HC Deb 07 December 1931 vol 260 cc1539-655

Order for Second Reading read.

The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Sir John Gilmour)

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

In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I do not propose to cover a large part of the ground which has already been traversed in the Debates on the Financial Resolution. The Bill is designed to empower the Minister to impose duties on certain descriptions of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, flowers, bulbs, plants and foliage, with a view to reducing the importation of these commodities, the production of which can be increased in the United Kingdom or which can properly be regarded as articles of luxury. The object is, therefore, somewhat different from that of the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act, which was designed to enable immediate action to be taken to deal with an exceptional situation which had arisen. This Bill is nevertheless clearly entitled an Emergency Customs Duties Bill, because it is very definitely related to the general national emergency, and points to the need of taking every possible step to reduce the imports of commodities which can either, on the one hand, be produced within this country, or, on the other hand, can be properly done without altogether.

The House will observe that the procedure follows very closely on that prescribed by the Abnormal Importations Act. Clause 1 of the Bill empowers the Minister, with the necessary consent and acquiescence of the Treasury, to make an Order imposing Customs duties on any articles of any of the descriptions set out in the Schedule, and it is limited, of course, to those items which are specified in the Schedule. As in the case of the Abnormal Importations Act, an Order made under this Measure is to be submitted to the House of Commons as soon as possible, and will cease to have effect after 28 days from the date on which it is made unless it has previously received the approval of the House.

I would call attention to Sub-section (4) of Clause 1. The exemption in this Sub-section from the operation of Section 1 of the Rules Publication Act, 1893, has been found necessary because that Section requires that. at least 40 days' notice shall be given in the "London Gazette" of any Rules which it is proposed to make under any Act which directs that such Rules shall be laid before Parliament. This provision was not necessary in the Abnormal Importations Act, since the Board of Trade's Rules were already exempt from this requirement, and we feel that it is essential that we should have that power here.

Clause 2 explains the basis on which the duties will be levied. While under the Bill the duties are subject to the same maximum as that laid down in the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, namely, 100 per cent. of the value of the article, it. has not been possible here to make a simple provision for an ad valorem duty only, in view of the fact, which, as the House will remember, was brought out in the former discussion, that many of the commodities dealt with are sent to this country for sale on consignment. Powers are, therefore, taken to levy duties on the basis of value, weight, measurement or quantity, and, where the duty is charged otherwise than by reference to value, it is proposed that the value for the purpose of the 100 per cent. limitation shall be the wholesale price, as determined by the Minister, of similar articles taken at the corresponding period in the preceding year. I should, perhaps, here call attention to the fact that, as in the case of the Abnormal Importations Act, Empire products are exempt, and, as the House will remember, the Channel Islands and the Scilly Isles are also exempt—


And the Isle of Man.


And the Isle of Man. Under Clause 3, the basis of value is similar to that of Section 3 of the Abnormal Importations Act. It provides that the value of the imported article is in effect the c.i.f. value of the goods at the port of importation. This definition, I may explain to the House, has been adopted for all ad valorem duties since 1915. It was adopted in the case of the McKenna Duties enacted in that year, the Safeguarding and Key Industry Duties of 1921, the German Reparations Levy of 1921, the Silk and McKenna Duties of 1925, the later Safeguarding Duties and the Abnormal Importation Duties, and I think it can, therefore, be claimed that its working is well understood practically by all the interests concerned; that is to say, it is familiar to traders, shipping agents and Customs officers. Clause 4 is put in to provide for any case of disputes. In the operation of all the Acts that I have just cited, that is since 1915, the disputes that have arisen have not yet run into double figures, so that it is reasonable to hope that no great strain will be placed upon this side of the working of the Act, but it follows the precedent of the ad valorem duties. In the case of temporary duties such as the present, where expeditious settlement of the matter is desirable, I think the House will agree that it is desirable to have some other tribunal than the High Court, and it is so provided. Clause 5 exempts from duty articles imported for re-exportation after transit or shipment.


Will the right hon. Gentleman correct what he said just now? The Isle of Man is not included.


That is so. Clause 6 provides that the Act shall be limited to 12 months. The Abnormal Importations Act is for six months, but in this case the products that are to be dealt with will just be starting, in some cases, in six months' time, and it is a practical proposition that. we should take the powers for 12 months if our objects are to be achieved.

The House has already had a very considerable discussion upon this Measure, due to the fact that the Financial Resolution covered most of the practical working of our proposal. I am very sensible of the fact that in certain quarters the Bill has been described as ineffective, as useless, and as interfering with the vitamins of the poorest people in the country. On the other hand, I think I can say that it is an interim Measure designed to deal with problems which may become very acute during the time when the House may not be in session, and that it is practical from the point of view of encouraging a very wide branch of horticultural products. While I have never claimed, and do not now claim, that it is a wildly revolutionary method, yet it is a practical step in the direction of encouraging our own people to produce those ordinary foods which we use every day, which they can profitably produce and which they only require some measure of encouragement to increase and to bring to market in sound quality for our people. On the other hand, there is one aspect of it which, I am sure the House will agree, deals with purely luxury articles which some people may enjoy because they come in sooner than it is possible to produce them here, but which, in the circumstances in which the country finds itself at present, it is not unreasonable or unjust that they should forgo. On all these grounds I submit the Measure to the House with confidence, and I hope it will bring not only encouragement, but increasing prosperity to a very large circle of men and women who are working upon the soil, who are working in glass-houses, who are doing that very healthy work to which everyone in the House or out of it has always given lip service and to which we now have an opportunity of giving some practical and real encouragement.


I should like to be clear on one point. I suppose the words in the Schedule under the heading of "Flowers" are meant to cover ornamental plants and shrubs of a luxury nature?


Yes. As I read them, that is so.


I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words: this House declines to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which can be of no real advantage to the British farmer or the agricultural worker and cannot improve the economic position of the country, but will hinder trade and increase the cost of living, and marks the first step in the taxation of food. If the matter were not so serious in its implications, I should imagine that the House would be amused, if indeed not annoyed, by the right hon. Gentleman presenting before us the same dish of lettuce and turnips that he put before us for some days last week. I imagine, however, that he will have said to him- self, "This is a small thing but mine own," and hence the House, notwithstanding the circumstances in which the country is placed, has to spend something like two and a-half days in discussing this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has given us the usual collection of generalities. He has not for a moment attempted by figure or fact to justify the introduction of the Bill. In fact, in my view, and I believe in that of many of his party, and indeed I see by a newspaper, which I and doubtless all Members of the House have received from the South of Scotland, in the view of a great majority of farmers in the South of Scotland, who held a meeting at Castle Douglas a few days ago, the right hon. Gentleman has started at the wrong end of the problem. He has failed to tackle the elements of the problem of putting agriculture on its feet, an issue which, I am sure, we all wish to be carried to a successful conclusion.

4.0 p.m.

I feel sure I shall carry the whole House with me in this, that the future of agriculture depends, not on a small, pettifogging and mischievous Bill of this character, but on making access to the land easier, on making a judicious selection of the crops and produce to grow, on the organisation of the various sides of the industry, and on going, to a larger extent than has been done in the past, in for stock breeding, bacon, egg and poultry producing and a fuller and more efficient development of dairying and production of milk, butter and cheese. In all those instances, there is an immense field for great activity on the part of the Minister and his Department. In my view, hundreds of thousands of men might be employed in a very few years if the industry were tackled from that end, and not from the end which appears to appeal so much to the Minister. The real truth is that the right hon. Gentleman had not been in office a week when he showed the white flag, adopted a policy of defeatism, and simply surrendered to all those who for so many years have been trying to force food taxes upon the people of this country. He did more than that. He postulates, as I understand him, as one of the reasons for bringing in this Bill that the farmers of this country are so ill- organised, so out-of-date, and so inefficient in production and marketing that they cannot compete in the home markets against the foreigners.

During the short time that I shall trouble the House this afternoon, I do not propose to quote many figures, but merely to confine myself to two or three aspects of this problem, which was, for the most part, so well thrashed out last week, and to ask the right hon. Gentleman three or four questions which, I hope, he will be good enough to attempt to answer, and not wholly to disregard as was the case with the great majority of the questions put to him on Monday last from this side, and particularly by my hon. Friend who represents the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). In the first place, I would submit that this Bill is of no real substantial benefit to the industry of agriculture, and I need only quote as my authority for that the statement of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who, on Monday last, told us that this Bill cannot do much for agriculture. To-day I came up in the train with an hon. Gentleman who sits behind the right hon. Gentleman, and is a Member of the Conservative party. He gave me, in very candid terms, his opinion of this Bill, that it was not worth the paper it was written on, and that, giving it every possible credit, it could not put 500 more men to work in this country. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will intervene, and give the right hon. Gentleman his views in person to-day.

The Bill, as I understand it, proposes only to deal with something like 3 per cent. of the present output of the United Kingdom, and, even in regard to the matters with which it does propose to deal, it does so only partially. It deals with tomatoes, but not with onions, although we import something like £2,000,000 worth of onions each year, and we all know that onions can he grown with great success in many parts of this country. The right hon. Gentleman deals with broccoli, but not with cabbages, although we imported 2,500 tons or thereabouts of cabbages in the last recorded year, 1929. The right hon. Gentleman deals with cucumbers from the Netherlands, but does not deal with vegetable marrows which are imported from Madeira. One would have thought that if the right hon. Gentleman really believed that this Bill would help the agricultural industry, he would have included onions in those articles which he proposes to tax. Over 200,000 tons of onions are imported every year, and yet, for some reason best known to himself, the right hon. Gentleman has not thought fit to include onions in the Schedule. It may be that he has some personal antagonism to onions.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman move to include them in the Schedule?


I will leave that to the hon. Gentleman, who, I know, is an authority on the subject. There are more serious objections even than those I have mentioned. This Bill entirely disregards the fact that enormous quantities of preserved, canned, bottled, and dried fruits and vegetables are imported into this country. The right hon. Gentleman seems to prefer to deprive the inhabitants of these islands of fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, and he is proposing to import in their place dried, canned, bottled and preserved articles. We all know that many of those articles have preservatives and admixtures among them, and are extremely harmful in some cases. It is a very remarkable fact that the right hon. Gentleman, apparently, is going to prohibit, or, at any rate, put an excessive price upon the import of 64,000 cwts. of strawberries, while allowing, on the present figures, double that quantity of pulped strawberries to come in from the Netherlands. He is going to allow, on the same basis, nearly 20 times the quantity of preserved or pulped plums to come in from the Netherlands as compared with fresh plums, and more than twice the amount of pulped black currants as against fresh. He is taking no steps to deal with that section of the industry, which one would have thought he would have dealt with first, which can come in at any time of the year, and can be kept in storage and sold in bulk to jam-makers, while an objectionable feature about some of these imports of fruit and vegetables is their effect upon health. Those arguments are not arguments for putting a duty on the pulp and the dried vegetables, but are an indication of the uselessness, the foolishness, and the lack of consideration which the right hon. Gentleman has given to the proposals which he submits to the House to-day.

Moreover, I am going to submit that his proposals will not in any way protect the grower. Take the case of tomatoes. No tomatoes are grown in winter in the British Isles. Therefore, how will a tariff protect the home grower during the winter when the home grower cannot himself grow tomatoes? Again, when the home crop ripens, and tomatoes are available in the British Isles, if the right hon. Gentleman will look at statistics, he will see that, at any rate, competition against our home-grown tomatoes does not come from foreign countries, but comes, in the main, from the Channel Islands, and tomatoes from the Channel Islands are still to be allowed in free, and are still to be allowed to compete with the tomatoes grown in the British Isles. How, therefore, can the home grower benefit by the right hon. Gentleman's proposal? I know, from an interview I had the other day with a gentleman who comes from Jersey or Guernsey, that enormous preparations are being made there to grow and eventually to send large quantities of tomatoes into this country. How does the right hon. Gentleman benefit the growers here if he merely has imports from the Channel Islands in place of imports from Spain or the Canary Islands or elsewhere?

The only result will be that there will be no supply at all during the winter months, or on whatever supply does come in from the Canary Islands, the right hon. Gentleman will put a tax, so that they can be purchased only at a considerably increased cost. I would point out that, with regard to tomatoes from the Canary Islands, there is no question of retaliation or of bargaining. The Canary Islands are one of those few places which have no tariffs at all, and therefore no question of that sort can arise. In that connection, I would like to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman. Has he consulted in any way the organised bodies in the trade in this country? I am informed that he has taken no such steps. He may have made a few inquiries from interested individuals in Covent Garden Market and elsewhere, but he has not consulted the organised bodies of importers and others who can give him valuable expert advice on these questions, and show him the manifold directions in which he has gone wrong in bringing his proposals before the House. I ask him whether he has taken any steps to consult those who have been in this trade all their lives?

Then we come to one of the great objections which we have on this side to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. We say that they will raise the price of food, and that the right hon. Gentleman is simply starting this country on the slippery slope of food taxation. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can deny that the result of the proposals which he is putting before the House to-day will be either to make the purchase of the commodities included in the Bill impossible, certainly during some seasons of the year to the poorest of the poor, or whether it is not true that if those articles do come in, then they can only be purchased at a considerably increased price? Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that that is a fact? I do not propose to spend any time in discussing the so-called luxuries, the hot-house grapes and the asparagus, though for the life of me I cannot see why a working man should not, on some few occasions in his life at any rate, have the pleasure of consuming a few hothouse grapes or a bunch of asparagus or something of that sort. But, apparently, those on the other side do not think so, or why should they term those articles luxuries if they think that the workers of this country should not have the opportunity of consuming them? In this country to-day, there are, I imagine, almost 3,000,000 unemployed, many with families, so that possibly in all the unemployed, men, women and their families approach something like 10,000,000 people.

Viscount WOLMER

The result of two years of Socialist Government.


The result of 100 or more years government by the Noble Lord and his friends and ancestors. Today we have something like 10,000,000 people who are living on the verge of starvation, and every penny they have to spend matters a very great deal to them. Already we know that in external purchasing power the pound is reduced by something like 30 or 40 per cent. In- comes, wages, are for the most part cut already by 10 per cent., and yet the National Government select this moment of all others to put on a duty, and hence to increase the price of what are, for the most part, absolute necessaries to the great majority of the inhabitants of these islands. With regard to potatoes, does the Minister deny that in the spring or early summer, before our potato crops are ready or when the previous year's crops are short or unsaleable, as, I am told, is frequently the case, only foreign imported potatoes are available, and that hitherto it has been possible to obtain them at something like lid and 2d. a lb. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose? That we shall go without potatoes at all in those circumstances, or that we shall pay excessively for them.

I am informed that from November to May the Canary Islands are the sole source from which tomatoes come, and tomatoes, be it noted, form something like one-third of the value, or approach something like one-third, at any rate, of the commodities which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to tax. What does the right hon. Gentleman suggest should happen with regard to those tomatoes? Are we to do without them or are we to pay 50 per cent., or, it may be, 100 per cent., on top of the present price? If the right hon. Gentleman cannot deny the facts which I have stated, it must he clear that the 10,000,000 unemployed and their families in this country to-day are fated, if the Bill passes this House, either to do without those commodities or to pay a vastly increased price for them. I am told by the trade that on the best estimate they can give, not knowing precisely, but apparently having some idea, what is in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, that his proposals for a long time to come will mean an average increase in the price of all those commodities of something like 25 per cent., and, on the basis of value which the right hon. Gentleman gave the other day, it will mean an extra cost to the consumers of this country of between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 a year.

