Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £759,128, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Expenses under the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act, 1924, Loans to Agricultural Co-operative Societies, Grants for Agricultural Education and Research, Grants for Eradication of Tuberculosis in Cattle, Grants for Land Drainage, a Grant-in-Aid of the Small Holdings Account, and certain other Grants-in-Aid; and of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew."—[Note: £49,250,000 has been coted on account]
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Guinness)
Before the Committee conies to consider the larger issues of policy which will be raised this afternoon let me draw attention to the figures for the Estimates. We have voted £2,750,000 for the sugar-beet industry this year as against £1,250,000 last year. The agricultural Estimates, with sugar-beet left out, amount to a gross total of £2,560,000, and, after taking into account Appropriations-in-Aid, the net total is £2,009,000. Thus the net figure is £115,000 up, as compared with last year. But this increase is more than accounted for by the payment of grants for land drainage which did not appear in last year's Estimates. The Estimates cover a very varying collection of services. They are not easy to deal with in a short speech, because they are largely unrelated and probably the public hardly realise the expenditure on a great many of them. The main functions of the Ministry are agricultural education and research, the improvement of livestock, 572 the protection of our flocks and herds from disease, land settlement and the collection of statistics. But we also deal with bees, mice, the sale of glebe land, the investments of universities and colleges, the enfranchisement of copyholds, the redemption of perpetual rents, the branding of barrels of herrings, the relation of tarred roads to the life of freshwater fish, and the destruction of cormorants and other destructive sea birds. We cover a very miscellaneous set of functions.
The responsibilities of the Ministry have been increased during the past year, but I am glad to say that there has been a small decrease in the number of our staff. We are increasing the fees in various directions and trying to make some of our services self-supporting. The Select Committee on Estimates last year went into the details, and they reported that it was impossible to suggest how any material decrease of expenditure could be achieved, as the great bulk of the work done was due to duties which Parliament had definitely laid on the Department. I do not propose to deal with the fisheries side, because we have had a very interesting Debate which covered that branch of the Ministry's work. Compared with agriculture, the demands of fisheries for financial help are small. Even less than agriculture does that industry lend itself to State interference and control, therefore, the Fisheries Estimates only amount to something under £74,000. Let me take our big services first. We have been helping agricultural education by a system of grants of varying percentages. Higher agricultural education, which enjoyed a great boom for some years after the War, has now settled down. The degree course is less popular than it was and the number of students dropped from 1,500 a year ago to 1,340 now. On the other hand, the shorter and more practical course given at the, 15 farm institutes, to which the Exchequer contributes through the local authorities—
§ Mr. GUINNESS
It varies according to the service. Certain functions can get 75 per cent., and there is a scale with considerable differences. These institutes are full up, and besides the actual teaching given on the spot there 573 are employed nearly 300 organisers and instructors who, by means of peripatetic methods, are in touch with another 10,000 students. The scholarship system, set up by the money provided under the Corn Production Act, has proved a. great boon to the children of agricultural workers, and now that the experimental period of five years is coming to an end we are examining the whole system in the light of experience with a view to making recommendations for the future.
4.0 p. m.
The research of the Ministry has taken many forms. Rothamsted has covered many subjects, and one of the most interesting objects of its inquiry has been the conversion of straw into manure without using animals. Having regard to the way in which stables are now disappearing in towns, owing to the advent of the motor ears, and considering the need of market gardeners for manure, this is a very important line of research. The Cambridge Plant Breeding Station has done much for the corn grower. The Committee is familiar with Sir Rowland Biffen's work on the new Yeoman wheat. This is the most popular variety in the Eastern Counties, where there are about 8,000 acres of Yeoman II, which enables a loaf to be baked with the same bulk, weight for weight, as a loaf baked from the very best Canadian wheat. The School of Agriculture at Cambridge has been working on animal nutrition, and their discoveries have formed the basis of most fertile efforts by our county organisers, which in some cases have resulted in decreasing the cost of milk production by about half as compared with the cost of the unscientific methods which were being used. The problem of potato disease has been pursued, and agriculture has gained very much by the discovery of the varieties which are immune from wart disease. The Oxford Institute, which devotes itself to agricultural engineering, has been conducting very interesting experiments on sub-soiling, and, although the investigations are not fully complete, it appears that this most costly method of cultivation will improve the crops for many years, and that the cost of this method is got back in increased yield in the first year alone. Dr. Owen has also been working on the hot-air method—not hot-air for 574 politicians, but in drying crops, and we are very hopeful that in the case at least of some of the most valuable crops, this may, in due course, save the farmer from the losses of the vagaries of our climate. We are asking for money to investigate the problem of the flea which hops from one hop plant to another, and shrivels the hop plant on which it hops. We are engaged in welfare work for the ladybird. Many of these valuable beetles succumb to frost, and it is important, if possible, to keep them alive in winter in suitable homes, so that they may deal with the green fly, which causes such serious devastation.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
We hope to find them in suitable vegetation. Perhaps the most important new departure in our research work has been on the economic side. The Ministry has published a series of reports, which, I hope, will improve marketing, and will enable the farmer to collect some of the profits which now escape. We have arranged in connection with marketing, that British agriculture shall share in the advantages of the grant which has been given for Imperial marketing. We hope to link up and co-relate the interest between the Dominion and the home producer in our markets. The Ministry has been active in investigating the most serious problem with which we have to deal in regard to disease. I need not discuss the ravages of foot-and-mouth disease, because the Committee is folly aware of it., nor need I explain the evidence upon which we have found it necessary to place the embargo on fresh meat from infected countries, but I do wish to answer the question why this embargo was not imposed before. I think that question is due to insufficient appreciation of the difficulties of getting evidence in this kind of case. Generally when foot-and-mouth disease develops, it is anything up to 10 days after infection. By the time inquiries are made, the swill on which the pigs were fed has been consumed, and it is impossible to get samples and to trace the possible infectivity of those ingredients.
The efforts of our veterinary research staff have been untiring in this direction, and I do want to tell the Committee 575 what a loss we have suffered in the death of Sir Stewart Stockman. I think the Committee will realise how great a figure he was in veterinary research all the world over, and no one who had not worked in the Department could appreciate to what an extraordinary degree he combined scientific knowledge with rare administrative ability. Now that we have got this evidence of infection through imported Continental carcases, and now that, necessarily, we are very anxious as to what other sources of infection may still exist, Sir Stewart Stockman's sage counsels are lost. He had been at work for years on foot-and-mouth disease, and shortly before his death he was in the Argentine inquiring into the position in that country, which, fortunately, at the moment is considerably better. In spite of allegations to the, contrary it was our own Superintendent-Inspector in Scotland, while tracing the matter back, who was able to prove that infection was communicable from these diseased carcases. We not only had the evidence that the disease had broken out where effluent from a bacon factory was being drunk by the cattle, but it was possible to make a filtrate from some of the diseased feet removed from the factory and by injecting that filtrate into veins of other animals to cause communication of foot-and-mouth disease. There was, therefore, no question as to the cause of the outbreak. That there are other sources of infection, I should be very far from denying, but I do want to assure the Committee as to the wisdom of the step we took, by drawing a distinction between the direct infectivity of an infected carcase and other mechanical carriers which may bring in the disease, but with which we cannot deal unless we get distinct evidence.
I regret that this embargo has caused inconvenience to the meat trade, but I am afraid there was no alternative, no method of inspection abroad, no method of standstill orders by which we could deal with the heavy infection which now exists in Europe. In the last two years no less than 250,000 outbreaks per year have occurred in neighbouring European countries. As to the inconvenience to the consumer in the matter of foreign fresh meat, it must be realised 576 that this only represents about 3 per cent. of our total meat supplies. The most important kind of meat affected is pork. In 1923 we had 2,600,000 pigs in this country. The following year we jumped up to 3,228,000. In 1925, we dropped down again to 2,644,000. So that if you can get this fluctuation of 600,000 pigs in one year twice over, it is clear that it is not beyond the resources of British agriculture to make up the 700,000 cwts. of fresh pork which may be kept out by means of this embargo. Of course, there may be a temporary shortage of veal, but there has been a steady increase in our mulch cows by 14 per cent. in 15 years. Of course, it is from our dairy herds that we get the unwanted calf which provides us with our veal.
Our work is not merely negative. We are actively assisting agriculture by positive methods. We have an elaborate system of premiums for livestock, for bulls, boars, rams and heavy horses. We have a milk recording system for increasing the output, and clean milk competitions for improving the quality of milk. In such ways I believe the farmer can be helped to solve his economic difficulties, and I believe that the drastic and revolutionary measures which are now being put forward from different quarters, while they may or may not prove to have political value for their authors, would intensify rather than ease the difficulties which confront the British farmer. There is really no mystery as to the difficulty from which he suffers.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is dealing with matters which might require legislation, and that can hardly he discussed in Committee.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
I do not think they altogether require legislation. There are a good many criticisms we have not gone far into, and many statements that the output of the land is not what it should be, and I think the Committee would be disappointed, in view of all these doubts which have been expressed, if it were not possible to-day to deal with the question, and see how far it is within our resources.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That, of course, is perfectly in order. The right hon. Gentleman's allusion to political con- 577 sequences brought into my mind the possibility of matters which would require legislation.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
You have given me early warning, and I hope to try to keep within your ruling. I do not think there is really any mystery as to the cause of our agricultural difficulties. For the last six years there has been-a steady drop in our agricultural prices. In two years alone they dropped 120 points—a very serious matter—compared with the previous worst drop of 50 points in 20 years from 1873 to 1893. That, clearly, is not due to land tenure. It would not be cured by any alteration in that system of tenure. It would not be cured by our attempting to control the detailed methods of British agriculture by the agency of a new political machine, which, I know, it would be out of order for me to discuss, or by means of increasing the inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not object in the least to this matter being raised, as long as you rule that it will be open to me to show that those proposals will result in an increase in agricultural produce. If that be permissible, then I certainly do not object. I only want to know, if the right hon. Gentleman is permitted to offer that criticism, I shall also be in a position to answer him.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
It does seem to me entirely relevant to this Vote and to the work of the Ministry whether we are sufficiently dealing with the problem, or whether we ought to dictate to the farmer the methods he ought to adopt.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The rule is that proposed legislation may not be discussed on these occasions, and the rule is a very obvious one because, otherwise, the Debate might he turned away from the administration of the Ministry to all sorts of proposals which would require Bills. I thought the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture was getting a little near subjects of possible legislation, and, if he were to do that in anticipation, I could not prevent the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) or others, from replying to him.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
I shall endeavour not to transgress beyond the limit which your ruling has indicated. The decline in 578 corn-growing in this country is due to the vast spaces with which we are now in competition, and, in face of such competition, a reorganisation of our methods is inevitable. As we have said in our White Paper on agricultural policy, we notice in recent years a tendency to develop farming for meat and milk, but the experience of our neighbours shows that this type of farming is in no way inconsistent with a large arable area. The Government have not in any way encouraged, and will not encourage, grass farming as such. On the contrary, we are subsidising sugar beet, and thereby providing a substitute for that root crop which is found to be the least profitable item in the normal rotation, and we are therefore making corn-growing more profitable, and we are also helping stock-raising by the production of a very valuable by-product of beet as stock food.
No doubt, if we were willing to undertake very heavy expenditure it might be possible greatly to increase the productivity of the land, but the difficulty which confronts us is that the fullest use of the land is not, under present world conditions, always possible on an economic basis. There is no reason why we should not cultivate bananas, but we could only do so at a prohibitive cost, and with no reasonable justification. Whether you leave it to the free discretion of the farmer, or whether you interfere with him, you can only get an economic return, if the community is prepared to pay. Assuming they were prepared to pay, I believe they would have to pay more if they attempted to control agriculture by Government interference. State control and interference in out recent administrative experience, have only aggravated the economic problem. Our land and climate are very variable and our war-time experience has shown that you only get the best results under individual control, and with that adaptation to varying conditions which individuals can best develop. Farming by county committees during the War, and by the Ministry I am afraid since the War in some cases, has shown that the problem of profit and loss cannot be solved by transferring the responsibility from individuals to a committee or any other body of that kind. We saw how the county committees, consisting of picked farmers—the most efficient in their counties and successful on their own 579 farms—failed to make a profit when dealing as a committee with different types of land. I believe control and interference are not sound in the intensely individualist industry of agriculture. You cannot force people to farm contrary to their means, and, short of the State taking over the financial responsibility for their operations, I do not think it possible to go further than we have suggested in our statement of agricultural policy in the way of helping the farmer and improving his methods. An intensive effort, regardless of economic results, leads in agriculture very quickly to diminishing returns, and you can only avoid the economic penalty by the gradual adaptation of your methods to advancing scientific knowledge. Our effort must, therefore, be to press on with research, and to focus the results of that research by making scientific information available to the farmer so that he may adopt the most profitable methods.
