh, J. C.
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Naylor, T. E. Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Forrest, W. Potts, John S. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Rees, Sir Beddoe Windsor, Walter
Groves, T. Robertson, J. (Lanark, Both well) Wise, Sir Fredric
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Saklatvala, Shapurji TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Harney, E. A. Salter, Dr. Alfred Mr. Mackenzie Livingstone and
Harris, Percy A. Scurr, John Mr. Fenby.

Resolutions agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.