HC Deb 21 November 1930 vol 245 cc819-36

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The Bill which I have the honour to introduce has for its purpose the stimulation of the use of British materials in the manufacture of beer. On reference to the Bill hon. Members will notice that I give a rather wide definition of beer. That definition includes such beverages as spruce and rum and so on, and I may say in regard to that definition that I am speaking of beverages of which I have no inside knowledge. I hope that there will be a considerable measure of agreement, at least on the purpose of this Bill, if not on the method proposed in it. The purpose is one which ought to call support even from the temperance reformers because, although they are somewhat intemperate on certain occasions in their enthusiasm for the cause, I think they will agree with me that it is all to the good, as long as beer remains our national beverage, that it should be manufactured from British ingredients. I am not without hope also of gaining a little good will from the Minister of Agriculture because, the other day, in reply to a question on a kindred subject he described this as a desirable object. It is common knowledge that our agricultural industry is in a grievous plight, and I think we are in general agreement that our farming operations are so diverse that it is not possible to apply any one specific which will meet the whole case, but that we must look to a variety of remedies to meet a variety of troubles.

This Bill deals only with barley and hops. It may he asked why I have not dealt with the question of sugar. I have omitted sugar because there would be great practical difficulty in bringing it into the Measure. It would involve bringing in also a large number of ancillary businesses and the manufacturers of various substances supplied to the brewers, such as brewers' sugar, glucose and other chemical concoctions. I ask the House to observe that I have not called this Bill a Pure Beer Bill. Pure beer is a matter which appeals strongly to us all, but I do not know that it is a very urgent matter for legislation. The term "pure beer" in the old days rather suggested the necessary inference that there was such stuff as impure beer. My memory goes back to the early days of this century, when there was an epidemic of arsenic poisoning in the North and it was traced to some beer that was being produced there. As the casualties were chiefly among the best customers, of course the remedy came from within the industry, and, since then, I think we have had no repetition of it. But apart from that sense in which the expression "pure beer" is used, there has grown up a secondary sense of the term which applies not to purity as such, but to the amount of sugar content. When "pure beer" is spoken of, by that is meant beer which has not more than 15 per cent. sugar content, At the present time beer very often rather exceeds that amount, but it seems to me that to deal with that question is far less urgent than to deal with the question of barley and hops, which are of great account in our agricultural industry.

In this matter we find the initial difficulty that there are not any statistics upon which we can base our arguments with absolute certainty. In fact one of the purposes of the Bill is to obtain such statistics, but from inquiries that I have made I am given to understand that at the present time the amount of British hops used in beer would probably not exceed 70 per cent. and yet a large number of brewers are using over 90 per cent. It therefore seems to me that there must be a large number of other brewers who fall rather short of grace in this respect. I do not propose to say anything more about hops because my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) who will second this Motion is going to deal more fully with that question. Turning to barley I am given to understand that, in the aggregate, the proportion of British-grown barley used by brewers in the manufacture of beer is probably not more than about 55 per cent. to 60 per cent., the remaining 40 per cent. to 45 per cent. being brought from oversea. I have made further inquiries, and I find that quite a large number of brewers employ something like from 75 to 80 per cent. of British barley. There are actually one or two firms which make an all-British beer. There again it seems to me that there must be other brewers who are falling badly behind their colleagues in this particular opportunity that they have of giving a leg-up to British agriculture.

With regard to the position of the barley grower, speaking generally, barley requires light soil and light rainfall, and it is very largely grown on the light limestone lands in Rutland, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, and elsewhere. In those districts and on that soil it is, practically speaking—in fact, I think one might say certainly—the only cereal crop that can be grown in the rotation. The farming system there is largely turnips and barley, and the land has not sufficient depth of soil for wheat or for beans and would not lay down to good pasture. The barley is therefore practically an essential cereal in that particular district, and if the barley crop were to be given up, there is very little doubt that large tracts of land would go down to their old original state of heath or moorland. At the present moment, as the House is well aware, we are plodding our weary way through the Land (Utilisation) Bill, and it seems to me that it would be far more practical to keep on with the barley land which we have already than to proceed with other measures for utilizing it.