I do not think the position is so bad as it has been painted in some quarters. We hear many unfavourable comparisons with foreign results, but I think they are based on inaccurate or partial and misleading versions of the facts. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) still holds to the opinions expressed in this Green Book. [HON. MEMBERS "That is a Red Book!"] It is, as a matter of fact, the Green Book of which we have heard, but, no doubt, the Government binder, having read it, thought this red binding more suitable. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman holds to the views expressed in this book, or to the views contained in its more attenuated white offspring, which has since been published by, I think, the Land and Nation League. In any case, we have a large selection of speeches which no doubt represent the right hon. Gentleman's considered opinion, and as disquiet has been caused, especially in the minds of town dwellers by the allegations of inefficiency which have been made against agriculture, it is well to examine carefully those allegations to find on what foundations they rest. I believe the right hon. Gentleman has painted the British part of the picture much too dark, and that the Con- 580 tinental part is much too highly coloured. The right hon. Gentleman has told us:We have the most fertile soil in Europe, but no civilised country in Europe makes so little use of its land …The produce of land here is stationary, while abroad it has doubled and trebled.It is necessary to remember that we have a very long start, and we cannot regret that other countries have been, able, to some extent, to catch us up. The Agricultural Tribunal, for which the right hon. Gentleman himself was largely responsible, embodied in its Report a statement by Professor Macgregor which has never been traversed, as to the output of various countries.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
It has never been traversed, and the facts are evident from the figures. In any case, let me first deal with this point that other countries have caught us up. The case which we hear of very often is that of Denmark. There is a speech recorded in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society made by Sir Thomas Middleton, and I find in that Report the following passage:What was the reason why Denmark produced 50 per cent. more output and tilled much more land than Great Britain? Sir Thomas agreed in thinking that the size of the holdings and the psychological effect of ownership had something to do with it, but the real difference was in the climate. If the climate of Denmark, as indicated by a fairly close analysis of the monthly figures, was considered, and an examination then made of the way in which Denmark was farmed in 1871, the conclusion must he reached that Denmark was very badly farmed at that time Forty-two per cent. of the land was under corn, five per cent. under rotation grass, eleven per cent, under fallow crops, while no less than forty-one per cent. was in permanent pasture. With such a climate as that of Denmark, this was far too much permanent grass, too little rotation grass, and much too low a proportion of roots. It was impossible for land under such conditions to be productive. About that period certain representative Danes came over to some of the Eastern districts of Britain and carefully studied British methods of farming under a similar climate to their own. They went home and closely copied the system of cropping followed in some parts of our East Coast.The right hon. Gentleman has told us that it is 30 years since all other European countries restored their agriculture, and that old England is now due to fall in at the tail of the queue. Seeing that Denmark has only established her posi- 581 tion since she copied us, it looks as if old England, instead of falling in at the tail of the queue, is leading the procession. Naturally, when a country is far ahead of its neighbours, as they improve their methods, the difference between them must diminish, because the law of diminishing returns—unless you have an artificial system—prevents the leading country from continuing to forge ahead. It is very difficult to get a fair comparison between the agricultural positions of different countries. In our case, if you look at the figures over a period of years, you find that losses in some directions are balanced by gains in others. There are many aspects of this case which have been considered. The right hon. Gentleman is fond of quoting the calculations which were produced during the War in connection with food production. These figures are very interesting. They were very interesting when we had to consider how we could make ourselves self-supporting in regard to food, and when you had to judge between the various agricultural crops by their value as foodstuffs, but they give irrelevant results from the point of view of efficient economic production in peace time. For instance, if you take the calorific method you get an altogether disproportionate weight attached to some articles, for example, to pork and to potatoes, which have a high calorific value, and a very low allowance for eggs, which, though they may not contain very many calories, are a most valuable economic article and one which, I think, offers more and more return to the agricultural industry. Therefore, I think those figures of Professor Macgregor, for which I was looking just now and which I have now found, which show the estimates of production according to the yield of crops and the areas, are, perhaps, the fairest we can get. They have been published, or republished, in the "Economic Journal" for last September. Professor Macgregor points out the danger of using crude yields of crops. If the indices of yield are weighted by the percentages of the cropped area under each of the crops for which there were returns, then a composite index of productivity can be obtained which makes Belgium 164 and France 92, while Britain, Germany, Denmark and Holland are all on a par at about 130. Therefore, there is only 582 one country ahead of us, and that country is Belgium. The Agricultural Tribunal tells us something about the conditions there. It tells us that the high yield in Belgium has been possible under the following conditions:In the absence of a system of compulsory education, she bas been able to make great use of child labour, with the result that 20 per cent. of her people over 12 years of age were before the War illiterate in the sense that they could neither read nor write. Their wages were very low—in some instances only half those of Britain—and this was not compensated by the difference in the cost of living, but the agricultural worker lived roughly and, except in winter, worked unreasonably long hours for low pay.We really do not wish to share Belgium's productivity—the only productivity ahead of ours—on such terms, and I would remind the Committee of another remark in this same Report, namely, that the prosperity of agriculture is the prosperity of persons and not of acres. The object of increased productivity can only be attained beyond a certain economic standard at the sacrifice of the standard of living of those who depend upon the land. We believe that the payment of an adequate wage is one of the most important objects which we have to secure in connection with our own administration. We strongly support the fixing of that wage by the method which we pressed for two years ago, namely, by decisions in the counties by people in touch with the conditions of the industry. Events have justified the view which we then held, and the method has brought the best possible wage, with the minimum of friction. The Ministry is working to enforce those wages, we have increased our staff of inspectors and are instituting the necessary prosecutions to see that those standards are maintained.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
We can certainly claim, without any contradiction, that it was due to our pressure in the Standing Committee upstairs that the wages were left to be fixed in the counties and not by decisions in London of people who were out of touch with county conditions. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has, of course, appreciated as well as anyone the importance, in con- 583 nection with the land, of the population which it carries. He has told us that the population on the land here is decreasing decade by decade, and that in other countries it is increasing. Of course, it is difficult to get recent census figures because of the dislocation since the War, but it is not true that the agricultural workers in the last few years have been decreasing in this country. According to our agricultural returns, the adult male workers in England and Wales in 1923 were 426,925; in 1924 they were 441,491; and in 1925, the last year for which we have the figures, they were 441,944, so that there had been a small increase. Before the War decreases, no doubt, were taking place, but it is not true that the decreases over a term of years were as great in this country—the right hon. Gentleman said they were much greater, but they were not even as great—as they were in the case of our chief competitors. If you take the census figures for 1381 and 1911, you will find that for this country there was a decline of 3.2 per cent. In Germany—the figures are not those for exactly the same years, because it depends on the census—there was a decline of 7.3 per cent., in Belgium of 15.5 per cent., and in France of 7 per cent. Therefore, so far from there being an increase in the great industrial countries in those last years for which we can get a true comparison, the last years before the areas were changed by the re-fixing of frontiers during the War, the other industrial countries were losing their agricultural population more quickly than we were here.
Of course, you can make out that the position here is very bad if you leave out of account the fact that a large amount of our area is used for other than agricultural, purposes. Obviously, if one adopted the methods of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for earnarvon Boroughs, and said that, if we had the same population on the land in proportion to the area as Denmark, Germany and Holland, one could get very startling results, but the calculation is based on the agricultural population per square mile of the total area, not of the agricultural area, and naturally that is unfavourable to the industrial country, where a much higher proportion of the land is needed for the purpose of industry and 584 for the purpose of housing a vaster population than in agricultural communities like Denmark, and where, therefore, a far smaller proportion is left available for agricultural purposes, and as the standard of living among the agricultural communities rises, the number that the land will support must necessarily decrease.
I have spoken chiefly of what the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has said, but the Labour party have made even wilder statements. The right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) has said that the population must go back to the soil and that his scheme of land settlement would give them back 40 or 50 per cent.–50, he hoped, but at any rate 40 per cent.—of the people living directly on the soil. Unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to face a colossal expenditure, any such figures are absolutely out of the question. The persons engaged in agriculture expressed as a percentage of the total occupied population, to-day are just over 8 per cent., and we have spent on the small holdings movement £16,000,000 to provide 17,000 small holdings—that is post-War small holdings As at least half this cost will have to be written off as irrecoverable, that will make a net cost of about £500 per holding. You cannot settle people on the land any cheaper in other countries than we have achieved here. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] Well, we have the figures, and even in the virgin areas of our Dominions, we cannot do it for the £500 which represents the average that will have to be written off here. The point I want to make is that in this resettling of our land we must he limited by the amount which we can afford to pay and the amount of land available, and it is perfectly absurd as a practicable proposition, to suggest, anyhow to those who live on the land and who know what its output is, that the land could conceivably support, at any decent standard of life, five or six times those who now work on it.
Although, however, it is both impracticable and, I think, unsound to attempt any grandiose scheme to bring back the town population to the land, where they would not really be able to make a living, small holdings are imperative to arrest the drift to the towns. They cannot he provided soundly on a large scale, partly 585 because of the cost, and still more because suitable land for small holdings is already occupied, and it means that where new settler are to be provided with the land, someone else has to be dispossessed. We are occupied in winding up the ex-service men's land settlement scheme, and we are eager to replace it by a new one, which is being awaited by many applicants and which will reopen what has in the past proved an invaluable training ground for future farmers. We are not, of course, contending that this in itself can solve the problem of keeping people on the land. We are trying to assist the social side of village life, and we recognise with great hope the work which has been achieved by the rural community councils, by the women's institutes, and by the development of rural industries. If one reads the reports recently published, one feels that certainly there is no lack of initiative and leadership in this direction to-day.
The agriculturist has had a fair ground of complaint in the last two years as to the uncertainty of his position as between the various parties. Since, however, it became evident that the industry itself had no united mind, it became even more evident that the possibility of political agreement was shattered by the two Opposition parties adopting the view that the economic difficulties of the industry were only to be solved by various forms of nationalisation and State control. Many schemes of assistance were put forward for the relief of the industry, but all, naturally, were at the expense of the rest of the community. In default of agreement by the political parties of which there seemed no possibility, matters seemed at a standstill. In face of these conditions it was my somewhat difficult and rather uncongenial task a few months ago when I came to the Ministry of Agriculture to apply a douche of cold water to a good many unfortunate people who already were standing in the East wind. We had to make it plain that under our policy we recognised that the main-spring of agricultural prosperity must remain the self-help of the British farmer. The Ministry can do mach to improve methods. It can, perhaps, do more in a negative sense, and by avoiding interference and control.
586 I believe that the industry is now turning the corner. We have got back to the gold standard. The violent price fluctuations which have been so disastrous are, therefore, less probable in the future. Agriculture, naturally, cannot hope to adapt itself very quickly, but it is not alone in its troubles. Almost all the great basic industries in the country have problems, of almost equal urgency to solve. Agriculture by its nature is a slow moving business. Its cycles are spread, not only over months, but over a series of years. I have no doubt that these slow adjustments are taking place, and that that energy and initiative which have enabled the industry to surmount the recurring periods of acute depression in the past will again come to its aid in the future.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
The Minister of Agriculture will not, I am sure, attribute to me any unkindly reason if I do not follow him in the earlier part of his speech, and into certain parts of the very lucid, and absorbingly interesting account he gave of the varied activities of the Ministry. I propose to deal with the matter more on the lines of the reply that he gave me last week to a question which I put to him. The right hon. Gentleman, however, towards the end of his speech betrayed that tendency which occasionally exists when hon. Members are discussing these questions, that is, to attribute to hon. Members on this side of the House the desire to refer to the land question and the questions of agriculture from a narrow and partisan angle. That is not a true suggestion. I intend not to give the slightest ground or pretext in any the remarks I shall make for anyone to levy against me that accusation, if in referring to the general conditions of agriculture at the present time, I refer to the gradual breakdown of the agricultural system and the decay of the rural life of the countryside. I shall not dogmatise. I shall not even quote the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) nor my right hon. Friend the Member for West. Swansea (Mr. Runciman). I shall quote the opinions of men of unimpeachable authority! The authorities which I shall quote are those which hon. Members opposite will not be able to challenge.
If there he a danger, as I think there is, of this land question drifting into 587 the rut of party politics, who are to blame more than the Government? They received a warning only a few months ago in a letter to the "Times" from a very friendly and extremely highly-qualified critic, Sir Howard Frank. He referred contemptuously to the White Paper, which, he said, only touched the fringes of the subject, and he made suggestions both with regard to the proper object of agricultural policy and a possible method of approach to it. The Government remained deaf to the warnings of this extremely friendly critic. They have continued lamely to follow the futile path traced out in the White Paper. It is, therefore, in no partisan spirit that I wish to speak quite candidly and frankly to the Committee and to criticise the policy of the Government. It is in no partisan spirit, but as one who really feels his obligations to his constituents and to those friends and neighbours among whom he lives in the countryside, that I feel bound to condemn this policy and to call for bolder and more resolute action.
The most important features of the Government policy are to my mind its negative features. I am glad to mention these because they are features in which I. join more or less in supporting. For instance, there is the denunciation of subsidies. These, to my mind, are thoroughly unsound expedients. In the White Paper the right hon. Gentleman says that "it is impossible to devise any scheme of subsidies which will not result in the payment of a bonus on which no return will he received by the Nation. "That I believe to be absolutely sound. There is in the background of my mind the Election of 1923, when I went about speaking on behalf of friends of mine, and found myself up against a policy of a bonus of £1 per acre on arable land, which was justified on the grounds that it would increase the arable area and maintain employment on the land. There is now a different Government, but there is the same Prime Minister and the same party, and I cordially welcome the Minister's retrospective, but unreserved condemnation of that policy, and especially in those words in which he said that "even a subsidy of £2 an acre on arable land, which would amount to over £20,000,000, would not necessarily result in any increase of arable 588 land." That, I believe to be the true fact of the case.
What is there, then, on the positive side of the Government's policy? There is one thing I agree with, and that is with the increased support which the Government are giving to education and research work. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that in this there is a sure foundation laid by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Runciman) when he was Minister of Agriculture. The more we cast our bread upon the waters of science, the more chance there will he for agriculture in the days to come. Then the Government tell us that they are considering schemes for credit. This, it seems to me, is a vital question. In England alone, among the European nations, the farmer has to try to make the best use he can of a system of credit which was devised primarily for urban industry. By a speech delivered in 1924, at Taunton, the Prime Minister attracted a large amount of attention in agricultural districts, and he laid particular stress upon the importance of a credit system for agriculture. He mentioned it again in his 1924 General Election Manifesto. Conservative speakers and newspapers referred often to the work of the Conservative party during 1924, and said it included the working out of some of these questions, and he hoped to have solutions ready when the time came. They came into office. They have had nearly two years of office. Now we are told by the right hon. Gentleman in the answer which he gave me last week that it all boils down to this: "Discussions are still proceeding with the interests concerned." That is not a very creditable result. I am not suggesting, of course, that the right hon. Gentleman is personally responsible for this, but it is not a very creditable record for the Government after 18 months.
The next question they were to deal with is the further provision of small holdings. On this there is a question I wish to put to the Minister, referring to Section 10, of the White Paper where it says:Provision will be made whereby the bona fide agricultural worker will he assisted to acquire as his own property a cottage and a small area of land which he can cultivate as an addition to his earnings.589 That is a very important thing. No reference has been made to it. Will that be included? Does it mean that the Government are going to hold out some prospect to the labourer of raising his standard of living? There is no mention of it in the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave me last week, and I hope in the reply he will be able to tell us how that matter stands.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
If he can tell us that it has been favourably considered that will be something. We are told that a Bill is being drafted to deal with small holdings. The right hon. Gentleman referred to it. Perhaps he will take it one step further, and tell us whether this particular item is to be included in that Bill. There is a real land hunger in very many parts of the country. Since the War there have been no fewer than 77,000 applications by ex-service men and civilians, and at present there are no fewer than 16,967 unsatisfied applicants—nearly 17,000. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the cost of settlement after the War, and said it was enormous and out of all reason owing to the tremendous increase of prices, and so on. The Minister referred to the return to the gold standard, to lower prices, and also to the amount of experience which has been gained. In view of all this, the lower prices, the experience and so on, surely it should be possible to proceed with this work on a far more economical scale. The right hon. Gentleman says this Bill is going to be ready in a few weeks I do not know where we are all going to be in a few weeks' time; I hope it will not be here in this House. Surely some effort should have been made to get the Bill introduced in such time that it could be discussed and passed into law this Session. The right hon. Gentleman says "in a few weeks," and it seems to me there will be no chance of getting this Bill on the Statute Book unless the Government succeed in remaining in power another year and that it will not even be introduced until next year. 5.0 P.M.