Of course, one of two results may follow from that, either the consumers will have to do without those essentials to health, as I believe them to he, or, if they must have this food, they will continue to pur- chase at the increased price, with the result that they will have less to spend on other things, and they will do without, it may be, clothes, boots, or some other articles of use or attire. The result will be that the makers of those commodities will in turn be unemployed or at any rate suffer from lack of work. The right hon. Gentleman is assisting in the creation of a vicious circle, and he is doing that by putting forth these monstrous proposals in these days when all the people in this country and in most other countries are suffering from the greatest economic difficulties that any of us have seen during our lifetime. During the last half century, the best efforts of the community in this country have been directed to an attack upon poverty. Parliament itself, local authorities, trade unions and friendly societies have all helped in social advancement and have all endeavoured, and not without success, to raise the standard of life of the great majority of the people. Protection, I submit, particularly in the form in which the right hon. Gentleman is bringing it forward to-day, will lower that standard of life. It will have precisely the same effect as if the right hon. Gentleman had put through a Bill in this House to reduce wages.

If it be possible, there is even a more serious aspect at the present juncture than that to which I have referred. I am not referring to what I understand—and the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—is the very serious threat of reprisals, although I understand that the Spanish Ambassador has been to see the right hon. Gentleman and has threatened him as to what will happen to the trade, and in particular to the potato growers, of his country if the Bill passes through this House. But I am not referring to that matter. The great danger to this country, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Mohan (Mr. Lambert) told us the other day, is the risk of internal inflation. Internally, as we all know, the pound is still worth 20s., and that 20s. will still purchase approximately 20s. worth of bacon, of clothes, of boots, of eggs or anything else. So long as that state of affairs continues we can probably keep inflation at bay in this country. But the National Government selects this very moment to embark upon a policy which threatens to limit trade, to raise prices, and, by restricting imports, to strike a blow at exports. The result of that must of necescity be an increase of price in this country.

In my view, the present position of the pound is solely due to the lack of confidence of foreign countries in this country, and in particular in the National Government; in the National Government which came into being to save the pound but which had not been in office a week when we went off the Gold Standard. The pound is worth, I imagine, 12s. ed., unless since the right hon. Gentleman has introduced his Bill it may have gone down to 10s. I do not know. Whether that be so or not, I submit that there is that contingency to face in proposals of this sort which must of necessity put up the price of the necessities of life. If prices increase in this country by reason of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill or by reason of the Bill introduced by his colleague in crime, the President of the Board of Trade, then of necessity there will, be a greater loss of confidence, and inflation will follow just as surely as night follows the day. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can deny that if the Government persist in their present policy as put forward in the Bill there is not the greatest possible likelihood of inflation in this country with all the results that we know, and from what we heard at the time of the General Election, would follow such a state of affairs.

Finally, I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman and some of his friends on the other side of the House will say, as some have said to me, "Why are you so rigid? Why will you not concede a little, here and there? This is only a small Bill. It cannot do a very great deal of harm even if it does not do a very great deal of good." I will quote, if the House will permit me, something which was written a short time ago by one of the most eminent of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues in the Cabinet. I do not refer to Viscount Snowden. In answer to a similar question as to whether a little Protection might, not be conceded in special circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said: The answer is: Because in matters of Protective tariffs when you concede anything you concede everything. You unlock the door in order to open it a little way. The crowd outside"— Listen at the crowd cheering— bursts it open wide. That has been the history, that has been the experience, in every other country. As far as we on these benches are concerned, we decline to have either part or lot in opening that tariff door.


I beg to second the Amendment.

My hon. and gallant Friend who so ably moved it, has covered the ground well and made our objective clear to the other side. We are witnessing an historical occasion. We are starting now the taxation of the food of the people. It may only be in a small way, but here the principle is involved. Although it is Monday afternoon, and there is not a very good audience, yet to me it marks one of the most important steps that this Parliament has witnessed for a long time. Because of that fact, we have put in our Amendment the words: But will hinder trade and increase the cost of living, and marks the first step in the taxation of food. That is in the last part of the Amendment, and it must be met by hon. Members on the other side who refute our contention. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, having spoken upon it last week in somewhat similar terms, told us what was contained in the Preamble, which says: With a view to reducing the importation into the United Kingdom of certain classes of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and other horticultural products, the production of which in the United Kingdom can be increased, or which are articles of luxury. I contend that all the articles are not articles of luxury. It is true that a number of articles are mentioned in the Bill about which I would not trouble, but there are certain things which I do not think anyone will say are articles of luxury. I mention in particular, out of the 13 articles which come under the term of fresh vegetables, potatoes and tomatoes. I do not think that anyone will call those articles luxuries, even though the right hon. Gentleman made a statement on Monday last that These early luxury vegetables cannot in any sense be described as the food of the people. They are things for which very high prices are paid. It may be that some hostess competing with another may desire to have something on her table that somebody else has not got, hut these are things which I have no hesitation in saying this country would do well to shut out. That they fetch extravagant prices, and that they involve no hardship on the ordinary poor and middle-class consumer, is clearly established."—[OFFICIAT. REPORT, 30th November, 1931; col. 788, Vol. 260.] 4.30. p.m.

We do not accept that statement at all. We say that some of the things will cause hardship to the middle and poor classes. Take tomatoes, for instance. I do not think that anybody can logically argue that the foreign growers of tomatoes really compete with the English growers of tomatoes. I will give my own experience. If I could afford to buy English tomatoes et 1s. a lb., I would not have foreign tomatoes at 4d. a lb. The only difficulty with which we are faced in this country is that the people have not the money with which to buy English-grown tomatoes, which are far better than anything we get from overseas. That is my experience. If the Bill is carried, I cannot see the prospect of any reduction in the price of English-grown tomatoes. In fact, I think that prices will soar, and it will be the means of taking from the poor people whatever chance they had of getting English-grown tomatoes. The Bill covers 25 articles, and the two things that I have mentioned, that is, tomatoes and potatoes, account for more than a half of the value of these imported articles into this country. The value of imported tomatoes is £4,500,000, and of potatoes, £2,750,000. I understand that the whole value of the 25 imported articles mentioned here does not exceed £11,000,000. Therefore, the two articles I have mentioned will hit the poor people hardest of all. We have a right to raise our voice of protest at a time like this when we see the insidious meaning of what is going to happen if the Bill is allowed to pass. Assuming that the Bill receives a Second Reading, I hope that in the Committee stage we shall be able to exclude these particular articles, potatoes and tomatoes. The potatoes which were imported last year, to the value of £2,750,000, included early and late potatoes. Last season was bad for our potatoes, and there was a short supply. What will he the result in the event of a short supply in the coming year, when the Government have excluded early-grown potatoes from over-seas? It will mean that, with the scarcity in our home-grown potatoes, the prices will soar. Of course, those who can afford to pay a high price, the rich people, will have the first call on the goods in the market, and the result will be that in the restricted market the prices will be very high for the poor and the middle classes.

The right hon. Gentleman says that the Bill is introduced for the purpose of giving a better opportunity for English growers to produce more of these commodities. I think the Bill may have the opposite effect. When you begin to protect articles there is a danger that the organisation and efficiency required to keep up the industry may become lax, because the traders know that they are protected and that they can get any price for their commodities. The two commodities to which I have referred are so important to our people that it would be dangerous if the price were to soar to a height which would make it impossible for the masses of the people to procure them. I can see the insidious way in which the Act will operate when tariffs have been put on. I cannot do better than quote a statement made by Viscount Snowden, some time ago. On the 20th October, 1930, he said: I speak now of a matter of which I have the most painful experience. The introduction of a tariff system in this country will strike at the purity of political life in the country. Parliament will become a sink of corruption. Members of Parliament will go there not to support national interests but pledged to the sup-port of the selfish interests of particular industries. If you guarantee prices for wheat, can you refuse to guarantee prices for other agricultural produce? You will have to extend the tariff to fruit and vegetables. That is what has happened. Here is the example. Viscount Snowden was right when he made the statement that the House would become 'a place of vested interests for a particular class. We have an example of it to-day, and it will not stop here. Once this Bill has been passed the hue and cry will be raised, as it is raised at Question Time every day, to drive us on to more and more tariffs. We are going to have tariffs on every-thing before this Parliament has finished. As we are proceeding along those lines, we on these benches, knowing what it means, will not miss one opportunity of pointing out what will happen.


The speeches from the other side would almost appear to reflect the fact that there had been no General Election. If there was one thing more than another that the country made clear at the election it was that agriculture must be rescued from its present very precarious position. It was a very clear verdict. How far the present Bill will rescue agriculture, I am unable to say. It does not offer a large solution of that great question. When I heard the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment saying that the party opposite are willing to put agriculture on its feet, I cannot forget that whenever any practical proposition is made to help agriculture hon. Members opposite are always against us.


I would remind the hon. Member that I took part in the Debates on the Agricultural Marketing Act and the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act.


If my hon. and gallant Friend really understood a little more of the practical side of agriculture—[Interruption.] I would ask whether there is any hon. Member on the opposite side of the House who really understands the practical side of agriculture. Is there any one of them who would take a farm and make it pay for five years? They must not come here and try to persuade me, who has been connected with agriculture all my life, who has represented an agricultural constituency for many years, and who knows the difficulties of the farmers, that they know exactly what is the remedy for agricultural depression. Land utilization! Why, the people who to-day are utilising the land cannot make it pay. The Agricultural Marketing Act? I want hon. Members opposite to understand that all the farmers in the country are not inefficient. There are good farmers and bad farmers. The farmers are the only people who can cultivate the land and make the land pay. It is idle to say that the farmers are inefficient.


I certainly have not said, and I do not think that my hon. Friend suggested, that the farmer was inefficient. What I did say was that the right hon. Gentleman had postulated that fact.


I do not want to misrepresent the hon. and gallant Member but, having mixed with farmers all my life, I do feel it very keenly that they should always have it thrown in their teeth that they do not know their business. Believe me, and I say it with the greatest friendliness and the greatest sincerity, that the farmers work very hard, they know their job, and many of them to-day are perilously near bankruptcy. If that be so, is it not wise on the part of this House to try and help them? When the hon. and gallant Member talks about access to land, I would remind him that there are many acres of land in this country that cannot be let. As for organisation, that suggestion reflects upon the capacity of the farmer. I want to bring the Socialist party into the fold to help agriculture. When I have done that, they will realise how serious the agricultural problem is. I hope they will realise the seriousness of the situation before I have finished my speech. The hon. and gallant Member said that in stock raising and milk raising there was employment for hundreds of thousands of men. Does he know that the price of stock has so dropped that hundreds of farmers are finding it very difficult to meet their bills? With regard to milk raising, they had to raise the price of milk the other day because of the cost of feeding stuffs. The milk retailers would not have done that unless there was real necessity for it. In the last 10 years 2,000,000 arable acres have gone out of cultivation and 150,000 agricultural workers have left the land. That is a very serious state of affairs. Some 53,000 agricultural workers left the land during the tenure in office of the Socialist Government.


And 100,000 left during the tenure of the previous Government.


The hon. and gallant Member must realise that the 150,000 have gone in the last 10 years. Therefore, is it not wise to endeavour to help an industry in which so many men are out of work? I do not take a very rosy view of what this Bill will do.


Hear, hear.


Probably my reasons for that statement are different from those of the right hon. Gentleman. If there is one thing that we require in agriculture it is permanency. We want to know what is going to happen over a period of years. There has been no industry so harassed and so humbugged as the agricultural industry during the last 10 years. In 1920, when there was a great majority in this House, the Corn Production Act was passed, and it was repealed in the following year. The present Bill is only for 12 months. No man can engage in any industry if the legislation which is to assist that industry is only to last 12 months. I am sure that the Minister of Agriculture and hon. Members opposite will agree with me in that statement. Therefore, we ought to have something more permanent than this Bill, and I should like to have an assurance from the Government on the subject. I know the Government's difficulties, but we do want some message of hope for the agricultural industry, other than the message of hope to those who are engaged in growing these particular agricultural products.

I do not want to go into the question of the pound—I did that last week—but I do assure hon. Members opposite that the question of the production of food at home is the greatest question that we have to face. We must produce more food and in order to produce more food at home we must make it commercially profitable. I feel convinced that if we could only produce more food in this country our budgetary position and our financial position generally would be infinitely stronger than it is to-day. The pound is dropping, and in that respect hon. Members opposite can make a very fair point against the Government. That is not due to any fault on the part of the British workman, who is the finest type of workman, in fact the best in the world. It is because foreign countries are not buying our goods, and we expect them to supply us with food. The other day I went down to my constituency and I saw 26 tramp steamers tied up.


More will be.


If more are tied up, where will the exports be to pay for our food supplies? The hon. and gallant Member who moved the rejection of the Bill referred to reprisals. I am not afraid of reprisals. We must be masters in our own house. Whatever foreign countries may do we must do what is best for the English people. [An HON. MEMBER: "English?"] It is much easier to say "English" than to say "English, Scottish and Welsh." [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not British?"] I am prepared to accept anything which will give hon. Members opposite pleasure. We must act according to our own interests. Many of the products mentioned in this Bill come from France, and the French have already put a surtax of 15 per cent. on our exports. The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) as representing a mining constituency knows that before any of these proposals were announced the French Government put a 15 per cent. surtax on coal. Why should not the Government utilise this Bill, and the Abnormal Imports Act, as a bargaining power and try and get the French to reduce their import duties on British goods? We should then. have freer trade; which I should rejoice to see. That might well come about. But here we are absolutely at the mercy of foreign countries. They can tax our exports, but we are not allowed to say anything to them, we must allow their imports to come in free.

The one great advantage I see from this Bill is that I hope the Minister of Agriculture and the President of the Board of Trade will take steps to ascertain whether other countries will reduce their duties upon our exports and thus secure freer trade all round. This bargaining power in the hands of capable Ministers may be of great advantage to the country. I agree that the Bill is a very small instalment but I hope the Government will realise that the agriculturists of this country are waiting for a pronouncement of a sound and permanent policy. At the present moment there is a majority in this House which would support any Government that would restore agricultural prosperity, and I hope that before this Parliament ends in four or five years' time that we shall have passed Measures which will have brought some hope to the countryside. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be the Minister responsible. I support the Bill. It does not. go far enough, but I hope the Government in their wisdom will in the shortest possible period of time, give us some indication of a permanent policy to restore agricultural prosperity.


In rising to address the House for the first time I venture to borrow a phrase which was used by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans) when, finding himself in the same position as I unfortunately find myself in now, he said that he did not crave the indulgence of the House merely as a mere matter of use and wont but as a matter of dire necessity. In listening to the Debates which have taken place during the past few days I have been struck by two rather serious misconceptions under which hon. Members opposite apparently labour. The first misconception is that they appear to regard it as a monopoly of their own to care and sympathise with the status of the agricultural worker. They have offered it as a criticism of this Bill that it does not do anything for him. I am convinced that on this side of the House there is a very widespread sympathy and a genuine desire to see an improvement in the conditions of the agricultural worker. It has sometimes been the case in the past that in periods of prosperity in the agricultural industry everybody has benefited except the agricultural worker, and I hope that in any future-measures which he may bring forward, the Minister of Agriculture will ensure that any benefits which may accrue to the agricultural industry as a whole should also accrue in due proportion to the agricultural worker.

The second misconception under which hon. Members opposite seem to labour has already been stressed by the hon. Member for South Molten (Mr. Lambert) in far snore eloquent terms than I can command. They do not seem to realise to any extent the incredibly serious position into which the agricultural industry has fallen; they do not seem to recognise the imperative need for some step to be taken immediately, even if it is no more than a gesture of encouragement, to help the industry and prevent it sinking still further down the slippery slope upon which it is going. Hon. Members opposite—I realise that' it is their business to do so—have been attempting to drive a wedge into the serried ranks which confront them by suggesting that this is not a Bill which any Liberal can conscientiously support by his vote. At the last General Election I received the very full and generous support of Liberals in my constituency, a fact which I am not likely to overlook now or at any future time; and if I thought there was in fact any substance in this allegation I should have to consider my position anxiously and carefully. I do not think there is any substance in the allegation. This is a Government Bill and, therefore, bears upon its face the endorsement of a united Cabinet. I go further. I agree with the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) when he said that whoever might have reason to complain it certainly was not the Liberals.

