§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
I beg to move,That this House, realising that the acute and continuing depression in the industry of agriculture is causing serious hardship to the whole agricultural community, urges strongly upon the Government the necessity of providing without delay all practical measures for relieving the heavy burdens now weighing upon the industry.I took the opportunity during the Debate on the Gracious Speech from the Throne to bring forward the question of agriculture, but I make no apology for raising the question again, because it is one which I think the whole House will agree is of the very greatest importance not only to the agricultural community but to the whole country. Many industries at present are in a condition of great depression, but I feel that agriculture deserves very special consideration, because it is an industry on which the prosperity of the whole country very much depends, and this is particularly so in a constituency such as mine, where all the towns are very largely dependent on the prosperity of the industry and the industry is very dependent on the prosperity of the towns. No one denies that agriculture at present is going through very difficult times. On all sides we see farms under-cultivated or going out of cultivation, farmers losing money, workmen receiving low wages, and employment decreasing, and we see the landowner finding it very difficult to carry on. Depression varies with the different parts of the industry and in different parts of the country, but it spreads over every branch of the industry. In former times when there has been depression in agriculture it has usually been found that some branch of the industry is paying, but at present I do not think there is any branch of the industry at all in which profits are being made. The problem which I hope we shall consider to-day is how it may be made to pay, and I think the line we ought to pursue is to see how we can reduce the burdens that are at present weighing on the industry. We have to remember that agriculture is divided into a great number of branches, and what 444 helps one branch does not help another. Unfortunately agriculturists are rather apt to think only of the branch which affects themselves. If they are to find any solution of their difficulties it is necessary that, to whatever branch they may belong, they should all stand together, try to help each other, and try to understand each other's difficulties.
It is for this reason that I have turned to one of the far Eastern counties, where, I am afraid, conditions are even worse than in my own county, to get a seconder for this Motion—the hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Lieut.-Colonel Ruggles-Brise). It is difficult, if not absolutely impossible, to find any single remedy to put the industry back into that state of prosperity which we all wish to see. There are, of course, two remedies which would go a very long way towards that, but both are impossible, and the country would not stand them. I refer, of couse, to Subsidy and Protection. A great many of my farmers are asking for Protection, but that is not only contrary to pledges of the Government at the last Election, but also, I am afraid, it is doubtful whether the majority of persons would be in favour of it. We must, therefore, put these two things, Subsidy and Protection, out of consideration, because they are certainly not at the present time within the realm of practical politics.
I regret that the two Opposition parties have thought it necessary to put down Amendments to my Motoin, because I did hope that we might be able to combine to try to find some solution, or some way of helping the industry, without having to go into some abstract theory as to tenure of land. I hope the House will not allow itself to be led away from its object by any red-herring such as nationalisation or land tenure, but will consider what we really can do genuinely to help the industry of agriculture. Neither the Socialist policy of nationalisation nor the Liberal policy of semi-nationalisation is really going to do anything to help the industry out of the condition in which it now is. These two policies have been almost universally condemned by everyone who has any practical knowledge of the industry. The two policies are very nearly allied, and are not really invented with the object of helping and benefiting the industry of 445 agriculture. Their primary object is to eliminate the landholder, and their secondary object is to try to get a few votes from the towns, where people are more easily deceived about agriculture than they are in the country. They would not benefit agriculture in any way, and that is the general opinion of agriculturists throughout the country. The people who support these two policies seem to have a sort, of pathetic faith in committees, surveys, inquiries and things of that sort. They seem to think that by requiring the farmer to spend his days and nights in filling up returns, they are helping him to make farming pay. What the farmer wants is less interference, and not more interference, from Government and county officials. Those who think that surveys and inquiries are going to help, do not seem to realise that the duty of the farmer is to produce food for the nation, and not to produce work for officials.
I had a meeting with my farmers last week, and they put to me certain suggestions about which, I hope, the Minister of Agriculture may be able, later on, to tell us what he thinks, or, if he cannot tell us on the present occasion, perhaps he will tell us on some future occasion. I promised my farmers I would put these suggestions forward. Upon the first three I myself am not prepared to give any opinion at the present moment. The first of their suggestions was that all millers should be compelled by law to use a certain proportion of English wheat. Their second suggestion was that wheat should be allowed to come into this country free, but that flour should either be prohibited or taxed. That is, of course, a, thing which cannot be done at the present time, because it is not in agreement, with the pledges given at the Election, and it requires, I think, very careful consideration indeed, because, if it were put into force the risk might possibly be run of raising the price of bread or the price of flour, and that, as everyone knows, we do not wish to do, and cannot do. Their third suggestion was a tax on the export of offals. It is freely stated, I do not know with how much truth, that offals are being sold to foreigners at a cheaper rate than to the British farmers. The Minister will be able to tell us if that be so, and, if so, it certainly ought to be stopped, and I hope in that case he will take steps to 446 stop it. Of course, everyone realises the importance of cheap offals to the farmers of this country. These are matters which, as I say, require consideration, and cannot be put into force immediately.
When I spoke on this subject on the Address in Reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne, I ventured to put forward certain suggestions which would help the industry in general, and which, I hope, the Minister will be able to put into force without delay. Some of them affect other Ministers, perhaps, more than they do him. The first and most important suggestion I made was that agricultural land and buildings should be relieved of all rates. That is a measure of justice which ought to be carried out and, I hope, will be carried out this year. In addition to that, I suggested, although I do not think it can be done this year, that the original Exchequer grant towards the relief of rates, which is supposed to be 50 per cent., but is really somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15 or 20 per cent., should be raised to a genuine 50 per cent. Then I want to ask the Minister to reconsider the question of a tax on malting barley. I know he has decided that this tax is not practical, but a great many farmers think that if we could give it a little further consideration, it might be possible for this tax to be put on, and if, in addition to putting on this tax, the right hon. Gentleman could at the, same time persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the taxation on whisky and beer, it would without doubt be of very great help to farmers who grow barley, and farmers who grow barley are at the present time in very considerable difficulties.
While I am on the subject of liquid refreshment, I should like to mention the question of cider. I would ask the Minister to inquire into the question of what happens to cider imported into this country. If he finds that imported cider and cider from imported apples are sold in the name of one of our ciderproducing counties, I think he ought to take steps to prevent it. I am afraid this does not come under the Merchandise Marks Acts at the present time, but those Acts ought to be extended so as to include this, and a great many more of the articles produced by farmers and agriculturists generally should be marked, so that the consumer would 447 know whether he was buying a foreign or an English article. I am very glad to notice that we have, at any rate, got hold of one convert to this in the Liberal party, because the hon. Baronet the Member for Anglesea (Sir R. Thomas) wanted eggs brought under the Merchandise Marks Act. I do not know whether this shows yet another split in the Liberal party or not.
Another thing I would ask the Minister to do is to take up a more determined attitude when dealing with his colleagues in the Cabinet. I think he ought to insist upon the forces of the Crown being, as far as possible, supplied with English-grown produce, and certainly on at least two days a week, and more if possible, with British meat—meat grown in these islands. I do not believe that the cost would be as high as the right hon. Gentleman has stated in answer to a question, because I am sure that there is a great deal less waste in British meat than in frozen meat, and, therefore, the cost would not be so high as is generally thought. Then I would like him to urge upon the Minister of Transport to give us larger grants from the Road Fund for the upkeep of rural roads. We all know that the cost of roads all over the country has increased tremendously, and that the burden of the rates for the upkeep of these roads lies very heavily, not only upon farmers but upon everybody who lives in rural districts. I think we ought to have a larger share of the Road Fund towards the upkeep of rural roads, and that less ought to be spent on new roads, which are not so necessary as the upkeep of the present roads.
I want particularly to ask the Minister of Agriculture to stand up to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and to prevent him from putting any further burden on the agricultural industry. Such Orders as the Milk and Dairies Order and that prohibiting the use of preservatives in cream may be very excellent in themselves, but this is not the time to put extra burdens on agriculture, and there is no doubt that these Orders do put extra burdens on the industry. I warned the Minister of Health on several occasions that the Order prohibiting the use of preservatives in cream would cause a great deal of damage to the cream trade. I hear already that they 448 are finding difficulty in Cornwall and elsewhere, and only last Saturday I received a letter from a creamery in my constituency stating that some of the cream even now is reaching its destination in a sour condition. That cream is produced under the best conditions. The weather at present is fairly favourable for cream to travel, and if at this time of the year cream is arriving unsound, it is certain that things will be very much worse when the hot weather comes.
If nothing can be done to alter or modify this Order in some way, the cream trade will suffer very heavily, and that trade is a very important part of the agricultural industry in Devonshire. Thousands of pounds of cream are sold every week, large quantities being for tourists and the Midlands and North, and if this trade be ruined, as it may be by this Order, then agriculture in Devonshire will get in as bad a way as agriculture in the Eastern Counties. I hope that the Minister of Agriculture will be able to persuade the Minister of Health to make some alteration in this Order. If when the Minister of Health speaks at Exeter on Friday he is able to announce that he is prepared to make some modification of the Order prohibiting the use of preservatives in cream, and, at the same time, he is able to announce that he has changed his mind about imported skimmed milk, imported condensed skimmed milk, and will prevent this thoroughly useless article from being brought into the country, the announcement will be very welcome to everybody concerned in my part of the world.
I know the Minister will do all that he can to help research, co-operation, improved marketing, and to improve drainage. Perhaps he may be able to tell us presently what he is doing in regard to these subjects. I do not propose to talk about them, because there are many other Members who want to speak on this subject. If the Government will carry out the suggestions which I have made, I think they will find they will prove a great help to agriculture. We know that the Government have done a great deal to help the industry, but a great deal more needs to be done unless agriculture is to get into a worse condition than that in which it is now. If the Government carry out those suggestions—and they are 449 practical suggestions—I think they will find they are really doing something to help the industry. Although I do not for a minute say they will cure all our ills, yet they will go a very long way towards curing them; and, although some of us may go on grumbling and some people may have to grumble against the Government, I feel we shall not find that the agriculturists are ungrateful.
§ Lieut.-Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
I beg to second the Motion.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte) has spoken largely on the difficulties surrounding his own part of the world, the West country, where the soil is capable of producing large supplies of both meat and milk. I, on the other hand, come from the Eastern counties, where we have in the past prided ourselves on being capable of producing very large and very fine qualities of the very best cereals. I was interested to hear my hon. and gallant Friend stress the point, that in these times of agricultural depression both sides of the industry, those producing cereals and those producing meat and milk, should not look too closely to their own side of the question, but should pool their ideas and try to pull the whole industry through as one. Surely, it is a tragedy that in my district, where we have a soil which is capable of producing as good and as heavy crops as the soil in any other part of the world and where also we have at our very door the greatest market in the world, London and Greater London with their teeming millions of population, we should be compelled under present conditions to produce these crops at a loss. There is a further tragedy. We are being driven from our rightful task of producing cereals into competition with those farmers so ably represented by my hon. and gallant Friend by being compelled largely to turn to other forms of production, namely, meat and milk. What is the result of that? Whereas until recent years the grass farmer has not suffered so severely as the cereal farmer, to-day his position is very nearly as bad, because he is now suffering from a new form of competition in addition to the foreign competition which he has had to meet so long and which has been so severe. He now has to meet competition from his brother farmer. He is going into his line of business.
450 There has been a school of thought which for many years past has said this to the arable farmer: "If your grain crops do not pay to grow, grow meat or milk. Put your land down to grass." In my view, that has always been extraordinarily bad advice. It has added to the grass farmer's difficulties by giving him a new competitor while it has not got the arable farmer out of his own difficulties. Sight has been lost of this important fact, that the true balance within the industry itself has been upset, and this vital truth has been ignored, namely, that it is in the diversity of operations due to the diversity of our soil wherein lies the true strength of British agriculture. When I mention the depression afflicting our industry at the moment, possibly, it is not so necessary to give-very many particulars of that depression. I think the country as a whole is to-day realising better the position of agriculture. Although it is true to say that they admit that agriculturists are very depressed, I very much doubt whether the town dweller cares very much whether they are depressed or not. "The farmer," he says, "always is, and always was, a grumbler." Whether the farmer is a grumbler or not, I seem to have heard within the last two or three years something louder than a growl or a grumble from several other industries of our country. I seem to have heard a cry or two from the Lancashire cotton trade. I seem to have heard a grievance or two uttered in connection with the heavy industries of the Midlands and the North, and last, but not least, we have had a veritable shout of despair from the coal industry.