The right hon. Gentleman's answer refers to the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act, and he refers rather complacently to the fact that in seven county 590 areas there has beer an increase of wages, but in the White Paper they asserted grandiloquently that the agricultural industry was weathering the storm. The right hon. Gentleman himself has been rebuking the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs for the very gloomy view he took of the situation of agriculture in this country. He said it was quite unfounded, that really agriculture was doing very well, turning the corner and prospering. He referred to the distinction between prosperous people and prosperous acres—a distinction I did Lot quite follow myself. I do not quite see how people can be prosperous on starved and unfertile acres. Then he said that no longer were there to be any price fluctuations. I did not listen to that with unmixed pleasure myself, because in the part of the country from which I come the general trend of prices at the present moment is downward, and I therefore hope there may be a little fluctuation in the other direction. On all these three counts the Minister took the view that agriculture had turned the corner. That was the view taken in the White Paper some months ago in refererce to last year's working—that agriculture had turned the corner and was becoming more prosperous. Surely, if that be so, the remarkable thing is that out of the 60 county areas, in no fewer than 53 the agricultural labourers have entirely failed to participate in that prosperity which the right hon. Gentleman and the Government state has been going on during the past 12 months.
To continue along the lines of the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave me, he said that he was continuing the forestry scheme. How suspicious he is of his critics! I never dreamt he would discontinue the forestry scheme, and I do not see the object of giving us that assurance. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman himself must have been conscious of the fact that we had far too much to criticise on points of substance, and in the omissions and commissions of the Government, to waste our time on baseless imputations. Then he referred to the drainage scheme. This is new—at least it has got a new name and a new Minister to he responsible for it. This is the first time it has appeared in the Estimates of the 591 Ministry of Agriculture. In recent years there have been considerable but wholly inadequate sums spent on this important service. It was called unemployment relief, and there were Exchequer grants given to drainage authorities, and grants given to groups of landowners, one-third of which has been or will be recovered from the owners, and the total of these amounted in 1921–22 to £248,778. In 1923, under the Government of my right hon. Friend, they amounted to £270,506, and in 1924–25, under the Labour Government, they amounted to £253,535. Now, under this scheme, it is only proposed to spend £170,000 this year, as compared with £253,535 last year. What does the lack of drainage cost the country in food resources every year? Would it be putting it at too high a figure at £18,000,000 a year? I do not think it would. That was the figure given as a matter of fact by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture. That was his estimate of what the country lost every year through the lack of drainage.
How much employment would it give to get these lands drained at a time such as now, when the whole of the industries of the country are suffering from the coal strike and unemployment is going up by leaps and bounds? Here, surely, is a subject for useful and productive expenditure. What is the difference between the unemployment relief scheme which has been in operation up to now and the Government's new scheme? It is only a difference in name and in the amount—for the amount spent under the old scheme was far more than the Government contemplate under the new scheme. How inadequate this £170,000 is—£1,000,000 over five years. Why, not even a Scotsman would grudge spending £170,000 if he was going to get a return of £18,000,000 a year. To give one illustration of its inadequacy, I would say that the Minister of Agriculture—I think it was the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor—appointed a Commission to consider the question of the drainage of the Ouse Basin, and they recommended an expenditure of £2,500,000. If the Government gave half of that money to assisting that drainage scheme, it would more than swallow up the small amount which they are allotting over five years for the drainage of the whole country. That will enable the Committee to 592 appreciate the absolute inadequacy of the Government's proposals for solving the drainage problem.
Then there is rural housing. At last we have an assurance that the Minister of Health is going to consider that question. I remember when, in 1923, this same Minister of Health introduced his Housing Bill, several hon. Members and I pointed out the hopelessness of that policy from the point of view of rural districts. And year after year I have been appealing to the Minister of Health and still more to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the Scottish Board of Health, to consider the reconditioning of existing houses and their improvement and enlargement. I am very glad to see that, at long last, there is an indication—though not more than an indication—that this is being seriously considered, and that we may hope in months to come to have some more definite proposal.
The right hon. Gentleman then dealt with merchandise marks. If that is going to help agriculture, I should not feel in the slightest degree compelled by any consideration of Free Trade theory to vote against it. I believe the farmers consider it and desire it, not at all front the protective point of view, but they appear to think that it will help marketing. I very much doubt it. It is purely a matter of expediency. I believe there are many foreign goods, such as Danish bacon and so forth, which have such a good name that people will go on buying them, and that this proposal will actually damage the farmers far more than it will help them. It is purely from the point of view of expediency, therefore, that I approach this question, and I do not think it would be in any degree an advantage to the agricultural industry or certainly a very slight advantage, if any.
Then with regard to sugar-beet, the right hon. Gentleman refers with some complacency to that subject, though it was introduced by the Labour Government in 1924. The right hon. Gentleman has the credit of continuing it, but it was introduced in the previous Parliament. As a matter of fact, I should like to hear from the Minister what the position is with regard to these sugar-beet factories. They are receiving enormous subsidies. Is the industry really achieving the 593 objects which he as Minister of Agriculture has at heart, and which we, as representing rural constituences, have at heart? Has it really given employment to the people who live in the countryside, or has it not been drawing, as I believe, for its labour upon the towns?
That is the position. One great Conservative authority after another—statesmen, economists, publicists, and practical farmers—has declared that the present system is breaking down, that the rural life of the countryside is decaying, and that the land resources of this country are going to waste, yet the government of the Conservative party—these stalwart friends of agriculture—can boast of only one solid and fresh achievement after two scars of power, with enormous majorities in both Houses of Parliament, and that one achievement is the cash-on-delivery parcels system. That is the one fresh contribution which they have made to the solution of this problem. For the rest, they continue to pursue the policy of their predecessors. They extend it a little here and improve a little there, so far as funds permit, as the right hon. Gentleman is careful to say in the answer which he gave to me. They consider, they consult, they discuss, and they catalogue among their achievements the appointments of the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Blundell) and the Under-Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health to two Committees. Both hon. Gentlemen, I am sure, are admirably qualified for the work, but that is not one of the things which I should have expected to find in this answer which was given us, as being likely to contribute materially to the revival of the prosperity of the agricultural industry.
This answer to which I have referred really represents the milestone which the Government have reached, after one and a half years of office and with great majories in both Houses of Parliament, on the road to restoring agricultural prosperity. I will not call this policy a fraud, but I will only say that if there is anybody who believes in it, it is certainly a delusion. Where is there in this policy any incentive to increased production? That question was asked by a great Conservative newspaper only a few weeks ago—the Sunday "Observer." 594 They asked, where was the incentive to increased production? What incentive was there to higher cultivation, and to more efficient markets, and what benefit for the nation was there in the matter of increased food supplies? After all, that is one of the touchstones of any successful agricultural policy, to ensure that you get the fullest economic use of the land. That was demanded the other day by no less an authority than Sir William Haldane, the great Conservative authority on this question.
He said we must ensure that we get the full economic use of the land, but that is not being done. How is a greater rural population and more rural employment to be found by this policy, and how is the landless labourer provided for? There is only one paragraph referring to him, and that is the one, to which I have directed attention. which is not mentioned in the answer the right hon. Gentleman gave me last week. The Government's White Paper says that agriculture is weathering the storm, and there is no reason to fear that it will not adapt itself to the economic situation. What is the process of adaptation—to reduce the arable area, to lay down more and more land to grass, to reduce the number of people employed upon the land, to allow small holdings to be absorbed more rapidly than new small holdings are created, and to he satisfied with wages at their present level. The right hon. Gentleman suggested in one part of his speech that it was wrong to say that the rural population is still decreasing. I found the figures he quoted extremely unconvincing, even though accepting them without challenge. I was not able to take down the exact figures, but he showed that they went up in 1924 on the figures of 1923 and in 1925 they went down again.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I must have taken the figures down wrongly then, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, whom I consulted at the time, also thought that the figures were down in the third year. However 595 that way be, there are many parts of the country where there is a steady and increasing drain from the countryside. I will take my own county as an illustration; I am sure it is a typical illustration; I know of many other counties for which similar figures hold good. In 1861 the population was 41,000; in 1891 it had fallen by 10 per cent.; in 1921 it had fallen by a further 30 per cent.; so that between 1861 and 1921 the population had dwindled from 41,000 to 28,000. This hæmorrhage is still going on unchecked. Every year we see men leaving the countryside. The population in all the villages is dwindling, and fewer and fewer children are going to the schools. It is a pity to pursue an ostrich-like policy by refusing to face facts which every hon. Member must know are the true facts, namely, that people are drifting away from the countryside. I am not concerned with the party aspect of the question, I am not out to attack any party, or to defend my own, although as far as Scotland is concerned I may say, in passing, that we have a better record of land legislation than have any other party. I hope that at the end of the five years this Government are in power they may he able to show that they have passed our record. I am attacking the Government because they have the responsibility and the opportunity of office, yet the right hon. Gentleman, in that part of his speech in which he dealt with the larger issues of policy, did not seem to grasp the seriousness of the position.
One matter to which I wish to refer in particular, and about which I would like the right hon. Gentleman to give me an answer if he replies, is the question of a national survey. It was dealt with on the Agricultural Returns Bill last year. I raised the question, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs made two or three speeches on it on different occasions, and the late Minister of Agriculture, although he never officially committed the Government to the scheme, expressed his strong personal sympathy with the proposal, which was supported also in one or two stray speeches by the right hon. Gentleman who was Minister of Agriculture in the Labour Government. The Minister of Agriculture last year, 596 the present Lord Irwin, speaking on this subject, said he did not think the Agricultural Returns Bill was a Bill in which any provision for a national survey could be incorporated. He said:I have in mind, if it could be achieved, something quite different. I would like to get a national record of the state and possible productivity of English land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 8th April, 1925; col. 2292, Vol. 182.]That is what we want. Hon. Members are apt to suggest that our facts are not right and that we argue from false premises. We do not want to do that, we would like to have the facts, and this is the only way to get the full facts on which a true land policy must be based. Then the late Minister went on:Therefore, while I will certainly consider what has been suggested on this point, I am inclined to doubt whether this Bill is the Bill in which such a proposal should be carried out.Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that he sees eye to eye with his predecessor and will introduce a Bill to enable this survey to be carried out? In the House of Lords, Lord Bledisloe, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, also gave the impression that he was thoroughly friendly to the idea. Scotland is a little more progressive in this respect, and the Secretary for Scotland has taken up the idea in a more or less practical way by starting a survey in the county of Kincardineshire. Will not the right hon. Gentleman consider whether he cannot initiate a survey on the lines we demanded last year and which his predecessor was apparently disposed to give? I see opposite my Noble Friend the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield). In the discussion on the Board of Agriculture Estimates a few months ago he referred to the necessity for a survey from his own experience in his part of the world. Sir William Haldane, a great Conservative authority on these questions, in a letter to the "Times" a few weeks ago, demanded that this survey should be proceeded with.
I do not wish to take up further time, and I would only sum up what I have said by saying this. We seem to know what the policy of the Government is negatively. There is to be no Protection. I support that. There are to be no subsidies. I support that. There is to be 597 no duty on malting barley and I give the right hon. Gentleman my strongest support on that. There is to be no potato import prohibition, there are to be no White Books, Green Books or Red Books. The Government are quite satisfied with the little white infant which they produced a few months ago. Their positive contributions to these problems is the Cash-on-Delivery parcels post system. Why have they produced only this miserable little mouse after such prolonged and heavy labour? The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor realised to the full the importance and urgency of this problem. We have been fortunate in the Ministers of Agriculture we have had under this Government. Lord Irwin, when he was Minister of Agriculture, used very serious words on this question. He is a patriotic and hard-working landowner. Speaking to his own friends and tenants at Borough Bridge, he said:We are, unless I mistake, witnessing in England the gradual disappearance of the old landowning class. If that class, by taxation or for one reason or another is gradually disappearing, what is going to happen? The nation is going to say, 'We cannot watch this process going on,' and the State will come in to fill the function of the old landlord by lending capital. When it does that you may depend upon it it will claim some measure of control in the business that it finances, and so you may well find yourselves in the course of the next 30 or 40 years within measurable distance of nationalisation by a side wind.Again at Banbury he said that he was sure that a great many of the difficulties of agriculture were due to the fact that the landowning system was breaking down.
That was the point of view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor only last year, and it is important for this reason. When hon. Members on this side of the House use those arguments it is sometimes suggested that we are animated only by a partisan spirit; but the speech I have quoted shows that these arguments are commending themselves to the most thoughtful statesmen and economists on the other side. Alongside the views of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor one can put the views of Lord Bledisloe and Professor Orwin, a great Conservative economist, and it is trifling with the question to suggest that it can be solved 598 on the lines of this White Paper. The outlook for the farmers in the part of the country I know, the far North of Scotland, is growing dark, the wages of the labourer are not improving, as more and more land is thrown down to grass his position is becoming increasingly precarious. The dry rot of depopulation is spreading through the countryside. In face of these facts the Government do nothing but pile negative on negative, and the Conservative party, always loudly proclaiming itself the only true friend of agriculture, is shirking, the responsibilities of its friendship and its shrinking from the plain task of statesmanship. Unless the Minister can give us some more reassuring declaration than he has given us this afternoon he will forfeit not only the confidence of the farmers, smallholders and labourers of the country, but will forfeit the confidence of all those who realise that it is only by sacrifices and a national effort that we shall he able to revive the rural life of Great Britain.
§ Mr. NOEL BUXTON
The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken said many things which I most heartily applaud, and one in particular which. I should like to reiterate, namely, his remark that we ought to be governed by realities and to face facts, to be pursuing realities and not chimeras. The Minister alluded to his painful experience last February when he was obliged to administer a cold douche to his friends who were standing in the east wind. I would like to refer to that part of the administration for which he has been responsible, to what one might call the strategy of his administration, the general handling of the problem by the Government during 18 months past. That strategy appears to me highly peculiar. It arose from the tactics pursued towards the Labour Government when in office. Week after week we were charged by Conservative Members with neglecting a first-class crisis and sacrificing the interests of the country. Great hopes were aroused by that line of opposition, and by the promises arid statements at the General Election, and these hopes were kept up by the summoning of a conference in the early days of the present Conservative administration. There was talk of a million acres of new arable land. The farmers were told that 599 Protection was not the only way in which these million acres of new arable land could be secured. When the conference failed, the Parliamentary Secretary was instructed to say that the Government would take up any policy formulated by the National Council of Agriculture. That policy appeared in the middle of 1925, but was entirely ignored. The farmers bitterly protested that they had been betrayed, and we appeared to have reached an impasse.