Let us turn for a moment to the barley costs. I think I shall not be very far wrong—it varies in different seasons, but I think the Minister will not seriously quarrel with my figures—if I say that the cost of production is something like£6 or£7 an acre in the district I have named. The yield varies from 3½ to perhaps 4 quarters to the acre in a heavy season, and the price is an extraordinarily wide one. For barley that can be used for malting, it comes out at very high prices. I do not wish to quote extreme prices, but I think I should be well inside the mark if I said that malting barley of good quality might be put at an average of 45s. per quarter. On the other hand, if it is not good enough for malting, or if there is an excess of malting barley, so that the brewers do not absorb it for malting purposes and it cannot find a market in that category, it immediately falls into the lower category of feeding barley, which on the average only gets a price of, say, 24s. a quarter. Taking those figures in rather a generous way, it therefore seems that the crop arising from an acre may vary from£4 les. up to£9, and it will be seen from those figures that the barley grouter is very much dependent on the brewer for getting a successful result from his barley.

There are two other factors which I ought to mention. Barley is particularly sensitive to the weather, and showery weather at harvest time has a very marked effect upon it. One result of that is that it is much more difficult for brewers to obtain a large hulk of English barley from the same sample than it would be for them to obtain a large bulk from one sample of barley from abroad, where the climate is more kindly to the farmer. We are told that public taste has changed a good deal and that it looks more and more for a bright, brilliant beer, which can only be obtained by a very considerable admixture of foreign barley. I am not going to suggest that that taste has been schooled into this new channel, but whether it has or has not been cultivated because of its convenience, 1 am going to put in a plea for higher education, so that we may get a more generous proportion of British barley in our beer.

It will be seen from some of the figures I have mentioned that it would be difficult to ask for cent. per cent. British. I think it would probably defeat the purpose of the Bill if I had asked for that, and I am therefore content with something less, and making allowance for the differences in the seasons, I have left it to the discretion of the Minister of Agriculture to fix what would be the right proportion. The brewer is a man of many virtues. He gives us good cheer and he makes us contented. I am one of those who would associate myself. quite definitely with the Persian poet, who, writing years ago about the vintners, said of them: I wonder often what the Vintners buy One-half so precious as the stuff they sell. The brewer's virtues do not end there. I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer must recognise that there are many virtues in the brewing industry, and even if he may be a little inclined to dissemble his love, I am sure he would not be shy about taking up the£70,000,000 odd that he receives from that golden source.

Perhaps it is not altogether realised what a weight of taxation there is upon beer. I noticed the other day a report of a brewery meeting in which the chairman referred to the weight of taxation levied upon that industry, and he pointed out that in 1902 the Government took out of the distributed profits of that year 59 per cent., while the shareholder and reserve funds received 41 per cent., but last year that proportion had risen quite out of all recognition with the earlier figure, and the Government were actually taking 83 per cent. and the shareholder only receiving 17 per cent. of the distributed profits. I am glad to think that even at that, they received 12 per cent. upon their capital. Another serious difficulty with which the brewer has to contend is the serious fall in consumption. In the year before the war the amount of beer brewed was something like 36,000,000 barrels, but last year it had sunk to the comparatively small figure of 19,250,000 barrels.

The brewer also occupies a very unusual position. In the first place, he is comparatively immune from foreign competition. He has a sheltered industry, and, as regards internal competition, it is mitigated in various ways. In the first place, I think I am right in suggesting that no fresh brewery could start, and therefore that source of competition is pretty well knocked out. Then the tied-house system has been developed. A cynic once told me that the tied-house system was started because anyone could sell good beer; the trouble was to sell bad beer. I cannot share the view of that cynic, because I believe there is no such thing as bad beer. Balancing the various difficulties with which the brewer has to contend with the privileges which he enjoys, one might speculate as to whether he could not do a little more for agriculture, and whether it is not fair to ask him to do so. I think it would be very desirable that he should add to his other virtues by buying British. My admiration for the brewer is such that I do not wish to burden him unduly, and in this Bill merely ask him to make certain returns. He already makes returns, and I only ask him to subdivide those returns into the quantities of British Empire and foreign origin.