The Bill is admittedly limited in its scope, and it is easy, therefore, because of this very limitation, to make fun of it, and easy also to stress the ground which it does not profess to cover and ignore the by no means unimportant ground which it does. For example, 1 trust and believe that the Minister of Agriculture in any future Measure which he may produce will not overlook the peculiar needs and difficulties of agriculture in our common country of origin. But not the least importance of this Measure is that for all agriculturists it is an assurance that their wants are not to be overlooked and that their interests are being cared for. It is at any rate a gesture of encouragement. From the ark of agriculture, adrift and isolated amidst stormy waters, a dove has been sent forth. That dove has returned to the ark bearing in her mouth a branch of asparagus. That at any rate will provide a succulent meal for at least one inhabitant of the ark, and is also an assurance that from the welter of floods, which have threatened to overwhelm and submerge everything, at any rate one asparagus bed has emerged. That is valuable in itself. The right. hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition not infrequently calls upon the younger Members on this side of the House to assert their independence by following him and his friends into the Division Lobby. We may be young, but we are not quite as young as that. No, Sir, this Bill may be small in its scope but in its hope it is infinite; and, for that reason, I shall certainly give it my unhesitating and wholehearted support.

5.0 p.m.


I must. congratulate the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. McEwen) upon his maiden speech. I rise to support the Amendment and to oppose the Bill root and branch. It is a Bill, first of all, to introduce taxes on the people's food and also an endeavour to reorganise the agricultural industry at the cost of the poorest in the land. Let me make the position of this party definitely clear to the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). We fully appreciate and fully recognise the distressed condition of the agricultural industry, and are prepared here and now to make our contribution to its organisation and future welfare. But not on these lines. We have been reminded of the fact that there has been a General Election. I submit to every hon. Member who is a supporter of the National Government that there is not one of them who can point to an election address issued during the General Election in which they admitted that they were coming here to lay taxes on the food of the people. In all the County of Yorkshire we never saw an address issued by any Conservative candidate which did not deny that he stood for the taxation of food, and in every Division hon. Members opposite belittled the speeches of Labour candidates who were warning the public of the intentions of the Conservatives if they were returned. Every one of them said, "They are not telling the truth. We do not stand for food taxation, and we will not be parties to it." The Prime Minister himself made several speeches that have not been quoted, and in them he said, "No, there shall be no taxation on the people's food." The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) said the same thing, and so did nearly every Minister who is now on the Front Bench. We do recognise to the full, nobody more so, the need for something to be done for British agriculture, but we submit candidly and definitely that this Bill does not deal with agriculture even in the way that the man employed in the industry wants it to do, but is a definite attempt to introduce taxation of the people's food. We admit that British agriculture needs some form of reorganisation. In spite of the assistance given by the De-rating Act of 1925 the industry is still in a very depressed condition and in many parts of the country great losses are being incurred. Therefore. has not the time arrived for the Government to examine the whole field of agriculture, and to introduce a completely new and comprehensive policy based on new ideals and modern needs, whereby the agricultural community can be released from some of its most pressing evils?

There is no country in the world in which agriculture is called upon to pay such exceedingly high ground rents. Nothing has been said by hon. Members opposite, and there is nothing in the Bill, calling upon the landlords to make a. contribution to the reorganisation of agriculture. There is no country in the world which demands from agriculture such a high contribution in the form of tithe payments. I have received a letter this week from a farmer who states that tithe rent is one of the biggest burdens agriculturists have to carry. Should not the landlords make a contribution to the reorganisation of the industry? How long is British agriculture to be expected to carry on its back the great swarm of landlords who live in wealth and luxury and never do, and never have done, any service in return for the big rent roll that has to be met by the farming community?


Does the hon. Member realise that a great many people who are to-day farming their own land cannot make it pay?


That is probably because they paid for the land four times more than it was worth. I wish to see something done, and done well, for the industry, but the attempt made in this miserable Bill does nothing for agriculture, and it certainly does increase the price of food to the poor. Let us look at the articles of food which the Bill proposes to tax. Some of them are the common household foods of our poorest people, and when the tax comes into operation these people will not be able to purchase these things because of the greatly increased price, which they cannot afford on a very small wage. It has been stated that in the Schedule there are only articles of luxury. Are potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots and turnips luxuries? If all these things are luxuries, I ask hon. Members opposite, do they wish working people to eat grass? I am inclined to think that if the people did hon. Members opposite would have the audacity to bring in a Bill for putting a duty on grass. Look at the fruit included in the list, foods which modern scientists and doctors urge the people to eat. Poor children are to be denied the possibility of getting currants, cherries, strawberries, plums and gooseberries, if the Bill is passed.

We ask that the Government shall stop this mumming, and that instead they shall tell British landlords that they have been lazy long enough and must make a real attempt to use the land for the good of the nation as a whole instead of for the benefit of a few. There is no party more sincere than the Labour party in wishing to make contributions towards the reorganisation of this important industry. Let that be made quite clear. But we say that you cannot have a reorganisation of the industry on the basis of taxation of the food of the people at the expense of the poorest of the people. There is good room for a Government to take a big view of the question, to introduce a reorganisation scheme based on intensive cultivation—reorganisation in keeping with modern requirements—and to call upon the landlords to make their contribution. When all is said and done the landlords have drawn their rents for hundreds of years. They took from the common workers of the country millions of acres of land during the Napoleonic Wars, when they passed the enclosure Acts. We want that land to be given back, we want a reduction of rents and the removal of tithes, and then there will be a great future for British agriculture.


I would like to express my welcome of this Measure as a first step, a small step but a very desirable step. I welcome it because I see in it an attempt, in the first place, to reduce the strain on sterling. I see in it also an attempt to secure a more favourable balance of trade. It will fit in well, too, with the larger scheme which will, I hope, re-establish the value of the pound in the world. But I welcome it still more because it is an attempt to assist the smallholder and the market gardener. It is an attempt to prevent this country becoming more and more dependent on imported foreign food supplies. It does something to encourage greater efforts on the part of our cultivators, to cultivate what is, after all, the finest garden in the world, that is the land of this country, rather than to rely on foodstuffs which grow in foreign soil. We cannot continue to allow our home markets to be snatched from us in future as they have been taken from us in the past. It is well indeed that a discriminatory Measure of this kind should be introduced to regulate foreign imports. Many of us were somewhat distressed by the fact that in the Gracious Speech from the Throne there was no specific reference to the industry of agriculture. This Bill is in some small way an answer to that criticism. The Bill does show an earnest desire on the part of the Minister of Agriculture to tackle effectively, as soon as he may be able to do it, the many pressing agricultural problems which now present themselves.

We have just listened to a speech by an hon. Member who has thought fit to use this Bill as a peg on which to hang a violent attack on the landed system of this country. I feel sure that he is not aware that nearly twice as much capital has been put into land by the landowners as has been put in by those who cultivate the soil. The hon. Member's attack was most unfair. Many of us have been interested to see the anxiety of hon. Members opposite to prevent any duty being placed on luxury produce, such as grapes and asparagus. These things could be grown at home, but hon. Members opposite seem to be deeply distressed because the consumers of these luxuries may in certain circumstances, though not necessarily, have to pay more for what they buy. In stimulating this branch of horticulture we shall also be helping the coal industry. The Bill will lead to the erection of more glass-houses, and that in turn will stimulate the demand for coal. The Bill should also help the wage of the agricultural worker, because the worker who is employed in these glass-houses and this special vegetable growing generally receives a higher rate of pay than the ordinary agricultural worker employed in more open country. No doubt it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose, but I think that their opposition is rather reckless in this particular case.

It has been suggested that we shall be faced with retaliation from foreign countries, but I am not in the least bit frightened by any suggestion of that kind. I only wish that we had armed ourselves years ago with a weapon that other countries have used against us far too effectively. It is very strange now to see how very sensitive are some of those countries which have adopted a tariff policy against us, now that we have chosen to adopt that policy in our turn. This Measure is one of many Measures which are undoubtedly desirable because of the depreciation that has taken place in our currency. I welcome it as a small instrument, and a useful instrument, for the flexible control of selected imports. It is a pity that the Bill has been limited to one year, but I know that it is an experiment to some extent, and is the forerunner of further legislation that is contemplated. I accept it in that spirit.

I believe that the Bill will do something to promote the efficiency of the industry of agriculture. It will promote efficiency because it will give a larger measure of security; if the agriculturist can be given security that will be a real inducement to him to go ahead in his business. No stimulus, no fertiliser is so effective as security for the market and the labour product of the industry. The Bill will prevent what has been a standing grievance to many of those engaged in this branch of the industry. It will prevent a forestalling of our markets, the skimming of the cream off our markets owing to imports from foreign countries arriving here a few days before our own produce is ready. The Bill has many advantages in that it will give healthy and, I think, in the main, happy employment to more people on the laud. It will tend to give employment which at the present time is badly needed in the agricultural industry.

It has been urged that the Measure does not affect large-scale farming, but perhaps other opportunities will be forthcoming of benefiting large-scale farmers. In my own immediate neighbourhood many smallholders have to make a living as best they can out of holdings of something like five acres, and it is a very hard struggle to do so. This Bill will be a real help to them, and I submit that they are entitled to all the assistance which we in this House are able to give them. The Bill will also have some effect in relation to the canning industry. This is a new and important development which is taking place in many parts of the country. The canning industry, if it can only be assured of regular supplies of vegetables, is an industry which will make great headway. This will tend further to absorb our unemployed, and it is to be remembered that for every 100,000 unemployed we can reabsorb into agriculture or into any other industry we save £4,000,000 per annum in the dole and in other respects.

I have no desire to criticise the Bill in any detail. I wish to see it passed and placed on the Statute Book as rapidly as possible. It contains ample safe-guards, in that the Orders which are to be made under it, will have to come before the House of Commons and they will cease to operate unless they obtain the approval of the House. I congratulate the Minister of Agriculture on the promptitude with which he has introduced this important, though it may be comparatively small piece of legislation. Agriculture is our fourth largest industry and is quite the most important of our industries, and I am glad to think that the Government are giving this indication of their interest in it.

Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY

I also wish to express my thanks to the Minister of Agriculture for introducing this Bill which we may regard as the first instalment of the Government's agricultural policy. I totally disagree with the hon. Members who have spoken from the Opposition side of the House and who have declared that this Measure will not benefit the agricultural industry. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price) said that the taxation of food was not referred to during the last General Election, in Yorkshire at all events, but I think that the hon. Member must be mixing up the last election with the election of 1924. Indeed, in listening to his speech I came to the conclusion that this Bill might usefully be amended in order to give the Opposition a better price. This Bill will be of real benefit to my constituents, and I know that already plans are being developed in order to get more people at work on the land.

I wish, however, to reinforce what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). It is only proposed that this Measure shall remain in operation for one year. But it cannot be too strongly urged that in agriculture it is essential to look ahead and to plan ahead. The planting of raspberries or any of the fruits mentioned in the Schedule involves considerable expense and a return is not to be expected in such a short time. There are also fruits which are not mentioned in the Schedule, like loganberries, for instance, the planting of which involves considerable expense and from which a return is not to be expected for two years. It is, therefore, absurd to ask farmers and market gardeners to engage in expensive planting operations if they are only to be certain of their market for a period of one year. At the same time, I think the Measure will help in keeping land in cultivation for the production of these fruits and vegetables.

Every year in Kent we have an enormous influx of hop-pickers from London. They come there for about two weeks; they get employment at a healthy occupation and they go back to London better in health and with a. little money-in their pockets. With the development of market gardening 'and fruit growing there will be a demand for labour throughout the whole country, and, instead of operating only for a short season, as in the instance which I have just given, I believe that with the extension of this branch of the industry there would be, from the end of June to the middle of September, considerable employment for people from London and from other large centres in the Midlands and elsewhere. These people would be provided with opportunities for healthy and remunerative employment by the extension of fruit and vegetable growing.

The hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir D. Newton) has spoken about the canning industry. Although that industry does not actually come within the scope of this Bill, it is affected, because if there is a large acreage of fruit and vegetables in this country then what the market gardeners cannot sell fresh will be used in the canning industry. I do not know whether the House appreciates the enormous strides which that industry has made in the last few years. In my own constituency there is a new factory which is going to employ 1,200 men and women next season. I believe that last season 1,600 acres of green peas were grown for one factory alone in another part of Kent. That means a lot of employment on the land, and if we had schemes of that kind multiplied all over the country it will be realised that a great amount of employment could be provided, not only on the land itself but in the canning industry and in connection with the making of cans. I understand that one of the factories which I have 'already mentioned has placed an order for 2,000,000 cans Reference has already been made to tin-fact that the coal industry will also benefit.

I must say a word of warning in reference to the canning industry, and I hope that it will be borne in mind by those in charge of the Bill. There is the danger that unless the canning industry also gets some form of protection, we shall be actually giving a preference to the foreign canner over the British canner. The foreign canner will be able to buy his fruit and vegetables more cheaply because employment in foreign countries is rewarded at a lower rate than in this country. Thus, unless the canning industry is protected, there is the danger of discouraging that important industry.

There is one other thing which I wish to mention. As a result of the new hope which is being given to this branch of agriculture there is springing up a demand for better marketing facilities and also for more co-operation among farmers and growers. Perhaps Members of the Opposition may not know that many farmers are extremely short of cash for the planting of fruits and vegetables. This costs a great deal of money. In the case of loganberries, which I have already mentioned, I think the cost is something like £16 an acre to the grower. A great deal of ready money is involved in putting the land into a suitable state of cultivation for the production of these articles. Now there is a scheme on foot to enable money to be found co-operatively among the farmers themselves and if that money is subscribed, with assistance perhaps from the banks as well, it will enable growers to co-operate also in marketing their pro- duce. It is quite impossible for the small grower, the allotment grower in particular, to market his small quantity of goods properly. He ought to get the opportunity of sending his produce to some centre and I hope that as a result of this Bill it will be made worth while to arrange for such centres in different parts of the country so that the producer may be able to market his produce to advantage and the canner and the preserver of fruit may be able to select the articles which they require at the smallest possible expense.

This Bill is only an instalment of the agricultural policy of the Government but I believe that it is a step in the right direction. I know that it has given fresh hope in the part of the country which I represent, and I am sure that that remark applies to all parts of the country which are suitable, in climate and soil, for the production of fruits and vegetables. I hope that those in charge of the Bill will impress upon the Government the vital importance of removing the limitation of a year on the duration of the Measure. The Measure will not succeed unless some idea of permanency is given to those concerned. It is no use encouraging men to invest their capital in buying fruit trees and to work hard in preparing the land unless there is some reasonable prospect of permanence in the enterprise which they are undertaking. It is because I believe that it will be of great importance to the farming industry and especially to the smallholders that I heartily welcome the Bill.

5.30 p.m.