One of the results of this was that the farmers voted against the Minister when he was compelled to seek re-election. There is a strategy of administration, and after all it was perhaps a good calculation that, if you give people time enough, their indignation cools down. In February it was time to disillusion the farmers, and the consequence was that We had the famous document which has been referred to by the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Sinclair). The first part showed that after all nothing could be done, and the latter part said they would continue the measures brought in by the Labour Government of the year before. You have only to read the farming papers in order to see what the farming community thought about if. There is a very serious situation to deal with, and it ought to he approached in quite a different, spirit. There is the great problem as to whether we are utilising our national resources and doing all that can be done.
This subject, deserves very serious treatment. The facts indicate the extra-ordinary smallness of our agricultural industry. We are a community living without primary production to a degree unparalleled in the history of the world. This is indicated by the fact which the Minister of Agriculture gave to the effect that only 8 per cent. of the workers of this country are agricultural in Germany the percentage is 36. We have actually fewer people employed in agriculture than we have at present no unemployment benefit. The amount of wheat we grow is only one-fifth of what we consume; in the case of meat the proportion is two-fifths. Our position in this respect was such that we were nearly defeated during the War by the submarine. Nobody denies that in productivity there is a relative decline as compared with other countries.
600 If you look at the question from the point of view of national health we are four-fifths an urban people, and the death rate is very serious, which shows the necessity of keeping our rural population as healthy as possible. The death rate in many of our great towns is 50 per cent. higher than in the rural districts, and so far from the crisis of 1924 having diminished the arable area, it is less now than it was when we were in office. We must distinguish between what is bad in those figures and what is satisfactory. What they show in the main is that by natural development we have risen to a position in which our industry has put us in a wealthier position than if we had been to a greater extent an agricultural country. It follows from the fact that our population has a lower proportion of those following agricultural pursuits that we need to keep what we have got. It is more important to us than it is to merely agricultural countries.
We should have three aims before us. One is an improvement of our national resources; secondly, an increase in our national population; and the most important aim is that of improving our standard of life. Those aims should be very strenuously pursued. Let us see what the Government are doing. How far is the situation improveable? Lord Irwin speaking of Wales spoke ofa large area of inherently good land let down.The other day Sir Henry Rew, writing in the "Times," spoke of land of which the occupiers are unwilling to make proper use. Sir John Russell is, of course, a very well known authority, and he combats the idea that the point where the law of diminishing returns operates has been reached to the extent referred to by the Minister of Agriculture. It is well known that in recent years a very large amount of good mixed farmland has been laid down quite uneconomically, and there is a very large area let down to a slacker level of farming, with fewer men employed upon it. The causes of this are recognised by all. The supply of capital is failing, buildings are going down, drainage is going down, and that means the breakdown of private ownership. Then when you come to the side of the farmer there is a great deal of ignorance, a great deal of slackness, and the Farmers' 601 Union would be the first to confirm the fact.
The standard of farming is not enforced as it should be, and there are very many men who, as a result of education, are good men, but who cannot get farms, while all the time there are farms in the hands of men who ought not to have them. If you only raise the standard of farming in this country to the level of what might be described as fairly good your production would easily be increased by 15 per cent., and that would represent a vast sum over the whole country. It is not denied that we are wasting our resources and spoiling our balance of trade. What it means in terms of human life is that sources of employment are not developed to the full. All the time we are pouring out the vast sum of money which has been alluded to by the Minister of Agriculture, but so long as we allow a leakage of our resources in this way it is like pouring water into a tub with a hole in the bottom. Very strenuous efforts will have to he made to stop the leakage. If you look at it from the point of view of the farmer he is discouraged by want of capital, and I have known many farmers who would gladly have found the capital to develop the land if they only had better security. The present security is not good enough to encourage him to lay out his capital in this direction.
I know some farmers who have gone to the colonies because they could not get from the landlord the security they wanted. The number of workers on the land could he increased, and employment is being lost for the reasons I have stated. Houses are bad and access to allotments and small holdings is incomplete, with the result that the agricultural population silently disappears to the Colonies. The tragedy of the shrinking village is all the greater because it is concealed. There is nothing sensational, as the slums are sensational, to stir up public sympathy.
What is remediable in this? Agriculture is suffering from a severe sickness and you can only cure it by drastic means. The Minister of Agriculture thinks it is only suffering from a cold. If the disease is not serious then 602 nobody will be better pleased than myself. Sir Thomas Middleton writes that there are 6,000,000 acres on the margin of tillage. Take this along with the proposals of Lord Selborne's Committee. They are two, firstly a survey and secondly control. If these authorities are reliable three million or four million acres could be brought into cultivation without any protective measures at all. Control is very difficult to exercise without ownership of the land. We therefore advocate public ownership. But the Minister thinks administration is enough.
Therefore it is fitting to review all the administrative possibilities. What the Labour Cabinet did in this sphere was to secure from the Treasury an increase of grant for education and research—a grant of £500,000 to be spread over five years. I hope the Minister of Agriculture will he able to assure us before the debate finishes that this £100,000 a year will not be curtailed and that it will continue to be used. What is he doing in that connection about the proposals of the Tribunal? We took what proposals could be dealt with practically. Our time was short. One thing we did was to increase the grants for costing officers from £4,000 to£12,000. I hope that that is going on. In connection with economic research, we put under the Oxford Institute the experiments in regard to arable stock farming. It is a very extraordinary thing that the Tribunal should have singled out that one piece of farming reform as a cardinal remedy, as almost the chief alternative to Protection, and I think that Lord Irwin confirmed the fact that it was a cardinal remedy. Perhaps the Minister can tell us later how things are going in that connection, and what hope there is that it is really going to be a very great piece of progress. Then we came, not very long after, to the publication of the Linlithgow Report, and we instituted, in accordance with its recommendations, advances to co-operative enterprises, and set on foot the marketing inquiries.
To my mind, the reports which have resulted from that are quite epoch-making in the farming world. They are of extraordinary interest. They reflect the highest credit upon their authors, and they do deal with what has been, perhaps, the most neglected field of study. Sir John Russell has pointed out 603 that we can, for instance, supply ourselves entirely with vegetables, provided we organise some means of disposing of occasional surpluses. All that is part of the marketing problem, in which we have been behindhand, and in which we are being brought up to date by these reports.
While I am on what the Labour Government did, I should like to point to our attempts to encourage county councils to use any activities that they can develop. I sent them a Circular stating that we would find the financial help if they were disposed to do more in the way of instructors, in the way of publicity and calling attention to good examples of farming and to their own demonstration farms—if they would, for instance, try to increase the public interest in British produce and help the farmers by bringing together the Cooperative Wholesale Society people and the co-operative farmers' societies. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us what is being done in that connection. Then we offered them financial help in any survey that they might be inclined to make. The Norfolk County Council have been active in carrying out survey of conditions as to lime. I do not know what other counties have done. Some counties have been very inactive about noxious weeds, and some about certificates in regard to standard of farming. These are samples of what we thought it possible to do in the time. I hope the Minister is encouraging county councils to be as active as they are willing to be.
Since that time, a great many new points have arisen, and I would like to know what the Minister is doing in regard to some of the things that have been already recommended in the new technical reports. There is an extraordinarily interesting report on the egg trade, and its recommendations in regard to grading might be quite momentous. I myself saw last year how our foreign competitors are pushing ahead when I was at Bruges in the autumn, and how almost in a few weeks they suddenly created a highly developed egg trade. Grading will shortly become a thing which must be adopted. It may require legislative assistance, and that report is one which deserves reading by every 604 Member of the House. Then assistance has been given in regard to the grading of fruit, and the Ministry, I hope, is continuing to encourage the study of that question—for instance, by supplying growers with samples of new foreign grading machines. Then the report on examples of trading by the State—in Australia, Canada and so on—ended with a suggestion that the inquiry might be carried further, and it has become such an important method in world trade that I hope the Minister will see his way to encourage further study of the question. The Minister alluded to plant breeding, and to Sir Rowland Biffen's work. Perhaps he can further tell us to what extent the existing production of Yeoman has replaced imported wheat, and whether the demand for seed can yet be met, in the main, from English supplies. Not so long ago the English supplies were, of course, very small.
On the question of foot-and-mouth disease, the Minister said that there was no need to explain—I think those were his words—the evidence in regard to the recent outbreak, and its tracing to foreign meat; but I suggest that there is great need for giving all the information he possibly can on that point. Has it been given quite fully enough? It seems to me that it is extraordinarily important, if it can possibly be argued that that may be the main cause of the outbreaks that we have had, because when you take action which at all events for a time, greatly raises prices, I think the public does demand that it should have all possible proof of the need for that action. Then there is the very important matter of disseminating the results of the research that has been carried out. Are the counties showing general activity in the matter of promoting institutes and demonstration farms? I should very much like to know what counties, or how many counties, have not yet established them. On all of these points, is it not time that the Ministry put out an annual report on its activities? The Scottish Report is an extraordinarily valuable and readable document, and I hope very much that the Minister may think it is time for that to become annual.
There is a thing which, I think, was started under the Coalition Government, and which was greatly appreciated, 605 namely: a grant for the benefit of the sons of farm workers—the scholarship system. I notice that in the figures it is stated that 39 out of 286 scholarship holders in Class 3 have gone back again to be farm workers. I do not know whether that means that there was failure, or that it was something which the. Minister regards as satisfactory, but I hope in any case that the scholarship system is going on. Then I have always wished that some further use could be made of national pooling of information, and the Minister might be inclined to tell us whether the Institute at Rome has been a means of supplying information, and whether it has also received information from us. Are we in the habit of sending it the results of research—for instance, this very valuable new information that we have in regard to foot-and-mouth disease—and are we supporting the proposal for an agricultural census in 1930? On the subject of wages and the standard of living, which is of the very first importance, there have been a certain number of prosecutions, which seem to me to show that there is a very large number of men—my lion. Friend the Member for Claycross (Mr. Duncan) knows more about this matter than I do—who are afraid to use their rights under the Act, and it may be that many are not getting what is now the legal wage.
§ Mr. BUXTON
My hon. Friend confirms my suggestion that there are very many. Does not that point to the need for more inspectors? In the desire for economy, we kept down the number of inspectors as low as possible, but I think it looks as though there ought to be rather more complete inquiry, and as though things should not be left until complaint arises. The Minister did not use his power of asking local committees to reconsider a very low wage, but to my mind he ought not to rule out the possibility of doing that, if only for this reason, that a very disastrous strike was only just avoided in East Anglia, and it may very likely happen some fine day that a request by the Minister for reconsideration of a rate will be the only way to avoid a strike.
Finally, the White Paper made a great deal of the question of credit, and, of 606 course, we all know that farmers are suffering from the want both of fixed capital, and of working capital. Great expectations were aroused last February, and we should all like to know what has happened. For instance, has the very interesting proposal about chattel mortgage broken down? Are the banks disposed to take up the question of mortgages on land? That is a very vital matter. The Report shows how extensively farmers are fleeced under the present system, and how it constantly causes the sale, for instance, of corn when out of condition or of unripe cattle. We seem to be unique in the fact that loans by the banks are extremely small in proportion to our total produce. I think the report shows £25,000,000 of loans as against. an annual produce of £260,000,000. That, again, is a very vital matter on which we should like information and a part of it is the question of co-operation.
The payability of a great deal of land is destroyed by inadequate organising and lack of co-operative marketing. To my mind, it is a very happy thing that the Farmers' Union is now at last promoting in an organic way the cause of organised marketing and co-operation of various kinds. I took occasion last autumn to inquire about the co-operation in vogue among the farmers in various places along the Rhine. What strikes one is the extraordinarily high education that these farmers, even very small farmers, possess and their intense business activity. The result is that they have about 90 per cent. of their farmers in co-operative societies, while we, I think, of all kinds of cooperative societies, have fewer than 15. It has become so much a part of farming —just as manuring is a part of it—that most States are now frankly urging cooperation on similar lines to the educational advantages of other kinds which they are urging, and I want to urge on the Minister that it is time now for the Ministry to come out on the side of organised methods, as other countries have done, I should like to see the theory abandoned that the work of the Ministry is merely to supply information. I think it is about time that it should be definitely propagandist on the subject, because the Farmers' Union itself is now propagandist on the subject, and would. 607 I think, welcome such a new attitude on the part of the Government.
If our agriculture were keyed up to standard in these various ways, the great question would then be what increase is possible in our production and in our agricultural population? We want to have our feet on the ground very firmly, and to look at the facts very clearly. We need not pursue the chimera that we might have a crowded land like Belgium, because one knows what a deplorably low standard of life that involves. The idea of our being self-supporting we may also rule out, but even with Free Trade a great deal is possible, and if we study the work of our experts, I think we may venture on a fairly realistic estimate of what is possible in this country under our present conditions, with quite a feasible degree of progress. If one takes the arable land which on Sir Thomas Middleton's basis might be brought into cultivation, merely by removing what might be called third-class farming, and if one takes the bacon, cheese, and poultry that we might grow by working up foreign foodstuffs, together with the increase that is possible in vegetable and fruit growing, which already shows very satisfactory progress in many parts of the country, it seems to me that we might quite well replace a quarter of our foreign imports of food. That might run to a value of £100,000,000, and it might mean the fresh employment of about 250,000 men and a new population of 1,250,000. That is a very considerable figure in our agricultural population, and it is no mean goal at which to aim. The Government say that control is not needed to produce the maximum results. Then is it possible to level up to a quite feasible standard by administration alone? I think not. The Conservative world, I always reflect, possesses the great mass of the knowledge and influenee in the agricultural sphere, and it is tragic that they do not use the extraordinary power they have to make the utmost of our agricultural resources.
Major RUGGLES-BR ISE
I do not intend to attempt to follow all that has been touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Buxton), or by the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), but I took a note of one 608 remark that the right hon. Gentleman made, from which it appears that he takes a view, which I share, of the present position of arable farming, namely, a very gloomy view. I listened with great interest to try to gather from his subsequent remarks what were the remedies that he proposed for the alleviation of the situation. As far as I could see, his remedy is two-fold. First of all, he suggested that there should be a greater security of tenure for the tenant farmer, and, secondly, he proposed that we should go in for a better system of arable stock farming. As regards security of tenure for the tenant farmer, I believe the great body of tenant farmers to-day would be the first to admit that they really have all the security of tenure that they require. That has grown up during the last generation, and the security which they now have is ample for all requirements.
