HC Deb 30 November 1926 vol 200 cc1079-87

I beg to move, in page 3, line 22, after the word "council," to insert the words: persons willing to work on a cooperative system shall have power to appeal within one month to the Minister against the refusal of the county council to approve their system. I should like to commend this Amendment, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren), to the Minister, because we feel that if these small holdings are to be successful, they must be allied with the marketing system, and it is impossible for the small grower or cultivator by himself to market his produce effectively. Even the large grower has difficulty in that direction, and wherever small holdings have been developed success fully, it has been on a co-operative basis. Therefore, we feel that if the Minister intends to develop small holdings effectively side by side, he should endeavour to develop the co-operative system. Not only that, but, as a matter of fact, the Minister knows we have a consumers' co-operative movement in this country which could be very well linked up so as to take the produce from co-operative small holdings. If the hon. Member for Burslem had moved this Amendment, provided the Minister could have seen his way to accept it, I should have liked later on to have moved a further Amendment, and perhaps I may take this opportunity of indicating the line of the further Amendment.

In the first place, this Amendment draws attention to the necessity of sympathetic consideration for the development of co-operation in agriculture, but I desire to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that when we have developed a co-operative system of farming, we do not appear to obtain very favourable treatment from county councils. The further Amendment is intended to draw the attention of the House to the fact that, while we are passing legislation of this sort, co-operative farming and co-operative organisation may be seriously injured if the county council is not sympathetic. In the Wholesale Co-operative Society we have had experience of what one might term biased county council authorities against the co-operation system. I think the Minister and hon. Members opposite will realise that in the development of agriculture in this country there are two opposing views. Already, on a previous Amendment, opinion has been voiced on this side to the effect that we feel that ownership of land primarily belongs to the community, and any system of cultivation should be on the basis of tenancy rather than on the basis of ownership. The reason we wish to further the development of co-operative farming is that we believe it is a step in the direction of co-operative ownership of the land, either on the part of the State, the county council, the local authority or co-operative organisations as such. It embodies, of course, the collectivist principle of farming and the cultivation of land, and, in view of the Volume of opinion which has developed in this country, which we on this side of the House represent in principle, I think it is a desirable thing that this should be eneouraged in every direction.

I do not think, as a matter of fact, that agricultural interests in this country will lose by working-class organisations gaining experience in the cultivation of land. It brings co-operative organisations, who speak for what we might describe as industrial opinion, to represent the views and interests of the consumers in our large industrial towns, which react considerably on the development of agriculture in this country. I think it is a practical gain to agriculture that bodies representing that point of view should gain first-hand experience of the farming and agricultural conditions of this country. Let roe draw the attention of the Minister to one or two experiences which, in our view, show that a good deal of bias inn prejudice can be levelled against the development of co-operation, and this Bill and this particular Clause at present do not meet this difficulty. I think the Minister is aware of some of the facts which I am going to mention. The Co-operative Wholesale Society has an estate at Coldham, in Cambridgeshire, of 3,000 acres. It is very well cultivated; it is intensively cultivated. It has been used for fruit and vegetable produce, and it was the intention of that organisation eventually to establish jam works right in the heart of the country in order to deal with the produce from the estate in its most fresh condition for the purpose of producing jam, and I submit that the linking-up of rural industries of manufacture in the centre of our agricultural communities represents a distinct advantage.

What has been our experience? We find that the county council is strongly prejudiced against the system of co-operative marketing. A question was put to the Minister some time ago, and from the information given to the House it was apparent that this particular county council had not obtained land from any other owner or occupier within its area. The only estate which was encroached upon was a co-operative estate, and all our experience goes to prove that was directed by prejudice. As a matter of fact, one of the county councillors, who had a good deal to do with the influence used on that occasion, actually made a public statement that he did not approve of the Co-operative Wholesale Society owning land at Cold-ham. While individuals are entitled to their views in matters of this sort, I think in matters of public policy, at least, we want some safeguard in legislation of this description, that if we cannot get local equity, the Minister of Agriculture should hold the scales fairly evenly balanced, to see that prejudice does not work Acts of Parliament.