Although these other industries may have their difficulties to contend with, as undoubtedly they do from time to time, there are certain disabilities which afflict the industry of agriculture which are not shared by the other great industries of the country. I will only mention one or two. The first and obvious one, of course, is that of the weather, and the second is the slowness of our turnover. Our turnover in agriculture is extremely slow, because the processes of nature are extremely slow. We are condemned to wait for nature to fulfil her own processes before we can hope to get a crop which will show us a profit. I will not say anything further about 451 the weather, because I fear my language in that respect might possibly be unparliamentary. But I would like to say a further word about the question of turnover. When prices rise a farmer may be tempted to say, "Well, I see that that commodity is making a good price to-day, I think I will grow some of that crop. I will divide a certain portion of my farm to seed down that crop." He does so. He buys, perhaps, expensive seeds of the best quality, and he puts them in, and he cultivates the land in the approved manner. Then he has to wait, and it is the long waiting process which makes it so difficult for the farmer to have the situation under his control. Although prices may be high when he is sowing his seed, who knows that probably within a year or possibly 18 months, or before he can harvest and market the crop, the price may not have fallen away altogether?
The same arises on the other side. If prices fall, the farmer who has the whole of his farm in crop cannot cut his loss. He cannot do what so many people can do in other businesses and say, "Well, that stock represents to me so much. The market has gone against me, and I will cut my loss and get out of it." He cannot do that. He is committed for, perhaps, a year or nearly two years before he can get out of his own particular stock. When the farmer is called a grumbler, I think it is only fair to him that those who accuse him of being a grumbler should bear in mind some of these elementary facts. If any proof of the depression of agriculture is asked for, surely the answer can be given in a very few words. Let us look at the index figure. The cost-of-living index figure as given for the 1st January this year is 68 points above the pre-War datum line, but the index figure given for wholesale prices of agricultural commodities as sold on the market for December last is given as 38 points above the pre-War datum line—68 to 38, a gap of 30 points. Surely, that alone is sufficient proof of the condition in which the industry finds itself.
Actually, of course, the effect is very much greater than that, because our chief item of cost on our farms is that of labour. In my own district, labour to-day represents an increase of 115 points over 452 the pre-War datum line, and that is for a shorter number of hours worked during the week, which really brings the true figure to something approximating 120 points above the pre-War level. Farmers do not grudge a better standard of living to the agricultural worker at all. I am perfectly convinced after having spoken to them very often on this particular point that they do not. But they say, "We are up against it. We have this difficulty of paying for the labour. We want the labour; we want to be able to pay a price for the labour which will give the agricultural workers a reasonable standard of living." The agricultural worker has waited long enough for an increase; considerably longer than any other industry in the country, and farmers do not grudge him at all. The farmer is up against this fact, that, while willing to pay a higher rate of wages to his workmen, be has to reduce his costs in some way. If he cannot pay for all the labour he requires he has to have less labour. That is the position with which we are faced to-day. Tradesmen's bills and all other things into which the cost of labour enters are, of course, heavy items on the outgoing side of the farmer's account. You send your horse to be shod or your implements or machinery to be repaired —these are all things in which labour enters. This cost of labour, consequently, the farmer has to pay in very increased prices for even the smallest of services which are necessary to him in the course of his operations.
If we turn to feeding stuffs, what do we find? On my own farm last week, some of my wheat which was dry and of millable quality was sold at 40s. per quarter on the farm. On the same day, I was quoted the following prices for feeding stuffs. Middlings at £10 10s. a ton delivered to me on the farm and bran at £10 a ton delivered to me on the farm. The price of my wheat of 40s. per quarter converted to the price per ton was only £8 17s. 9d. How on earth is a farmer taking £8 17s. 9d. for his ton of wheat going to exist if he has to pay £10 10s. or £10 for the offals from the very commodity which he has sold to the producer? It is not altogether the fault of the middleman or the miller as some people wrongly suppose. What is the truth about it? Whenever wheat falls the price of flour falls. Whenever flour falls 453 there is acute competition between millers to make sales at almost any price, and their profit vanishes. What de they do? They say, "Well, if we cannot make a profit on our wheat flour we are going to make it on wheat offals." And they do. They charge the farmer, and the farmer has to pay. It is the same in the oil trade. How does the oil crushing industry behave if the price of oil goes down? Invariably you will find that the price of oilcakes goes up. The farmer pays again.
In addition to our burdens, we have statutory grievances. Apart from wages we have increased contributions to health, widows' and orphans' and old age pensions and things of that kind. They are shared, I admit, by other industries, but they can be afforded less by the agricultural industry. There is the question of tithe. I am perfectly well aware that in mentioning tithe I may be told that, if it were not for the Act of 1925, tithe would be somewhere up to £130 instead of being £109 10s. as it is to-day. Yes, but when the calculations were made which fixes the price of tithe at £109 10s. no one thought that the price of wheat was going to fall to 40s. If people require any proof of the depression existing in our industry to-day and the difficulties which we have to face, I will not ask them to take the mere word of the farmer. Let them ask the banker, the corn merchant, the miller, the land agent or even the lawyer, who does business in real estate. They will all tell the same thing. If that be so. it brings me to the broad question, is the industry worth saving or is it not? That is the great question. Ancient history supplies the answer, and it says: "Undoubtedly, yes. In the interests of the nation it should be saved and is worth saving." Modern history and the recent great War confirms that, every time.
There are four particular grounds which I should like to advance, which are sometimes overlooked in regard to the industry of agriculture. In the first place, agriculture is not merely a productive industry; it is a reproductive industry. What do I mean by that? I will take a simple illustration. Assuming that I have in one hand a lump of coal and in the other a handful of wheat. Both are productive. The wheat provides 454 human energy, while the coal provides energy for the engine. If I take one kernel out of the handful of wheat and drop it into the soil, that kernel of wheat is capable of producing another handful of wheat in a year's time. If I drop the lump of coal into the earth, it has no reproductive capacity whatever. Therefore, when you come to consider the relative importance of the two great industries of coal and agriculture, surely the one which has the prime claim to be considered the chief industry of the country is the one and only industry in the country which has this reproductive quality.
The next question is that of the displacement of labour in the agricultural industry. We all know what is happening to-day in connection with the displacement of labour in the coalfields. We know how acutely it affects our great problem of unemployment. I would ask the House to visualise what is going to happen if the only industry in the country which employs a number of men comparable to those employed to the coal industry, namely, the industry of agriculture, produces a great displacement of men. Supposing a large displacement of labour takes place in the agricultural industry, in addition to the existing displacement of labour in the coal industry, what will be the effect on urban industry and what will be the effect on urban labour? Urban industry will have to support the displaced labour from agriculture, because agriculture will not be able to support it. Urban industry, by means of increased taxation and increased rates, will have to support this displacement of agricultural labour. What about the effect on urban labour? The displaced agricultural labour will go to the towns, competing with urban labour, with the inevitable result that there will be a tendency to depress the level of the wages of urban labour. From both points of view, whether from that of urban industry or from that of urban labour, it is of vital importance that agricultural labour should be kept employed in the industry of agriculture.
There is also the question of our homegrown food supplies. Roughly, we import into this country foreign foodstuffs to the value of about £1,000,000 per day. We hear much about our adverse trade balance. To our very hands lies the 455 remedy. If we produce more home-grown food, even if only an additional supply for a week or a month, we shall strike a great blow to help the adverse trade balance. My fourth consideration is that of national security and our food supply in time of national emergency. I mention that the last, but I regard it as the most important of all. There are those who say: "Why bother about increasing production in the industry of agriculture. At the most, you could only produce extra food supplies for another week or two." I would like to answer that argument, and the answer is this: from history we can very easily see the duration of wars. There was the 100 years' war and the 30 years' war. The Napoleonic wars lasted 20 years. During the latter part of the 19th century the wars lasted two or three years, and the last Great War continued for 4½ years. The tendency obviously has been for wars to shorten. The next war may last not 4½ years; it may possibly last only 4½ months or possibly only that number of weeks or days. The engines of destruction are so potent that nobody knows what may happen. That is the answer to those who say that it is not worth while increasing our production of food in this country. It is vital that we should increase our food supplies, even though it might only mean a greater supply for a few weeks.
Then there is the increased danger to our food supply from submarines and aircraft. On that technical matter I should like to quote an expert. Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Webb, the President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, speaking at King's College, is reported, in the "Times" of 24th February, to have said in regard to our overseas commerce and food supplies:The submarine could not be ignored, of course, nor must we ignore or belittle the threat from hostile aircraft. Their potential menace was extremely grave, but it was an added menace, and the measures to combat it must be in addition to, and not in substitution for, those taken to meet the menace from surface vessels.He went on, and this is the important part:Then there was the second phase, the reception of our supplies and their distribution at terminal ports. Here we had a problem which the Navy was powerless to 456 solve, for the dock systems, with their railways and approaches, covered large areas which could be easily and heavily bombed by enemy aircraft. That was essentially an Air Force question, and one which called for earnest consideration. In the case of a distant adversary the threat might not be a serious one, but the tremendous strides in aircraft development brought ever nearer the threat to our ports. Some threatened objectives might be moved, but the ports of the Kingdom were geographical facts, immovable and unchangeable. There were something like 10,000,000 people in and around London who were largely dependent for their daily food on supplies through the Port of London, and no diversion to other ports could compensate for the closing of the port of London. He did not propose to attempt a close study of how that threat could be met.The threat can only be met, I submit, in one way, and that is by a reasonable supply of home grown food stored in stacks or in barns dotted all over the face of the country, comparatively immune from hestile aircraft attack. What will the next war be. The next war will not be fur the dismemberment of our limbs by means of shot and shell. The next war or the next attack on this country will be an attack on our lungs and our stomachs; on our lungs by means of gas and on our stomachs by depriving us of our food supplies. It is vital in the interests of the nation that we should grow the last grain of wheat in order to be ready to meet that emergency, with which we may be confronted at any time.
I will now say something about the Amendments on the Paper. The Labour Amendment says that the remedydepends upon the transference to the State of the ownership of all agricultural land.The Liberal Amendment says:No policy for that industry can prove beneficial which does not deal with tho rapid breakdown of the existing system of land ownership, and which does not include such a form of land tenure as will give greater security to the cultivator.When we come to consider the "breakdown of the system of land ownership," I am quite aware that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is the greatest expert in connection with the breakdown. Yet it is not so many months ago that we heard him deploring in this House the fact that the landlord of the past had now finally passed. It is not stretching the truth to say that he shed tears over the passing of the landlord. I will ask the House to visualise the picture of the right hon. 457 Gentleman attending the funeral of the country landlord. Imagine him progressing through the churchyard and down the path to the graveside. Walking along would be one of the tenants of the old landlord. I can see the right hon. Gentleman linking his arm in that of the tenant and commiserating with him on his loss. He might, perhaps, use words somewhat on these lines: "Cheer up, my good friend! It is possible that you will not find all the consolation you look for in the old Prayer Book, and. possibly you may not even find it in the Deposited Book. Allow me to present you with a copy of my Green Book, the very latest Edition." I can imagine the tenant replying: "Thank you, Sir, for nothing."
The fact is, that both the Liberal Amendment and the Labour Amendment fall into one common error. Their common error is that they think all the troubles of agriculture lie in the system of land tenure. It is not so, and I speak as a farmer. Our troubles lie in this, or chiefly in this, that we are not able to get. for what we produce a price which will pay for the cost of production. The Amendments visualise State enterprise in the operation of farming. The point is whether it should be the State or the county council. All I have to say about it is this, that if the State or the county councils go into the business of farming, while the farmer is bankrupt to-day, the state and the county councils will be bankrupt to-morrow.
A few words as to remedies. I am well aware that there is no one panacea for the evils of the industry. If that be so, we must search the field and see whether, at least, we cannot get some small palliatives. The first thing to do is to view the industry as a whole and to restore the balance in the industry itself. We want to restore the soil to the production of those products most. suited to it by nature, whether it be wheat in, one case or meat and milk in the other. We are out of balance in the industry and we must restore the balance in the industry as the first step. The indivdual products with which we intend to deal must be dealt with seriatim, so that the industry may be made to pay and we may get a price relative to the cost of production.
458 I will put in the form of a catalogue the remedies which I would like to suggest to the Minister of Agriculture. I will classify them under two heads, plus and minus, and put in the plus category those which will add to the profit side of the profit and loss account, and in the minus category those things which will detract from the farmers' profit and loss account. Let me deal with the plus category and the arable side of the industry. I hope the Minister will give due consideration to the prime cereal grown, the most important cereal grown, and that is wheat, and that he will reconsider his views in connection with wheat insurance. I am not going to elaborate it, but the right hon. Gentleman knows that there are proposals under which a farmer will be enabled, after he has sold his wheat, to come in voluntarily and contribute to a scheme which will ensure to him at the low prices ruling, something in addition to the price he actually receives in the market, which will enable him to meet his heavy costs of production.