What they have also, however, and what they do not appreciate quite to the same extent, is something which has been given to them by the Liberal party, to which the right hon. Gentleman himself belonged at one time, and that is insecurity of ownership owing to the penal taxes which have been put upon the land by the Liberal party in the past, and which, if I understand the matter aright, will be accentuated by the Labour party if and when—if they ever do—they come into power again. It is that penal taxation which has lead to the breaking-up of estates, which has compelled many farmers to become owners when they only had sufficient capital to enable them to remain tenants, which compels them to stretch one set of capital to fulfil the dual purpose of tenancy and ownership. That is one of the things from which so many of our farmers are at present suffering—not insecurity of tenure, but insecurity of ownership.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness said the credit for the sugar-beet subsidy lay with the Labour party. I think he was not quite correct. The original proposal in connection with the sugar-beet question originated quite outside the House, but eventually matters crystallised. I can remember a few years ago a great effort being made in my county to try to get the industry started. The matter was before the Conservative Government of 1922–23, but no definite 609 proposals were brought forward, When the Labour party came in, it took up the matter where it was left by the preceding Government, and it made the announcement that it intended to give this subsidy, but—here is where I join issue with the hon. Baronet—the Labour party never passed or introduced a line of legislation in connection with the sugar-beet industry, or voted a penny towards the subsidy. It has been left to the present Government to do both those things, and I really think the credit, if any, for the fostering of this very important new industry really lies with the Conservative party.
I wish to return now to the White Paper, which bears on its cover the words, "Agricultural Policy." It reminds me rather of some sermons I have heard. The text is admirable, but the sermon which follows is hardly up to the mark in carrying out the text. I will read the text:There is a wide measure of agreement that a national agricultural policy should aim at securing the two following objects: (1) that the land should yield its highest economic possibilities in the way of food for the nation, and (2) that it should furnish a basis of life and a reasonable livelihood to the greatest. number of people.I am sure there is no Member of the Committee who does not endorse that text in toto, but when we come to analyse the body of the sermon, I cannot find that there are any proposals of a sufficiently wide nature really to implement and give life to the text. I see in paragraph 4:Increased production and greater employment would be secured by a large increase in the arable area, but it is clear that at the present level of corn prices no such increase could be secured.It goes on to say those increases could not be secured in the aggregate without one of two things, either the imposition of protective duties on imported corn, or the payment of some form of subsidy. There is one form of Protection, if you like to call it so, which might very well have been put into operation. I refer to the Barley Duty. I think it is a matter of very great regret that the Minister did not take the opportunity when he had it of putting this Barley Duty into operation. A duty on imported malting barley would not conflict with the pledges of the Government. It might be a cause of conflict with the other parties, but not necessarily with the pledges of the 610 Government, and it does not need the payment of any form of subsidy.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
Tha would require legislation. It would need to be put in the Finance Bill.
§ Major RUGGLES-BRISE
I appreciate that. I regret that it was not put in the Finance Bill, and I am criticising the action of the Minister for not having seen that it was put in the Finance Bill. It is referred to in the White Paper issued by his Department. In my opinion there was a good opportunity of doing something to help the arable farmer in his time of present difficulty. I cannot share—I wish I could—the right hon. Gentleman's optimism. I know from my practical experience and from the fact that I am an arable farmer that the situation is very bad indeed. I am an optimist to this extent, that no one who had not hope in his soul would be such a fool as to farm at all, but I cannot share the right hon. Gentleman's optimism in thinking we are approaching a better position to-day. Then on page 3 of the White Paper I find this:The Government have also examined the question from the point of view of national defence, and have come to the conclusion that no case has been made out on defence grounds which would justify the expenditure necessary to induce farmers in time of peace to produce more thin economic considerations dictate.This matter of national defence is one of which we must not lose sight. It is the paramount consideration, and we are entitled to ask the Government on what grounds it has come to the conclusion which it has apparently, that we can afford to run the very grave risk of an inadequate food supply. Where has that advice come from? Has it come from the Committee of Imperial Defence? Has that Committee advised the Government that, in its opinion, it can under any circumstances guarantee that it will be able to safeguard and ensure the food supply of the millions of this country either in time of war or in time of world famine? I think that is a matter upon which the. Committee should be enlightened, as to how it is the Government consider it safe to run the risk which in my view it is running. We are much too dependent on foreign supplies. Our wheat supply comes largely from foreign countries, and 611 if we were at war and those supplies were cut off, we should be in very great jeopardy. A failure of crop in the chief wheat-growing countries of the world would bring us to an infinitely grave position. We should not run the risk, and I think it is a great misunderstanding which may arise in the mind of the people of the country if they are led to suppose that we can afford to take this very doing it, because it does not pay!None of these schemes could make the country self-supporting as regards bread-stuffs except at an impossible cost.That is a very gratuitous sentence. Whoever wrote it must have put it up as a ninepin for the fun of knocking it down again, because whoever has suggested that we can produce all the breadstuffs required? We cannot, but we could do very much more if it was worth while and it paid to do it, but we are not doing it, because it does not pay!
Then I come to the question of price, and this really goes down to the bedrock of the matter. Paragraph 7 of the White Paper says:In common with many other industries, agriculture has been severely hit by the fall in prices after the War, but it is weathering the storm, and there is no reason to fear that it will not adapt itself to the economic situation.It has certainly been severely hit, but is it equally certain that it is weathering the storm? I wish I could share that view. How is agriculture to prosper if you consider the position of prices to-day? We have the cost of living index figure at 68 points above pre-War. What is the figure at which agricultural produce is now being sold? 50 or 51 points over pre-War. There is a gap of 17 points between the cost-of-living figure and the price we are receiving for our agricultural produce. For our implements and everything we have to buy, the farmers are having to pay on the basis of plus 68, whereas for everything we sell we are only receiving 50 to 51 above pre-War. That gap of 17 points has to be bridged, and how are we going to bridge it? It is to that point that I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to direct his own attention and that of his Ministry. Until we can solve that problem and lessen that gap, there is little hope that we are going to get either more production out of the land or more employment upon it.
612 The question of credit is mentioned in the next paragraph. While I think the Paper which was issued on the question of agricultural credit was a most admirable and lucid document, I am very disappointed that we have not heard more from the Minister about it to-day.
§ Major RUGGLES-BRISE
I quite understand that is the reason we have heard nothing about it. The next point in the Paper is the smallholder. He has been put upon the land by legislation. Then the Legislature must riot leave him there to look after himself. He is not a natural growth in this country, but as the Legislature has thought well to put him on the land, surely it must try to do something to help him to live now he is on the land. I should like to throw out a small suggestion which will not involve legislation. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would press for an agricultural parcels Host at special rates. They have a very good system in South Africa, where 40 or 50 different commodities of agricultural produce are taken at special rates, and they also have cash on delivery. Here, if you want to send one or two pounds of agricultural produce through the post and employ the cash on delivery system as well, you will find the parcels post charges plus cash on delivery amount in many cases to the whole value of the article, whereas, in a town, if a lady asks for a pair of silk stockings cash on delivery, worth, probably, 10s., she gets them at a cost of 3d. postage and 4d. for collection. Therefore, the townsman is going to get the benefit of cash on delivery, and I think the smallholder is much more worthy of assistance in that matter.
Paragraph 12 of the White Paper deals with timber production:Large areas of land in many parts of Great Britain are more suited to the production of timber than food.I regret very much that the Minister missed an opportunity of doing something to encourage afforestation in the Finance Bill. The duties are going to be increased upon tractions used for the haulage of timber. We all know a tree must be removed before it has any commercial value, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman had seen his way clear to protest energetically against the 613 increase of any duty which is going to tend to decrease the price we may receive for timber.
When we come to the marketing of agricultural produce, I rejoice to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry is going to be a member of the Empire Marketing Board. I hope he has made up his mind as to the lines upon which he intends to proceed. I should like to put one or two suggestions to him. His purpose, I take it, will be to see that we can manage somehow to win back for ourselves our home market, that great market which we have lost to the foreigner. We want our home market of food to be for ourselves and for Empire products to the exclusion of the foreigner if and when we produce sufficient to exclude him. We are going to be in the strictest competition with him all along the line, but we are not to-day in a position to compete with him successfully. I suggest that the Minister should approach this Empire marketing question as far as it would affect home production from this end. Let us take London, greater London, with its seven millions of population, the greatest and the richest market in the world, the market which is open to the most dumping just because it is such a rich market. Everything is attracted from all over the world to London. We should concentrate our minds on re-capturing the lost London market. If it is not possible to recapture it by the individual farmer, can we not do it by welding together the production of a great area or areas by depots, by being in a position to offer in bulk, by grading our goods in such a way that we can bring them, whether to Mark Lane as breadstuffs, to Smithfield as meat or to Covent Garden as fruit—whether we cannot make some endeavour to use this money which is to be allocated to setting up in various selected spots depots where we can condition and grade and select and make ready in bulk large quantities and make a definite attack on the foreigner in our home markets.
I believe it might be done on those lines, and as regard wheat production, it is certain that if we are really to grow more wheat, to get more land under the plough and increase the population in the countryside, we must concentrate on our chief cereal—wheat. It 614 is the one thing we have got to have, whatever else we do not have. I remember a remark of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). The reason I remember it is, that it is the only remark of his with which I have ever been in agreement! He said, "Imagine if there were a hungry mob clamouring at the doors of the House of Commons for food, what would it be that they would ask for? Bread." He went on to describe how he himself would go to the Members' Dining Room and come out with his pockets full of rolls. Of course, he did not say they would not be his to give away, but he was on perfectly sound ground in emphasising the point that it is bread that we have got to have, and, therefore, we must concentrate on encouraging wheat production to a greater extent. I would ask the Minister to pursue this line of thought. Imagine if in selected spots there were put up experimental stations —my own county would be a suitable one—for the grading and conditioning of wheat, where wheat could be brought in by lorries direct from the farms, immediately it was threshed, to this depot. The farmer would receive a cheque on account. The advantage would lie in this, that there the wheat could be stored for a reasonable time and it could be graded and conditioned, and instead of being offered to the miller in little parcels of 30/40 quarters, it might be offered in 1,000 quarter lots up Lo grade and up to sample. We might in that way really do something to encourage wheat growing and the re-population of the countryside.
The Minister told us he regarded the functions of his office as being rather negative than positive in their relation to the industry of which he is in charge. I cannot accept that view at all. If you consider that agriculture is the only industry in the country which possesses a Ministry that hears its name, surely it is entitled not to be used merely as a glorified office of veterinary experts, admirable as they are—and I am sure every farmer would he most deeply grateful for the prompt and efficient way in which the importation of diseased carcases has been dealt with, and also the restriction on the import of cherries. I am not belittling the magnificent work that has been done by the Ministry in many 615 theatres, but if that is negative work I join issue with him on this point. I say the Minister should be in a position to frame a policy and should not rest content until he has framed a policy which will be for the benefit of agriculture on the widest scale. If people come to him with ideas, I hope he will not allow the Ministry to crush them down and not be content until they are buried in the ground and nothing further is heard of them. If there is to be destructive criticism, let there also he constructive policy, and let it come from the right hon. Gentleman himself, because I consider the position of agriculture is very serious indeed, and I do not subscribe to the optimism that has fallen from his lips. I very much regret to have to take this line, but I should not feel that I was doing my duty as a farmer to my fellow-farmers, or as Member for an agricultural constituency to my constituents, if I did not say clearly what was in my mind.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I thank hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Major Ruggles-Brise) for a very interesting and very informing speech, and I am very glad that from practical acquaintance with the problems of agriculture he has done something to correct the rather anæmic optimism from which the Minister of Agriculture seems to be suffering. Until the right hon. Gentleman realises the gravity of the problem, I do not think there is very much hope of anything in the nature of a constructive policy emanating from him. I have a good deal of sympathy for the difficulties which he seems to have experienced in the construction of his speech, due entirely to the Rules of Order in this House, under which he was not able to deal with certain matters in Committee of Supply. He had evidently prepared himself to talk about the Green Book, but, as that was out of Order, he had to content himself with a description of the green fly instead. I shall do my best to keep off any discussion of subjects which will transgress the Rules of Order, but when one comes to survey the conditions of agriculture, that subject seems quite germane to the discussion of this Vote.
The right hon. Gentleman has taken a very optimistic view of the position. I 616 think he is practically alone in assuming that attitude. I do not think anyone who can speak with authority upon agriculture would confirm the estimate which he has taken of the agricultural position in this country, from the point of view of the farmer, the labourer or the community. The hon. and gallant Member for Maldon, who has a real knowledge of the problem, has very clearly and accurately stated the general view of all those who are intimately acquainted with the countryside and even of those who, not having a special knowledge of the countryside, are interested from the national point of view in food production in this country. The right hon. Gentleman's own Parliamentary Secretary has stated what he thinks about the seriousness of the situation. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) has referred to the utterances of the Parliamentary Secretary. The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman took a very different view. I could quote passage after passage from his speeches in which he pointed out the deterioration that had taken place in agriculture within recent years. There is the right hon. Gentleman's own chief, the Prime Minister, who in a speech delivered at Taunton before the last Election, said that he considered the situation in regard to agriculture was a danger to the country. He referred to the reduction in the arable acreage in the country, the very serious diminution in the rural population, the flight to other lands, the flight to the towns, and he ended by saying that he considered that to be a danger to the country, and that something would have to be done. The right hon. Gentleman now says: A danger to the country? No. It is riot so bad. Something to be done? No. Nothing is to be done, except to give them a douche of cold water. I should have thought that he, at any rate, would have provided something more stimulating than water, not so much for the acres as for the persons.
That is not the way to treat this problem. You can treat the opinions of an Under-Secretary with disdain, and if he knows more than you do about the problem, it gives you an opportunity of showing how superior you are. You can throw over your predecessor, especially if he is thousands of miles away and is not 617 in a position to answer, but it is a very dangerous thing for the right hon. Gentleman to throw over his chief in a matter of this kind, and that is what he has done. The Prime Minister has never taken this optimistic view. He went out of his way to emphasise the danger of the present situation and the importance of something being done to deal with it. What is the present position? The right hon. Gentleman does not mean to say that when the Prime Minister made that very grave statement 18 months ago about depopulation and about the arable land being turned to grass, all he meant was investigations into diseases, which are undoubtedly important. That is not what he had in his mind. He meant something on a greater and more comprehensive scale for dealing with the situation. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the problem, and see whether he is not misinformed in regard to the facts.