I would like to say a few words about the export trade. One has to be very careful about making any disturbance in that trade, but here we are a little fortunate inasmuch as circumstances lave somewhat. circumscribed our difficulty, because, in the first place, there are very few brewers who are interested in the export trade, and, therefore, the amount of inspection and trouble which any concession to export trade requires would be strictly limited. Again, the brew that they make for export is a separate one, which would make it simpler to deal with. In return for these requests that I make of the brewer, I offer the benefit, for what it is worth, of the national mark, which we undoubtedly know, by experience in other directions, has some value, and I am not at all sure that in the ease of beer it would not so far harmonise with the wishes of the customer that a national mark beer would gain a great deal in popularity. But the national mark, though it is all I can include in this Bill, is not the whole wish that I have at heart, for I would like to see a differentiation in taxation in favour of those who comply with a reasonably high standard of British material in beer.

If I turn to the Clauses in the Bill, what I would say upon them, after the long explanation I have already given, is that in Clause 1 I have endeavoured to keep the machinery as simple as possible. I realise that the maltster has got to be brought in, because a good many brewers buy from him direct. I also make provision for returns to cover Empire produce. In the second Clause, I wish to extend the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, so as to include beer. I fancy that it is more than doubtful whether beer would be included in the Act, unless it were definitely brought within it. In the third Clause, I cast a responsibility upon the Minister of Agriculture, which, I hope, he will not find too oppressive, but I make it obligatory upon him to prescribe the proportion of British barley and hops that shall qualify for a national mark, and I make it permissive for him to prescribe the percentage of Empire produce. Quite clearly, nothing will happen under that immediately. But we might as well begin by getting our figures at the earliest possible time, so as to have a foundation upon which to build. I commend this Bill to the House, and I ask for the Second Reading in order to help to keep up our arable cultivation, especially in the Eastern Counties. I ask the House for a Second Reading in order to give a little encouragement to farmers, who have had a very bad time. I ask for it, also, to give a little encouragement to the brewer to adopt the course I recommend, so that he may harmonise the wishes of his customers with the good of agriculture.

Captain BOURNE

I beg to second the Motion.

In doing so, wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that in recent years several Bills with this object, or a similar object, in view, have been presented, although I think in all cases they have suffered from the defect of private Members' Bills of being overwhelmed at the end of the Session. It may surprise the House to know that there is a very great pressure to introduce private Members' Bills dealing with beer, and it is, perhaps, not realised what a very large customer the brewing trade is to agriculture, and how the restrictions which we put on the trade, and the very heavy taxation which has been placed, unfortunately, not only on the brewing trade, but on the distillery trade, have affected agriculture. The consequence is that where farmers used to find, before the War, a large market for their produce, there is to-day much less demand, while competition in those markets has been such that the British farmer finds it harder to maintain his footing.

For that reason, we bring in this Bill with the desire to protect, as far as we can, a reasonable share of the markets for the home producer. As my hon. Friend in introducing this Bill said, before the War there used to be brewed, approximately, 36,000,000 standard barrels of beer. To-day, the figure is about 19,250,000, but it would be a very great mistake if the House supposed from those figures that the consumption of beer in this country has gone down by nearly one-half. Before the War, the difference between the number of standard barrels brewed—and by that I mean a barrel of 36 gallons, with a specific gravity of 1,050— and the number of bulk barrels—that is, the number of barrels of 36 gallons actually placed on the market—is to-day something like 19,250,000 standard barrels brewed, but something over 24,000,000 barrels consumed. That, in itself, reduces very largely the demand for hops. For those 24,000,000 barrels which are drunk annually now, representing something like 22,500,000 bulk standard barrels, there should be automatically a considerably bigger demand for malt, hops and sugar, and that very large drop between the standard barrel and the bulk barrel is largely due to the enormous amount of taxation which beer has to bear to-day.

There is another difficulty which has overtaken farmers. Again, owing to the very high taxation, the amount of whisky distilled in this country, or, rather, mostly in Scotland and Ireland, has dropped very considerably. Before the war, the distiller was a competitor of the brewer and the malting farmer, and more especially the rather lower grade of malting barley which produced admirable malt for distilling, but, perhaps, would not produce malt of a sufficiently high quality to give that brightness to beer which, as my hon. Friend has said, is such a, desirable thing to-day.