Then, there is barley. I deplore the fact that the Government have come to a decision on this particular matter, and I am still unconvinced by what appears in the White Paper. For this reason, one vital thing is ignored. it is perfectly true that growers will and must buy a certain quantity of foreign imported barley of the highest grade in order to get a good quality of beer, and I also admit that if British farmers succeed in getting the right sample of English grown barley there is a market for it, but the fact is that in days gone by millers and brewers took from the British barley grower the great bulk of the middle-class barley, sound and sweet but not of the highest quality, which was quite good enough, and, in fact, was used, for making large quantities of the ales of this country. That is now completely ignored, and we have had foreign competition in that class of barley. Therefore I am unconvinced by the reasons given in the White Paper. There is no reason, so far as I can see, why we should not put a duty on agricultural and garden seeds. In England we are capable of producing as fine agricultural and garden seeds as any part of the world, but to-day we are absolutely glutted with foreign seeds from abroad. In many 459 parts of England the farmer has to pay for his main outgoings with his cereals and he has to look for his profit to what he may make on the production of his seeds.
Then there should be better marketing; and I know the Minister of Agriculture's views with regard to this important question. I am going to ask him to reconsider his decision with regard to grain storage and reconditioning. Some hon. Members have been at considerable pains to get all the information they can in connection with this matter, and we have put it before the right hon. Gentleman. I hope he will be able to give some reconsideration to this particular matter. There is no other method by which we can hope to cheat the weather than by the construction of reconditioning and storage plant, to which we can take the grain which is out of condition and have it restored to condition against the time when it will be to the best advantage to sell. I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend as regards meat supplies to His Majesty's forces, and I hope also that the milk publicity campaign will be pressed for all it is worth. If there are posters put up pressing people to consume larger quantities of milk, I hope they will read on these posters. "Drink more British milk.' The people of this country are largely using foreign condensed skimmed milk. I understand that it is impossible to put a ban on this, but if it is impossible to put a ban on this condensed skimmed milk, would it not be advisable to put a ban on that portion of it which comes here and which is not fit for consumption by infants. I think that would be a reasonable way out of the difficulty. As to that part of foreign condensed skimmed milk which is diverted into imitation ivory for making the backs of hair-brushes and imitation ivory billiard balls, we have quite enough surplus milk in this country which could be used for the manufacture of these articles.
We all look forward with great expectancy to some relief of rates on agricultural land, and, I hope, on agricultural buildings as well. I would like to put it. to the right hon. Gentleman in this connection that he should press his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to include in that remission all that portion of the tithe payment which represents 460 rates under the Tithe Act, 1925. He will remember that out of £109 10s. £5 is paid by the landowner to the tithe owner on account of rates which are to be met. If rates are taken off agricultural land it is only logical that this £5 should be taken off the tithe in order to make the position perfectly complete. Another thing I desire to mention and that is that the Land Tax should be abolished. A few years ago, the Inhabited House Duty was abolished, and, as a corollary of that, the Land Tax should be abolished. As regards long and short term credits, I do not know under which group they should figure, whether plus or minus, but if long term credit will enable capital to be increased then indeed it would be of real benefit to the farmer, and if on long or short term credit schemes the costs of interest are reduced, then, indeed, that would be another way of assisting the farmer.
I will not attempt to argue these remedies; I have detained the House already too long. Some of the remedies I have suggested I admit will cost money, but I will leave to the House this question: Is the industry from the widest point of view, from the national point of view, worth saving? There is only one answer to that question. and if the House takes the view which I trust it will then I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture will bring all his influence to bear on his colleagues in the Cabinet to view it from the same standpoint, and do all that is reasonably possible—but do it soon—to save British agricultural industry from complete decay.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words,realises that the continuing decay in agriculture is a grave national concern and should be dealt with by the Government without delay, and is of opinion that the placing of British agriculture on a sound and efficient basis so as to yield a fair return to the farmer, with security of tenure, subject to proper use and a satisfactory standard of living to the agricultural worker, depends upon the transference to the State of the ownership of all agricultural land, the adequate provision of capital for drainage and buildings, the encouragement of a system of co-operation in buying and marketing, the stabilisation of prices, and the energetic pursuit of scientific research.I should like to recall to the House the terms of the Motion, which seems to me to be what one might expect to appear in 461 a Motion submitted by hon. Members opposite. There is no word in the Motion indicating any constructive proposals for placing agriculture in a prosperous state. Hon. Members who are putting forward this Motion have merely proceeded in 1928 as they proceeded in 1896; they seek financial assistance to enable them to carry on their business, of which they have made such a lamentable failure. It is true that certain suggestions have been made by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion but the most important is that the Minister of Agriculture should secure from the Cabinet permission to place his hands in the pockets of other taxpayers in order to subsidise agriculture. That really is the kind of assistance which the Mover and Seconder of the Motion really suggest. Suggestions for grain storage plant, reconditioning, and other things fade into oblivion beside the proposal that financial assistance should be forthcoming if this great industry of agriculture is to be saved.
I want to refer to one or two things which are very important in relation to the assistance that has been given to agriculture in the past and the effect of that assistance as witnessed in the state of the industry at this particular moment. Both the Mover and the Seconder of the Motion have stressed the question of relieving agriculture of rates. In 1896 the same plea was put forward by agricultural Members of this House, and financial assistance to the extent of over £1,000,000 was granted in relief of rates. They failed to create for themselves a prosperous industry, and, in 1923, another Conservative Government, pressed as they have always been by farmers from behind, or by representatives from rural England, gave another financial contribution of about £3,000,000 in the hope that agriculturists would be able to place their industry on a sound foundation. Still agriculture continued a depressed industry. No real constructive effort was made to do what the hon. and gallant Member lamented, that is, secure for the agricultural community a better proportion of the ultimate prices paid, and in 1925 they again came forward to this House and asked for further financial assistance. The Rating and Valuation Act removed rates to the extent of 75 per cent. from all farm buildings. Not satisfied with this concession, they are 462 here again in 1928 with the same old song, "Tell me the old, old story"; more assistance at the expense of other industries. It seems to me that the more money the State provides, the more encouragement we give to this particular industry not to do the thing which ought to have been done many generations ago.
Agriculture, like all other industries, must, if it is going to place itself on a sound foundation and become a really prosperous industry, permit 20th century organisation to enter into not only its productive methods but its collection, grading, distribution and marketing problems. They will have to commercialise the agricultural industry as it has never been commercialised before. The Seconder of the Motion lamented several times that Tory millers were extremely unkind to Tory farmers, or that Tory middlemen were taking too big a toll from Tory farmers. From the commercial point of view, it is the same political mentality which barred the way to a successful agricultural industry in this country. The financial presents in 1896, 1923 and 1925 may or may not have been justified. They certainly were made to agriculture, and what has been the result from the point of view of preserving for us this great and vital industry? We have the evidence of two Commissions which have reported to the House.
This is what they say with regard to the success or failure of those who have been in charge of the land for so long. The Mover and Seconder of the Motion referred to land ownership, with which I hope to deal in a few moments. But here the Agricultural Tribunal of Investigation tell us that with all the financial assistance granted to agriculture from 1871 to 1923, the shrinkage in arable land reached 3,500,000 acres, or approximately 25 per cent., and that the tilled area declined to the extent of well over 27 per cent. The area of wheat went down 50 per cent., and, of barley 38 per cent. The Report summarises the total shrinkage in the area of all corn crops, including wheat, oats, barley, beans and peas in Great Britain, since 1871, as 30 per cent. Root crops, that is swedes, turnips, mangolds and so forth, declined by 33 per cent., so that the assistance granted has not prevented a terrific decline in the utilisation of our agricultural land.
§ Major PRICE
The hon. Member talks of financial assistance granted. There has been no financial assistance granted to agriculture. Agriculture merely has not had to pay.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
By the same rule the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree that if the mining industry was excused the payment of any rates in any mining area in Great Britain, the mining industry would be a very prosperous industry to-day. The hon. and gallant Gentleman puts forward the ingenious argument that no financial assistance had been granted to agriculture. The agricultural industry has been relieved from a payment that otherwise would have been made by that industry, and a correspondingly additional burden has been placed on the shoulders of people who, in many cases, were less able to bear it. My point is that with all this assistance, according to the evidence submitted to the Tribunal of Investigation, a tremendous decline in the utilisation of agricultural land has not been prevented. This has meant that at least 200,000 people have been turned off the land. It is too late for hon. Gentlemen in 1928 to lament the possibility of the countryside being deserted by rural labourers, who are flocking to the cities and towns and depressing the conditions of the urban population. They have already done this, and they have done it because the farmers themselves, or the landowners, or the two jointly, have failed to provide a really successful method of producing, collecting, grading and selling their produce.
It is no use for hon. Members to shake their heads. They cannot blame the agricultural labourer for the lack of prosperity in the industry to-day. Surely hon. Members opposite would not blame the miners for the failure of the mining industry to provide itself with prosperity. Who are to be blamed for the failure to bring prosperity to this industry, unless we ate to charge the owners of the land, who several years ago were regarded as the organisers of our agricultural life, and the tenant. farmers who have been charged with a duty of cultivating the land? At least we are justified in saying that if, after so many years, the farmers and landowners jointly have failed to organise their industry on such lines as to bring permanent 464 prosperity, then some other system ought to be attempted, for the present system obviously has failed. We say as a party that one reason for the failure is the method of land ownership. On every occasion when the State has been approached with a view to rendering assistance, whether for drainage purposes or for providing credit facilities or for providing some insurance machinery that would be cheaper than private machinery, the charge has always been made, and justifiably, that any assistance given to agriculture has ultimately filtered down into the pockets of the landowners. On the question of drainage what did the recent Drainage Commission say? They report that 1,700,000 acres of land are pretty well water-logged for want of drainage. The Commissioners further state in their Report:It will be apparent from the foregoing summary that the administration of arterial drainage is conducted by a confused tangle of authorities, established by piecemeal legislation over 500 years. and exercising a great variety of powers in the country. There is no uniformity of method, of powers or of liability. Many drainage authorities are doing admirable work, others are doing none. The efforts of some authorities are rendered ineffectual by the lack of co-operation on the part of neighbours or by the fact that the drainage of adjoining land is under no control whatever, Liability for works is regulated by no common or uniform system and is frequently obsolete and obscure.That seems to me to typify the whole of the agricultural industry. There is no uniformity in anything: there is no co-operation in anything. The same methods are employed in 1928 as were employed in 1808, and so long as the State will continue to come to the relief of the industry by providing subsidies of various kinds, we shall never get either co-operation or stabilisation, nor shall we have a really prosperous method of utilising the land in the best interests of the nation. Therefore, the first point I want to submit is this: The hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Motion said that to disturb the present landowners would be fatal, and that it was universally accepted that the present private land ownership was the best. Those statements were repeated by the Seconder of the Motion. I wonder if they have even read anything written by that great agriculturist, Lord Ernle. 465 In a volume entitled, "English Farming, Past, Present and Future," Lard Ernle, a Tory Lord who knew something about agriculture, said this:In the great days of agricultural progress English landlords were the pioneers of improvements or missionaries of science. Their discharge of a high ideal of duty in the past, and as far as possible in the present, should be fully recognised. But their inability to continue the financial assistance that they formerly rendered is a danger. State aid to agriculture in relief from rates, in buildings, drainage, or the supply of services which have been neglected from want of capital, tends to increase the letting or selling value of land held by private owners.And here is the salient point:However greatly such a system might benefit the agricultural industry, it can with difficulty be justified where land is the private property of individual owners who cannot contribute to the expenditure.That seems to me to be at least sound justification for sugesting that the present ownership of agricultural land has failed, first, because the existing owners are no longer attempting to organise the industry. They are unwilling to provide necessary capital for repair of old or erection of new buildings, and if they were ever so anxious to be useful in a scientific sense they have failed to acquire the requisite knowledge to be helpful to the industry. If one requires any more justification there is Lord Irwin, who was formerly Minister of Agriculture. He made a statement almost on a par with that of Lord Ernle which I have quoted. In this House he made a speech, to which both the Mover and Seconder of the Motion may have listened, and in the course of it he said:We cannot watch this progress going on.That is a reference to agriculture being left without capital. He went on: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 that 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 something like nationalisation by a side wind.We suggest that instead of waiting for 30 or 40 years for the nationalisation of agricultural land to come by a side wind, we ought to see the needs of agriculture at this moment—the need from the point of view of providing large sums of money 466 for drainage purposes and bringing back into cultivation those 1,700,000 acres that to-day are derelict. We ought to see the necessity for providing credit facilities for agriculturists who require easy credits. We ought to see the necessity for organising better transport facilities for agriculture. In all these matters there is only one source from which the necessary capital can be forthcoming. But before the State could attempt either to drain privately-owned land, to subsidise indirectly an industry by providing cheap credit, or do any one of the things suggested here, at least the nation ought to know that any accrued value brought about as a result of national expenditure would accrue to the nation and not to a body of landowners who are rendering no service whatever to the industry at this moment. I was interested in a cutting in one of the Sheffield newspapers in December last. A representative of that paper had an interview with the hon. Member for the Holland Division (Mr. Dean) and this is what the correspondent said:The Government is not prepared to free farm houses and farmsteads from rating, but it has come to the conclusion that all or almost all the rates now imposed on agricultural land should be abolished, the local authorities receiving compensation from the Treasury. This also will be proposed in the House of Commons next year as a Government Measure, and one agricultural M.P. tells me that if the Government carried it, it can be confident of retaining the agricultural seats it new holds in the West and South-west of England, which are the districts where Mr. Lloyd George hopes to win most by his latest land policy.I commend that statement to hon. Members of the Liberal party. Is it true that before this Parliament departs the Government are preparing a scheme of financial assistance to farmers in such a way that no other term could be ascribed to it than that of sheer political bribery and corruption? That seems to be at least in the mind of the Tory M.P. who referred to this question at Sheffield, and it was later referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and also by the Minister of Agriculture when speaking at Ixworth in Suffolk last week. If the Minister does not agree with the statement, will he tell us, when he replies, what he meant when he said that the Government were considering a reduction of the payments made by farmers towards rates? There 467 is one other reference I wish to make to this aspect of the question before leaving it. When I hear right hon and hon. Gentlemen opposite demanding the retention of the present landowning system and telling us about the serious plight of the industry, I am not always sure that all the statements made by them are perfectly true. Perhaps the Minister, as representing agriculture as a whole, will give us some explanation of the following figures. Notwithstanding the depression in the industry—some of the statements as to which we can believe—during 1913, there were 48,756 people who owned their holdings in this country. When the industry became more poverty-stricken in 1924, the 48,000 private owners had increased to 94,236. Agriculture, we are told, was never so sorely depressed as it was in 1923 and 1924, but two years later, in 1926, we find the number of privately-owned agricultural holdings increased to 107,184. Even though we are told that there is no hope for agriculture, we find that 12 months later, in 1927, the number of privately-owned agricultural holdings rose to 146,887.