May I be permitted at the outset to say that I represent a definitely industrial area, but that fact ought not to be taken as evidence that the people for whom I speak are not interested in the agricultural industry. I happen to reside in close proximity to an agricultural division and at the last General Election but one the question of agriculture was considered at every meeting which I addressed. Realising that as man cannot live unto himself neither can nations and industries, we recognise that if we can by Measures in this House benefit the agricultural industry it follows that other industries will be, to that degree, benefited also. The agricultural industry ought to be the most important in this country. If facts are needed to support that view it is sufficient to state that the value of agricultural and horticultural land, including the farmhouses and buildings upon the land, works out at approximately £850,000,000 for England and Wales alone, and if Scotland is included the figure would be approximately £1,000,000,000. We are also told on reliable authority that the amount of capital invested in the agricultural industry of this country is in excess of £365,000,000 and that the value of the gross output in England and Wales alone for a year is equal to £225,000,000. If we take Great Britain, according to the latest Agricultural Census of Production, we find that the value of farm produce alone is within the region of £286,000,000. Mention has been made to-day of the number of people employed in the industry, and I find that for last year no fewer than 857,214 persons were employed in it. If no other facts were available than those to which I have referred, there is sufficient there to convince even a representative of an industrial area that the agricultural industry is of some considerable importance to this country. We find that there are as many men employed in this industry as, if not more than, there are at present engaged in the mining industry of this country, and a larger number of persons employed than there are on the railways, while there are more men employed in the agricultural industry than in the cotton and woollen industries together.

It is a deplorable fact, as has already been mentioned to-day, that we have a considerable decrease in the number of persons employed in this essential industry, but I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who at one time was a Liberal and occupied a seat below the Gangway here, when he stated that the reduction in the number of men employed took place during the two years of the Labour Government. Obviously, the reduction took place then, but it is most unfair to imply that it took place as a result of the Labour Government's tenure of office. We find that the number employed was reduced from 996,081 in 1921 to 857,214 in 1930, a reduction in a period of 10 years alone of 138,867. In my opinion, it is tragic, if not criminal, that in a period of 10 years the number of unemployed should be reduced by 138,867 for the whole of Great Britain and that, taking England and Wales alone, there has been a reduction of over 150,000.

We find that out of 24 of the chief countries in the world, this country has only 7 per cent. of its totally employed population engaged in the agricultural industry compared with from 20 per cent., the lowest, up to 70 per cent. and even 83 per cent. in countries considerably smaller than our own; and while we have that decrease in the number of men employed in agriculture, we are importing between £450,000,000 and £479,000,000 worth of food and other agricultural and raw materials capable of being produced in this country. I have already stated that I do not claim to be an authority on the agricultural industry, and if an expert is a person who knows less and less about more and more, I have no desire to be an expert., but would rather be an amateur, if by that is meant a person who knows more and more about less and less.

The attitude of hon. Members on these benches appears to be somewhat misunderstood. It is assumed that we either ought to hold Free Trade views and make a fetish of Free Trade or, on the other hand, agree to the statements of the Protectionists. We are in disagreement with both, and we find among Members who at one time belonged to the Liberal party equally as much disagreement. During the time that this question has been under discussion, they have not been agreed as to whether imports are paid for by exports, and it has been made perfectly clear that they do not accept the statement even of the present Lord Privy Seal, who, believing that imports are paid for by exports, stated that for every £1 worth of goods that came into this country employment was given to a man to provide £1 worth of exports and as a result, he said, imports made it possible for exports to be produced by persons in this country. He overlooked the very important fact that if the imports brought into this country were produced here, there would still be the exchange between two articles, but with the added advantage that two men would be employed in this country instead of one.

I readily admit that I can work up no enthusiasm either to approve or oppose the importation of strawberries at the early part of the season, for the simple reason that the people whom I represent are quite content to have sufficient money with which to buy food and cannot afford to pay for strawberries at the price that I saw last summer in London in quantities, labelled, which worked out at exactly ld. apiece. Neither am I concerned about preventing the importation of asparagus into this country. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) stated during one of these Debates; I have yet to learn that the miners for whom the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Williams) speaks can afford to buy early asparagus."—[OFFICIAl REPORT, 30th November, 1931; col. 796, Vol. 260.] I agree, because such a delectable plant is only suitable for those who have a highly developed taste. Therefore, it is only appropriate for consumption by Lords, Dukes, and their families, and it obviously might be a repast for world comedians coming into this country, including the noted humourist Charlie Chaplin, who may be denied the opportunity of consuming asparagus when he in the near future partakes of a dinner with the British Prime Minister. I have taken the following from a London newspaper of a comparatively recent date: There are signs that the 'freak' party is to be a feature of the season. I mean the rather childish sort of affair where mountains of money are spent on making the room resemble a cavern, or a lake, or something like that; in dressing up the waiters, and in having strange and costly dishes. A party given recently at a West End hotel cost over £14 a head. To deny those individuals early strawberries and asparagus may be a crime, but as far as the workers are concerned, hon. Members may rest assured that our people have not sufficient money to indulge in those rare delicacies. I find that not all the Members of the Conservative party are agreed as to whether the importation of a duty upon the articles referred to by the Minister of Agriculture is a remedy for the problems that face those who are directly and indirectly interested in agriculture. One hon. Member, in a statement made to the Press quite recently, said: Our soil, our climate, and our wonderful market favoured livestock production rather than the growing of cereals for sale off the farm. A great future lay before us if we could grow cheap food for livestock by mechanised methods. Wheat, oats, or grass, cut in their green state about nine inches high, were a far more valuable food than if these crops were left to mature. By growing such crops we would be saved from all fear of bad weather at harvest, for the crops would be cut green. Food for livestock could be grown to the value of £30 per acre by this method, and the new mechanical methods reduced the cost of growing it. By uniting livestock production with mechanisation of their food production, Britain could find work for another 500,000 men on the land. If we were to use our climate to grow green crops, we could compete in beef production with the Argentine or anywhere else, and need never mention the word 'tariffs' again. That is a statement supposed to have been made by the Noble Lord the Member for Basingstoke (Viscount Lymington). I also find from the same source that a Mr. R. Dudley, who has mechanised 500 arable acres at Linkenholt, near Andover, Hants uses two men and two tractors to cultivate his whole farm and has. brought his ploughing costs down to 2s. 6d. an acre, where 20s. was sometimes allowed. That is evidence that the Opposition are not agreed as to whether tariffs are a solution of the agricultural problem. May I be permitted to make reference to hon. and right hon. Members opposite who have taunted, jeered, and jibed at those of us on these benches on more than one occasion and who have made statements that our policy which is un-known to them, has been at least dominated and inspired if not formulated by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress? Were that statement true, I personally would not be more ashamed of it than of the evidence that can be produced that much of the policy for which the present Government are responsible has been, if not dictated, at least inspired by the Federation of British Industries, who boast of being made up of 18,000 firms in this country, representing a total subscribed capital in excess of £5,000,000,000, and who make an open boast that they are able within limits to influence the Government of this country. They have stated in their Bulletin: When the general voice of industry On any particular question of national im- portance is expressed by the F.B.I., it is received with due weight by the Government and the Press. They also claim that they have a special department which is set up for the special purpose of getting things through promptly by personal interviews with Government officials. It is interesting to read a statement of a one-time ardent and sincere Liberal who is now at the Home Office. I have a pamphlet here called "A frank Talk on Free Trade and Protection," which is a report of a speech which the right hon. Gentleman delivered in Torquay at the annual conference of the National Liberal Federation on 17th October last year. This is what he said: It is time that there should be some straight speaking with regard to this protectionist agitation. Some of its supporters are moved by one reason, some by another, and some by reasons that are very mixed. I have not the least doubt that many people in all parts of the country are animated by a quite sincere belief that protective tariffs would increase the prosperit3, of the nation, and reduce the extent of unemployment. I do not question that for a moment. But there are others. Taxation is heavy on the wealthy and middle-classes. In a democracy it is difficult to shift the burden. Why not tax the working classes on the things that they buy, and use the revenue to lower the Income Tax and Death Duties? Let it be done—patriotism requires it. Times are difficult in many industries; shares have fallen, profits have shrunk. How can we put prices up while keeping wages down? A tariff is the very thing. Let it be adopted—in the name of Empire. So 'Big Business' takes a hand. The Federation of British Industries is raising a large political fund. It says, Put party politics aside, and support the Conservative party.' It would be interesting to find out how the right hon. Gentleman's statements in December can be reconciled with these statements. His defence would probably be that we are in a crisis—a word that is being used like charity to cover a multitude of sins. I am in agreement with Dr. Addison, who once occupied the position of Minister of Agriculture, who stated: The tariff controversy has stood in the way of the restoration of the countryside. Into that irrelevant squabble we have diverted energy that should have been spent in improving the competitive efficiency of our agriculture.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

The hon. Gentleman is going into the whole question of tariffs, Protection and Free Trade further than the matter immediately before the House warrants.


I have no desire to violate the Rules of the House. I would only say that the mildewed and moribund theories which are responsible for this Measure will not explain modern problems, and obsolete Conservative and essentially vindictive Measures will not solve them. The removal of present day economic problems requires modern methods, and duties upon imported articles as an instrument of retaliation will not be of permanent value to the agricultural industry or to the country as a whole.

One of the chief objects of this Bill is to destroy competition, which, in the opinion of those persons who are anxious to educate Members on this side of the House, has always been of considerable importance to the maintenance of the present system under which the things that we require are produced. After all, who is it that buys goods from the foreigner? One would have thought that an appeal to that monopoly of the patriotic spirit possessed by these people would have been sufficient without the introduction of this Measure, especially having regard to the fact that the General Election, we were told, was fought upon the clear, well-defined issue that the interests of the nation should come first; and in view, too, of the placards that are now to be seen in every town that we should buy British goods. It is true that the Government will, by the strength of their numbers, get this Bill, but they will get it at the expense of an increase in the price of food which will have a similar effect to a subsidy given to an industry whose methods of production are obsolete.

The emancipation of agricultural land from the hampering restrictions of private ownership is absolutely necessary. I know that there are not many hon. Members opposite who will accept that, but I have here a statement by an individual who cannot claim to be a member of this party, and who therefore has nothing in common with those principles for which we stand. He has stated: The British agricultural landowner today is on his trial. Unless he justifies himself as such, the nationalisation of the land is inevitable. Public opinion will demand his extinction and Parliament will endorse the demand. Meet landowners have been for the last two generations mere rent receivers. That is a statement made by no less an authority than Lord Bledisloe. We in this party are in no misapprehension as to what this Bill means. This Bill and the Bill for which the President of the Board of Trade was responsible are the first shots in an international economic war; they are the first steps to a complete system of Protection in this country. It hits a few articles of diet at the moment, but it will be immediately followed by the taxation of all food that comes into this country. We shall find that those who are interested in the iron and steel industry will want Protection, and, according to newspaper reports, they are already pressing the Government to introduce legislation upon similar lines to those embodied in this Bill. Then we shall have an application from the shipping industry. According to the "Times" this morning, representatives of that industry are asking that it also should receive some measure of protection. Their slogan, "British goods in British ships," will probably be followed by "British born and bred politicians in a British House of Commons."

May I be permitted to compliment the Conservative party on being able to compel the Prime Minister to do what he refused to do when he was a member of this party. We failed, but the Conservatives have been able to compel him to accomplish more in 48 hours than we could do in two years. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear?"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite are entitled to secure from that statement all the satisfaction that they can get. I am paying them a compliment. They have, in addition, been able during the short time the Government have been in office to make him travel backwards more quickly than we could get him to travel forwards. He leads a party that has been returned to office upon a false issue, but they must watch him to see that he does not mete out to them the same treatment that he meted out to us. He has been referred to by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—


The characteristics of the Prime Minister have nothing to do with this question.


I only want to say that he has been referred to as "The boneless wonder." By the time the Conservative party has finished with him, he will be a wonderless bone. I do not want to refer to him in any worse language. I am not entitled to refer to him as a modern type of an old Biblical character—


I have already told the hon. Member that this is not a question of the Prime Minister or his characteristics. The hon. Member is now entirely out of order.


I will leave that individual alone and merely add that as one who has a considerable interest in the prosperity of the agricultural industry, especially in those who are employed in it, I support the Amendment.


This is the first occasion on which I have addressed the House, and therefore I ask for the sympathy and toleration which are usually granted to a Member in my unfortunate situation. I have listened with great attention, not only to this Debate, but to the Debate on the Resolution which preceded this Bill, and I have been rather surprised at some of the criticisms which have been put forward by hon. Members opposite. It seems to me that hon. Members fail to realise the extremely serious position in which this country finds itself. I seem to remember that during the War if anybody claimed that they were not getting their full ration of sugar, somebody else was sure to say, "There is a war on." Hon. Members opposite seem to have forgotten that there is a trade depression on, and a very serious trade depression, so great that, if immediate steps—which may be unusual and perhaps more violent than are normally taken—are not taken immediately, we cannot hope to retain our position as a first-rate Power.

6.0 p.m.

I am pleased with the progress that the Government have made during the time they have been in office. Many hon. Members think that the pace should have been more rapid, but it should be remembered that the present Government have been in office for only just over a month, and in that short space of time they have passed through a Measure of supreme importance in the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act, and they are now engaged in passing this Measure, which will be a great benefit to a. very deserving class of the population—a branch of the agricultural industry. It is not fair to be too impatient. It is no good blinking the fact that the Government are composed of members of the three parties. They were returned as a National Government, and it is only fair to give them time to work out comprehensive schemes, because, of course, all the members of the Government cannot immediately think alike on the great fiscal questions before us at the present time. Hon. Members opposite have offered several criticisms during the course of this Debate and the consideration of the Financial Resolution. Their criticisms on questions of detail have given the impression to many hon. Members on this side that they are not making, sincere and constructive contributions to the Debate, but are fault-finding, are endeavouring to find holes in the Bill, instead of pointing out how it could be improved, or what Measures the Government might bring forward in the future.

The main criticism from hon. Members opposite is that this is the thin end of the wedge of Protection. They claim that the Measure has been dictated by the Assyrians from Room 14, who swoop down and force the Government to do as they wish, but I think we must agree that the Government have a policy and a mind of their own. Some of the Measures proposed do not please hon. Members on this side, because they do not go far enough, but we must be patient and hope for further Measures in due course. I take this Measure to be part of a general scheme for improving and restoring the country's trade and finances. We were returned to take all the measures necessary in the present circumstances to put the nation on its feet again. It is all very well to talk about internationalism. International amity is a very admirable object, but charity begins at home, and we ought to put our own people first. It is vitally necessary that the suffering industries of this country should be given every help and encouragement, by legislation or otherwise, to get on their feet again. The Bill has, I take it, three main objects. The first is to help the growers of the commodities which are being protected by the Bill. The second is to show not only the people of this country, but also foreign countries, that the Government really mean business. We as a nation have allowed ourselves to be trampled on for quite long enough, and I welcome this Bill and the Bill which preceded it as an earnest of our determination to stand up for ourselves. The third object, perhaps a smaller one, is to help to redress the trade balance.

Let me now consider these three objects in their reverse order, taking first the question of redressing the trade balance. The right hon. Gentleman responsible for this Bill has stated that only £13,000,000 worth of produce imported into this country is affected by it. That is a comparatively small amount in relation to the enormous adverse trade balance we are trying to rectify, but it is something. It is impossible to expect that we can press a button and have the millennium delivered in "one of our plain, sealed vans" the next morning. These problems have to be tackled piecemeal, and such measures taken in the aggregate as may be necessary for conquering our difficulties. This may be a small amount, but every little helps. That this object is already being achieved is proved, I think, by the evident anxiety on the part of certain foreign nations who had thought they could trample on us completely, and that we should take lying down anything that they did. They have shown their anxiety to come to terms. An hon. Member opposite said this was the first shot in an economic war. We have fired a good right and left with the Abnormal Importations Act and this Bill. At any rate we now have something with which to fire in return, whereas before we were absolutely defenceless.