The hon. and gallant Member for Maldon has referred to the London market—the greatest market in the world, at our own doors, the market for a population of 8,000,000 people, within an easy compass. Has the right hon. Gentleman taken the trouble to read the annual report of the Commissioners of that market for last year? If he has, then I am the more amazed at his statement that things are not so bad. That report is full of very grave figures. From this report for the London markets I find that in the year 1925, of the beef and veal which came into the market, 85.9 per cent. was imported. The right hon. Gentleman says, "You cannot grow bananas, except at great expense." But you can raise calves, and here we have 85–9 per cent. of the veal imported into the London market coming from abroad last year. The report further states, that of the mutton and lamb coming into the market, 79.5 per cent. was from abroad; of the pork, 76 per cent. came from abroad; and of the butter and cheese, 47.8 per cent. came from across the seas. What about eggs? The hon. Gentleman said that eggs are very important for the agriculturist. That is true. They do not contain all the food elements which he recommended, hut, from the point of view of profit, he was right in saying that the egg is very important to the agriculturist. Of eggs and sundries brought into the 618 London market, 65 per cent. came from abroad. The report goes on to say:The foregoing conclusively shows how dependent the 8,000,000 people of London are upon overseas countries for their supplies of meat.It then gives a comparison with 1924, pointing out that there is a falling off of something like 12,613 tons on balance in the quantity which came from this country to the London market. The comparison with 1913 is still more serious, and they end up by saying:This is a matter of business. Must England remain always helpless and hopeless?That is a quotation from this official document—a very startling document:Is she always to be dependent upon over- seas countries, ranging from a few scores to thousands of miles away, for her supplies of meat? Are Londoners content to let Things drift?This document ought to be available to the right hon. Gentleman, and he ought to study it, because it relates to the market for this great city. In the face of that document, he says, "Things are not so bad," and he is good enough to suggest that we are painting gloomy pictures for the purpose of supporting recommendations of which he does not approve. It is not a question of whether those recommendations are right or not. I should be out of order in discussing the recommendations, and I do not propose to do so. The point is that we must get the facts to begin with, and when we have the facts, let the right hon. Gentleman come with his recommendations, whatever they are, to the House of Commons; but do not let him say, "Things are not so bad," and give the impression that we are turning the corner, whereas, taking the last few years and comparing them with the years before the War, we are worse off. Let him look at the figures of the quantity of meat which is bought in this country from abroad, and compare it with the quantity which was bought before the War, and he will find that we are buying very much more. I am converting the pre-War figures into the figures of to-day; otherwise it would not be a fair comparison, because, naturally, we are paying more for the same quantity of goods. Converting the pre-War figures into the figures of to-day, he will find that we are buying between 619 £15,000,000 and £20,000,000 more meat from abroad than we were buying before the War.
What is the good of the right hon. Gentleman saying, "Things are not so bad; we have turned the corner." I am glad to see that the Prime Minister is now present, because I have been quoting something that he said, of which I thoroughly approve—if I may respectfully say so to a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister ought to have heard the speech of his Minister and have called him to order. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a very optimistic account of agriculture. He said that it was not so bad in comparison with what it used to be; in comparison with the Continent. As far as he was concerned, the only thing he had to offer to agriculturists was a douche of cold water, as he put it. Then I quoted the speech of the Prime Minister at Taunton, in which he said that the present position was full of danger to the country. He meant the agricultural position in respect to arable land and depopulation. I take the same view. He and I would not agree about the remedies, but before one comes to consider the remedies, one must, first of all, have a fair diagnosis of the conditions. The Minister of Agriculture does not think there is anything wrong; he thinks the health of agriculture is excellent. Where he has studied it I do not know. He certainly did not study it in the facts and figures of purchases and sales. He did not study it in the conditions of the farms. He did not study it in the speeches of his predecessor, and I do not think he could have spent five minutes with his own Parliamentary Secretary, otherwise he would never have delivered that speech. I hope the Prime Minister will give him a good talking to, and tell him to spend a little more time in considering the elementary facts of his office—facts which it is very vital to consider.
I cannot go into the remedies. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Denmark and Holland! Why, these countries have just learnt from us, and they have caught us up." That is all he knows about the facts. If he had only looked at the figures given by the very gentleman to whom he referred, Sir Thomas Middleton, he would have known that they have not merely caught us up, but passed us. It 620 is true that their first studies were here, and, very rightly, they went to the east of England, where there is a tradition of good farming which comes from the days of Coke of Norfolk. I am now dealing with the question of production, and, as a matter of fact, they have gone beyond us. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to say that the figures I have quoted are wrong?
§ Mr. GUINNESS
Sir Thomas Middle-ton's figures, to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, dealt with calories and not with production.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am not dealing with calories, but with cows. Let the right hon. Gentleman take the actual figures of the cattle, the pigs, the wheat, the barley and the oats, and he will find that in every case these countries—it will not do him any harm to get a few facts for the first time of the agricultural position—have gone ahead of us. He quoted Professor MacGregor, but his was a minority Report. This is from a Report made to the present Prime Minister, I believe, by the Tribunal which was appointed by Mr. Bonar Law's Government. Two out of the three members made a certain Report, to which Professor MacGregor dissented. The view he has taken has not been adopted or accepted by any great authorities on the subject. The other two members were Professor Sir William Ashley and Professor Adams, and I am quoting from the Report made by the majority of the Tribunal which was appointed by the Conservative Government in 1922. They take a stock unit for 100 acres. Great Britain, in 1922, is put at 33.1, Denmark at 39.4—
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
They reduced the whole of the livestock into what they call a unit, and I am quoting the figures from the document which the Minister of Agriculture himself cited. It is not for me to explain or defend it. How they arrived at their conclusions is not for me to explain. There is the same test for every country, and reducing it into a stock unit, they put Great Britain at 33.1; Denmark at 39.4; Holland at 44.9 and Belgium at 47. I see the explanation is that they reduce cattle, sheep and pigs, into a unit, and upon that basis they 621 have arrived at this estimate per 100 acres. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman should be amused.
An Hon. MEMBER
I was amused to find that the right hon. Gentleman had just found out what was a stock unit.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am glad the hon. Member, who seems to be so well informed on this subject, confirms the conclusions to which these great exports arrived, and perhaps he will do me the courtesy of listening to a few more figures on the subject. The next is crops. The average yield of wheat in Great Britain is 17.2 cwts.; Belgium, 20.7; Holland, 20.7; and Denmark, 23.8. The same thing applies to barley and oats. If the right hon. Gentleman goes to the units of livestock, or to craps, he will find that in both these cases, so far from these countries having come up to the level of Great Britain, they have surpassed us. He did not seem to know that, yet he has evidently been studying the very document from which these figures are taken. It is really impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to" guide the Committee or the agricultural industry in this country as to what should be done in order to bring it from a position in which, according to the Prime Minister, it is a danger to the country, unless he first of all masters the elemental facts of the position. When he replies, perhaps he will point out in what respect these figures are wrong.
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have acquired the necessary knowledge of the actual facts. He talks about interference and control. What does he mean by interference and control? As far as I can judge, his idea is that the farmer can do just what he likes with his own land or the land on which he is a tenant without interference from anybody and without control by anybody. Is that his notion? If he pursues his studies a little further, and examines a few simple agreements, even on his own property, he will find conditions there which imply interference and control in every direction; and rightly so. A farmer is not entitled to farm just as he pleases, to produce crops of any kind he wishes, or no crops at all. He is not left to his own initiative or his own disposition. There are the strictest conditions imposed in every agreement with regard to crops 622 and cultivation, and no one has proposed, to my knowledge, any control or interference which goes beyond the control and interference which is contained in every estate agreement at the present time. In addition to the questions into which I have already invited the right hon. Gentleman to inquire, he might also inquire into the amount of control and interference to which farmers are at present subjected or to which they have agreed. These are some of the facts which I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into.
But I am going to press upon him a consideration which has been urged upon him earlier in the Debate, and that is, that he should inaugurate a survey in a few typical counties of the condition of agriculture. I am glad to hear that the Secretary for Scotland has undertaken a survey of this kind for one of the Scottish counties. I urged upon the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman a survey of this kind, and my appeal was listened to with a good deal of sympathy by Lord Irwin, who, I understood, had no objection to it, regarded it sympathetically, and would do what was in his power, subject no doubt to consultation with the Prime Minister and his colleagues, to arrange for it to be done. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he can get rid of the idea that things are absolutely right in agriculture, an idea which will find no support from any body of farmers or any body of landlords in this country, certainly not from the labourers, whether he will not undertake to inaugurate a survey of this nature in a few typical counties in England and Wales. He might inquire into one or two questions—the condition of the cultivation and how it compares to-day with what it was before the War.
The figures which have been given by those who have studied the matter point to the conclusion that there is a deterioration in cultivation, that production in this country is going down. That view is supported by the fact that we are buying more produce from abroad, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman in his survey to ascertain in these typical counties whether cultivation is going down, and, if so, the reasons for it. Also I should like to ask him to include a comparison of the cultivation there with soils of the same kind in Denmark and Holland.
623 That is very important. The second question is whether he will examine the problem of the possibility of improvement, what could be done to increase cultivation, whether capital is forthcoming, and also if security is given to the cultivator. The Minister of Agriculture, in the course of his speech, said agriculture was suffering no more, probably less, than other industries in this country since the War. He forgets the very essential fact that they are suffering because there is no market, while agriculture is suffering with an increased market in this country, with a better market in this country, than before the War. The consumption is greater, because the population is greater, and the standard of living in many respects has gone up.
I believe the consumption of meat has gone up as compared with pre-War years. That is true with regard to other countries in Europe. Those who took part in the War had a larger proportion of meat as their ration than that to which they had been accustomed. That was the case in France and Italy, and, to a certain extent, in regard to the population of this country, and there is a larger consumption of meat in this country than before the War. Therefore, the market in this country for agricultural produce is better than it was before the War. That is not the case in regard to other industries, and it is not a fair comparison to say cotton is suffering, wool is suffering, iron and steel are suffering. It is true, but that is because the demand has gone down. Agriculture is suffering although the demand has gone up, and it is important the right hon. Gentleman should bear that fact in mind. He seems to have overlooked it altogether. I should also like to ask him in the course of this survey to look into the question of increasing the consumption, provided more capital is forthcoming, and provided also that the same security is given to the producer in agriculture as is enjoyed by the producer in every other business in this country.
The other point I want to put is that there should be an examination into the desire for small holdings in the counties. I draw a distinction between desire and demand. I know, if you go down to a county, it is said, "We only have about 100 applicants." That does not represent 624 in the least the desire for small holdings amongst the working population. The labourer has given up putting his name down as an applicant. He feels that he is making a fool of himself by sending in his name, because he knows other people who have sent in their names and they are still on the register; their demand is not yet satisfied. Labourers who really desire to have small holdings do not send in their names, and I think, in the course of a survey of this kind, there ought to be an attempt made to find out whether there is a desire for small holdings in these areas, and what is being done in order to satisfy that desire. The other point is the housing conditions. In the areas there ought to be an investigation into this subject, and especially in the neighbourhood of the great towns, because the housing conditions are getting worse from the fact that people in the towns are going into the country and buying those old cottages, snapping them up without taking the slightest care to find out whether there is a room or a cottage to which the dispossessed labourer can go. There is a very strong feeling on this subject among agricultural labourers within 30 or 40 miles of London, and, I think, of all the great cities. There is very strong resentment against the kind of week-ender who comes and takes up those cottages and turns the labourer out. That is a problem which, I think, ought to be investigated. I cannot suggest legislation, but it might be necessary to deal with that problem so that labourers should not be dispossessed unless there is a sufficiency of cottages.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I know. A great many policies have been announced, and up to the present nothing has been done. That is my complaint. Another point is that the right hon. Gentleman might also include in his survey the question of rural industries. What is the position with regard to them? It is an essential part of the revival and regeneration of the countryside that, somehow or other, work should be found for the surplus population, and not only that, but work for boys and girls there, in order to keep the population on the land and near the land. In every other 625 country where the agricultural problem is dealt with, the question of rural industries is regarded as essential as small holdings. Anybody who has lived and been brought up in a rural area, as I have, knows perfectly well when he visits those old places and looks round he finds the little rural industries have disappeared. Factories have disappeared. Tanneries have disappeared. All sorts of little works that were providing healthy work and, what is much more important, remunerative and interesting work for the population, have disappeared. In my old village, I do not know one of them that is left. I am not sure that there is even a flour mill left there now. They have all vanished, although there is plenty of water power in the area. The question of rural industries is a vital and essential part of any agricultural problem the right hon. Gentleman may undertake.
The only other subject of investigation I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman is that of the possibilities of afforestation. There are some counties where the possibilities would not be great, because the soil could be much better used. On the other hand, there are a great many counties where afforestation could be attempted on a very considerable scale, and that in itself is a question in the realm of rural industries, the provision of work for the people whose services are required when there is an exceptional demand on the part of the farmers for additional hands. The trouble at present is that if the farmer wants an additional two or three hands to assist him in moments of emergency, there is no reserve upon which to draw. Rural industries with afforestation will provide work for a short time in the year for the womenfolk especially, and then there would be a valuable surplus of labour which would help the better class of farmer, who is putting the whole of his strength of mind and capital into cultivation, to draw upon in moments of exceptional demand.
I ask the Prime Minister whether he will not undertake, at any rate, to look into the question of having a survey of two or three typical countries? It is all very well to attack books like the Green Book, and the White Book and any other book. Those are simply attempts undoubtedly by people who are doing their best with unofficial information, to get 626 some sort of statement of the case which, as anybody who has had something to do with the conduct of the War knows, is vital to the health and security of this nation—food production. It is simply an attempt to get the facts the best way we can. The Government can undertake a systematic inquiry. It can employ the best men. It can do so, and the facts will have an official stamp and seal upon them, and when we have got these facts, we each can draw our own conclusions, according to our own disposition, and training and conditions. Let us get the facts, first of all. When I look through the list of the things my right hon. Friend promised, the right hon. Gentleman says, "We are considering that." Then there is another question—"That is under consideration." Then if there is something very important he says, "That is receiving special consideration." All great artists are in the habit of painting pictures of themselves in the course of their career, and the right hon. Gentleman has painted himself with his finger on his brow considering deeply the problems of agriculture, "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," trying to consider, and to consider specially, and to consider thoroughly, with the frown of thought on his brow. But it is about time that he should first of all master the facts. When he has done that, I hope he will come forward with some policy that will put agriculture in a better position.
§ Colonel Sir GEORGE COURTHOPE
We have listened to a very interesting, and, in many ways, very remarkable speech, because little bits of it might have been delivered by a. great variety of politicians, though one or two sentences might very well have come from an old-fashioned Tory squire.
§ Sir G. COURTHOPE
A quite substantial section of it suggests the conversion of the right hon. Gentleman to the policy which I always hanker after, and know we shall never obtain in our time, and that is agricultural protection. The one appeal which the right hon. Gentleman has made, which I venture to support as far as my support may be of any value, is the appeal for the survey of some kind. My motive, perhaps, differs from the right hon. Gentleman's 627 but I agree with him and everyone else who is advocating an agricultural survey of some kind, that we are lacking in many items of essential information. The more information we get, the better able this party or any other party will be to deal with the information. Opinions as to the information we are likely to get, of course, differ. Personally, I believe if we got complete information, we should get such information as would destroy the structure of the right hon. Gentleman's own proposals. I join with him in acknowledging the desirability of information as complete as we can get, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman may see his way to make a start, at all events, in a survey of this kind.