So that with all the depression, all the poverty, all the bankruptcies, which we hear so much about but which seem so seldom to happen, the number of privately-owned holdings has been multiplied by three between 1913 and 1927. Will the Minister tell us how it is, if agriculture is in the hopeless morass which has been described, that there should be such a race on the part of these people to purchase the holdings of which hitherto they have been the tenants? Is it possible that the holdings are being bought by people who are not interested in the production of food? Is that a possible explanation? If not, then, either the landowners are compelling the tenants to purchase at the price determined by the owner of the land, or the tenants are anxious to purchase and will pledge their all for the purpose of becoming private owners. I can understand a tenant doing so if he feels that Tory Governments will continue in office in perpetuity, because what a, Tory Government does for agriculture is not to help in organising the industry, not to superimpose the will of the Minister as regard co-operation, not to do things which would 468 be of real value, not to give effect to the recommendations in the orange book, but, simply, to create an added value on these holdings which have been purchased during the last few years. There is another point which I would bring to the notice of the Minister and the Mover and Seconder of this Motion. Both those hon. Members referred to the vital fact that price determines prosperity or failure in their industry. With that statement we entirely agree. We need not argue that point. All we need do is to call in evidence the Linlithgow Committee. That Committee's Report provides the answer to hon. Members on the question of price. They tell us that £300,000,000 is annually whittled away between the producers of food and the consumers of food. The Linlithgow Committee say:Our investigations have led us to the conclusion that the spread between the producers' and consumers' prices is unjustifiably wide.May I ask the Mover or Seconder of the Motion, what has been done by their organisations to narrow down the margin? The Committee proceed:Taken on the whole, distributive costs are a far heavier burden than society will permanently consent to bear.What has agriculture done to lighten either its own burden or the burden on the consumer in this respect? The Committee also say:Economies can be made and processes of collection and distribution can be shortened. In certain cases it should be possible to concentrate in the hands of one intermediary the success of functions now performed by several.What have hon. Members done to give effect to this recommendation? The same Committee say:We have instanced unjustifiable distributive charges and we have recorded our view that individual traders and groups of traders are, in some cases, making higher profits than are warranted by the services they perform. Those profits should be reduced.What have hon. Members opposite done to help to reduce the unnecessarily high profits taken by the middlemen? The answer is this. Notwithstanding Commission after Commission, bringing to the light of day the facts about the lack of organisation in this industry, agriculture itself has taken no steps in the required direction. New Zealand, Australia, 469 Canada, United States, Denmark, Holland—in every one of these countries we find a state of things very different from that indicated by the right hon. Gentleman last week when he said he could do nothing to persuade the farmers to adopt co-operation as part of their system, and that he could not superimpose it upon them. In Australia when the farmers themselves failed, when they were only co-operating partially and only succeeding partially, the State came in and, by organisation, made co-operation well-nigh a necessity. The New Zealand Government did the same, and to-day as a result of the co-operation which was entered into by individual farmers plus pressure from the Government, New Zealand can beat us every day of the week as regards mutton and butter. The same remark applies to Canada, where 70 per cent. of the wheat is disposed of through wheat pools in the building up of which the Government have assisted.
A suggestion has been made about grain storage and grain prices. The only way of preventing these continual fluctuations of prices is to put into effect the terms of this Amendment. Prices can only be stabilised when the Government are prepared, even in spite of the farmers and in spite of the agricultural industry, to set up import boards, retaining for themselves monopoly powers regarding the importation of wheat. In that way they may be able to prevent the fluctuations of price which always affect the smallest and poorest farmers. To give a very recent figure in this connection, I may mention that in 1925 the lowest price of wheat per quarter was 44s., and the highest 62s. 3d., while the average was 54s. ld. Until you set up a system whereby every producer of wheat is guaranteed the average price for the year, then the small farmer can claim, with justification, that he is in a depressed state. If there is one thing which the farmers require more than anything else, it is stabilisation of prices. Why do not the Minister and the Government take steps in that direction? Obviously, because to do so would be to violate every one of their instincts which are all in favour of private enterprise, and profit every time. How can they do anything which will endanger their Conserative middlemen friends, who are exploiting both the agricultural 470 industry, as represented by the farmer and the labourer, and also the community in general?
We say that, first, the land ought to belong to the State. The State should be ready to provide the finance necessary for huge drainage schemes, whereby useful work could be provided for thousands of people who are out of work at this moment. Permanent work could also be provided, when the drainage schemes have been undertaken and completed, in the production of food on the 1,700,000 acres which now lie derelict. The State could also provide credits where required; they could set up import boards, to stabilise prices and ensure to the farmer, as is done in the case of beet sugar to-day, a guaranteed price over a fairly long period. Then we say that, as the last thing—or if not the last thing at all events a very help-ful thing—the farmer ought to be assisted wherever he shows a willingness to develop co-operation inside the industry. Where the farmers themselves fail to do what the nation, through the Government, feel to be necessary, we ought to have sufficient courage to superimpose co-operative organisation upon them.
We ought not to respond to a Motion of this character, but we ought to insist that every penny-piece granted to this industry should only be granted on the condition that it is to be utilised for the purpose of building up a sensible cooperative system, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and waste, and providing for the producer of food, not only the time to devote to the production of food, but a real return at the conclusion of his effort and a reasonable wage for his employés. That would be a much better guarantee of the maximum production of food than we shall ever have, as long as we keep on trying expedients which have failed for a hundred years, and will continue to fail. That is, briefly, the policy which we would pursue—national ownership of the land, national finance for the provision of these various schemes, the superimposing of co-operation where the farmers themselves have failed, the stabilising of prices, and the guaranteeing to the agricultural employer and the 471 farm labourer of a much better share in their produce than they enjoy at the moment.
§ Mr. RILEY
I beg to second the Amendment. In doing so I wish to associate myself with the Motion to the extent of saying that we on this side of the House are as anxious as hon. Members opposite to prevent the decay of agriculture and to secure its rehabilitation. We agree with the sentiments expressed by the Seconder of the Motion that this great industry ought to be preserved and strengthened in the national interest. Where we differ from hon. Members opposite is regarding the means to be adopted. The Motion sets forth only one suggestion for meeting the agricultural difficulty. It is true that the Mover made some rather timid references to three or four small proposals whereby something might be done. One of them was the idea that it might be made compulsory on the part of millers to use a definite proportion of British wheat in milling; the second was that there should be a duty on imported flour; and the third was that there should be a tax on the export of British hops. I did not notice that even the Mover of the Motion, who made those suggestions, thought they would go very far. What struck me was that, on the one hand, his idea is to get cheap offals for the British farmer, and presumably, by suggesting a duty on the import of flour, to bring about dearer bread to the English people.
§ Mr. RILEY
I have no doubt the hon. and gallant Member will deny that. He made it perfectly clear that the really important thing is to secure relief from the rate burdens which now rest on agriculture. Upon that question he was perfectly straight and frank, and his real remedy for the ills of agriculture is to get the Government to take a further step towards removing the one-quarter of rate burdens now resting on the agricultural industry. The utmost that that proposal can mean now is something like £3,500,000 a year. Is agriculture going to be saved by a relief of £3,500,000 a year? If you take the 1925 Report in regard to agricultural output, you will find that the value of that output is now about £230,000,000 a year. Is it to be 472 assumed that a saving of £3,500,000 is going to save an industry in which is involved a turnover of £230,000,000? I suggest that as being an aspect that the hon. and gallant Member did not bring out.
The real objection to the proposal is that it has been tried, not once, but repeatedly, and that it has been a disastrous failure. If it, had not been a failure, there would have been no need to repeat the proposal here to-day. When my hon. Friend the Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who moved the Amendment, referred to the assistance which has been given to agriculture by the State, the hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Lieut.-Colonel Ruggles-Brise), I think it was, objected that there had been no actual direct assistance given and that agriculture had only been relieved in respect of rates, but he must be very badly informed and must have forgotten the simple fact that the Treasury is contributing a direct grant of £4,500,000.
§ Major PRICE
The claim was that this relief of rates was of financial assistance to the agricultural industry, whereas, in point of fact, it was preventing something coming out of the agriculturists' pockets. It does not assist the industry as an industry at all; it is not fresh money coming into the industry at all.
The obvious reply to that is that if it does not assist the industry, why is it wanted, and why is it being asked for? It is really astounding, in view of what has been done from national sources for the relief of agriculture, that anyone should have the audacity to come again and ask for another concession of this character. In 1896, when the annual value of agricultural land for the purposes of assessment was standing at £2,600,000, the Treasury undertook to relieve agriculture of half of that amount, namely, £1,300,000. It went on giving that annual contribution from 1896 to 1923, and in that time the Treasury, handling not rural ratepayers' money but the national taxation of the country, granted no less than £35,000,000 for the relief of agriculture. In 1923, when the annual value of agricultural land for assessment purposes had risen to £12,000,000, this House undertook to 473 take another quarter off that, which amounted then to about £3,300,000. That sum, added to the £1,300,000, gives an annual contribution of about £4,600,000, and it means that from 1896 down to the present year, in direct Treasury grants, £56,000,000 has been handed out for the relief of agriculture in this country.
But that is only part of it, for what occurred from 1896 to 1923 was this, that the rateable value of the localities, owing to the extension of local government, went up, and owing to the fact that the land was relieved of one part of its assessable liability, other forms of property in the area had to make up the difference. That has been equal to an average of from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000 ever since 1896. Therefore, if you take the direct contribution of the Treasury since 1896, and if you take the relief of land of half its burdens, there has been a relief of agricultural burdens amounting to £160,000,000 in the last 30 years. I would like to know what industry in this country has had relief like that, and all for nothing. Here, in spite of it, 30 years afterwards, the same old tale is being told, and more relief is. required. I submit that, judged by actual experience, this policy of trying to find a solution for the troubles of British agriculture along the lines of the relief of rates has failed. One of the first things that has to be done is for the nation to recognise that the conditions of agriculture are such, and such are the limits, if one may say so, of the ability of those who hitherto have been responsible for its conduct to meet its problems, that the nation must accept the responsibility and, in doing so, make sure of receiving such benefits as will justify the national expenditure involved.