I take it that the most important object of this Bill is to help growers, and I am delighted to welcome it on behalf of the part of the county which I represent, because if it had been designed to benefit one part of the country more than another it would be the Duchy of Cornwall. One hon. Member offered the criticism that we might very likely lose £1,000,000 in shipping freights on Continental produce coming to this country. Possibly we may lose in that direction, but there are compensating advantages. That produce will be grown in this country, and the British railways will get the benefit of the freight charges. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said that growers of seed potatoes had sold £66,000 worth this year to Spain, and that when the Spaniards had grown their potatoes and started to export them to this country they might find a duty of 100 per cent. against them. It is quite possible they may, but I would like to point out that in certain parts of this country there is a rather serious shortage of seed potatoes at the present time, and, as far as I can see, there is no reason why that £66,000 worth of seed potatoes sold to Spain could not have been sold to growers in this country. It has been brought to my notice that certain growers have not been able to get enough seed potatoes recently, so I think that the market lost in Spain may be gained in this country.

I hardly dare mention the word broccoli, because of the large number of very heavy jokes about it which were made during the 1929 Election, but I feel particularly strongly about it, because it has a very important bearing on horticultural activities in Cornwall. In 1924 the broccoli trade had practically disappeared, but as a result of the energetic measures taken by growers in Cornwall we regained that trade. Seed was brought from Brittany, and, with improved methods of marketing and grading, the trade had been doing quite fairly well until quite recently having regard to present conditions. Latterly, however, we in Cornwall have been suffering very severely from dumping. There has been severe dumping from Italy and from France and in the last few weeks practically a panic has been created in the market. I rejoice to think that a trade which has been built up in face of foreign competition should now receive a very urgently-needed measure of protection. Certain hon. Members appear to feel worried at the fear that we may not take advantage of any protection we may receive under this Measure to, increase cultivation, but I am credibly informed that it is estimated that we could double the production, raising it from 25,000 tons a year, which it is at present, to 50,000 tons, and that about £250,000 worth—quite a good figure—of foreign broccoli which is now coming into England could be grown in Corn- wall. I would say, with all respect, to the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for this Bill, that I hope the tax will be not less than 20 per cent. up to the end of January, and 33⅓ per cent. from January onwards, if it is really desired to help growers.

Take the case of new potatoes. That industry, again, has been very severely hit by foreign competition. The acreage under cultivation now is only about 40 per cent. of what it was five years ago. If help had not been given—as it is to be given under this Bill—we should very likely have lost to the foreigner the whole of that trade in new potatoes. Then there is the case of flowers. We grow 2,000 tons of flowers in that part of the world, and could double that production, and nobody would be seriously the worse off. Dutch tulips have been coming into this country in enormous quantities, and hot-house growers and forcers are being absolutely ruined. Very often they do not get enough from their sales to pay for the bulbs. That sort of thing cannot go on. Then, again, there is the case of strawberries. In the Tamar Valley not long ago there was an instance of strawberries being sold at 4s. per three pounds. Next day a ship with strawberries from France came into Plymouth, and the price went down to one shilling. It is impossible to allow things to go on in that way.

From the opposite benches we have heard a great deal of the harm which a Bill like this will do to consumers. But we cannot buy unless we produce and thereby get the wherewithal to pay for the articles which we want to consume. Unless our producers, not only agricultural but the producers of manufactures, are prospering, it is impossible for this country to continue as a first-class country. The solution which the Opposition offer, as far as I can understand, is Government control of the means of distribution, transport and marketing, bureaucratic control from the blossom to the mouth. I do not think that solution will commend itself to hon. Members, who wish to get away from Government interference as much as possible. We want to receive encouragement, we want to have our goods protected and our people given a fair chance, and, therefore, I welcome this Bill very much, not only in itself and for what it does for a deserving branch of industry, but also as being, I hope, an earnest of favours to come and of justice to come for the whole agricultural community.


I congratulate the constituency of Penryn and Falmouth on the choice it has made of its Member because the hon. Member (Mr. Petherick) seems to possess a very full knowledge of the subject upon which he has been speaking. Like almost every hon. Member who has taken part in this Debate, I should like to thank the Minister for introducing this Measure. I agree that there is a lot in this Bill which is very excellent, although unfortunately it does not go quite far enough. I wish to refer to the position of the growers of soft fruits, raspberries, and currants. I am told the reason why raspberries are not included in this Measure is that they always come to this country in the form of pulp, and currants also come in the form of pulp. It does not seem to me to be very much good to put a tax on imported black currants if you do nothing to stop the importation of black currant pulp.

I am told that the difficulty about preventing the importation of pulp is that the jam boilers are opposed to any such proposal, but if you want to adopt the principle that you are prepared to tax fresh fruit I cannot see why you should not tax pulp as well. It is said that if we were to do anything to stop the importation of fruit pulp the foreigner would retaliate by sending jam to this country. If you once admit the possibility of taxing pulp, I cannot see why you should not tax the jam that might be imported in its place. It has also been stated that we must be very careful, because our jam boilers are not doing very well, and people are not eating so much jam as they used to do. I can very well believe that, because jam made of pulp cannot be so good as jam made from fresh fruit.

There was a case reported in "The Times" not long ago where a man was summoned for selling jam which was not properly described. It was supposed to be raspberry jam, and I think the House will be interested to know what was in that raspberry jam. The certificate of the inspector showed that the jam contained only 22 per cent, of raspberries, 21 per cent. of apple pulp, glucose, and 175 gingilli seeds to the ounce. That was the sort of stuff that the unfortunate British public have been receiving instead of jam, and is it to be wondered at that the consumption of jam is growing less? A Member of this House told me the other day that he went into a factory in his constituency and saw the pulp being made into jam, and he went straight home and said to his wife, "In future, we will make our jam at home." It is obvious that so long as pulp is allowed to come in freely the position with regard to black currants, red currants and raspberries will be made more and more difficult.

The quantity of this stuff imported every year is increasing. From July last year to July this year the increase was just over 100,000 cwts. Recently it has increased to 107,004 ewts., and that has taken place at a. time when our people are trying to make a market for fruit. The total increase this year to the end of August, as compared with last year, shows that from the Netherlands we imported, in 1930, just under 200,000 cwts., and this year we imported over 230,000 cwts., an increase of 30,000 cwts. The imports from Russia increased from 15,000 cwts. to 23,000 cwts., and, unless something is done to stop this, it will make the position of the fruit growers in this country absolutely impossible. On account of this importation of fruit pulp the fruit grower not only loses his opportunity of finding a decent market, but, owing to the fact that this stuff can be used at any time, he never gets a chance of obtaining any high price at all. That is why we often see in the country fields of currants and raspberries left on the bushes to rot, with the result that the unfortunate people who would otherwise gather them are out of a job. Although I know that the right hon. Gentleman cannot include pulp in this Measure, I appeal to him next year, when he gets a chance, to do a little more in this direction, in order to give the fruit growers of this country a better chance.

Last month the hon. Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) made a statement which seemed to meet with general support in all quarters of the House, when he said that, although he did not approve of a Measure for limiting im- ports by taxation, he was prepared to support a Measure for achieving that object by means of a scientific regulation of imports. When he made that statement hon. Members all over the House said, "Hear, hear!" I think hon. Members who support that view would find, when they attempted to put into force any scheme for the scientific regulation of imports, that they were up against the fact that in order to do so it would be necessary, first of all, to renounce the treaties which we have in continental countries. The inevitable result would be delays of six months or even a year, and those treaties, which would have to be renounced, might contain very valuable things that this country could not very well do without. Even then the hon. Member for South-East Leeds could not carry out his favourite scheme, and he would be bound to fall back on exactly the same method which the Minister of Agriculture has adopted. The right hon. Gentleman is now asking the House to give him power to put on taxes at any time at different rates, so that they will act exactly as if he had the power of prohibition. Whenever the Minister does not want a certain article to come in he can put up the tax, and, if he does not want to keep out that article, he can drop the tax altogether.

When I first heard of the introduction of this Bill I could not help thinking that it was a very extraordinary thing that, of the two branches of agriculture, the Government had chosen to help the branch dealt with in this Measure. I suggest that the branch of agriculture which we are now dealing with does not want helping so much as those engaged in the farming branch of agriculture. I am a farmer myself. I grow flowers and fruit, and I know pretty accurately what is the position of the agricultural industry. Whereas fruit and flower growers have had a pretty bad time they have been able to keep their ends up better than other branches of farming. What is likely to be the result of this Measure on the unfortunate farming community? I think it is inherent in human nature that, if you are having a pretty had time, it does not give you any pleasure to hear that somebody else, who is not doing so badly as you are, is going to get help before you. It is literally a fact that there is no line in ordinary farming where the produce can be sold so as to make a profit, and it does seem an appalling thing that these unfortunate farmers should have to wait until next year before anything can be done to help them. We have been told that it is impossible at this time to bring in any further Measures dealing with agriculture because the subject requires so much consideration. How long would it have taken to do away that iniquitous extra duty on beer? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"] Surely that is a very serious problem, because that duty is not only giving the barley growers a very bad time—


That subject must not be enlarged upon.


Representing as I do a constituency which is very largely an arable one, I feel almost desperate as to the position, and to have to go back during the coming Recess and tell the unfortunate farmers in my constituency who are getting nearer and nearer to the bankruptcy court that their fruit-growing friends are to have some help and they are to have nothing at all is enough to break their hearts. I hope now, at long last, that the right hon. Gentleman will see if he cannot give them some small sop to help them in their terrible plight. I will conclude by saying that I thank the Minister of Agriculture for introducing this Measure. It is a very good Bill so far as it goes, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do something more for arable farmers.

6.30 p.m.


I have listened practically to the whole of the Debate on these proposals. I hope I shall be pardoned, before dealing with the subject under discussion if I mention the extraordinary spectacle that we have witnessed to-day and last Friday. The Government seem to speak with two voices. When dealing with tariffs on scissors, razor blades and Polish suits, there was not a Conservative Minister on the Front Bench. Now that we are dealing with cabbages and fruit, there is not one Liberal Minister to be seen on the Government Front Bench. It seems clear to me that the Conservative party may be opposed to the taxing of scissors and razor blades, and that the Liberal Members of the Ministry do not like this Horticultural Bill in particular. This Bill, after all, is the only contribution which the National Government have made towards alleviating the dire needs of agriculture. Perhaps I had better make it quite clear at the commencement that the Labour party is as much concerned about the awful tragedy of agriculture in this country as any other party in the State. All that we differ upon is the method of redeeming the industry from its tragic position, and we cannot for a moment believe that the paltry proposals with which we are dealing to-day can in any way help this industry on to the way of progress. The industry is crying aloud for aid; it has been calling upon Governments for the last 10 or 15 years to my knowledge; and the only proposal that we have had is based upon the most absurd trifles imaginable. Imagine that organisation belonging to the Tory party, the Primrose League, singing at one of its demonstrations: God who made thee mighty, Make thee mightier yet, and someone producing a cabbage or broccoli in support of the song, to show that the Empire upon which the sun never sets has been saved by tariffs on mushrooms, cabbages, carrots and turnips. That is really what we are coming to.

I tried to draw some information from the Minister the other day as to how these duties are going to be imposed upon goods sent into this country on consignment. I have put the point to him before, but this afternoon again, when handling the question, he was very much attached to his brief. Would he tell the House where he is going to get his data for determining the price of an article included in this list when the article has been sent into this country, without any price being stated at the source, or at the port, or indeed, until it has actually been sold by the dealer? I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is fair to take the price of that article on the basis of its value 12 months ago? Suppose that there was a glut or a shortage the year before. Is it fair to the merchant or the producer to base the value on the price stated in the trade Press 12 months before?

We have been told that the agricultural industry is in a very bad way indeed, but I have a list here of the results of the wills of about 20 farmers in this country. The amounts that they left ranged from £8,000 to £28,000, and they were all Englishmen, at that. If these figures had been stated in respect of farmers in the South of France, in Spain, or in Italy, we could understand the English tariffist; but they relate to farmers in Norfolk, Suffolk, Lancashire, and I am not sure that there were not one or two in the county of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). There are one or two in Yorkshire anyhow.

I say, therefore, as a general guess at the situation, that the farmers in this country are as well off as the coalowners or the textile manufacturers in this country, and that, if there is any cry for help at all it could come just as well from the coalmining or the textile industry as from the farming industry. Of course, you cannot protect coal by tariffs anyhow, and, consequently, the argument of a tariff falls to the ground there. We are not, therefore, very much impressed with the idea that every farmer is really in a very bad way. So far as I know the farming interests of this country, they seem to have always lived well on their losses; it is marvellous how they have done it.

The right hon. Gentleman has been twitting us in a pontifical way that we know nothing of agriculture. I think he was not in the House when I told my own story the other day, but I have been much nearer to the soil than he has. I have worked on the soil for years—


So have I.


Yes, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has been labouring on the soil. There is a vast difference between being a gentleman farmer and being a farm labourer. The farmer never has to take up turnips in the field from the ice and snow.

The right hon. Gentleman made one or two general statements about the agricultural industry, and he can take it that we agree entirely with his main contention that this industry requires attention. One hon. Member, who was making his maiden speech a few moments ago, said that what the industry required was that the Government should not interfere with it at all. What are we doing to-day but asking the Government to interfere with it? Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. As the right hon. Gentleman says, the industry is really, by comparison with a few years ago, in a. bad way. I do not know how many hon. Members will agree with me in this proposition: In my youth I was one of thousands of young men who left the countryside to work as coal miners because of one thing and one thing only, and that was that we could get a better livelihood by working in the coal mines than on the farms. I think it is true in the main of every industry everywhere that men will flock to the soil if the soil will provide them with a better livelihood than anything else. That is the case in Italy—


Why not try to do it here?


It is the case elsewhere also. The right hon. Gentleman told the House that he was not in the least afraid of reprisals from foreign countries by way of tariffs. I have always understood that the right hon. Gentleman was a great advocate of the League of Nations; I hope I am not wrong; but, if he speaks often like that in the House of Commons, he cannot henceforth on any platform advocate the work of the League of Nations and still be consistent. This in fact is a tariff war, and the right hon. Gentleman is engaging in it. Representatives of Belgium and France are coming here to discuss tariffs and other questions, and, quite seriously, I am very much alarmed as to the trend of events in relation to what we are doing to-day and what this Government has done so far in relation to tariffs. I know that I must not go very far away from the Bill, but I am wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered what he has to do further in order to make the Bill effective. Hon. Gentlemen behind him have been crying for more and still more tariffs. Might I make a suggestion to him? Is it not possible to stop the birds carrying seeds from France to our soil, and cannot we protect our soil from these seeds? After all, if a thing is to be done at all, however ridiculous, it must be done effectively.

Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will find very soon that these tariff proposals will not work very smoothly in practice. Yesterday in Manchester we came across one of the first results of the recent imposition of tariffs in this country. A presentation was to be made to a Jewish boy for his success in the scholastic world, and the present was sent by air all the way from Palestine. It was stopped by our Customs officials and did not arrive in time, because of the new tariff duties which have been applied. [Interruption.] That is reported in one of your own newspapers, which champions the cause of Protection at every turn.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether these proposals are going to affect the canning industry. I hardly think that we are producing in this country all the fruit that is now being canned by the new canning industry within our own shores. I have a table here showing how the canning industry is developing, and, if hon. Members are interested, I will read what has been done in this connection within the last few years. I feel sure that members of every party in the House will wish this industry well. We used to criticise very strongly—and rightly, in my opinion—the foolish process of manufacturing tinned sheets in South Wales and sending them all the way to California, for the fruit of California to be canned in those tinned sheets and brought back here, when in fact the whole process could have been done on our own soil.