In view of the fact that during 1923 and 1924, 260,000 acres of land in this country, previously arable, were put back to grass, 200,000 acres to ordinary pasture, and 60,000 acres to rough grazing, we feel that the policy of the Minister of Agriculture should be directed to seeing that land of that description is utilised for the purpose, provided, of course, it is suitable land. I would be the last person to advocate that the smallholder should be put on a type of land which prevents his success at the very commencement. But the land to which I am referring—at least a good portion of it— had been used for arable cultivation previously, and it was considered of fair standard. Those on this side who desire to see a greater number of people in this country really engaged in land cultivation, brought into open spaces, away from the crowded areas of our industrial system, at the same time desire to see that this new development should take Place in harmony with the genera] interests of the consumers, because, rightly or wrongly, we claim that if the interests of the countryside become antagonistic to the general interests of the country, the weight of the industrial interests of Great Britain is bound in the long run to be asserted to the detriment of agriculture.

That is why we are urging this Amendment, and I hope the Minister will accept it. He should make it clear that part of the policy of this Bill is not only to establish small holdings, but to encourage smallholders immediately to start on a firm foundation of co-operative organisation, so that their purchase requirements of seeds and instruments, and the use of machinery, can be obtained on the most economic footing, and that in marketing their produce, they will not be at the mercy of the middleman, the speculator and the market proprietor, but will be linked up with the consumers' co-operative movement, and thereby get full value for their produce. This Amendment, as I have said, does not go as far as I would like it to go, and if the Minister be willing to accept it, I should like to move later on that, after the word "system," to insert the words or against any action of a county council tending to injure the development of cooperative farming. This additional Amendment is submitted to give co-operative undertakings in farming some guarantee that they will not beat the mercy of prejudiced and biased county councils.


Before calling on the Seconder, I must point out that the Mover covered a larger field than this Amendment really justifies. This Amendment proposes an appeal to the Minister against the refusal of the county council to approve their system. The hon. Member must keep to that point.


I beg to second the Amendment.

As has been pointed out by the hon. Member who has moved this Amendment in my name, this is to safeguard any co-operative endeavour against any prejudicial judgment on the part of a county council. I do not think this is at all contentious, and I think the Minister might concede the point that it is possible in some parts of the country—in fact, I am sorry to say, it is true—that some county councils do not care about having co-operative movements in their areas at all. I think the Minister, if I may take his statements in Committee, would be the last person to stop any genuine co-operative effort in small holdings. This is merely to give such a movement the right of appeal against a biased judgment on the part of a county council. As the Bill stands, a county councils have the last word as to whether there should be co-operative allotments in their area. This is purely a safeguarding Amendment, and I do not think there is anything to be said against it, and I ask that it may be added to the Bill.


Quite different points affecting the co-operative movement have been raised in connection with this Amendment. The Amendment itself deals with the power of local authorities to provide small holdings for co-operative societies, and asks that in the case of unreasonable refusal there should be an appeal to the Minister. The hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) raised a further point, which it would not be in order for me to go into now.


I was not expecting to have to move the Amendment.


The hon. Member mentioned a further and quite separate Amendment providing that land farmed by co-operative societies—great organisations like the Co-operative Wholesale Society, whose ease he mentioned—should be exempt from compulsory purchase in cases where the Minister thinks it unreasonable. I am afraid we could not put these big co-operative associations in a privileged position. In all cases of compulsory purchase we have to consider the merits of the case. The Ministry decides whether compulsory purchase is to take place, before the compensation is assessed, but we cannot give exemption to one class of freeholders as against another class.


We do not want that, but we do not want victimisation.