Mention has been made of the fact, revealed to us in the Report published last December with regard to the condition of drainage, that there are close on 2,000,000 acres of land in urgent need of drainage; and we have had it pointed out in this Report that there are over 3,000,000 acres which also require attention, and that this land which now requires attention amounts to one-seventh of the entire cultivable land of the country. Finally, in their recommendations, the Commissioners say: 474We are, therefore, strongly of the opinion that until the State is prepared to accept due financial obligations with regard to such works as those above indicated, very little progress can be made, even under the scheme which we have adumbrated, towards the realisation of the ideal of an 'efficient system of arterial drainage.'Here we have the confession of a competent Commission examining the situation that there is no prospect of this deplorable condition being remedied except on the basis of national responsibility. We have had an instance of that situation in recent times in the Ouse drainage scheme, which has been dragging on year after year. I am told by people in the locality that for 40 or 50 years the problem has been there. Only last year a Select Committee of this House and the other place was appointed to examine the scheme, and although the Government were prepared to offer £1,500,000 as a subsidy to that scheme, the owners and the occupiers were not prepared to do their part, and the whole thing fell through. It is, therefore, clear that there is no likelihood of the situation being dealt with except by national obligation. We, on these benches, contend that if we have to accept national responsibility and spend national money, the nation ought to be in a position to reap the benefit which accrues from the expenditure of that money. Under the present circumstances there is no doubt whatever that the money which is being spent in relief of rates and on the drainage schemes of the Ministry is sooner or later simply going into the pockets of the landlords and increasing the value of their land.
There is one important quotation that I Would like to make from some remarks by the right hon. Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond). In 1923, when the Agricultural Rates Act, which reduced the liability of agricultural land by another quarter, was under discussion, the right hon. Member for Carmarthen said:No economist can deny that a reduction of rates must inevitably lead to an increase of land values. That is not a question which one can argue about. It is a fact. You may say that landlords at present will not increase rents. I do not believe that they will, but if an estate is being sold—and they are being sold every day, as will he seen by a glance at the advertisement lists—then the purchaser, if he is a business man, or his agent, if he is a business person, will obviously take that into account in fixing the rent. … You are merely 475 adding the subsidy to the capital value of the agricultural land of the country. That is one reason why I hope this Bill will be opposed with violence and vehemence by all those who object to national money being used in order to enrich one class of the community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1923; cols. 1818–9, Vol. 164.]That is not from this side of the House, but from a Member who is honoured by Members on the other side when he happens to attend. Therefore, we say that the only way you can meet the agricultural position is to find a foundation which is equitable and sound, so that the nation can go forward and utilise its national resources to the aid of agriculture. We object to national money being used to buttress up worn-out institutions. I will give further quotations, not from members of the Labour party, but from members of the Conservative party. Take, for instance, Lord Irwin. When he was Minister of Agriculture he said, speaking at Banbury in 1923:A considerable part of the difficulties of agriculture were due to the fact that the landowning system was breaking down.Then Lord Bledisloe said:Landlords have ceased to lead. Land to-day in the hands of British landlords is more than ever an amenity.Finally, Lord Ernle said:The landlords have not the money to make the necessary changes. To say this only means that the modern system of farming has broken down in one of its most essential features.There is our case. We say that you have to recognise that the old system of land-lord and tenant, so far as British agriculture is concerned, is no longer efficient. It has had its day, and we have found by experience that it does not meet new problems and new conditions. Therefore, you have got to have national resources with national initiative and a national owning of agricultural land. If the policy for which we stand be not accepted, there is a field that would be productive if it were energetically pursued. Reference. was made by the Seconder of the Motion to the fact that so far as the Eastern counties are concerned there is a market unrivalled in the world, with a consuming capacity the like of which is not to be found anywhere else; and yet agriculture languishes. Why does not the Ministry and the Government pursue more vigorously a line of action in reviving 476 agriculture which, so far as it has gone, has proved an eminent success? Why have not the Government done all they could to adapt, the development of ministerial work to the needs of small populations and extended small holdings in a much more vigorous way? The late Mr. Bonar Law in 1922 appointed a Tribunal to inquire into British agriculture, and in their report which was made in 1924 they made this statement:We have given close attention to the experience of this country in the provision of small holdings in the last 15 years, and the remarkable developments that have taken place, and we wish to record our opinion that the movement is of the greatest value in maintaining an agricultural population, and that the time has come for a renewed and vigorous effort to extend the establishment of smallholders upon the land.What has the Ministry done since then? I asked a question yesterday, and the reply was that an Act of Parliament, which had been talked about by the Government for years, a Small Holdings Act, was passed in 1926, and it had in two years brought about only 195 new holdings. Yet here is a Tribunal reporting that the policy has been so successful that it ought to be pushed with vigour and energy. From 1908 to 1914, under the Act of 1908, 13,500 holdings had been established at the rate of over 2,000 a year. Under the Land Settlement Act of 1919, from 1919 to 1923, 16,000 holdings had been established averaging something like 3,000 a year. Then the Government stopped, and in 1926 they brought forward their Bill. I am going to remind the Minister what he told the House at the time. He said that in the Bill they were visualising the provision of 8,000 new small holdings at the rate of 2,000 a year. That was nearly two years ago, and yet only 195 have been established! Why has not more been done? Because the Ministry have not pursued the job with energy and vigour; and then they talk about remedies while they have this field which is recommended by every authority in agriculture, about which there is a general consensus of opinion as to its utility. This field is neglected, and Members come to this House asking for doles in the shape of relief of rates. So far as we are concerned, the dole policy will not be supported, but if the Minister will come forward with a policy 477 of using national resources to establish national assets, this party will help in every way.
§ Mr. DREWE
Coming from a purely agricultural area, I should like to associate myself with the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Tiverton Division (Lieut.-Colonel AclandTroyte). I do not want to follow the arguments that have been advanced from the opposite side at any length, because from my knowledge of farmers and conditions in the countryside, I am certain that, no body of farmers will tolerate nationalisation of the land or any form of rigid control such as we have had suggested from the other side. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment promised us control of practically everything that the farmer has to buy or sell, with the exception of promising us control of the weather.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member is, consciously or unconsciously, misinterpreting what I said. The only thing I put forward was that the farmers themselves ought to establish co-operation in a national sense, and that where the farmers themselves failed the right hon. Gentleman ought to step in and assist them.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. DREWE
I do not want to say anything unjust, but I did understand that if the farmers do not do what the hon. Gentleman wished, the Government should come in with some form of control; and that is what the farmers will not tolerate. They had control during the War and they got tired of it, and they will not go back to it again. I believe throughout the House that there is a general realisation of the fact that agriculture is not doing at all well, and that at last many of our people who live in the towns, and are not so much associated with the, land, also realise that farming is not doing as well as it ought to do. It is essential that we should have a prosperous agricultural industry for the wellbeing of our nation. There are some farmers still in this country who think that Parliament by legislation can immediately restore prosperity to the industry. We have got to face the fact that there are only two really big, things that would immediately restore prosperity to the industry, neither of which we can get. We cannot get Protection until we 478 get a definite demand from the people who live in the towns, and until they realise that the position is so serious that they have got to demand it for their own sakes. During the present state of the finances of this country we can get no new form of subsidies.
If anyone goes to the countryside and meets farmers, he will be told that the one thing farmers want is continuity of policy and stability, and not change of policy whenever there is a change of Government. It was for that reason that I am sorry that the Opposition have seen fit to move an Amendment to this Motion. There is a genuine desire in this House to do something to restore prosperity to farmers. If you meet farmers or the Farmers' Union, or farmers' men, you will always find that the one thing they say is, "Why cannot you treat agriculture as a national problem and not as a party question?"
That is one thing which I had hoped this House might realise. When this Government took office it was their intention to try to treat agriculture as a national problem, and not as a party problem. They wished to call a conference of those engaged in the industry, of farmers, their workers and landowners, to try to frame some national policy which could he submitted to the political parties in this House with the idea. of getting a national policy. As we know, that project unfortunately broke down, but I still hope that something on those lines may take place, in the interests of getting a national policy for agriculture, as I believe there is a genuine desire to help forward farming in this country.
I do not believe the Government can take a lead in this direction, but I would make an earnest appeal to the leaders of the National Farmers' Union. I know they have done much towards framing an agricultural policy, which they have submitted to the Minister on behalf of farmers themselves. I would suggest to the National Farmers' Union that they should get into much closer contact with the workers engaged in the industry in this matter of framing an agricultural policy. I believe if the National Farmers' Union could come to this Government, or any other, and say: "Here is a considered agricultural 479 policy, endorsed not only by the farmers, but also by the majority of the workers, and by the majority of the landowners," they would be in a very strong position. I believe that would be a great step towards getting this problem treated as a national issue and not as a party one. So long as agriculture is left to be, what it always has been, a sort of sport for politicians, we shall never make any headway in farming in this country. I agree with what has been said by the two speakers from this side of the House that the two most important things which the Government can do, and I believe will do, as soon as they can to help the industry, are to give relief in the matter of rates and get increased grants from the Road Board, more particularly for our rural roads. I would like to say on behalf of the farmers, that they are deeply grateful for the assistanee which this Government have given in the way of grants for rural roads, which have never been given before, and also for the rating relief given in the past. I am not in the least ashamed of the fact that the Conservative party have given grants in relief of rates on two previous occasions, and it would make a very fine, ending to their record in this respect if this Government could ultimately clear the land of all rates altogether.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Would the hon. Member be agreeable that the farmers should have no votes, if they pay no rates?
§ Mr. DREWE
The buildings are relieved of three-quarters of the rates at the present time. The suggestion I am making, which I hope will be accepted by the Government, is that land should be relieved of all rates altogether. We have been told that if you take the rates off the land you immediately put a present into the pockets of the landlords.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Does the hon. Member deny the economic fact—it is not a question of agriculture, but of economics—that a landlord will be able to get more in rent if rates are less and less in rent if rates arc higher? Does he deny that economic law? [An HON. MEMBER: "Are you a Socialist?"] I am not an ass.
§ Mr. DREWE
What I do say is that it is the absolute fact to-day that rents have not gone up as a result of previous rating relief. I do not want to enter into any controversy across the Floor of the House, but if the hon. Member will come down at the next election and stand in opposition to me in a rural constituency, he advocating full rates on the land., I will meet him with my policy and beat him. I think that is a fair offer. I do not wish to show any lack of respect, but I do feel that some of the arguments we have heard from the other side are based on the fact that hon. Members opposite are not closely in touch with what is going on in our rural parishes.
§ Mr. DREWE
I do not want to say anything insulting, but if you go down and meet farmers, and meet their men, you will find they are agreed that that is a step which would be definitely helpful and which they all want. It is difficult to find any return showing the level of rents over a long period of years, but what we can find is a return of the gross annual value of the land for 481 Schedule A purposes. In 1896, when half the rates were taken off the land, the gross annual value of the land was returned at £39,045,000. I do not want to read out the figures for every year, but we had a progressive decline in the gross annual value of the land from that time up to the time of the War, in spite of half the rates having been taken off agricultural land. These Schedule A figures are based on actual rents. Values dropped from £39,045,000 in 1896, when half the rates were taken off agricultural land, to £37,071,000 in 1913–14. I think that indicates that there is no truth in the argument that rating relief has put money into the pockets of the landlords. In 1923 we got another quarter taken off the rates on agricultural land. I do not think sufficient time has elapsed for us to be able to show what the result of that has been, but over the long period following the reduction of the rates by a half there was no suggestion that values went up.
Another point which is sometimes forgotten by hon. Members opposite is that the number of occupying-owners is constantly increasing. If they still believe, in spite of the figures I have quoted, that this money goes into the pockets of the landlords, there is a very substantial class numerically who would benefit immediately. In the last census of production issued by the Ministry of Agriculture I find it estimated that out of a total of 409,400 holdings, over 25 per cent. are occupied by cultivating owners, and it is true to say that about 25 per cent. of the whole of our land under grass and crops is in the hands of the occupying-owners; so there is no doubt that by rating relief you would give immediate benefit to these people, and I maintain that you would give immediate benefit over the whole range of farmers, whether dairy farmers on grass land or corn-growing farmers on arable farms. It has been suggested that it is a rather curious thing to ask for more relief in respect of rates when the industry is in such a bad condition in spite of the rating relief it has already had. In reply to that I would only say that in 1896, when we were given the relief of half the rates, it was the intention of Parliament, I believe, that the land should pay only half rates for ever afterwards, but as rates have gone up while the 482 grant has remained the same, we are paying to-day, in spite of the fact that we pay only a quarter of the rates, something like four times the amount in rates that we paid in 1896. I think that fact makes it quite excusable for us to come forward to ask that the rates should be altogether removed from our raw material.