That industry is being developed. In 1928, there were 27 factories in this country; in 1929 there were 29; in 1930 there were 33; and in 1931, 56. In 1930, these factories canned 574,000 hundredweights of fruit, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to be good enough to say—I feel sure he must know—whether this new canning industry is going to be adversely affected or not by the proposed new duties. I think that that is a fair question to put to him. If it is true, as I think it may be, that some of this canning is of fruit brought in from abroad, I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will see the point of my argument that we should be careful in imposing prohibitive duties on fruits that come in for canning purposes. I am astonished at the delight which Conservative Members seem to take in these proposals, but we were told, when we were children at school, that little things pleased little minds, and, if this Bill can please the minds of Conservative Members of Parliament, then little things indeed will please them. One Clause in this Bill provides for the appointment of referees, and the right hon. Gentleman mentioned this afternoon that the number of cases of dispute under other Acts had never ran into two figures. I should like him to let the House know, if he can, what form the hearing of such disputes will take, and whether a referee has yet been appointed for this purpose. Will he tell us, also, whether the same referee will act under this Measure and also under the Abnormal Importations Act?

Finally, I would say that there are such factors in relation to industry, agricultural, textile and engineering, affecting Europe that none of these proposals put forward by this or any other Government can have any fundamental effect upon the situation. We regard these proposals as paltry in the extreme. But we know one thing—and for that one thing alone we have sufficient reason to oppose the Bill—namely, that the proposals affect a considerable number of articles which are regarded by our people as food and not luxuries. Once these duties are imposed, the price of those commodities will be increased. As the Debate has gone on, it has become clearer every time a Tory Member speaks that it is the deliberate intention of the promoters of the Bill to secure a higher price for the producer of these articles. If a higher price is to be secured, it stands to reason that the consumer must pay more than he has done before, and for this, among other reasons, I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.


This is the third day on which the principles of this Measure have been before the House, and I hope the Minister of Agriculture is feeling somewhat fortified by the course which the Debate has so far taken. He has a great and a most difficult task before him, and, looking at the arguments which have been advanced for and against the Bill, I think he must feel some satisfaction. He has had on the one side those who seek to minimise its importance. One of his old colleagues called it a tiddler. On the other hand, we have had those on this side of the House who have represented that this is a very grave departure, leading to all sorts of consequences that we all wish to avoid. One cannot help feeling that those arguments, in effect, cancel each other out, and we must really look at the Bill as what it pretends to be. It pretends to be nothing more than what the Minister called an interim Measure for dealing in an emergency way with a series of importations which we really do not want and which, handled in the way this Bill proposes to handle them, can be produced here with great advantage to our community and, at the same time, in some way relieve the strain on the pound, which is our momentary anxiety.

I should like to say what a pleasure it has been to one who has been associated with Parliament for 12 years to see the new attitude that is being taken towards agriculture. We have all come to realise, fresh from the constituencies as we are, that the national problem that is facing, us could only be solved by a new attitude towards agriculture. We must realise that there has to be something like an equilibrium between agricultural and manufacturing activity if we are to solve one of the most difficult problems with which we are now faced. Tht Leader of the Conservative party mentioned this point last week when he expressed the hope that, in dealing with India, we should not do anything which would lessen the hold of village life, and he lamented that in this country we had by our past policy so steadily neglected the countryside.

This question of the balance of trade—this £100,000,000 which the experts say is moving against us in the current year—cannot be faced successfully unless we realise how large a part of our importation is now that of agricultural produce, and it is a very satisfactory feature that in this new House of Commons there is such a development of urban interest in the agricultural problem. I had the curiosity to look at the OFFICIAL REPORT to see what happened in the two days' Debate last week on the financial basis of the Bill. There were 49 speeches, of which no fewer than 27 were delivered by representatives of urban interests. That is a most. happy feature, and I hope this start in dealing with the problem will leave behind it the impetus of support from all parties, so that, when the Minister comes to deal with the other very difficult questions that are facing him, and which are now the subject of inquiry, he will find, instead of the old party divisions and party polemics, a real desire to have something that the best part of the three parties can support and carry through, because in regard to agricultural policy one of our greatest difficulties has been its intermittent character. One party has come in and carried through a certain Measure, another has come in and wiped it out, and agriculture has been left stranded again and again as a result of that in and out attitude. If we can, with this newly-developed urban interest in the agricultural problem, secure support from the other parties, it will be a great advantage to agriculture and will ensure something in the nature of permanence which we have failed hitherto to attain.

Some of my hon. Friends ask why do we not have equal speed in dealing with the agricultural side of the national problem as we have in regard to the manufacturing and the industrial side. That would be a very natural question if this were a Conservative Government, but my right hon. Friend is a Conservative Minister in a National Government and very many Conservatives are here after an election in which they were returned on a national basis. They put themselves behind the Prime Minister's pledge to consider every means of righting England's difficulties, that we would not look at it purely as Conservatives, but that we would put our methods and suggestions into the pool, and that the National Government, would face the problem in a broader spirit and try to evolve a lasting policy. Having taken that attitude in the election, we cannot feel that it is unreasonable of the Government to desire time to consider this agricultural problem in all its aspects. It would be quite easy, if we had dome back as a Conservative dominating party with a Conservative Front Bench, to put through a tariff applying to the various articles that have been mentioned with regret in that they are not to be found within the four corners of the Bill, but we are here not as supporters of a Conservative Government but as suppporters of a. National Government, and we ought to remember that fact.

After all, this is not a question of tariffs only. I have strong representations day after day from the bacon industry begging that they may be brought within the scope of this or some other Measure to be passed before Christmas. The bacon problem is not really a problem of tariffs. It is a problem of organisation, though the organisation would he ineffective without a tariff. It is no good trying to put tariffs before organisation. You must give those who are considering the question the opportunity of seeing that tariffs, if and when they are imposed, are effective, because they are supported by an organisation which will ensure a supply for the factories and also look after the interests of the consumer as well as the producer. The same applies to milk. In Wiltshire we are specially concerned with the milk problem, and we are very much perturbed at the growing importation of dried milk and other milk products, but that is not really a question of tariffs. For one thing, it is a question of the advisability of allowing milk products which are capable of carrying the virus of foot and mouth disease to come into the country. It is a question of organisation and also of these disease regulations which we have no right to allow to be laxly applied when dealing with food products which affect the health of our people and of our stock.

If I may give a personal illustration of the value of the Bill, in Wiltshire where I live when I am there, there was last year opposite my house a beautiful field, about twice the size of this House, of currants. I watched it coming to fruition with pride. After the season was over, I said to the smallholder who grew them, "Did you get a good price?" "Price" he said, "I could not get a price. I had to leave them to rot on the trees. They did not pay me to have them picked." Shortly afterwards I met the greatest jam maker in the country, and I said, "You have had a beautiful season for fruit. Why did you not come to Wiltshire and buy our currants? "He said, "I was not able to do so. What would have happened to me and my trade if I had waited three weeks for English currants. My rivals would have been in the shops before me with the new season's jams, and I should have had no demand at all. There is no chance of buying your English currants, because the French and Dutch currants come in and take the cream of the market, and I have to depend on foreign imported early fruit." I said, "Would it harm you if we passed a law that we would not have those early currants and gooseberries?" He said, "Not at all if you did the same all round." I said, "Would it affect the price I" He said, "No. It is not a question of price, but a question of the time at which they come on to the market."

Who that knows anything about fruit will say there is any in the world which has exactly the English flavour? It is said that rich Americans come to this country, and they know the flavour of the English fruit so well that they start eating the strawberry down in Bent fairly early in the summer and pass through the country following it right up to Aberdeen. That is not a tale. It is a. fact based upon this truth, that English apples and English soft fruit, owing to the nature of our climate and soil and the ripening quality of the sun, are of a better quality than those of any other country. I thank the Government for the opportunity they are giving to the smallholder—and I hope he will take full advantage of it—to produce many of the things which we now import from abroad.

7.0 p.m.


I should like to say how heartily I and others who are interested in agriculture appreciate the introduction of this Bill as the first step in a future agricultural policy, and we hope that we may call it the vanguard of the main body which will be coming along very soon. I would ask the Minister of Agriculture, although I know how difficult it is for him to do so, to make to the House a more comprehensive statement on the whole subject of agriculture and, if possible, either on this Bill or before the House rises, to let us a little more into his secrets for the future. In making this request, I shall try to base my arguments on the details of this Bill, and show how it may affect agriculture in other ways than those contemplated. For instance, early potatoes and carrots are included in the Schedule to this Bill, and that is bound, to some extent, to affect the main crop. If, for instance, a farmer is struggling to make both ends meet and has no idea, of what the future has in store for him, he may grasp at a straw and say that, as potatoes and carrots are both protected, he will grow them, with the result that in the end there may be a glut of both those products. It is no use telling a drowning man to wait until someone comes to him; you have got to throw him a lifebelt to keep his head above water. I know the difficulties and, although I do not wish to be obstructive, I hope the Minister may be able to tell us a little more, so that we may go back to our agricultural constituencies with a message of hope.

Take, for instance, the sugar-beet industry. Many farmers in my neighbourhood grow a small patch, but, if they do not know what the future policy on sugar beet is going to be, they may possibly grasp at this Bill and, instead of growing sugar beet, will grow potatoes and carrots on those patches, with the result that there will be a surplus. Indeed, a surplus is very likely. At the end of the War, after I had finished soldiering, I was connected with the Food Production Department, and we were told at that time that it did not matter what we grew—there would be no surplus. I attended one day a meeting in London presided over by the then head of the Food Production Department, Lord Lee of Fareham, and attended by delegates from every county in England. Lord Lee made a speech in which he told us to go back to our counties and encourage the production of food of all kinds, and that he and his Department would see that there would be no surplus. During the meeting I had a. telegram placed in my hand stating that there were 300 tons of carrots for which no market could be found. At the end of the meeting, I got up and said to the chairman, "Sir, in your speech you told us you could deal with a surplus of produce. I now offer you 300 tons of carrots." I did not make that offer with any disrespect, but there was a titter all over the room, and he replied, "Thank you, very much." Of course, those carrots were surplus and nobody wanted them. They were got rid of at a price which was no good to the grower.

It is on that that I base my argument for asking the Minister if he can give us, as soon as possible, a comprehensive statement on the whole future, and tell us as much as he can of what he hopes to do for the agricultural industry. There is another branch of the agricultural industry about which we would like to know something, the milk industry. I do not say that this Bill will turn people to milk production, but lately the price of milk has been so low that many milk producers have stopped producing milk, with the result that milk has come from Denmark, and has been distributed by the Co-operative Wholesale Society in London. All I can say is that the Cooperative Wholesale Society is employing blackleg labour—


This Bill does not deal with milk supply.


I have no intention -of getting out of order. Turning to organisation and marketing, they, of course, should go along with any reconstruction of agriculture. As far as the products in this Bill are concerned, the first thing to deal with is the grading and packing. Now that this produce is protected, there is a chance of grading and packing being better taken up. The Ministry of Agriculture are constantly issuing pamphlets on the subject which, I am sorry to say, nobody reads. The other day at an agricultural show I saw the exhibit which the Ministry of Agriculture had installed on the grading of fruit and vegetables. I was very interested because it all looked exceedingly nice, but what puzzled me was what it cost. Of course I might have read the pamphlet, but how many people, looking at that stall, are going to take the pamphlet and read it or, When they have read it, to understand it?


I must point out that that is not in the Bill. There is nothing about grading and marking in the Bill.


I was also going to mention another point which, however, you may also rule out of order. I was wondering if the right hon. Gentleman had considered what is going to be the future of Covent Garden Market. It seems to me that Covent Garden Market in the middle of a big town is not in a very suitable position. However, I see that is out of order, too.


The Debate on a Second Reading is a very wide one, but the Bill must sometimes be referred to.


I shall, in conclusion, only appeal to the Minister of Agriculture to tell us a. little more on the future of agriculture, so that we can take back a Christmas present to our agricultural community, and give them a message of hope and prosperity for the future.


We on these benches have been accused of not taking much interest in agriculture, and of not representing rural constituencies. That is really not the case. It is a curious charge to make against the party whose last Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Addison, was admitted to be one of the most sympathetic and constructive Ministers of Agriculture of modern times. Although many of us do not represent wholly agricultural divisions, many, like myself, represent divisions which are largely mining, but also agricultural. The interests of those who work upon the soil are as dear to us as the interests of those who get a precarious livelihood in the darkness and dangers of the pits. Moreover, we are interested in agriculture for its own sake. I regard myself as a countryman, and the countryside as my home. I agree entirely with what the Lord President of the Council said on Thursday, and which has already been quoted, though I would rather say that the progress of capitalist industry has practically destroyed rural life or, at any rate, sacrificed it too much to the urban side. I would also say that a nation, like a plant, must be rooted in the soil if it is to flourish. Therefore, we on this side of the House would do anything in our power to restore the prosperity and wealth of the countryside. We know that agriculture is in a very bad way, but although that is admittedly the case, a larger proportion of the people of this country would have more sympathy with the farmer if they could ever find the time when the farmer had admitted he was doing well. It is notorious that he never admits that he is doing well. I remember a verse published in "Punch" a few years ago which illustrates the position. It ran: The farmer will never he happy again, He carries his heart in his boots, For either the rain is destroying his grain, Or the drought is destroying his roots. When I put that to an assembly of farmers they agreed that, as far as they were concerned, it represented the agricultural position. Anyhow, we know that agriculture is in a very bad way. Arable farming is diminishing. Land is being put down to grass, and thousands of people have left the soil for the towns or gone overseas, which is a very bad thing. I do not see that anything is being done in the Bill to meet that grave and tragic situation. I am not unreasonable. I do not expect the Government in the first six weeks to bring forward Measures for the reconstruction of the countryside, but I do not think that the Government will ever tackle the agricultural problem in a fundamental way. Because of the principles which they represent, I do not think they will ever tackle the question of the land, for example. Even in this comparatively small matter of growing fruit and vegetables, I do not think that they are tackling the root cause of the trouble. What is the real problem, and one which every grower and smallholder will admit? The great problem is the great gap that exists between the price the producer gets for what he grows and the price the consumer has to pay in the shops. That has been the problem for many years. In a hook called "The Re-building of Rural England," by Mr. Montagu Ford-ham, the writer says: The growers of fruit and vegetables have all their stories … of dealers' gains and their losses … of runner beans and marrows sent to London for which they received nothing but a bill for expenses; of brussels sprouts for which they get ½d. a lb. being retailed at 3d. a lb. of a field of celery sold for £100 of which the retail price must have been somewhere about £1,000; of a consignment of fruit changing hands five times before it left the station; of the price of carrots dropping to nothing one day, only to run up to £10 a ton a few weeks later … I noticed … early in the year 1923 that when potatoes were being sold by farmers at 17s a ton in Lincolnshire, and at 15s. a ton in Kent, 20 miles from London, the Hampstead retail price was 1s. a stone, £8 a ton, over 10 times the price in Kent. Again, whilst I was selling Wellington apples … in Kent at 1¼d. a lb., a similar apple was sold in London shops at 6d. a lb., five times as much. I read in the "Daily Mail" some time ago: On the previous day peas were being sold in Covent Garden at one halfpenny a lb., and retailed the same afternoon at 6d, a lb. It also mentioned that for half a bag of peas—it was a grower who said this—containing 56 lbs., the grower only received 2s. while they were being sold at 6d. a lb. retail, and in restaurants at the rate of about 8d. an ounce. The same newspaper stated that at the time a farmer was getting £11 a ton for potatoes which were afterwards retailed at £18 13s. 4d. and even at £28 a ton. There is also the report of the Linlithgow Commission, which I somewhat misquoted the other night when speaking from memory. Interesting cases are given in the report. There is one case mentioned of 20 dozen pounds of tomatoes, grown at Worthing. For these tomatoes the producer received the sum of £2 18s. 9d., or 3d. a lb., and the same tomatoes were sold in a shop at Bath at led. a lb., or £10 in all. In other words, £7 had disappeared between the producer and the consumers. There is another case of a grower at Cheshunt, who sold 150 dozen cucumbers at 4½d. each, or £31 13s. 4d. in all. Those cucumbers were sold to the public at 10d, each, or £75 in all, an addition of £43. If the Government could do something to close up that gap so that the producer could get more for what he grew, it would have a great effect upon the countryside as far as the growing of fruit and vegetables is concerned. The Linlithgow report has been in existence 10 years without anything having been done. This is what they said finally: Distributive costs are a far heavier burden than society will permanently consent to bear … Individual traders and groups of traders are, in sonic cases, still making higher profits than are warranted by the services they perform … In some trades there are too many profit-making agencies engaged in the process of distribution. … Public interest demands a far more determined effort on the part of all concerned to bring about reform, and to increase the efficiency of the marketing and distributive machinery as a whole. If the Minister of Agriculture will bend his energies to doing that, he will have no more enthusiastic supporters of any Bill in which he proposes to remedy that kind of thing than the Members sitting on these benches. Mr. Christopher Tumor, who is a well-known agricultural expert, said the other day: Organising the industry is the farmer's only weapon for battling with the rings of merchants, manufacturers and middlemen, formed against him. The Government are doing nothing in this Bill to battle against the rings of merchants and manufacturers and middlemen formed against them.