Many other people would allege victimisation. Many people are afraid of what will happen under the compulsory powers of this Bill. We believe the existing machinery works justly and enables the Ministry to say whether a compulsory order should be made, and, where an order is made, it ensures that adequate compensation is given; and we believe that the Co-operative Wholesale Society is just as certain of receiving fair treatment under that method as any other owners of land. But the Amendment deals with quite a different point. It asks that where local authorities have been asked to sell or lease land to smallholders who are on a co-operative basis, and they refuse, there shall be an appeal to the Ministry. We are quite in agreement with the mover of the Amendment as to the necessity of giving adequate facilities to smallholders to acquire land for cooperative cultivation, but we believe the provisions of the Small Holdings Act, 1908, are satisfactory in this respect, and we are therefore re-enacting Section 9, Sub-section (2) of that Act.

As far as can be traced in the Ministry, there has never been any case under that Act in which unreasonable treatment of co-operative, or intending co-operative, smallholders by a local authority has been alleged, and, in the absence of a very strong case, it really would not be wise for the House of Commons to interfere with the free choice of tenants by the county councils. After all, the local authority are responsible for the whole loss over and above 75 per cent. of the loss, the approved estimate which they put forward to the Ministry before embarking on the scheme. Not all tenants, not even all co-operative tenants, are necessarily successful, and the Ministry and the Exchequer would be in an impossible position if, after having limited their contribution to a scheme, they then forced upon the local authority tenants against the will of that body. It is not from any lack of sympathy with the co-operative movement as applied to smallholders that I feel bound to resist the Amendment, but because I believe it trenches on an invariable principle of our administration in this matter, that local authorities must be free to choose their own tenants.


The Minister has used arguments against granting immunity to any particular class of holders, but surely that is irrelevant to this particular Amendment.


I think the right hon. Gentleman did not hear the speech of the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes), which introduced quite a different point, and I have been answering that.


Perhaps he was irrelevant too: but the Amendment deals solely with the proposal for an appeal, and when the Minister realises that that is all that is contained in it, can he not look favourably on this proposal, which may he very valuable, and is not at all offensive to a county council I know the Minister has no general objection to

appeals, because I have found fault with him on other Bills for an excessive devotion to appeals. I am thinking at the moment of the Drainage Bill. Can he not took on this as a very innocent proposal which might very well be granted?

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 122; Noes, 210.