That market has to a large extent vanished, and both the growers of barley and the growers of hops find themselves with a restricted market, and have great difficulty in disposing of their produce, through causes which are no fault of their own but arise very largely from the action of the State. I wish more particularly to make an apeal to the House on behalf of the growers of hops, because their industry is one which has suffered very severely owing to the diminution in the quantity of beer brewed, and it is an industry which, for all practical purposes, has no other market except the brewing industry. It is true that there is a very small demand for hops for medicinal purposes. It is said, I believe, that if you stuff your pillow with hops you will sleep well, but I take it that is rather a matter of faith.

I have grown hops and I have lived among hop-growers, and I claim to know something about hops, and the first thing I would like to remind the House is this: During the War, when land was urgently required for the production of foodstuffs, owing to the submarine menace, hop-growers were compelled to reduce their acreage by one-half. I am not saying for a moment that that was not necessary, but what people forget is that a hop garden is a very expensive thing to establish. There is all the expense of wiring it, and it brings no return for the first three years after planting. The amount of capital required for establishing a hop-garden is something like£40 or£50 per acre. No one will deny that it may be a necessity in time of War to halve the area of the hop gardens, but, all the same, to the hop-grower it means so much good money thrown away. After the War hop-growers were encouraged, nay, almost compelled by the Controller, to increase their acreage. There was an idea, I think, that there would be a greater demand for beer than proved to be the case; or, rather, I do not think anyone foresaw that one of the effects of high taxation, would be to make so great a difference between the amount of beer brewed and the amount of beer drunk. There has been overproduction of hops, and it has been a, very difficult thing for the hop-growers to carry on at all by reason of their having only one market, the brewing market, because the amount the brewers can take is limited in present conditions

The overhead expenses of a hop grower are very great. Not only is there the expense of wiring the gardens, but there is also the overhead expense for the erection of kilns or oast houses, and these overhead expenses have to be borne whether he is running his kilns to their full capacity or not. In many cases the kilns represent thousands of pounds in overhead expenses. It is obvious that with the decreased demand for beer the hop grower cannot hope for many years to see a return to the old acreage, and I suggest that for that very reason it is still more desirable to guarantee to him as large a share of the British market as possible. The late Government put a duty upon imported hops, and the hop growers were very grateful for it. I believe there is very little reason why British hops should not be almost universally used. The main importation of hops comes from California, Oregon and Bavaria. The Oregon hops, although very nice to look at, have a curiously strong resinous smell and taste, and for that reason they can only be used in very small quantities. Our forefathers had a taste which was not altogether averse to liquorice in beers, but I do not think that present day taste runs in that direction. Prohibition in America has tendered to increase the export of American hops to this country, though judging by reports of what has occurred in America one begins to believe that the brewing industry there is getting on to its feet again. With regard to Bavarian hops, the position is a little different. As hon. Members are aware, in brewing hops are used for two purposes. They are used principally for boiling with the mash in the mash-tub; but there is a second use for very high grade quality hops. After the beer is brewed, and when it is put either into refrigerating chambers to keep or into barrels to send out, a small, quite small, quantity of very fine hops is placed in the beer to make it clear and to give it that rather bitter taste which we associate with the name "India Pale Ale." For that purpose, and for very light beers I think Bavarian hops have an advantage over our own; but for the great bulk of the brewing industry I believe British hops could be used and would serve better than those of other countries. I do not wish to deal with the question of barley, what I have had to say concerns hops, and I would add this in conclusion: The Minister of Agriculture has been making great and praiseworthy efforts to see that the National Mark is applied to British beef. May I ask him to extend the same thing to beer, which is associated with beef in our traditions?


I have every sympathy with the desire of the Mover and the Seconder of this Bill that we should do whatever we can to maintain arable cultivation and to have our cultivators growing a sufficient quantity of good class barley and good hops; but if this Bill represents their best contribution towards that desirable end I must say that I do not think it will carry them very far. Let as look for a moment at the proposals of the Bill. It proposes that brewers shall make a return showing the amount of barley, malt and hops they use and whether it is British, Empire or foreign, and that every maltster shall make a similar return. If anything were to happen after that there might be something to say for the proposal. It would, I imagine, place a considerable burden upon brewers and maltsters—though I think they could well afford it—but it would be worth it, perhaps, if, when they had made these returns, anything were going to happen.