§ Mr. DREWE
Depression does exist in agriculture, and it has got to be faced, and in my opinion it ought to be faced as a national issue and not as a party one, with the different parties trying to make party capital out of it. I have been farming my own land ever since the War, and having mixed with farmers in my own constituency I realise, as does everybody else in the House who is connected with the land, that the men employed in this industry are very highly-skilled men, and I feel they are being paid at a low rate by comparison with the pay of highly-skilled men in other occupations. That is one of the reasons why I want to see increased prosperity in the industry. I do not believe there is anybody in the House who can say the industry is sufficiently prosperous today to be able to pay higher wages than are being paid at present, but we have a Wages Board, which, generally speaking, is working very smoothly throughout the country, and our men have the assurance that if we can bring about general prosperity in the industry they will share in it. It is for that reason in particular that I wish to see a revival of agricultural prosperity in this country.
There are only one or two smaller points which I should like to put to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. He has already been asked about the question of feeding His Majesty's Forces with home-grown meat, and I think he will give a satisfactory reply sometime during this Parliament. Our farmers feel very strongly about this question. They say that it is the policy of this Government to help forward the purchase of British goods, but that British 483 meat is not being given to the Forces. The question of the Land Tax was raised earlier in the Debate. There are two small, but none the less important questions, concerning another Department—with which I hope the Minister will use his influence—and those are rural telephones and postal facilities. I know that much progress has been made in regard to rural telephones, but much more progress ought to be made in order to link up our isolated villages with the market towns. That is an urgent and important question. Probably the Minister of Agriculture will be surprised to know that in my constituency, which is a perfectly civilized constituency, I have got quite a number of farms which only get deliveries of letters on three days a week. I know that many parishes only have a delivery of letters once a day, but when you find a number of farmers who only get deliveries three days a week, you seem to be getting back to olden times. The farmers of whom I speak are those farthest away from the stations, and this state of things often causes very serious loss. Very often the goods they require are some five or 10 miles away. They may be perishable goods, and as they do not get their letters except on three days a week, the farmers do not know when the goods reach the station and in this way heavy losses are frequently incurred.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tiverton referred to the cider industry. We have a very old established cider industry in Devonshire. I know the Government have often stated that farmers must work out their own salvation, and not rely too much on Parliament. Recently in Devonshire farmers have formed themselves into a co-operative cider-producing company which guarantees that the Devonshire cider which they produce is pure and made from apples with no alcohol or sugar. That concern is trying to make a start, and those farmers are deserving of every encouragement. They are not asking for safeguarding, but they do want protection against the inferior article. What they really want is a Pure Cider Bill. Can the Minister see his way to introduce a Pure Cider Bill or allow such a Measure to be introduced by a private Member? If a private Member introduces a Pure Cider Bill, will the Government grant facilities for its passage? The farmers of 484 Devonshire have combined, and they are producing a good article. They do not want protection or grants, but they do want to be safeguarded against people passing off an inferior article as Devonshire cider. The passing of a Pure Cider Bill would encourage the establishment of a most flourishing co-operative business in the West of England and other counties. I appeal to hon. Members to consider whether it would not be better to treat this problem of agriculture as a national and not a party question.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I have been somewhat disappointed at the course which the Debate has taken. I represent a constituency which is largely agricultural, and consequently I look with a good deal of sympathy upon the Amendment which has been moved. The last part of the Motion deals withthe necessity of providing without delay all practical measures for relieving the heavy burdens now weighing upon the industry.I hope the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Motion will not think I am treating him unfairly when I say that I never heard in his speech anything about the heavy burdens on agriculture, and he certainly made no proposals for removing them.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The whole of the rates on agricultural land only amount to £3,500,000 out of a total turnover of £225,000,000 a year. We have had some references to malt and barley, whisky, beer, cider and garden seeds, but the only proposal put forward in relief of agriculture was one for the abolition of the tithe.
§ Lieut.-Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
That is not so. All I suggested was that the £5 out of the £109 10s. now paid should be extinguished when the rates are taken off.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I thought the hon. and gallant Member wanted to abolish tithes, but I now gather that he only desires to abolish a portion of them. How will that help the tenant? Up to the present the relief which has been given to the farmers has gone into the pockets of the landlords who have raised the price of their land. That is how the landowners have profiteered since the War. 485 [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh at that argument, but do they deny that the prices obtained for land by the landowners immediately after the War were not high?
§ Mr. DAVIES
The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Price) says that everything was high after the War, but do hon. Members opposite contend that there was no profiteering after the War? I can give instances in Anglesey where the price has been so high that the landowner had to take the farms back and the tenants forfeited their deposits. The demand which is being made upon the Government for long credits for agriculture is due to the fact that the men who bought their farms during the War period are unable to make them pay on account of the high prices paid for the land. In 1912 only 10 per cent. of the land was owned by the occupiers. A statement has been issued by the Board of Agriculture which states that at the present time no less than 28 per cent. of the land is owned by occupiers. Does anybody suggest that the men now working on their own land are doing well? I say without hesitation that those farmers who are in the worst position are the men who bought their farms since the War. Nothwithstanding these facts, we find a Tory Member moving a Motion which declares that the Government are going to help the farmers by relieving them of their burdens, and yet not a word has been said as to how those burdens are to be relieved, except the paltry proposal to relieve the owners of one-quarter of the rates.
The present Government are responsible for throwing a greater burden upon the rates in respect of education. and they have also tightened up the pension schemes to such an extent that many of the recipients will have to depend upon charity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken £20,000,000 from the Road Fund; we can get no further assistance from that Fund, and if more money is required for roads, it will have to come from the general Revenue. In 1926 the Chancellor of the Exchequer took away one-third of the money annually allotted to the Road Fund. That money was diverted from 486 its proper object, and last year the amount taken in this way from the Road Fund was a little over £4,000,000. Consequently those burdens which should have been borne by the Road Fund will ultimately have to be borne by the farmers in the community. The hon. Member who moved this Motion said he condemned both Liberal and Labour policies. The Farmers' Union, which is not a liberal-minded body, have said that the Government are humbugging the farmers, and I quite agree with that statement. What have the Government done for the farmers? They have given £1,000,000 a year to the Colonial farmers to help them to organise competition with the people in the home market. To-day another proposal has been put forward by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) to nationalise the whole of the land of the country, and, having done that, the intention is that ultimately through the stabilisation of prices the agricultural industry will be nationalised.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I thought I stated my argument pretty clearly. I said that the nation ought to take over all the agricultural land, and that the nation ought to provide all the capital required for drainage and other things necessary for the proper cultivation of the land.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The hon. Member not only goes in for nationalising the whole of the agricultural land of the country, but he also advocated the stabilisation of prices. Let me point out that the stabilisation of prices means the control of the whole farming industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] As a matter of fact, a Bill to stabilise prices was passed through the Senate in America, and it would have become law but for the intervention of the President. The object of that Bill was to control the prices of all imported farm produce. Surely it is no good controlling the price of imported goods unless at the same time you control prices at home. When the price of the commodity rises the production at home immediately goes up, and, consequently, there would be no benefit to the farmer. I am quite open to consider any form of stabilisation of prices, but I am certainly opposed to a system which, as it seems to me, would, under present conditions, involve, firstly, the control of all imports into this country, with possibly a dire effect on the price 487 of the food of the community, and, secondly, would compel the Government ultimately to control the farmers and farm labourers of this country. Then the hon. and gallant Member referred to the policy of the Liberal party, but I noted that he very carefully abstained from criticising it.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I hope that the next time the hon. and gallant Member addresses the House he will think that policy worthy of a little more serious consideration. He said that the policy of the Liberal party is the elimination of the landowner, but, as I have already pointed out, the landowner is eliminating himself as fast as he possibly can, at the highest price he can obtain for his land. [Interruption.] He is transferring the land to the occupying farmer, with this difference, that, while the hon. and gallant Member was talking about the landowner, he was not thinking of the farmer. [HON. MEMBERS: "How do you know?"]
§ Mr. DAVIES
Does the hon. and gallant Member seriously say that, when he referred to the elimination of the landowner, he was referring to the elimination of the owner of his own farm? Surely, he must have read the policy of the Liberal party before condemning it, and in that case he would have known—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member has not got it, I shall be pleased to hand him a copy. [Interruption.] I am talking about the policy of the Liberal party, and not what Tory Members have been describing on the platform. The policy is this: We want to obtain for the farmer security of tenure. [HON. MEMBERS: "He has it now!"] Really, I hope hon. Members will treat this matter seriously. To tell me, a lawyer who happens to know something about land tenure in this country, that the tenant farmer has security of tenure, is sheer nonsense, because, if the tenant farmer has security of tenure, it would not be the case that 28 per cent. of the land of this country has been taken over by the tenants for farming purposes. I had the honour, in 1912, of 488 being a member of Lord Haversham's Committee, which was by no means a Radical committee. The whole evidence obtained by that Committee—and it was the evidence of some of the larger farmers of the country—was that they did not want to buy their farms, but wanted to put all the money they had into their own business, and they wanted, if possible, to be free at the end of their lives to pass it on to their children. There is no evidence anywhere that the tenant farmer in this country desires to buy his farm except as a last resort. He has to do so in order to keep his home, in order to keep his living and his industry, and in order to protect the improvements which he has made on his farm and for which he is not entitled to compensation.
The hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Motion dealt mostly with arable land, but the farming of this country is not the farming of arable land. Sixty-nine per cent. of the agricultural produce of this country last year came from pasture land, and yet we imported from abroad last year no less than £84,000,000 worth of butter, eggs and dairy produce. I would ask the hon. and gallant Member, could not we have produced that ourselves; and, if we did not produce it, why not? Last year alone we imported from abroad £355,000,000 worth of food. Why was not that food produced in this country? I will tell the hon. and gallant Member why. Constantly, since 1900, the rent of agricultural land has gone up. Hon. Members may shake their heads, but if they will take my advice they will read the Report of the Haversham Committee, where they will find the evidence on which I am basing my statement. They will find more than that, namely, that the increased rent went into the increased value obtained by the landowner for his land. If hon. Members doubt that, let me give one instance, that of an estate with which I am very well acquainted. The rents on that estate were put up by anything from 10 to 33 per cent. four years ago. Then a whole parish was put up for sale, and the land was offered in the first instance to the tenants at a valuation based on the increased rents. There is a good deal of talk about reducing rates, but not a single speaker this afternoon has suggested reducing rents. I think it may be said that the rents in pre-War days may not have 489 been excessive, but there is nothing to justify the great increase that has taken place in rents since the War, and I suggest that, if hon. Members really desire to do something for the farmer, they should bring pressure to bear on someone to reduce rents, at any rate to pre-War figures.
§ Major STEEL
Does not the hon. Member realise that the cost of repairs has also increased enormously, and the increased cost of repairs is a justification for the increase of rent?
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am glad to have from the hon. and gallant Member the admission that rents have gone up, because some hon. Members, apparently, do not admit it.
§ Mr. DAVIES
That, at any rate, is the first admission we have had that they have gone up. No doubt the cost of repairs to farm buildings and houses has gone up, but I suggest quite seriously that the increase in rents is considerably more than the increase which has taken place in the cost of repairs. Let me follow it out. Take, for instance, the prices paid for agricultural land. Does anyone suggest to-day that the interest paid on the price of agricultural land is anything like a fair agricultural rent? I am sure that will not be suggested.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The time is limited, and two more speakers are to follow. We rnust not take up time with interruptions.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I have said that rents have gone up, and I say more. One of the things which is hindering good farming in this country is that the tenant has no security of tenure. What happened, of course, was that the House thought that, by passing a Bill providing for compensation for disturbance,. the tenant could not be interfered with; but the very fact that all these sales have taken place, the very fact that all these purchasers have paid the prices that they have paid for their farms, and taken the risk of claiming compensation for disturbance, proves that it has been ineffective. Let me make one other point with regard to the present position. This 490 House has spent a good deal of time, and the Government have spent a good deal of money, on small holdings. The one panacea of the Tory party used to be that we were to have small holdings. The fact is that since 1902, when small holdings were established, there has been a reduction of no less than 38,000 in their number. In the last two years there was a reduction of no less than 3,000 in the number of agricultural holdings in this country, and the unfortunate thing is that that reduction is taking place in the holdings under 20 acres, with the result that there has been a reduction of no less than 11,000 in the number of people employed on agricultural land during the last two years.