Lieut.-Colonel MAYHEW

Is not that the purpose of the Bill? Is it not to enable organisation to be carried out and to provide protection with a definite possibility that there will be a sale for what is produced? That, surely, is the greatest difficulty at the present time?


I can see nothing of that sort in the Bill, but whether the Minister intends to bring it forward later on I do not know. The Bill only touches the problem very superficially. Unless you organise marketing and apply the principle of standard prices so that growers will know what they are going to get, which is the policy put forward by the party to which I belong, you will not do anything to improve the position of the growers of fruit and vegetables. I do not want to make a speech which would have no effect whatever because of the large majority against us, but I would like to ask the Minister to do one practical thing, and make a concession upon the question of tomatoes. The question of tomatoes is not covered by any of the things which the Minister has said in his statement of what the Bill implies. It is satisfactory to note, and even the Minister will admit it, that there is no importation of luxury tomatoes. The tomatoes which are imported are cheap tomatoes bought by the ordinary people, by the workers and by the poor. Luxury tomatoes are the English tomatoes.

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

I think that the hon. Member is omitting the fact that the Dutch import tomatoes for the early market which are grown in hothouses and compete absolutely with our own.


They are not mentioned in the agricultural statistics issued by the Minister of Agriculture, because the Dutch tomatoes are quite cheap tomatoes, and come in later on. The most expen- sive of the Dutch tomatoes come in May, whereas the very expensive English tomatoes come in April. I have been studying the speeches of the Minister of Agriculture carefully and making extracts from them. In his original statement he said: The Government have also decided to introduce a Bill directed to the reduction, through the operation of tariffs, of imports into this country of certain non-essential agricultural and horticultural products which, in many cases, owing to early maturity, anticipate the home crop."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1931; col. 494, Vol. 260.] Dutch tomatoes do not come under that. On 30th November he said: These early luxury vegetables cannot in any sense be described as the food of the people. They are things for which very high prices are paid. He went on to describe the hostesses of those expensive luxury edibles, and said: That they fetch extravagant prices, and that they involve no hardship on the ordinary poor and middle-class consumer, is clearly established."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1931; col. 788, Vol. 260.] I quite agree with him. I am not going to oppose the importation of asparagus. It is eaten in a very revolting fashion, I have spoilt more neckties by eating asparagus than in any other way. Tomatoes do not come under this definition. Later on, in another speech on the same night, the Minister of Agriculture said: This proposal was, quite frankly, framed with the evident intention of dealing with those articles which could property be described as luxury articles or which could, on the other hand, be said with equal certainty to be articles of very early production, competing upon an unfair basis with those things we can produce in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1931; col. 896, Vol. 260.] On 1st December he said the same thing in practically the same words. I think he will recognise that tomatoes do not come under those definitions at all. They come in all the year round from abroad at a very cheap price, and the English tomato only comes in for a certain few months of the year at a very much higher price. The two things are not comparable at all. In his reply to me the other night the Minister said: There are certain periods of the year when there is an overlapping of the tomatoes that come into this country with the home produced tomatoes, and it is only reasonable that a crop such as that which can be expanded very considerably in this country should have some measure of encouragement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1931; col. 1043, Vol. 260.] When I look at the figures published by his own Department I wonder where the overlapping comes in. As far as I can see, the only approach to overlapping is in the month of June. For the quantities I am about to describe, the highest price of the English tomato of first-grade quality was 8s., and the lowest price 6s.; for the Canary Island tomato 4s. and 2s. 8d., and for the Dutch tomatoes 6s. and 5s. 9d. The nearest case of overlapping, therefore, is on the Dutch and the English tomatoes. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman intends to put a discretionary duty on Dutch tomatoes and not upon those of the Canary Islands, but June is the only month when there is any likelihood of overlapping. To-day, if you put a duty of 4s. on each 12 lbs., you will add considerably to the expense of the cheaper tomatoes bought by the working people of this country. I do not think it is really worth while for that one month to increase the price for the sake of keeping tomatoes in the Schedule. I think that the Minister would do well to secure that the British people should have cheap tomatoes all the year round.

There is one other point I wish to mention. The Solicitor-General is sitting on the Front Bench opposite, and he might give an interpretation of the matter. In Clause 2 of the Bill are the words: No articles which are Empire products within the meaning of that expression as used in Sub-section (1) of Section eight of the Finance Act, 1919. I looked up that Finance Act, and found that the definition is: 'The British Empire' means any of His Majesty's Dominions outside Great Britain and Ireland, and any territories under His Majesty's protection, and includes India. A little later on, at the end of the Bill, it says: In this Act the expression 'the United Kingdom does not include the Isle of Man. 7.30 p.m.

Taking those two things together, does the right hon. Gentleman mean that fruit and vegetables from the Isle of Man will be let in free, because they would come under the definition in Clause 2. It would appear that the vegetables and fruit from foreign countries could go into the Isle of Man free, and the Isle of Man would then be able to export them to this country, free. I should like to know if I am correct in that assumption. I should also like to know what is the position in regard to the Channel Islands. Will the French grower be able to send his produce into the Channel Islands and pass it on to this country from the Channel Islands, without paying any tax? If that is the case either in regard to the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, this Bill, unless some material alteration is made, will become, as the National Government is likely to become, a fraud and a make-believe.


Representing a large area of growers in South Hampshire, in a constituency adjoining that of the Solicitor-General, and similarly interested, I thank the Minister of Agriculture for these few crumbs that have fallen from the Cabinet's table. The right hon. Gentleman has presented us this time only with an annual. We hope that it will become a perennial. May I remind the House that this is a Horticultural Bill and not a general Bill affecting Protection or Free Trade in agricultural matters as a whole? In dealing with fruit, especially soft fruit—one has had an opportunity of taking some advice and hearing a good deal of opinion expressed from those interested in the industry—we have to consider not only one period of the crop but the whole period, from the very early luxury beginning until the end which, unfortunately, as a rule, brings a glut. In the beginning, there can be no question of any hardship about the price. All that the Bill does is simply to alter by two or three weeks the period at which people begin to eat luxury strawberries. The result of that will be to give the British grower a market which hitherto he has not been able to get. As a result of that market he will be able to put on the profit side of his profit and loss account a very considerable sum that he has never had there before. That will enable him at the end of the year to deal with the second and later part of his crops possibly at a cheaper rate than he could have done if he had not had the earlier crumbs which will come. from the prohibition under this Bill.

It has been stated that this Bill is so small that it does not help the grower and that it does not help anybody. A good many gibes have been directed at the trade. I want to say, definitely, that if I had a request from a single constituent I should regard it as my duty to come here and to put his case. Much more do I regard it as my duty to come and put the case of a great number of men who to-day are suffering from conditions over which they have no control whatever. It is idle to say that this Bill, if it leads to am increase of production, is not going to be of very considerable benefit to the industries concerned. The benefit will come in more ways than one. To begin with, you will get more labour. There can be no question about that. The labour will come in two ways, to the regular people who are employed all the year round and also as a very great help to those who are only employed seasonally. The season for picking fruit is of the greatest value to the families of the regular employés in the district. Many a family counts on that extra money to supply them with things which otherwise they would not be able to get. I am told that in one district so much is this recognised, that after the picking season is over the shopkeepers in the district have a kind of special sale, with special conditions, in order to get the very valuable trade from the money which is liberated by the picking people.

In dealing with this subject we have to pay regard to one or two questions without which it is useless to hope for any improvement in the trade. The first is this, that there is to-day far too long a chain between the producer of the goods and the consumer. I am not going to attack the shopkeeper, who is a favourite butt of many hon. Members opposite. He is not altogether responsible for the position in which he finds himself. In these particular classes of goods he is dealing with something perishable, and he is in a shop for which he has to pay very heavy rates as a result of the heavy local expenditure. But those remarks do not apply all the way along the ladder which stretches above the shopkeeper right up to the producer. I am convinced that there are many rungs in the ladder which could be removed, the removal of which would bring the two ends closer together. I think the remedy lies with the growers themselves. Quite definitely, I do not believe that this Act will be of any use unless the growers come together and establish some sort of organisation, such as is suggested in the Agricultural Marketing Act, and that it will receive the blessing of the Minister. He was asked the other day whether any such steps would be taken, anal he replied, "No."

I do not suggest any large expenditure of money, but may I suggest, and I know the right hon. Gentleman will accept the suggestion with the kindly interest which the Board of Agriculture often do take, that it is not so much a question of an Act of Parliament to put these matters right? It is a definte interest on the part of the Ministry, which may cost a little money. The moment people realise that they have a Ministry of friendly people behind them, it becomes much easier for them to come together. One might say that the friendly help of a Government Department in that way crystallises fluid opinion which has only been waiting for its opportunity. I hope, therefore, that the Minister of Agriculture will be able to do something of that kind. Think of what might be done by such an association. It would start the year in the ordinary way by dealing with the first crop without much bother, because it is a luxury crop. Where the crop is required there is a good demand for it and it is no longer a matter of marketing—it markets itself. When you come to the next period, a period in which most people in this country are interested, you are dealing with something which is rapidly perishable and which must be got to the consumer as soon as possible. Therefore, under a proper system of organisation, by forward contracts, under which everyone knows where the goods will come from, where the goods are going, and everyone knows probably what proportion of the crop belongs to the association, you could get your stuff out quickly and at a reasonable price, to reach the consumer far more easily than you could under an individualistic system which leads one nowhere.

Reference has been made to the pulp of various fruits that come into this country. I should like to deal with that subject. It is nasty, dirty stuff, which has been treated chemically, and treated away from this country. When it comes into the country co one can say what it really is, or how it has been treated. I do not see why in this country we should call upon our own producers of food materials of every kind to undergo the necessity of spending large sums of money in keeping everything clean, nice and tidy, and then allow this foreign stuff to come in, made under conditions which no one can check. I think we should be justified in rejecting any of these materials which come in chemically preserved in the way that this foreign pulp is preserved. The result of such action would be to compel the jam manufacturers to make their jam from our own proper fruit, instead of using material of which we know nothing.

There is another subject which calls for attention. Inevitably in the future there is going to be a clash of opinion between urban and rural dwellers, and especially on the part of the rural dweller as to the rights of the rural dweller in the general distribution of wages. May I put a point to my Socialist friends? No one appreciates better than they, the work that has been done to give numbers of their people in trades unions certain assured wages. Those assured wages become part of the price of the things they make, which are sold throughout the country, in the rural districts as well as in the urban districts. To the town dweller as compared with the country dweller every kind of convenience is offered. Education is better, conveniences generally are better, water is better, and everything that one needs socially is better. In a town if a man falls out of work he is, generally speaking, covered by unemployment insurance. In the town very often, perhaps not immediately today but generally, a man has the opportunity of alternative employment.

What is the case in the country? I would recall what an old agricultural labourer said to me after one of my meetings. He said, "You people in the towns have forgotten us in the country. We have one employment, and if we lose it we have no dole. Our only alternative is the workhouse or the Poor Law." If that is the case, and I do not think that it can be denied, has not the agriculturist a right to say to the town dweller: "The only way to put me right in regard to you is to give me an opportunity of earning better wages." It is not only a question of giving him an opportunity of earning wages which will put him right, but an opportunity of giving him work on a product which can be sold at a price to justify those wages. If there is any alternative hon. Members ought to give it to him. This is one of the most important questions we shall have to settle in the future. It is not simply a question of Free Trade and Protection. It is the whole relation of country and town and unless the relation is realised as a question of unity between the two, there is little hope for this nation, either in the town or in the country.


In rising to oppose the Amendment I do not propose to go into detail on the various items embodied in the Bill, but rather to give the House a few impressions which I have gathered in my travels through the country as to the condition of the workers in the agricultural industry and other trades. Last summer while in Norfolk assisting the candidature of an hon. Member of this House I came into contact with farm labourers and farmers, and for the first time in my life I realised the distress and the hopeless outlook of everyone connected with that industry. I came away from that constituency with a heart full of sadness, wondering how this great country was going to deal with a problem which at that time seemed hopeless, inasmuch as the Government then in power were not dealing with this vital matter. I found that men had lost the wish to live and that women were broken hearted at the outlook and were without hope to cheer them in their dull monotonous existence. It seemed as though emigration or the dole were the only alternatives.

Some of the remarks of hon. Members of the Opposition this afternoon seem to suggest that their chief objection to the Bill is that it does not go far enough, that it deals only with a microscopic proportion of the agricultural industry. I shall not be saying anything against the wishes of the Cabinet if I promise them that this will be remedied in the near future. Orders can be issued to embrace a larger number of articles of human consumption than are at present embodied in the Bill, and I hold out to them the encouraging view that their wishes may be satisfied in the near future.

I sometimes wish that this House was, shall I say, a body like the directors of a public company, whose sole wish was to deal with these problems and at the earliest possible moment to arrive at a solution which would put us all out of our difficulties. When outsiders read of our Debates and find that the two sides are diametrically opposed they must wonder why there should be such a change in the mentality of an hon. Member when he crosses from one side of the House to the other. I should like to feel that there was some via media by which, putting our heads together, we could arrive at a solution of these difficulties by reasoned argument. I think I am voicing the views of the Opposition when I say that collectively and individually they are entirely of the opinion that if the Government of this country was in their hands we should have prosperity in the near future. Not one of them will contradict that statement; and that being the case, while they are wandering about in the wilderness like the tribes of Israel, looking with envious eyes on the promised land, so near and yet so far, I throw out the suggestion that if tariffs are the abomination of desolation, if they are so hateful to every man and women, that they should encourage the Government in their suicidal policy, that they should vote for the Government, and then in a few days or weeks, at most a few months, the country would see the reckless state of ruin and desolation into which the Government had brought the country and would immediately take steps to call upon them to take their place.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present: House counted, and 40 Members being present


These little interruptions do not perturb me, because I have been used to interruptions all my life. To resume. During my recent contest I wished to enter into the feelings of the unemployed, and I tried an experiment in order to get the position of affairs from the unemployed standpoint. Before the election had been in process for more than a couple of days, and as I was unknown in some parts of the constituency, one morning, a cold east wind blowing, I put on a cap and buttoned up my overcoat, and joined in the unemployed queue. Then, for the first time in my life, I understood the near approach we had been to revolution in this country. There were women with children at the breast; and men who for more than two years had been out of employment, their right hand losing its cunning, getting lower and lower in the scale of humanity until their very manhood was in danger. I stood among them watching the traffic go past, sometimes a saloon car, and then I began to visualise and understand, as I never had before, what it feels to see prosperity ride past when one is standing in destitution on the roadside. I felt then, as I never felt before, that we had come to the dividing of the ways; that this country must tackle the problem of unemployment with no uncertain hand; that we were faced with a position of affairs which in a word was appalling.