The promoters of this Bill have entirely overlooked the multiplication of hordes of officials likely to be created by these proposals. This Bill would necessitate the appointment of officials to investigate the returns; they would have to go into the breweries and the maltsters' establishments to see their books and it would be a very expensive business. I welcome the support of hon. Gentlemen responsible for this Bill for making provision for the necessary staff to do this public work. What does it mean? If we turn to Clause 3 we get down to what may be called business. That Clause provides that the brewer may, if he likes, apply to the Minister of Agriculture for a mark, and that he shall be entitled, if he uses the percentages prescribed by the Minister, to mark his beer accordingly as the description provides. The brewer is not obliged to do anything. He is not obliged to buy British barley or British hops, but he "may" buy them. He may gets the hops from Oregon, or Bavaria, or anywhere else.

If the Bill had provided that the brewers should buy British hops, then we might have looked at these proposals a little more closely, or even if the brewers had been obliged to buy a certain percentage of British hops. We often see the brewers' vans going through the streets decorated, with red, white and blue ribbons on the horses' tails, and Union Jack on the hacks of the horses, and yet the hops used in making the beer might come from Oregon or Bavaria. I cannot see how these proposals would help the industry except in a very indirect way. I want to help, but I am afraid the proposal in this Bill is not a very good way of helping the industry.

There is nothing to prevent British brewery companies buying British barley now. They are all well-to-do people, and there is nothing to prevent them from giving a guaranteed price for a good class of British malting barley. To use a slang expression, it is as easy as falling off a log. I remember seeing the other day a placard issued by the party opposite at a recent by-election in which the advocates of this business led a revolt against their leader. That revolt has something to do with using Empire goods. Why should the British brewers not combine to buy English barley? Why adopt this roundabout way of giving an option, if they like, of getting a label from the Ministry of Agriculture to say that they are using British barley. The brewers can do it without taking that course. The case of hops is easier than that of barley.

I would like to tell the House what has happened in the case of hops. We were informed by the Mover or the Seconder of this Bill that the brewery companies were in favour of this Measure. There was an association of hop growers formed some time ago to deal with the price of hops and malting barley, and it did quite well. The price of hops in 1927 was 235s. per cwt. and in 1928, 215s. per cwt. The brewers did not support this excellent association which was bringing prosperity to the hop-growers, and it broke down. I may have to tell that story upon another occasion, but the result was that in 1929, instead of good British hops being 215s. per cwt., the price had been smashed down to 87s. 6d. per cwt.

That was unnecessary because the brewery companies did quite well during those years. I have the figures of the estimated profits of brewery companies in 1927–28, and they amounted to£24,000,000, which is quite a comfortable figure. I would like to point out that in 1013–14 the estimated profits were£9,971,000, and last year they were£24,500,000. The brewers could easily have afforded to buy British hops at a decent price, and they could have afforded to pay a decent price for British barley.

I suggest to the promoters of this Bill that they ought to address their representations to the Empire Free Traders. The proposal in this Measure is a very roundabout way of proceeding in the case of a great industry, and they really do not need to bother us at all. As this Bill is optional, I do not think it can possibly be of much use. It will certainly be very difficult to work. The appointment of a lot of officials will be necessary if it becomes law, and it will be a great nuisance to the companies. I want to be as helpful as I can to the industry, and if the officers of the Ministry can provide a simple way of helping the promoters by an amendment of the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, I shall be glad to consider it. I make that promise without having explored the question very carefully, but at any rate it will have my good will, and I think something of that kind would be of much more service than the proposals contained in the Bill. I am sorry to say that, in my view, this Measure would be completely futile, because there is no power behind it. Having given my assurance of good will, so far as I can give it without actually pledging myself, I hope the promoters will not think it necessary to press the Bill to a Division, and I will see what can be done by a conference.


I think we all agree with the Mover of this Bill that assistance for the British barley grower is a very desirable object, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, that in practice this Bill would inevitably prove ineffective. My reasons for saying this I should like to give from, perhaps, rather a different point of view from that of the right hon. Gentleman. I have a great belief in the National Mark scheme, but it was never framed for and has never in any way succeeded in the case of anything except raw produce, and it is not in its nature capable of useful application to a manufactured article.