The question has been asked, what is the policy of the Liberal party? I will tell the hon. Member who asked that question in two minutes. In the first place, we mean to give to the farmer security of tenure, so that he cannot be interfered with, either by the sale of the land by the landowner or by the caprice of the agent on account it may be of some political consideration. Hon. Members on the other side are very fond of going about the country and telling the farmers that under the Liberal policy they will be compulsorily deprived of their farms, at prices to be fixed by arbitration, and that the land will pass under the control of an official. [ Interruption.] I think I am not doing hon. Members an injustice in saying that. Is not the argument put forward on the platform this, that the Liberal policy will be compulsory purchase of the land, at a price to be fixed by arbitration, and that the land will be controlled by officials?
I would remind the House of one fact, of which hon. Members on the other side are apparently ignorant or forgetful. The Tory party themselves have extended the Small Holdings Act to farms of £100 annual value. That comprises four-fifths of the farms in this country, and what does it mean? It means that the Tory Government, have vested in the county councils of this country the power to take any farm that they like, of not more than £100 annual value, compulsorily. They may have the price fixed by arbitration, and the farm will immediately pass under the control of the officials of the county council. If these are the 491 powers under the present Act, which the Tory Government themselves have extended, why are we blamed? It will not, in fact, be necessary to give us these powers because the powers already exist.
There is one other question which is equally important to the farmer, and that is the question of credit. I am not very much concerned at the moment about long credit for farmers who have bought their farms, but the unfortunate part of the farmer's position is that he cannot get any credit for the usual business of his industry. He cannot borrow money like the shopkeeper or the owner of a factory; his turnover does not justify an overdraft He therefore is buying on credit things for which he ought to be paying cash, with the result that ultimately the interest appears in the price of his produce. In America, that assistance has been extended to the farmer. I think I have pointed out before in this House that, when the hog market was breaking in America some years ago, the Government of the United States came in and advanced many millions to the farmers in order to help to accommodate them during that depression in the trade. This House has given guarantees under the Trade Facilities Act to several industries, and has undoubtedly helped trade to that extent. I suggest that, if hon. Members are sincere, as I have no doubt they are, in their desire to help agriculture, they should press the Minister of Agriculture to give to the farming industry the advantages of the guarantees under the Trade Facilities Act that have been so helpful in other directions. If that were done, I have no doubt whatever that it would go very far to help the farmer to tide over his present difficulty. Behind all these things, however, there is one thing which must be provided for if the farmer is to put his heart and soul and money into the land. He must be secured by law, not merely in his tenancy, but in the value of his improvements, and in the fact that he and not the landowner will reap the benefit.
§ 7.0 p.m
§ Mr. NOEL BUXTON
When the hon. and gallant Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte) opened the Debate, it seemed to me that he was about to propose a serious Vote of Censure on the Government, so many 492 were the complaints he made and the proposals that followed, but I begin to wonder whether we are not, after all, only witnessing a demonstration to show that some independence is left in the back benchers opposite and that the crack of the Minister's whip cannot be always successful, because in nearly all the proposals the Mover and Seconder have made there is safety in the fact that they know quite well that the Government will not accept them. The hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Lieut.-Colonel Ruggles-Brise) gave a very interesting sketch of the situation, which is indeed a very difficult one in East Anglia, and I feel that such a sketch as he gave is of very great value, because he is one of the working landowners who take it as a serious business, who farm themselves and are active on the land—exactly the type of landowner who, if he were a great deal more prevalent, would have avoided the main problems which have arisen in our agriculture. Therefore, we all attended with the greatest attention to what he said and, though I differ from his opinions, his sketch of the situation is of very great value. At one point he seemed to me to be supporting Labour policy in this way. He showed in a more graphic way than I have ever seen it described the extraordinary risk attaching to the operation of marketing and growing a cereal crop, but surely it is not his party but my party which put forward a proposal attempting to meet that difficulty and, if I am not mistaken, Lord Ernle himself said in regard to that, which is the crucial thing for British agriculture, that no party had made a proposal except the Labour party.
We have had the Government's plan in the last three years for the restoration of agriculture to which we were told to look forward. We have had, for instance, the Smallholdings Bill and the Insects Bill, we are dealing with the Rabbits Bill and to-night we have had the proposals which hon. Members who support the Minister would like to see. That is not, as I take it, a debate to put forward the general policies of parties. It is really a debate about the relief of rates, and there is serious hope that the Minister will yield on the point, but it strikes me as a about Protection. I suppose all those strange thing that it is not a debate 493 who have spoken on the Conservative side, if not avowedly Protectionists, would keenly welcome Protectionist action. Why are they afraid to say so? Is it not time that another move should be made to get the Conservative leaders to take up Protection? I am not sure that it might not go down very well, a great deal better perhaps than it did three years ago. Surely there is something very extraordinary about a politician saying, "I advocate, and I believe from the bottom of my heart in a certain plan as the only means of salvation." They go to the electors and say, "I think that is the only thing that will save you but I do not think you will vote for it and I am not going to propose it." It seems extraordinarily like the candidate who expounded his views to a selection committee and then said, "Gentlemen, these are my views. If you do not like them they can be altered." Why not try again? Why not have more courage? If that is what the country needs, tell it so and wait till the country agrees.
But meanwhile you have your leaders to deal with, and we are given the more feasible proposal of rate relief—insure against losing the farmers' vote by another dole in rates. I feel that there is about that a very extraordinary want of originality. It is not the second but the third time we have had a rate relief proposal. It has been tried and has not succeeded. In 1923 the Minister of Health said:The purpose of the Bill is to give assistance to agriculture. … It is in a desperate condition. Profits in many cases have vanisher altogether. … Unless something be done to assist the industry, it is clear that much land which is now arable must go out of cultivation altogether or else go down to grass."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1923; col. 1787, Vol. 164.]He assured them that it was going to maintain, or improve, arable land, and we know the sequel. There has been a huge reduction, which we all regret, in the arable area, and if any dole was to prove a means of stemming the reduction in the arable area, surely the extra £4,000,000 odd which has been given since then would have had some effect, but it has not had that effect, and to that extent everyone must agree that it has failed.
Then my hon. Friend has shown that one of the main arguments against rate 494 relief is that it goes to the owners. I think the hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Drewe) was inclined to dispute that, but I doubt whether he will dispute the authority of Sir Trustram Eve, who said:The incidence of rates in the case of agricultural land is in the long run on the owners, but of a total gross annual value of the property the occupier pays away so much to the owner in rent and so much direct to the rate collector in rates. The higher the cheque for rates the lower the cheque for rent.But from his point of view a higher authority still, Lord Chaplin, said much the same, and the very Minister who introduced the Bill in 1923 said:I do no mind admitting that there will be a distant and indirect advantage to the landowner.It is a question of degree how much is the advantage to the landowner, but the Minister said that, and his opinion is still more convincing than even that of Lord Chaplin. I am not very surprised that the right hon. Gentleman is absent to-night and is not joining in the demand for a further relief of rates, because his policy has been a conspicuous failure. If it is so, is it really a sound proposal and is it fair to the community that you should make grants of any kind which go, not to the industry but to the owner of the land, even if the advantage to them is not complete for some considerable time? There is, of course, the attraction of immediate help to present tenants, and help to existing occupying owners, and it is no doubt a great convenience that the landlords also, as occupying owners, will score in the long run. I wonder whether we are going to see from the Minister an interesting sequel to what he is reported to have said the other day, that the Government might find a way of decreasing still further the burden imposed by local taxation. Perhaps we are on the eve of something very interesting.
When we are dealing with the burdens on agriculture we should take a review of what those burdens are. If you look at them in proportion, rating is a burden to a certain extent. I have endeavoured to elaborate on other occasions the burdens involved in want of equipment, and my hon. Friends below the Gangway have alluded to lack of equipment. It follows from our present system of 495 ownership, which is a very great burden on agriculture not removable by any proposals of the Conservative party. But is there not another burden, which is perhaps the greatest of all, which we ought to bear in mind, and that is the burden involved in our inefficient marketing? That cannot be too much elaborated. I think the point is really best expressed in the wording of the Labour party plan, where it says:When a system of land administration which will encourage and support improved methods of production and cultivation has been brought in, the price received by the cultivator for his produce will still be by far the most important factor in determining whether the industry is prosperous or the reverse, and, in determining the prices actually received by the farmer, the methods of marketing and distribution are of primary importance.Have the Movers of this Motion explored the possibility of the enormous saving that would be involved in an improvement of our marketing methods? Do they agree with the hon. Member for South Oxfordshire and the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton), who spoke the other night on marketing, who are enthusiasts for improvement in that direction? There is where the greatest burden lies upon the profits of a farmer. The marketing branch of the Ministry are working away and studying our existing marketing conditions. The institution of that branch was by far the most important operation in which I engaged when I was at the Ministry. It followed on the Report of the Linlithgow Committee, which gave an impressive array of arguments. If we want means of increasing profits, there is where the main opportunity lies. We import something like £400,000,000 a year. We could find a market probably, with better organisation as well as better land tenure, leading to better production, for another £100,000,000 of our production, which is now £225,000,000 a year. That is the lesson of every one of these orange books displaying the condition of our agricultural marketing. Great organisation has to be faced, but other countries have faced it, and it is surely not beyond the wit of the farmers to grapple with the situation. It is not Continental people, it is we who are the great example of America. Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians are the most conspicuous in modern marketing. 496 The effect of Protection and rate relief would be incredibly small compared with the benefit which would be involved in the adoption of modern methods of marketing.
I had intended to give an illustration of my point in a detailed manner from the case of milk. It can easily be shown that gigantic savings can be made in the case of milk by quite feasible changes in marketing. If anyone will study the Journal of the Ministry, he will see extraordinarily interesting cases given in connection with the Minister's plan of a milk publicity campaign locally Where, by promoting the consumption of milk in schools, a tremendous stimulus has been given not only to the consumption of milk in schools, not only to the general consumption of milk but to the health of children in the schools. By this kind of improved marketing you would thus not only be increasing consumption and increasing the farmers' trade, but you would be having a reproductive outlay, because you would be improving the health of the population. The same thing applies to poultry, fruit and potatoes. It is because rate relief itself is useless, ineffective, extravagant and unjust to the community that we must oppose this Motion.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Guinness)
Not the least interesting part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was the persuasive appeal which he made to hon. Members on this side of the House to adopt a policy of agricultural Protection. We have read the remarks of his leader about the bad patch through which the party opposite is now going. I can imagine how popular a policy of dear food would be among the Members opposite. We are much indebted to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte) for having afforded us the opportunity of a review—all too brief in this short Debate—of the present position of agriculture. We have had speakers from various areas all agreeing in a very gloomy account. They have described to us the interests of different parts of agriculture, and, naturally, have put forward different remedies. The Mover said that he was of opinion that the soundest method was one of reducing burdens, and in that we 497 on this side of the House all agree. But he also brought forward various partial remedies which have been pressed upon him by his constituents. We have examined all those remedies. Some of them we believe to be illusory. Some we believe to be politically impossible, if one thinks out their results. Some of them—and the most effective—would cost a good deal of money. Unfortunately our resources are limited. We shall not hesitate, when the time comes, to ask Parliament to help agriculture to the extent of our means with financial assistance, but we shall not be able to get a really effective result if we spend our limited resources on such partial remedies, and we must concentrate on some course that is going to help the whole of agriculture.
I am very glad to be allowed to say a word or two on some of the partial remedies mentioned this afternoon, because we generally have debates on administration, and do not have a chance of discussing these wider proposals. It was suggested by my hon. Friend that we should provide that the miller should have a certain proportion of British wheat in his grist. There is great administrative difficulty about that. If you were to lay down a uniform proportion of this British wheat ingredient, you would have a great deal of unnecessary transport. The port mills may use about 5 per cent., while the country mills may use up to 50 per cent. It means a great increase in the cost of production if you have to transport your British wheat to the port mills and extra imported wheat to country mills in order to get a uniform grist of that kind. Then, also, millers blend their soft British and hard foreign wheats in certain proportions to meet the public taste. It is going to be very unpopular to force a particular type of loaf upon the consumer. It might be possible if the British farmer were to grow more hard wheat, but it would be very difficult to do it at the present time. The overwhelming argument for this proposal is that there should be a better demand for British wheat so that a better price would be paid. You can do that only by fixing a high proportion of British wheat in the grist. If you fixed a low proportion, you make no difference. if you fix a high proportion, you are going to put the tremendous weapon of monopoly in the hands of the farmer. 498 You enable the farmer to say to the miller, "You have got to pay the price I ask, or you must break the law." I do not think the community would allow such a power to be put in the hands of one section of the community to be used, if it is to be effective at all, for increasing the price of food.