Division No. 512.] AYES [6.54 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hayes, John Henry Salter, Dr. Alfred
Attlee, Clement Richard Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Scrymgeour, E.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hirst, G. H. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Baker, Walter Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Barr, J. Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) John, William (Rhondda, West) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Briant, Frank Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Bromfield, William Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Bromley, J. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles
Buchanan, G. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Stamford, T. W.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Kelly, W. T. Stephen, Campbell
Charleton, H. C. Kennedy, T. Sutton. J. E.
Clowes, S. Kirkwood, D. Taylor, R. A.
Cluse, W. S. Lansbury, George Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Lawrence, Susan Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Compton, Joseph Lawson, John James Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Connolly, M. Lee, F. Thurtle, Ernest
Cove, W. G. Lindley, F. W. Tinker, John Joseph
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities Livingstone, A. M. Townend, A. E.
Crawfurd, H. E. Lowth, T. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lunn, William Varley, Frank B.
Day, Colonel Harry MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Viant, S. P.
Dennison, R. MacLaren, Andrew Wallhead, Richard C.
Duncan, C. Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Dunnico, H. MacNeill-Weir, L. Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Fenby, T. D. March, S. Westwood, J.
Gardner, J. P. Maxton, James Wheatley, Rt. Hon J.
George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley) Whiteley, W
Gosling, Harry Montague, Frederick Wiggins, William Martin
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, North) Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Greenall, T. Murnin, H. Williams, David (Swansea. E.)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Naylor, T. E. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Oliver, George Harold Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Groves, T. Paling, W. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Grundy, T. W. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Windsor, Walter
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Potts, John S. Wright, W.
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Purcell, A. A. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hardle, George D. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Harris, Percy A. Ritson, J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES. —
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich) Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. A. Barnes.
Hayday, Arthur Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)
Acland-Troyte, Lieut. Colonel Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish Butler, Sir Geoffrey
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Betterton, Henry B. Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward
Ainsworth, Major Charles Birchall, Major J. Dearman Caine, Gordon Hall
Albery, Irving James Blundell, F. N. Cassels, J. D.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Boothby, R. J. G. Cautley, Sir Henry S.
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)
Astbury, Lieut.Commander F. W. Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Cazalet, Captain Victor A.
Atholl, Duchess of Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B. Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Braithwaite, A. N. Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Brass, Captain W. Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)
Balniel, Lord Briscoe, Richard George Christie, J. A.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Brittain, Sir Harry Churchman, Sir Arthur C.
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Brocklebank, C. E. R. Clarry, Reginald George
Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Clayton, G. C.
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Brown, Brig. Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Cobb, Sir Cyril
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Buckingham, Sir H. Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.
Bennett, A. J. Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Cockerill, Brig. General Sir G. K.
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Henderson Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Pilditch, Sir Philip
Cope, Major William Heneage. Lieut.-Col. Arthur P. Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Preston, William
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Hills, Major John Waller Price, Major c. W. M.
Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Raine, W.
Curzon, Captain Viscount Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Reid, D. D. (County Down)
Dalkeith, Earl of Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Rentoul, G. S.
Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd) Holt, Capt. H. P. Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities) Rice, Sir Frederick
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Cb'ts'y)
Davies, Dr. Vernon Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Dawson, Sir Philip Hume, Sir G. H. Sandeman, A. Stewart
Dean, Arthur Wellesley Huntingfield, Lord Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Drewe, C. Hurd, Percy A. Savery, S. S.
Eden, Captain Anthony Hurst, Gerald B. Shepperson, E. W.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Hutchison, G. A. Clark(Midl'n & P'bl's) Sianey, Major P. Kenyon
Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington) Hiffe, Sir Edward M. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)
Elliot, Major Walter E. Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Smithers, Waldron
Ellis, R. G. Knox, sir Alfred Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Elveden, Viscount Little, Dr. E. Graham Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)
England, Colonel A. Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Stanley. Lord (Fylde)
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Woston-s, M.) Lougher, L. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Everard, W, Lindsay Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Storry-Deans, R.
Falle, Sir Bertram G. MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Streatfield, Captain S. R.
Fansnawe, Commander G. D. Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Stuart, Crichton, Lord C.
Fermoy, Lord MacIntyre, Ian Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Fielden, E. B. McLean, Major A. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Finburgh, S. Macnag Men, Hon. Sir Malcolm Thom. Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Forestier-Walker, Sir L. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell
Forrest, W. Macquisten, F. A. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Foster, Sir Harry S. Mac Robert, Alexander M. Waddington, R.
Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel Wallace, Captain D. E.
Fraser, Captain Ian Makins, Brigadier-General E. Ward, Lt. Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Frece, Sir Walter de Malone, Major P. B. Warner. BriGadier-General W. W.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Manningham-Buller. Sir Mervyn Warrender, Sir Victor
Ganzoni, Sir John. Margesson, Capt. D. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Gates, Percy Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Wells, S. R.
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Meyer, Sir Frank Williams. Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Glyn, Major R. G. C. Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Williams. Herbert G. (Reading)
Goff, Sir Park Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)
Grace, John Moore, Lieut. -Colonel T. c. H. (Ayr) Winby, Colonel L. P.
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Grant, Sir J. A. Moreing, Captain A. H. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Greene, W. P. Crawford Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Wise, Sir Fredric
Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Murchison, C. K. Withers. John James
Grotrian, H. Brent Neville, R. J. Womersley, W. J.
Guinness, Rt. Hon, Walter E. Newman, Sir R. H. S. O. L. (Exeter) Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
Gunston, Captain D. W. Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)
Hanbury, C. Ormsby-Core, Hon. William Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Perkins, Colonel E. K. Young. Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)
Haslam, Henry C. Perring, Sir William George
Hawke, John Anthony Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Major Hennessy and Mr. F. C.