There is the case of jam.


That may be so, but I will tell the House my reasons for believing that it is peculiarly inapplicable to such an article as beer. What, after all, is the essence of the National Mark scheme? We are faced with the problem of an industry consisting of a vast number of individual producers, who cannot keep up individually a regular supply uniformly packed and graded; and the National Mark is given in suitable cases as a guarantee of quality, uniformity, regularity of supply and packing which, without this National Mark, would be only available to those producers if they were on a very big scale. It has enabled the small producer to get much of the trading and marketing advantage which hitherto has been enjoyed only by large combinations, and under the National Mark we are gradually seeing the development of a large-scale reputation for the benefit of a large number of conscientious individual producers. But the essence of its success is that it is built up on the production of a uniform article, and it is not suitable for a varying article which is necessary in order to meet very variable eases.

12 n.

Apparently what is at the back of my hon. Friend's mind is that he wants to make anyhow a large class of beer uniform and the same every year in its ingredients. He proposes that the ingredients should be prescribed by the right hon. Gentleman, and that the brewer should be left to do the rest. He forgets that the choice of ingredients is a very complicated scientific problem. It is not just a matter of buying in a cheap market, as the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well, and I do not say that he suggested that it was. The foreign barley which is required for the legitimate purpose of counteracting the excessive nitrogenous content of European barley frequently costs much more than the British barley with which it is mixed, and it would be impracticable to get a satisfactorily uniform result by laying down these ingredients without any kind of consideration for their chemical characteristics. The brewing process is one of extreme complication and delicacy, and I suppose that there is nothing consumed by the public which is turned out after a greater application of expert scientific knowledge. What, after all, is the essence of the process? It is the feeding of yeast. The yeast in a single brewery may he a complicated combination including up to about 100 different kinds, upon which the taste of the product depends. Not only do the yeasts react upon the food, hut the foods supplied to the yeast react upon the yeasts, and upon the product which they produce, and you can only control their working by giving them suitable ingredients. We all know what care the farmer uses in selecting his seed for his corn crops, and the maltster has to do the same with his barley. The barley has to be chosen, like seed corn, to live again on the malting floor, to grow again under very carefully watched conditions, and the resulting malt is dependent, not only on great skill, but on very special original qualities in the barley.

I have the greatest admiration for the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture. No doubt they could learn any subject to which they applied their minds. But they are not, in laying down the ingredients for a national mark here, to consider the matter from the point of view of biochemistry—and really it is a problem of biochemistry—but they are only to consider it from the point of view of the market. If people sell under this proposed national mark a manufactured product, they will no longer be at liberty to balance their nitrogenous excesses, which lead to various awkward results in taste and appearance; they will no longer be able to balance these varying qualities in the malts of the west of Europe by blending them with either sugar or, what is the exact equivalent of sugar in the brewing process, malt from sun-dried barleys of very high starch content. The inevitable result would be, if beer were brewed on these lines, that you would get a very unpalatable article, and for that reason I agree with my hon. Friend who moved the Bill that the teetotal party ought to support it, because, if brewers were to be induced to produce their beer under the prescriptions of the Ministry of Agriculture, based on market conditions and not on their requirements, the taste of the beer would be very much affected in consequence.

The national mark has built up its reputation owing to the excellence of the products which it covers, and which the public is gradually learning to appreciate. When they buy extra fancy apples, they know what they are going to get; they know that they are going to get the very best that the market can produce. I am afraid that, if they get beer sold under a national mark and varying from year to year, not according to the quality of home barley, but according to the convenience of the producer, inevitably the reputation of the national mark would suffer; and I would point out that a national mark of this kind, admirable as it is for the small producer in enabling him to co-operate and get the benefit of a large-scale reputation, is quite unsuitable to producers whose reputation is already established. After all, these producers have created their position by selling a special article on its merits suited to the taste of the consumer. They must necessarily try to keep their article as uniform as they possibly can. They do not want to get merged in a scheme of the Ministry of Agriculture at the risk, almost the certainty, of deterioration in what they believe to be the desirable quality of that beer. Above all, I cannot believe they would wish to lose their individuality in a national mark scheme of this kind, and for that reason I believe the scheme would be ineffective. I cannot believe that many producers would find it worth their while to use it, and it is for that reason, because, however desirable its object, I believe the Bill to be based on a complete misunderstanding of the origin and possible uses of the national mark, and also because I think it takes no proper account of the conditions of an industry dependent on meeting a great variety of public tastes, that I shall feel obliged to oppose it.