There is one matter, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned towards the end of his speech, which is of particular interest to me, and that is afforestation. The proposal he recommended with regard to the establishment of forest holdings is the policy which has already been definitely adopted by the present Forestry Commissioners, and I understand is working exceedingly well. There is one small holding to be set up for, approximately, 180 acres of forest. The right hon. Gentleman, early in his speech, when he was criticising the Minister of Agriculture, said that he did not suppose there was anyone who would agree with the Minister's anæmic optimism. At the risk of being considered an anæmic optimist, I venture to say I agree not with what the right hon. Gentleman pretends my hon. Friend said, but with what he did say, and that is this, that, bad as things have been, and admittedly bad as they still are, be sees an indication that we have turned a corner. I think so, too. From the national point of view—he was discussing the economic point of view of the English farmer—I have great misgivings as to the low amount of our food supplies which are produced at home, and the many indirect effects on national physique and a score of other matters. Looking at it purely from the point of view of the economic position of the farmer, it is not quite so bad as it was a year or two ago. That is what my right hon. Friend was discussing, and I agree with him there. The national point of view, I think, is very bad. I 628 very much deprecate the use which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) makes of figures which tend to suggest that farming on the Continent of Europe is almost universally, or at least generally, better than farming in England. I do not agree with that at all. We have, of course, our bad farmers, like every other country has, but I believe the better type of English farmer is the best type of farmer the world has seen. There are far more of them than the right hon. Gentleman's speeches would lead us to believe.
§ Sir G. COURTHOPE
A good many of them come from Scotland, but we have a, good few in England, too. What are the remedies suggested for the lack of production? There are many minor remedies in regard to which all parties are taking their share, such as the attempt to improve marketing, and other matters of that kind, but it all boils down to this—that you must improve the relation of price to cost somehow or other if you are going to improve the position of the English farmer and increase the production of home-grown food. That is apart from all these smaller matters like marketing and co-operation. I wish to goodness the English farmer would co-operate.
§ Sir G. COURTHOPE
At all events, his nature does not tend to bring him easily into co-operative movements. Before I leave these minor matters, I wish to refer to the question of sugar beet. A great deal has been said about it, but it has not once been referred to in this Debate in what I consider to be its true relation to agriculture. The justification for the efforts which every party has made to assist the establishment of the sugar-beet industry is not the production of sugar, but the introduction of a profitable cleaning crop in the arable 629 rotation. It is a wheat question, and not a sugar question. There is no doubt in my mind that in any arable district where sugar beet is successfully established, quite apart from the increased yield on the annual cost per acre which experience leads one to expect, the introduction of a profitable cleaning crop into the rotation is going to knock an appreciable number of shillings off the price at which it pays the farmer to market his wheat. You cannot grow wheat without cleaning your land, and it is that necessity which has produced the various rotations—the Norfolk rotation, and so forth—and the greatest handicap the English farmer has to face in producing wheat, as against the prairie farmer who is producing it on alluvial soil, is the urgent necessity of cleaning his wheat land every three, four or five years.
In the past we had been accustomed to clean land by growing such crops as swedes or mangolds. They have to be calculated in the farmer's profit and loss account not by market value, because there is no general market for them, but in the terms of the hypothetical value of meat. The farmer has to estimate what, in six months' time, swedes and mangolds are going to bring him in in the price of beef or mutton. You will always find that when calculated in that way—the only true way to make the calculation—there is a loss on your cleaning crop, and that loss has to be borne by wheat, barley, or oats, as the case may be. It is with wheat that we are concerned at the moment, and the question of the cleaning crop has a definite, and pressing effect on the wheat problem. Make a change, and introduce an effective cleaning crop which not only places no burden on wheat, but which actually makes a profit in itself, and you alter the whole profit and loss account as regards wheat. I believe we shall find, as years go on, that the introduction of this industry—in the credit for which, I think, every party is entitled to claim a share—will prove the biggest thing that could possibly have been carried out, short of agricultural protection on a large scale, to secure the maintenance of wheat acreage. I am not without hope that it may even lead to a future increase in the wheat acreage, and I am certain it will do a good deal 630 to maintain many acres under the plough which would otherwise go out of cultivation. These points, although in the aggregate they amount to a great deal, are, when taken separately, minor matters with regard to the great question of increased agricultural production.
I turn to the remedies which the different parties have proposed or rejected. The electors have decided that Protection and a general subsidy is out of the question, and each party, in turn, has found itself in the difficulty of having to propose a major measure to deal with the question. The two parties opposite, lacking something better to put forward, have entered into a conspiracy, or have arrived by separate roads at the same conclusion, that the thing to do is to damn the landowners. They agree to blame him for all the trouble, and to call him all sorts of names. They refer to insecurity of tenure, and other things, but it all comes to this—that the only major remedy suggested by either of the parties opposite is the elimination, sudden or gradual, of the private ownership of agricultural land. The late Minister of Agriculture referred to insecurity of tenure as being in his view one of the great impediments to the improvement of cultivation. The arguments with which he followed up that reference were all arguments in favour of occupying ownership. The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) were equally in support of occupying ownership as opposed to tenancy.
§ Sir G. COURTHOPE
I think I am not misquoting the right hon. Gentleman the late Minister of Agriculture when say that his argument was that you should have security of tenure, and have the man working his own land. Personally, I want to see an increase in occupying ownership, and I am delighted to see that there is a great increase in occupying ownership. The number of farmers who own the land they farm in England and Wales has doubled since the War. I think that is a thoroughly good movement, not only as regards the security of the country, but as regards the question of production, because the man who owns his land has every inducement and 631 incentive to get the best he can out of it, and to treat it as well as he can. The danger is that he may not have adequate capital to carry out the proper obligations resting on one who is the owner as well as the occupier of a farm. I hope that the credit scheme which is being discussed—I am very disappointed that we have not yet seen more of it—will go a long way towards removing that danger; but, given sufficient working capital, I believe a great increase in occupying ownership will go a long way towards ensuring that the country will get the best which the land can give.
But I know quite well that neither of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite was really arguing in favour of an extension of occupying ownership. Their arguments were intended, not in support of occupying ownership, but in condemnation of the continuance of private ownership of land. I want to look into that question for a moment. They both say, in their publications and utterances, that they want to be fair, and that they do not advocate confiscation—though if the proposals of their parties be carefully analysed confiscatory elements are to be found in bath. Still, they assert there would be compensation, and compensation, I gather, would mean the fair market value. Now land has an element of value other than its return in net rent. If we had all the information about the agricultural land which is still subject to tenancy in this country, we should find that the net rental received by the owner from the tenant is, I think, less than 1½ per cent. and certainly less than 2 per cent. upon the ordinary market value of that land and the buildings upon it. The reason is two-fold. In the first place, there is this element of value which may be concerned with sentiment, amenity, or sport or what you like, but which is an element of value other than economic.
§ Sir G. COURTHOPE
There is competitive value to some extent and in some cases, but even where there is no competitive value, there is an element of value other than the purely economic. That element of value only exists for the personal owner—the individual—and it is 632 immediately destroyed if the State becomes the owner operating the functions of ownership through officials.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. and gallant Member is now getting into the question of Nationalisation, which I do not think would be in order in this Debate.
§ Sir G. COURTHOPE
I am sorry if I have exceeded the limits of Order, but I was rather drawn on to the subject by the arguments of others. However, I will leave that question severely alone. Whatever may be the attractions of other systems, you do by the present system maintain an clement of value which other systems would destroy, an element of value which is important not only to the individual but to the community as well. You maintain that incentive to improve cultivation and increase production which you only get when the individual who is cultivating the land can say—if perhaps it is not good land, or if times are not prosperous—
"A poor thing, but mine own."
§ Mr. RILEY
I do not propose to enter into the question of the relative productivity of agricultural land in this country as compared with other countries, nor do I desire to embark upon a discussion of what has been called damning the landlord, but I want to invite attention to an aspect of the problem upon which apparently all parties are agreed. I refer to the policy, to which we are all attached, at least by profession, of utilising all the powers of the Ministry to give the widest opportunity to labour to settle down upon the land, particularly in the form of small holdings and I want to call attention to one or two facts which have come out in recent reports dealing with the subject. First of all, I want to remind the Minister of the pronouncement of his own Government, which has a very direct bearing upon the neglect of the Government in implementing their professed policy in regard to small holdings. In the White Paper it is stated that there are two conditions which are necessary to improve agriculture in this country, namely:(1) That the land should yield its highest economic possibilities in the way of food for the nation, and(2) That it should furnish a basis of life and a reasonable livelihood to the greatest number of people.633 I submit that if there is one form of agriculture which fulfils those conditions more than another, it is that of small holdings, which yield the "highest economic possibilities in the way of food for the nation," and which "furnish a basis of life and a reasonable livelihood to the greatest number of people."
I see that the Minister is not present at the moment, but may I call the attention of his Department and of this Committee to a very remarkable example of the extent to which the promotion of small holdings has increased the number of people living on the land? There was issued last week the 14th Report of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, in which there are given the results of certain small holdings schemes which have been promoted since 1919. The first scheme referred to is one which comprises seven arable farms, and at the time when they were taken over for small holdings the total population maintained on them was 294; in 1925, there were 682 people living on the same land. Take another scheme. Here is a case of four pastoral farms, which, before they were taken over for small holdings, maintained 97 people, but which in 1925, after settlement, maintained 545 people. Therefore, I submit that there is a method of realising the object of the land maintaining the largest possible population. Along with my right hon. Friend the late Minister of Agriculture, some few weeks ago I visited a small holdings colony in Essex, and there I learned that on land which previously to being taken over for small holdings comprised two farms, approximately 500 acres, and maintained two farmers' families, there are now settled 60 families, with 60 houses. I submit, therefore, that the Ministry and the country have every justification for pressing forward as fast as possible this method of small holdings.
May I put this point to those who object to the scheme, for some reason or other? Strange to say, their objections are snore often stated in private than in public. The Ministry, in the White Paper to which I have referred, say there is now an opportunity for an extension of small holdings, but one hears criticisms that there have been a great many failures. I will give a fact or two from the Report of the West Riding County Council on small holdings both 634 pre-War and post-War. On page 10 of that Report, there occur these startling figures:The following shows the number of holdings created, and up to the present time the failures in each case: Ordinary cases: Tenants, 446; failures, 5; percentage, 1.1.They go on to say that in the case of the self-supporting holdings created before 1919 the percentage of failures on the West Riding was only seven-tenths per cent., or less than one in a hundred. Of course, we own that after the War conditions there were special difficulties with which to contend, and the Act of 1919 was designed to deal with the needs and requirements of ex-service men, not of persons who had been trained in agriculture, but of men broken in the War, and the special care of the nation. That material was taken, but in spite of that fact, I see that the average failures from 1919 for the whole country work out at only 7 per cent. These are very striking figures, and I submit that there is every possible justification for going forward with this policy. May I also call attention to the Report of the Ministry for 1919 to 1924, where they give the achieved results of small holdings in various districts. Here is a. ease from Cambridge, of two brothers, both ex-service men, with a holding of 43 acres, 40 acres arable, with house and buildings, at Michaelmas, 1918. Their capital was supplemented by a loan of £300, the of which has been repaid. They specialise in pigs and have been so successful that recently they have been able to take a further 20 acres of land. I will give a second case, this time from Devonshire, of an ex-service man trained under the Ministry's scheme, who took a four-acre holding with house and buildings, at Michaelmas, 1922, and who is stated to be probably the most successful poultry farmer on the Council's estate, having sold in the last year 300 chicken and 50,000 eggs, practically all going to Birmingham and the Midlands. I admit that there have been failures, but there are the facts of achieved experience, and I submit that with these facts before us, and the necessities of the country, there is every reason for the Government not simply to put into a White Paper their intention to do something about small holdings, but to sit down and do it.
We were told by the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman last year, and 635 it has been stated this afternoon, that under the Acts of 1908 to 1914 some 15,000 people were settled in small holdings. From 1919 up to the present time something like 17,000 or 18,000 have been settled, making a total of roughly 33,000, and representing a population of about 130,000. It ought to have been 500,000, and in that case the benefit to the country would have been proportionate. It is all very well to say that there is plenty of room in the Colonies and Dominions for men out of work and that they will furnish an increased market for our goods, but I submit that they will furnish far better markets if settled on English land than even in Australia. They will be nearer to our doors and more closely associated with us in regard to the exchange of goods and purchasing power, and I submit that it will be to the advantage of the nation in every possible sense, especially in view of the persistently critical condition of unemployment, that this policy, upon which we all agree, should be pursued without any kind of hesitation. We may be told that small holdings are a matter of great expense and that the question must be approached very carefully and with due regard to the national resources. I submit that it would be far more rational for any Government in this country to spend a few million pounds, if it were only £30,000,000, on well-organised schemes of small holdings, with men adequately trained before being put on to the holdings, than to go on with the method which is now being pursued, with thousands and tens of thousands of men out of work and receiving money for no exchange of labour of any kind whatever.
I have here a statement of the money which, during the last three years, we have paid from the State for unemployment benefit. In the insurance year 1922–23, the contributions by the employers amounted to £18,110,000, by the work-people £15,900,000, and by the Exchequer £12,170,000. In 1923–24, the respective contributions under these three heads were £19,560,000, £17,360,000 and £13,180,000. For the year 1924–25 the figures respectively were £19,580,000, £17,340,000 and £13,150,000. Within three years the Exchequer has contributed towards unemployment benefit, has paid 636 for no work, no less than £38,500,000 of the taxpayers' money, while the total amount of unemployment benefit amounts to over £146,000,000. Criticism of the policy the Government are pursuing is because it involves the nation in all this money, which is simply lost. I submit that this is a most insane policy. The Government have no courage or the proper spirit in this matter. I appeal to the Minister, and I appeal to the Prime Minister, really to take a broad-minded view of the situation, and to work out a scheme which would tend in a more productive direction.
I must not overstep the mark, and will endeavour to keep in Order, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite whether it is not possible to visualise the situation? Consider the fact that that prevailing, mining situation has accentuated, and, possibly, will further accentuate matters, many miners having practically no chance of work at all. There were 200,000 out before the. War, and since the pits have closed down the number of unemployed has swollen. Could not the Government see the need of taking a broad view, a broad survey, and planning land settlement that would offer a chance to men who cannot get work in their own trades to become trained and settled on the land, and so become producers, and so provide and make markets?
§ Sir ROBERT THOMAS
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I recognise that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has yet to reply in the short time before us, so, on behalf of my party on this side of the House, I am under the very painful necessity of moving to reduce the Vote as a protest against the ineffective speech to which we have listened from him. I represent an agricultural constituency. I am painfully conscious of the terrible conditions under which the farmers and the agricultural labourers are obliged to exist to-day. It is, in my judgment, and in the judgment of those associated with me, no time for the Minister to come to the House without any proposals of a tangible kind to relieve the terrible conditions existing. Having regard to that, I beg to move the reduction.