Another proposal was that we should take artificial means to decrease the price of millers' offials, and we were asked if it was the case that millers were selling offals to the foreigner more cheaply than in this country. In the summer, there is very little demand for offals in this country, and the coarser kinds, bran and pollards, which do not keep well, are sent abroad on large contracts. Most of it, I believe, goes to Denmark, and it may be that sometimes the farmer who buys small quantities retail pays more for his purchase than the foreigner who has contracted ahead for the future and for a definite date. There is a reference in the Report of the Royal Commission on Food Prices to this particular subject. They said there that, if there was any artificial interference with the sale of bran so that it could not be freely sold, inevitably the loss on bran would be made up by the millers by an increase in the charge which they made on flour. My hon. Friend rejected a suggestion that we should interfere with imports of flour from foreign countries, but he was more inclined to support the idea that we might do something to prevent the export of offals. If we did so, quite apart from the danger of increasing the price of flour, it is doubtful if it would be effective in cheapening the price. We now import a very large amount of offals, 211,000 tons a year. It is true we export 57,000 tons, but we had a net import of 154,000 tons last year. If you were artificially to prevent export, it is doubtful if you would affect the price.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is not the case that the farmers in many instances have got to pay as much for the offal they buy for their cattle as for the wheat which they produce?
§ Mr. GUINNESS
I agree we all want cheaper offal, but I am dealing with the particular proposal as to how it is to be done, and we have very little time to discuss it. The point is that, if you are going artificially to prevent exports, it is 499 certain you will not be able to maintain your present imports unless you keep up the price. You cannot both lower prices and keep your imports, and the natural result of any attempt to lower the price by this artificial means would be that the markets from which we should be withholding our offals, like Denmark, for instance, would get offals which would be diverted from us, because they would be prepared to pay the price. I do not say it would have no effect, but I think the great effect which is expected in some quarters would prove to be unfulfilled.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Lieut.-Colonel Ruggles-Brise) said that we ought to do something for arable agriculture, and he suggested that some of us were rather remiss in this matter, because we did not appreciate the danger in time of war. The whole point of the argument which has been used in that connection is that there is a limit to what it is worth your while to pay for an increased acreage. Our resources are limited, and we were told when we discussed this matter two years ago that none of those things which we could do would restore anything like the acreage under arable crops which we achieved during the War. Even if we had achieved that amount, which we were told by the farmers we could not achieve, it would mean only an extra 10 days' supply. That argument was not used because we were not anxious to get the maximum production of wheat, but it was used in connection with a particular very costly proposal of an arable subsidy. My hon. and. gallant Friend suggests this afternoon—though he did not discuss it in detail—the system of wheat insurance. Unfortunately, that wheat insurance proposal, which we carefully examined, could not possibly be worked without a subsidy, and that subsidy is beyond our financial resources, and contrary to our considered policy of not spending what we have to spend in helping only one side of the industry.
Then he dwelt upon malting barley. I know our White Paper has not convinced him, but the position is that it is very difficult to find a solution which would not cause much more inconvenience than it is worth. The problem 500 is that the farmer wishes to ensure that he shall have the cheapest form of barley as a raw material to feed his stock, and he wants only to tax malting barley. A lot of the malting barley is, however, indistinguishable from feeding barley, and you cannot prevent that feeding barley which the farmer wants to come in cheaply from being diverted to the malthouse unless you have a very cumbersome system of certification. The whole question is whether it is worth while. It is a very old story to try to alter the methods of the British brewer. It was attempted by the proposals brought forward in the Pure Beer Bill. I hope hon. Members will read the Debates upon that subject in 1902, because they are very apt to this question of malting barley. The late Lord Moulton, then a very eminent learned Member, by his speech did much to finish that agitation. He showed that modern ales are brewed with special regard to a due proportion between the nitrogenous ingredients and the starchy ingredients. Roughly speaking, he said the starch gives you the alcohol and the nitrogen gives you the flavour, but under the complicated chemical processes which take place, certain chemical products are developed which turn the beer bad if there is an excess of nitrogen. Unfortunately, British barley has an excess of nitrogen and the sun-ripened barley, the most costly barley, is used because mixed with this nitrogenous barley it gives an excess of starch in proportion. By mixing either this sun-ripened barley with its high starchy content, or rice or maize or sugar in some form or other with the British barley of lower starch content, the brewer is able to use a larger proportion of British barley and produce the required result.
I have had a great deal of evidence to the same effect, that the brewers would not find it possible to abandon those methods which on scientific advice they had adopted, and that they could not go back to the heavy cloudy beers to which the consumer is no longer accustomed, and that any tax imposed would be paid by them rather than change their method. If they continued their present method, the result of the tax would be disappointing to the barley grower. On the whole we feel that we are not justified in inflicting great inconvenience and cost for so very little probable result to 501 those who are asking for the duty. My hon. and gallant Friend suggested that a tax should be put on foreign seed. That would be a case of taxing raw material, because though perhaps in his part of Essex they may be very much interested in the production of seed, in the other parts of the country, they attach importance to being able to buy foreign seed. And he is aware, of course, that in the case of many garden seeds, certain species can only satisfactorily be produced abroad.
The suggestion was made that we should have an embargo or an import duty on foreign condensed skimmed milk. I think it is very regrettable that there is so much of this product consumed in this country, but the trouble is we cannot make out a case that it is really unhealthy. I wish we could. We have to recognise that it is a very popular form of food with the poorer classes of the community. The equivalent of 207,000,000 one-lb. tins of this condensed skimmed milk is now consumed in this country and that popularity is a measure of the outcry that would be caused if we interfered with its consumption by the people who want it. Unless there were a case on the grounds of health, which has not hitherto been established, it would clearly be inconsistent with our pledges not to tax food.
I have not time to deal with all the other proposals which have been made, but I do not think the Debate has produced any practical remedies beyond those which we propose to pursue. The Amendment of the Labour party speaks of obtaining a fair return for the farmer, but we believe that the fair return would only be hindered by that system of nationalisation which they propose. The farmer is not worried nowadays by insecurity of tenure. The landlord is more often worried in the Eastern Counties in finding a tenant. The old system of tenure under which the tenant was able to get cheap fixed capital from his landlord was undoubtedly the most satisfactory method that could be found. I agree with the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Ellis Davies) that many tenants have been forced into unwilling ownership by heavy taxation and so forth, and the figures are even more startling than he mentioned. Last year we took special pains to get full 502 information, and we found that 147,000 holdings were cultivated by owner-occupiers, that is, 36 per cent. of the total number in the country, and that they account for 9,250,000 acres of the country, that is, 30 per cent. of our total area under crops and grass including rough grazing.
We do not believe that the remedy is to be found in State ownership, but in providing capital on the easiest possible terms to the new owners. The proposal of the Labour party foreshadows control. We believe that we should have the least possible interference, and that unnecessary interference is fatal to efficiency. We are doing all we can in the terms of this Motion to encourage co-operative buying and marketing. We should like the stabilisation of prices if we could find a way, but the economic, political and administrative difficulties in the way of a system of State purchasing are insuperable. An Import Board would make no fewer mistakes than private enterprise, but those of the State would be vastly more disastrous. When they speculated favourably and the world prices at the time proved to be high, the farmers certainly would not benefit by their satisfactory speculation in futures, because their price under the scheme would be dependent on the lower price that had been arranged in advance. Whenever the Board had bought unfavourably when the world prices at the time turned out to be lower, it would be very doubtful whether the farmer would be paid more than the world prices. It is quite certain that the consumer would refuse to be charged more for his food than the current prices of the world, and it is easy to see what disastrous results would fall on the Exchequer.
If we cannot see any way to help the farmer by stabilisation at present, we are doing much by our administrative and legislative efforts to help him in marketing and in getting profits which are now escaping him, and we hope to go still further very shortly and to bring in a Bill, to help him by grading to regain a better share, in his own market at the expense of the foreigner. Of course, the farmers would like us to do very much more, and, naturally, when a man is up against heavy losses, he does want cash assistance. It is, however, admitted by all parties that protection or cash subsidies 503 are out of the question. It is agreed that we cannot cure the industry under present political conditions by transfusion of blood and by raising the farmers' receipts at the expense of other industries, taxpayers or consumers. We may, however, help on the costs side by re-adjusting between one interest and another where inequitable burdens are now imposed.
I was very interested in what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said about the relief of rates, and his opinion that any such step would be a form of bribery and corruption. I entirely disagree with him. We are examining the system of local taxation in the interest not only of farmers but of all producers, because we believe that there is a strong case for further relief for easing the burden of
§ taxation for general and local services, and also for further assistance out of the Road Fund. The difficulty is money, and we must ensure, of course, that in helping one section of the ratepayers we are not imposing new and unfair burdens on the rest. Obviously, I cannot say at this stage whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to find the financial means to enable us to give the relief which we should like, but I am sure that any resources which may be found available will be more satisfactorily devoted to helping all agriculturists, all sides of the industry, rather than to partial remedies which are pressed upon us for the benefit of special types of production.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 270; Noes, 113.505
|Division No. 20.]||AYES.||[7.27 p.m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Chapman, Sir S.||Grant, Sir J. A.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Christie, J. A.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool.W. Derby)||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Clayton, G. C.||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Apsley, Lord||Cope, Major William||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Atkinson, C.||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hamilton, Sir George|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)|
|Beckett, Sir Garvase (Leeds, N.)||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)||Hanbury, C|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Bennett, A. J.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Harland, A.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)|
|Berry, Sir George||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Harney, E. A.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset.Yeovil)||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Drewe, C.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Duckworth, John||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Eden, Captain Anthony||Henderson, Sir Vivian (Bootle)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Edge, Sir William||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Briant, Frank||Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Ellis, R.G.||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||England, Colonel A.||Hilton, Cecil|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univsr.)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Buchan, John||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Fenby, T. D.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Fermoy, Lord||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Finburgh, S.||Hudson, R. S.(Cumberiand, Whiteh'n)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Ford, Sir P. J.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Burman, J. B.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gates, Percy||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Gauit, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamliton||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Goff, Sir Park||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Gower, Sir Robert||Jephcott, A. R|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Grace, John||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||KIdd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Nuttail, Ellis||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Oakley, T.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Lamb, J. Q.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Strauss, E. A.|
|Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Owen, Major G.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Loder, J. de V.||Penny, Frederick George||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Long, Major Eric||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Looker, Herbert William||Perring, Sir William George||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Preston, William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Lumley, L. R.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Lynn, Sir R. J.||Radford, E. A.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Raine, Sir Walter||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Ramsden, E.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Maclntyre, Ian||Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|McLean, Major A.||Remnant, Sir James||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Rice, Sir Frederick||Waddington, R.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|MacRobert, Alexander M.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Ropner, Major L.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Salmon, Major I.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wells, S. R.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Sandeman, N. Stewart||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Merriman, F. B.||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Savory, S. S.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||Windsor-Clive. Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D. Mcl. (Renfrew,W.)||Withers, John James|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Womersley, W. J.|
|Morris, R. H.||Skelton, A. N.||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Smithers, Waldron||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C, (Cambridge)||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Lieut-Colonel Acland Troyle and|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hayes, John Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scurr, John|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, G. H.||Sexton, James|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertiliery)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Barnes, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barr, J.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smillie, Robert|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Bromley, J.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kennedy, T.||Snell, Harry|
|Buchanan, G.||Kirkwood, D.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Lansbury, George||Stamford, T. W.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawrence, Susan||Stephen, Campbell|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Sullivan, J.|
|Clowes, S.||Lindley, F. W.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lowth, T.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H- (Derby)|
|Compton, Joseph||Lunn, William||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Connolly, M.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, W. G.||Mackinder, W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Maclean, Neill (Glasgow, Govan)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Day, Harry||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Dennison, R.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Viant, S. P.|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dunnico, H.||Maxton, James||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne)|
|Gardner, J. P.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Murnin, H.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Gillett, George M.||Naylor, T. E.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Oliver, George Harold||Welsh, J. C.|
|Greenall, T.||Paling, W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Windsor, Walter|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Potts, John S.||Wright, W.|
|Groves, T.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W.Bromwich)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks,W. R., Elland)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hardle, George D.||Rose, Frank H.||Mr. T. Williams und Mr. Riley.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after half-past Seven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.