I should like to congratulate the Mover on the presentation of a Bill which is very much like the beverage that is brewed very largely from foreign barley. It seems to me an aeroplane in price and a submarine in quality. It lacks the backbone which is essential if the barley growing industry is to receive the fillip which is so terribly required, especially in East Anglia. I am dealing now with barley and not with fruit. If we are to have any legislation, either from a private Member or from the official leader of the House, it should be absolutely and definitely honest in regard to the use of the national mark. I am sure there is not the least dishonest intention on the part of the promoters of this proposal, but, if the national mark is to be used for the production of national foodstuffs, or beverages of any sort or kind, the ingredients which that mark covers should be of national origin completely so far as it is possible to secure it. From that point of view, I had hoped the promoter of the Bill would at least have included in it a definite demand from the Government for the use of the national mark and, as a quid pro quo, the frank admission by the brewers that, under the extreme urgency and stringency of the barley case, they were also determined to use only British barley even though the sparkle was not quite so bright or the liquid quite so clear.

In the early days, the brewing industry formed a very human association with the country districts. Every market town possessed its local brewery, where the local farmers could sell their barley to the brewers. There was no anxiety to invite Czechoslovakian buyers in large numbers which has resulted in our own Norfolk sellers arriving at the market to find those gentlemen in possession. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in perfect good faith, that foreign barley is really worth more than British barley in the production of British beer. I do not question it. The right hon. Gentleman is an expert. I believe his esteemed and honoured family are associated with the production of a commodity which figures from one end of the country to the other as being a genuine article thus far. Nevertheless, one is bound to suggest that, notwithstanding the value of the name associated with this ancient and historic beverage, it has sometimes figured in affairs which have had little to do with either its value or the quality of the ingredients that it contains. One sees in elections, that it is likely to play a great part, even in White-chapel in relation to the Palestinian problem. I find there is an election cry locally, "Guinness is good for you." There is a reply that says, "Eat it, drink it if you like, but do not let it govern you." I do not know what association the Bill may have with the position, but, judging from the attitude of both front Benches, there is little desire on either side to handle this rather difficult problem from the national point of view.

Putting the more facetious side of the position aside, I earnestly appeal to the promoters that, whatever they do in relation to the Bill, which is a spineless offer to capture a valuable advertisement in the shape of the national mark, they will seriously face up to their patriotic duty in relation to assisting the great industry of agriculture in a far greater manner than they have hitherto done. I have no antagonism to the brewer. There is no doubt that, as has been said, he is a man of many virtues, but one objects to the way in which he is making his huge profits. He is getting his living by buying foreign barley to the detriment of the English grower. It has a tremendous effect in East Anglia. Unless there is an improved demand for barley, we shall have the second-class land of East Anglia going completely out of cultivation. Some people think a tariff would provide a remedy, but remember the admission from the opposite Bench that, even at a higher price, foreign barley must be used. I hope chemistry may be so set to work as to provide a really definite British beverage possible to be made from purely British barley and British hops. The resources of chemistry may well be used not only in promoting peace as against war but also in promoting a genuine British liquid, which shall bring the ancient glory of this historic beverage into modern life in the best sense of the word. I do not oppose this proposal. I believe the hon. Member has brought it forward in good faith to secure the support of the Government in endeavouring to extend the use of British barley. I suggest to the Government and to the Mover that they could do no better service to the agricultural interest than to put their heads together in conference and determine that, by law established, British barley shall be used for British beer to the fullest possible extent.


In view of what has been said, and the kindly offer of assistance which the Minister of Agriculture has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Rill. The only question which I should like to ask and to make sure about is whether the Minister believes he has power without legislation to apply the national mark to beer, as this is a matter about which, I believe, there is some doubt in the country.


I would not like to give a definite answer to that question, as there are some questions which are not quite decided in connection with it. I should think probably, yes, but much would depend upon the conditions; and I should not like to give any undertaking.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.