§ Mr. LAMB
The hon. Gentleman has just spoken and moved the reduction of the Vote by way of protest. It would not appear that he has the very strong 637 support of his own party in the protest, or that it is heavily hacked, judging by the appearance of the benches opposite. He said that he did not want to stand in the way of the Minister replying. Neither do I. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee, and prevent the Minister from replying to the various questions that have been put to him by the various speakers. Here again, however, I should like to observe, that although there has been a great tendency to ask for information, there does not appear to be the same tendency to hear what the explanations are. Whether the great incentive has been to make speeches on the matter, or really to take an interest and listen to the Minister, I shall leave to others to say.
My object in rising was primarily to express the appreciation which organised agriculture has of the action which the Minister has already taken in a few particular eases. I refer to the embargo which took place upon the importation of meat carcases from the Continent. The right hon. Gentleman acted not only with courage—because it did require courage—but he acted with promptitude. I think we shall all agree, when the question of the importation of disease either among the herds or the population of this country is concerned, promptitude in action in excluding the possibility of its introduction is a very great item. Not only was it so in regard to that, but there was the other case. That was the embargo placed upon the importation of cherries from abroad, and with them the importation of the cherry fruit fly. It might be thought that this is not a very big item. I can, however, assure the House that the fruit-growers of this country viewed with very great concern the possibility—the probability—which turned out to be a certainty, of the importation of this cherry fruit fly by the importation of cherries. I do wish to express, therefore, very sincerely the appreciation which organised agriculture has of these particular occasions. When the right hon. Gentleman has had to face the criticism he has had to face, I think it is only just that if agricultural Members can show their appreciation of the attitude of the Minister of Agriculture, they should do it.
There was one other thing which the right hon. Gentleman said, which myself, and I know agriculturists, will appreciate very strongly. He expressed 638 his aversion to increasing the inspectorate. If there is one thing the farmer does want, it is the opportunity to farm his land by what he himself knows—and he is the only person who can know—is the best method in which the land can be farmed. Agriculture and farming are distinctively individualistic operations as we have claimed for a long time. We still maintain it. We have proof of it, because during the War the Government stepped in, took big tracts of land, set up committees, and the land was farmed very largely by the same men who made a success of it in an individualist capacity. In a collective capacity, working under a committee, the farming of the land by the committee was not very successful. The Government could not make it a success. The Co-operation Societies took large tracts of lands in the country, and they have shown very good sense later in trying to get rid of it. Agriculture and farming are individualist operations which do not benefit by undue and unnecessary control; therefore, it is a very great satisfaction to hear the Minister say what he does about not increasing the number of inspectors.
Reference has been made to the capacity of the land of this country for production. Remarks have been made which are largely, unfortunately, to the detriment, or they are suggested to the detriment, of the capacity of the farmers of this country. I stand here, and without fear of being contradicted, assert that the farmers of this land can and do produce equal to the farmers in any other country. We have undoubtedly amongst us some of those men who are not farming as they ought, or perhaps as they would; but I would like to ask if there is no other industry of which that can be said? The farmer is under this disability: his operations are open to the whole world. On the other hand, you can walk down any street and all you can see of the business capacity and operations of those who are employed in the industry is seen through the shop window. You do not know what is going on behind the window. A farm is a very different thing. The farmer's operations are open to his neighbours. He gets any amount of criticism, far more, perhaps, than he deserves, or desires, or is inclined to take, and in many cases he is criticised adversely.
639 The suggestion is that per acre of land abroad the production is more than in this country. As a matter of fact, some of the figures which Sir Thomas Middleton gave some time ago proved that in Germany the amount of food produced was greater than in this country. It was, however, so much per hundred acres, and not so much per acre. The reason for this was simply that there was a greater proportion of land in Germany under arable cultivation than under grass. We all know that there is a greater bulk of food produced on arable land than from grass land. That is why the comparative statement is suggested, that very possibly the foreign country was producing more than we, but on the individual acre we are producing a greater amount. It is quite true to say that the arable area is decreasing. No one deplores that more than I do. It is not the fault of the Government. It is not the fault of the Department of Agriculture. It is really—I will not say the fault—but in consequence of the decision of the community as a whole—they have at elections made it quite clear—that they will not have the only means by which cultivation in this country of certain land can be made a success. That remedy, for the time being, is ruled out.
After all, agriculture is and must be an economic question. The fact of the matter is that when it pays the producer to produce, he will do so. Farming in this country was never so good as during the years of the War. Despite the fact that there was a shortage of labour at that time, farms were in a better condition, and actually better looked after and more food was produced simply because it was a paying proposition. We have been deploring the fact that it has not been so of late, but that requires some qualification, because there are more men employed in agriculture to-day than there were before the War. Even with that, we get a reduced arable acreage. Here I take it there is some credit which ought to be given to the agriculturists themselves, because they are continually employing the same or a greater number of men on a lesser arable area, showing that there is a disinclination on the part of the individual farmer to part with his men, and that he tries to retain them to the last. There 640 should also be taken into consideration the fact that not only does he do that, but he farms perhaps more intensely the land still continued in occupation. It is quite true that some of the poorer class of arable land has gone out of cultivation, and probably will have to go. It is a sad thing to say, but it probably will have to go because, after all, the product of arable cultivation receives more competition from abroad than the grassland, and we find it absolutely impossible, on our poorer land, to compete with the climatic conditions and labour conditions abroad. We produce more per acre than they do, but their extra number of acres and lower cost of production counterbalances the extra amount which we produce per acre.
I will not go on because, as I said before, I do not wish to stand between the Minister and the reply which we hope he will give us, and I will conclude by saying very briefly but very genuinely, how much we appreciate the action he has taken.
§ Mr. GUINNESS
I am grateful to the hon. Member for cutting short his remarks because, as the Committee is aware, there is an arrangement by which this Debate should be brought to a conclusion at 8.15. I have already trespassed so long on the Committee's patience, but I want to answer a few of the points which have been raised in debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northern Norfolk (Mr. Buxton), from his detailed knowledge of farming, asked for information on a good many detailed points. He referred to the question of arable stock raising. Since he left the Ministry we have changed the system of that inquiry and it is now under the control of the Institute of Agricultural Economics at Oxford. We are awaiting their first annual report. but it is safe to say that their experiments have already proved of value as to certain methods of cropping—their suitability or otherwise to smallholders and other farmers, and even where the results were negative, there is no doubt we shall get considerable value from the mere fact that the experiments have been tried and failed, and from the experience so gained.
The right hon. Gentleman further asked what we were going to do about marketing, especially in regard to eggs. In all these marketing reforms the initiative 641 must come from the industry concerned. The egg problem is being carefully considered by the National Farmers' Union and the National Poultry Council, and we shall most readily co-operate and take any necessary action which may be thought useful for the improving of British production.
The right hon. Gentleman then asked about the production of yeoman wheat. Last season was the first time it appeared on the British market. Three thousand quarters were then made available, and they have been sown and the crops will he harvested this year. It is, I fear, impossible for some years to come, that the full demand for this most valuable new variety will be satisfied.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about credits. I should naturally not be in order in dealing with the proposal in detail, but as the matter has been raised I can assure the House we have every intention of going on with our proposals. We are negotiating with the banks as to long-term credits, and we are waiting for the considered opinion of the National Farmers Union as to the proposals which have been put forward for a chattel mortgage and the form it should take. I confess that when this proposal was first put forward I did not realise how much dislocation might be caused or, at all events, feared by farmers, owing to the possibility of the disturbance of the present arrangements with merchants and others who now supply credit. It is quite obvious that a matter of this kind is not to he embarked upon hastily before it is established that the industry feels the proposals will be of value. The present position is that the National Farmers' Union are taking steps to obtain the opinions of their branches throughout the country, and if that is favourable we will certainly ask the House to allow this proposal to be put on the Statute Book.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) asked what we were going to do about the national survey of agriculture. As he is no doubt aware, we are preparing a Report which will embody the results of the recent census of agricultural production. This will give us a great mass of information to supplement that in our possession every year in the form of the agricultural returns, and we have also taken steps by means of the 300 crop reporters, 642 who are available throughout the country, to get a certain amount of special information. We shall in this Report include statistics showing the present position and development in the acreage under cultivation in this country, the production and yield, the live stock, the amount of labour employed, and the movement of prices. We hope also to give valuable figures as to the capital invested.
We are making inquiries as to the use of land which does not appear in the agricultural returns, and we are inquiring how far it includes areas which are suitable for cultivation. We are further pursuing inquiries as to the different classes of holdings and trying to get definite information as to the number included in the returns which are only partially used for agriculture and which cannot be looked upon as commercial undertakings. We shall, of course, give the House all the definitely ascertained facts which we can obtain. But when you get beyond facts into the realm of opinion, as to whether certain areas are underfarmed or overfarmed—when you get into these matters which cannot be judged merely on production or simply by the compilation of statistics, and where you have to take into account the very complicated economic problem of the farmers' profit and loss—it is not altogether easy to compile statistics which will be convincing or satisfying to any section of opinion. I will, however, most certainly examine the possibility of picking out a few counties, as has been suggested today, and will explore the advantage of making a descriptive survey, and if I find we can embody such information in the Report, we shall do so.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is no longer here, but he was rather indignant at my quoting authorities to rebut certain reckless statements which he had made and which I quoted. The authorities and figures I gave stand for themselves, but in his speech he again selected further instances and tried to argue as to the general state of agriculture and the general inefficiency of British farmers, from specially picked instances. He took the ease of the London meat trade, and he assumed with great confidence that I had not read the Report. I do not 643 know if he has read it himself; anyhow, I have heard a good deal about the London meat trade in the last week or two, and even if the right hon. Gentleman did read that Report, I do not suppose he has spent as much time on the conditions of the London meat trade as I have done in connection with the meat embargo. It is a singularly unfair test of the state of the market for British meat, for London stands quite alone in this country in its very high proportion of foreign meat consumed, and it is entirely misleading to take one isolated market and argue from it as to the condition of the meat trade, and as to whether British agriculture and the production of livestock is or is not efficient. But as he made this challenge, let me give the figures of the increase in British livestock.
Our population has increased, and the consumption of London is colossal, but it surely cannot be suggested that it is at all relevant to consider the figures in London unless you consider the figures throughout the country and the improvement which is taking place in our production. I have the figures here for England and Wales for the period 1920 to 1925. Dairy cattle in that period had increased in every single year without a setback, and they had increased in that period by 361,000. The total of our cattle has also increased every year, without a single drop in the numbers. The number has gone up in the period mentioned by 617,000. The total of our sheep has fluctuated, but the number has risen in the same period by more than 2,500,000. The pig population, which is the most fluctuating of all, has also increased by 650,000.
The right hon. Gentleman is always devoting himself to blackening the British record as compared with the record of our foreign competitors, but it is useless for
him in his criticisms to pretend that what we mean by our arguments is that we live under a perfect system in this country. I have never suggested it, and I do not think anybody has suggested it. What I do say is that though, no doubt, there are bad fanners, though agriculture, like every other industry, must vary according to the efficiency of those who conduct it, yet taking it as a whole, it is just as well served by those engaged in it as is any other industry or profession. Of course it can be improved, and I should be the last to deny it, but I have been chiefly concerned to show, not from my own small knowledge, but on the authority of Professor Macgregor and other statisticians, that we do not compare unfavourably with other foreign countries. The figures which are so popular with the right hon. Gentleman are misleading, and it, is also misleading for him to tell the Committte that Professor Macgregor's figures of the corrected Census of Production are only those of a minority, because it is definitely stated on page 5 that this is not a question of a majority or a minority Report. These are the words:
The final reports should be regarded as largely supplemental one to another, each report treating certain aspects of the problem more fully than the other.
§ It really is not convincing for the right hon. Gentleman to taunt us with doing nothing to help the farmers. We are out to try to make it easier for them to make profits, and we can fairly say that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, far from helping to increase the margin between the expenses and the receipts of British farmers, would only aggravate their problem.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £759,028, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 77; Noes, 182.645
|Division No. 302.]||AYES.||[8.20 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hayes, John Henry|
|Batey, Joseph||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Bonn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Duncan, C.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Broad, F. A.||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Bromley, J.||Gillett, George M.||Jones. T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Gosling. Harry||Kelly, W. T.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lansbury, George|
|Cluse, W. S.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and colne)||Lawrence, Susan|
|Connolly, M.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lawson, John James|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Lee, F.|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Lowth, T.|
|Lunn, William||Sexton, James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J,R.(Aberavon)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Viant, S. P.|
|Mackinder, W.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Oliver, George Harold||Smlille, Robert||Welsh, J. C.|
|Palin, John Henry||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Whiteley, W.|
|Paling, W.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Snell, Harry||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Potts, John S.||Stephen, Campbell||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Purcell, A. A.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Riley, Ben||Sutton, J. E.|
|Runclman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Taylor, R. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)||Sir Godfrey Collins and Sir Robert|
|Scurr, John||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)||Hutchison.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Hanbury, C.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Apsiey, Lord||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Peering, Sir William George|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Harland, A.||Phillpson, Mabel|
|Atkinson, C.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Pilcher, G.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hartington, Marquess of||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Ralne, W.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Haslam, Henry C.||Ramsden, E.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Berry, Sir George||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Hill's, Major John Waller||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St.Marylebone)||Rye, F. G.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Holland, Sir Arthur||Salmon, Major I.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Holt, Captain H. P.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hudson, Capt. A, U. M. (Hackney, N)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Braun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumb'I'nd, Whiteh'n)||Savery, S. S.|
|Brown, Maj. D.C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Hunter-Weston, Lt. Gen. Sir Aylmer||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newby)||Hutchison,G.A.Clark (Mldl'n & P'bl's)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unlv.,Belist)|
|Barton, Colonel H. W.||Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Campbell, E T.||Jacob, A. E.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Jephcott, A. R.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Christie, J. A.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Stanley. Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Couper, J. B.||Lamb, J. Q.||Streatfelld, Captain S. R.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Loder, J. de V.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Looker, Herbert William||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Laugher, L.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Maclntyre I.||Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||McLean, Major A.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W|
|Ellis, R. G.||Macmillan Captain H.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Elveden, Viscount||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Everard, Lindsay||Macquisten, F. A.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Wells, S. R.|
|Fielden, E; B.||Malone, Major P. B.||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Finburgh, S.||Margesson, Captain D.||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Marrlott, Sir J. A. R.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Forrest, W.||Meller, R. J.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Fremantle, Lt.-Col. Francis E.||Merriman. F. B.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Wilson, A. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Gates, Percy||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Grotrlan, H, Brent||Neville, R. J.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Nicholson, O (Westminster)||Major Cope and Captain Viscount|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Oakley, T.||Curzon.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.646
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.