In my meetings I was asked the question: "Will you, if elected, restore the cut in the dole." It was a question which was asked at every meeting, every day, in the street and in the cottage; it was the one thing upon which they insisted. [An HON. MEMBER: "What did you say?"] There was only one answer to be made. Where is the money to come from to restore the cut; I can only restore the cut by finding you work, which will abolish the need for the dole altogether. That was my reply. I ask the Government, at the earliest possible moment, to throw their net wider and rope in the whole of the agricultural industry. It is not merely a matter of finance which has to be considered. During the War we had half Europe with us, and if were engaged in warfare singlehanded we should be starved in a month. Above all things, we should have an. industry here which at any rate could keep us going for a time until we could deal with the position.

I am not going to take up much time of the House because I feel that there should be in this illustrious assembly a time limit which should not only apply to new Members but which might also be usefully applied to older Members on occasion. In conclusion, I want to draw the attention of the House to a matter which is historic and which concerns every hon. Member. To-day we celebrate the centenary of the inauguration of the Press Gallery in the House of Commons, and I should not like this occasion to pass without drawing attention to that fact; and perhaps it can only be done by a new Member being allowed that indulgence which is characteristic of the House. I hope I may be allowed therefore to express just a few words before I resume my seat. In the stirring times in which we live the morning post, brought by the mail, chronicles with express speed yesterday's evening news, by means of the telegraph, and heralds the approach of coming events from all parts of the globe. I am sure that Members of the House appreciate the wonderful work of the members of the Press Gallery in the House of Commons.


I believe the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Hales) was addressing the House for the first time, and, that being so, I hope he will allow me, in accordance with the very pleasant custom of this House to tender him my very sincere congratulations on his speech and to express the hope that he will frequently give us the benefit of his opinion. Earlier in the day a reasoned Amendment was moved from the benches opposite. It is just as well to recall that fact as no bon Member opposite who has since spoken has remembered it. We have heard very little indeed about the Amendment. Equally, I am justified in observing that the interest taken by hon. Members opposite in a matter which they say is of vital importance, marking as it does the first introduction of food taxation in this country, has not been very great. [Interruption] So far as the supporters of the Government are concerned they are perfectly satisfied to give their confidence to the Government and, after all, it is an Amendment which has been moved from the Labour Benches and, therefore, one would have supposed that they would have taken a little more interest in their own Amendment. As a matter of fact, there are now more hon. Members of the Opposition present than at any other time during the day.

8.0 p.m.

My only reason for intervening is because like so many other hon. Members I desire to express my satisfaction that measures are at last being introduced which have been pressed upon me in my constituency during the past 10 years, and in every one of the five General Elections in which I have taken part, by the growers of fruit, vegetables and flowers. It is quite true that the Bill affords only a small measure of relief. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has himself described it as an interim measure. Everyone realises that it is only a first step, but I have not the slightest doubt that, small as it is, it will give encouragement and renewed hope to an important and sorely tried section of the industry. I have followed the discussion of the Bill's proposals with very great interest and with a certain amount of entertainment. It has been a little amusing to note how almost every argument that has been used against the Bill has been self-contradictory, and how its opponents, one after the other, seemed to cancel each other out. We have had references made to the Bill as depriving the working man of luxuries.




Necessities I am obliged for the interruption, because it is a somewhat curious attitude of mind that anything which most of us regard as a luxury, once it begins to be purchased by the working man becomes a necessity. Let us examine what are the main objections to the Bill. They are summarised in the Amendment. First of all we have, of course, the old and threadbare argument that this is the thin end of the wedge in the taxation of food. I have never been able to follow that line of argument. One would imagine that the taxation of articles of food was a thing altogether unknown and unheard of in this country, whereas everyone knows that there has been taxation of certain important articles of food throughout the last 50 years, and that it has been imposed or maintained by every successive Government that has held office. This cry of "Dear Food" has been the bogy and the stock-in-trade of the Free Trader for the last 30 years, but at all events the last election proved one thing clearly, and that is that the great majority of our people are no longer to be panic-driven by such a cry. [HON. MEMBERS: "They were."] Hon. Members say that they were. I can only mention my own constituency, which is almost entirely a working-class one.


On a point of Order. Did the hon. and learned Member in his election address state definitely that he stood for the taxation of food?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)

That is not a point of Order. The hon. Member should not interrupt on the pretext of raising a point of Order.


I shall be very glad to answer the hon. Member's question. In my election address I stated perfectly clearly that I was prepared to support the National Government with a free hand, even though it involved the taxation of food or any other necessities of life.


I would like to see that statement.


The hon. Member must take my word for it. On the other hand, the cry of "Dear Food" was used against me as practically the sole argument throughout the whole election, and I can only comment that my majority was nearly double what it had been on any previous occasion. Personally, I have never understood that the taxation of certain articles of food is any more indecent or immoral than the taxation of other essential commodities, provided that it is not done in such a way as to create an artificial shortage or unduly to exploit the consumer. Those are fundamental conditions. But when we hear such protests coming from hon. Members opposite, about the wickedness of exploiting the consumer, I suggest to some of them who are influential in the trade union movement, that that is a maxim which they might well remember, because there have been many occasions during the past few years when certainly the interests of the consumer have been lightly brushed on one side.

Lieut.-Colonel MAYHEW

Is it not a fact that the Socialist Government in their last financial year imposed food taxes approximating £15,000,000?


Is that a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker?


I do not think the hon. and gallant Member rose to a point of Order. The hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Renton]) gave way.


Rather different treatment from that given to my hon. Friend.


The hon. Member is not entitled to question my Ruling.


All I can say is that if these results follow, if it turns out that there is an artificial shortage or that the consumer is being exploited, it is not beyond the wit of man or the ingenuity of the Government to deal with that situation, and I feel sure that in any measure they might take for that purpose they would have the whole-hearted support of the House. While I believe in reasonable Protection and in the non-exploitation of the consumer, I also believe very strongly that the producer has a right to be protected, and I would go further and say that I do not believe the consumer has any right to expect to obtain even articles of food below the cost of production or on such terms as deny the producer a reasonable return for his labour. We are assured that there is no reason to anticipate any shortage as a result of these proposals, or, indeed, any substantial rise in price. Hon. Members may say that that is a matter of opinion. I agree that it is, but it is the opinion of many who are in the best position to judge. We are assured, further, that we are well able to produce all the fruit, vegetables and flowers which are needed for our own consumption. That is the conviction of those who are engaged in the industry and ought to know. Time will prove whether they are right. If so, the whole argument on the score of food taxes falls to the ground.

Next we are assured that this is a tribute which will not do any good to anyone, that the Bill is not wanted either by the farmer or the farm worker. With regard to that I think that in all these fiscal controversies it is a fairly sound maxim to assume that people generally know their own business better than other people can see it. Hon. Members opposite say that the Bill is not desired by the agricultural workers, by which presumably they mean that it is not wanted by those engaged in the production of the articles which are to be affected by the Bill. I can assure any hon. Member who says that, that the Bill is very sincerely wanted by all with whom I come in contact.


Who said that? I am not aware of any such statement.


It has been said over and over again. It is said in the actual words of the Amendment, which states that the Bill, "Can be of no real advantage to the British farmer or to the agricultural worker." I am charging my recollection when I say that some hon. Members have suggested that it is not wanted by the farmer or the farm worker. Still, that is a small difference and we need not argue about it. But if anyone does hold that view, I reply that from my personal knowledge the Bill is very much wanted and has been wanted for many years past. Some reasonable measure of Protection is wanted. Reasonable, of course, it must be. No one, however ardent a Protectionist, will stand up and argue in favour of an unreasonable measure of Protection. But what is reasonable or unreasonable must again be a matter of opinion. To the word "reasonable" the test I would apply is, is it effective? We shall see whether in the result the proposals of this Bill have the effect which many of us are convinced that they will have.

In the same breath in which we are told that this is a trifling Measure we are assured that it will bring immense hardship and deprive hundreds of thousands of people of essential foodstuffs. Again, I suggest to hon. Members opposite that they cannot have it both ways. Either this is a trifling Measure which they need not bother about, or it is a very important matter which directly affects the conditions of life of hundreds of thousands of people. But is it such a trifling matter? Figures have been produced showing the small percentage that will be affected by the Bill compared with the total importations of foodstuffs. That may be true. I see, for example, according to the latest figures, that the total area of commercial glass-houses in England and Wales is 2,725 acres, employing 18,000 workers with an annual output of nearly £5,000,000. As we know, that is capable of very much expansion. But that expansion cannot take place as long as we go on importing raw fruit and vegetables annually to the extent of about £21,000,000 Expansion cannot take place so long as there is this unrestricted competition, gradually increasing, of soft fruit and vegetables from the Netherlands and Belgium and France and Germany and other countries, which makes fruit farming and market gardening an unprofitable proposition in this country. If we can remedy that state of affairs, it will not be without its effect on our general trade balance or the economic position of the country.

If these Debates have had no other Advantage they have certainly had considerable educational value as to the nutritive value and the vitamins which are contained in certain of these articles of food. I can only trust that all the information we have been given by various hon. Members is to be entirely relied on. Particular stress has been laid by one Member after another on the importance of the tomato and the heinous crime of doing anything that might deprive the working classes or the people of this country of this health-giving and succulent fruit or vegetable—I am not quite sure which it is. Why should it have that effect? The other day, when we were discussing these proposals the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) quoted prices of 31s. 6d. and 28s. per 12 lbs. for tomatoes. He was presumably giving those as indicating a kind of average price. I have tried to ascertain the figures for myself and I find from the information supplied by four of the largest growers in this country that the average price per 12 lbs. of tomatoes for the last six years has been as follows: 1925, 6s. 4½d.; 1926, 5s.; 1927, 5s. 6¼d.; 1928, 5s. 2¾d.; 1929, 5s. 6d.; 1930, 4s. 11¾d.


The 31s. 6d. which I quoted was the price of first-grade English tomatoes in the month of April.


The prices which I have quoted are, as I say, average prices throughout the year obtained from four large growers, and that I think is a better test than the price in any selected month. It will be observed that the prices were a little higher in 1929 than in 1930, and it is rather curious to note the cause. For some reason which I do not know, imports dropped by 53,397 cwts. and, consequently, our growers benefited. I am informed that for every 140 cwts. of tomatoes imported it is estimated that one man in this country loses a job. That in itself has a serious effect on employment—small, I agree, compared with the vastness of our unemployment figures, but, nevertheless, not a detail to he disregarded, especially when we remember that in May, June and July last year we imported 233,000 cwts. of tomatoes, or nearly double the importation of the previous year.

The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) the other day stressed the case of cherries and pointed out that in 1929 we produced 240,000 cwts. of cherries in this country and imported 200,000 cwts., while in 1930 we produced 405,000 cwts. and imported only 60,000 cwts. He asked, in view of those figures, what was the necessity for these proposals? But it seemed to me that the argument cut exactly the other way. I think that the inference to be drawn from those figures is the very opposite to that which the hon. Member suggested. Those figures, to my mind, afford a good example of how home production goes up as imports go down. It was not a tariff in that instance which lowered the importation of foreign cherries. It was, I understand, some blight or disease which affected them, but it had the result of a tariff on importation, and, just as the importation was so much lowered, so our home production went up and our own people benefited in consequence.

It is true that these proposals do not go nearly far enough if we regard them as anything but a first step. There are others, of course, who say that they go too far. But they are not intended, and no one has stressed this point more than the Minister himself, to he a far-reaching Measure for agricultural revival. That is still to come. I trust that it will not be long delayed knowing, as I do, something of the parlous condition of the agricultural industry in my part of the country. At the same time, I do not regard this Bill as unimportant. I am satisfied that it will provide a considerable amount of increased employment and will protect us from the anticipated dumping by Holland and other countries, which is bound to come, unless we take some steps like this, owing to the closing against them of some of their normal market. The Bill will materially assist market-gardeners, smallholders, and other people. I support it for that reason, but most of all because I regard it as an earnest of the Government's intention to grapple with this problem immediately, with renewed vigour and without regard to preconceived ideas.


Having listened attentively to Members and supporters of the Government speaking on this Bill, the first thing which I should like to stress in replying to them is that we are not treating this Bill as something of minor importance. We look -upon it as the precursor of other Bills which will ultimately bring in a system of full-fledged Protection. We are not, as hon. Members opposite have suggested, treating it lightly. We look upon most of the speeches delivered from the Government side on this Bill as apologies for this Measure because it is, to use the words of one hon. Member who delivered a maiden speech, "just a little sop" in order to satisfy the aspirations of certain Members of the Tory party who have been returned, so they say, on behalf of the unemployed. In our view the only problem from which the agricultural industry is suffering is the problem of home-grown and foreign ground landlords. We on this side do not see how it is possible to have a stable agricultural or horticultural industry in this country unless the problem of landlordism is dealt with and dealt with severely. As I say we look upon this Measure as a first instalment of Protection. We know that it has been initiated by those who represent the landlords and not the people of the country and who are more concerned about putting burdens on the consumers or in other words the people of this country, than they are about inducing the landlords to reduce the ground rents and free the land so that the people may produce for themselves.

We are asked to believe that this Government which has just deprived allotment holders of assistance in the way of free seed and so forth is interested in the growing of food at home. As a member of the Glamorganshire County Council I have been interested in induc- ing allotment-holders to grow their own foodstuffs. We had assistance from the late Government through the Glamorganshire Agricultural Committee in regard to grants for the purchase of seeds, seed potatoes, tools and other material at a low price to the allotment-holders. I have just been informed that that system is now prohibited; that, as a matter of economy and in order to save the nation, it is considered essential that allotment holders in future should apply to charitable organisations like the Society of Friends for assistance of that kind. We are asked to believe that the Government are sincere in their advocacy of growing food for the people when they deprive the unemployed of their free seeds for allotments. We are not going to stand for this hypocrisy, and I think it well that people should be told what we think of them sometimes.

It was bordering on sheer impertinence on the part of the last speaker to refer to the number of Members present in the House. Within 10 minutes of that statement we had had a count, and it was found that there were not 40 Members present in this House at a time when we were dealing with a matter that is apparently the grave concern of the Government, namely, agriculture. I presume that the reason for their absence is that most of them live to eat rather than eat to live. They were at dinner, I presume. I would not have referred to that if the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had not referred to the emptiness of the Chamber.

Having disposed of the landlord, who is taking his toll from the farmer, from the agricultural labourer, and from industry generally, from mining in royalties, from towns in high rents, and even from our local governing bodies, we think that, as a preliminary to the success of agriculture, there should be security of tenure given to every farmer. We look upon that as the primary condition upon which any farmer can be expected to produce a crop of anything at any time. Farmers to-day have no security of tenure at all. The second essential is that, having security of tenure, there should be some method of co-ordination and co-operation. So far as parts of Wales are concerned, in Mid Glamorgan, which is purely an agricultural area, they have set up a scheme of co-operation, which has helped them immensely in disposing of their produce; and that which they have done there on a small scale should, I think, be done nationally. We should like to have seen the late Government's Agricultural Marketing Act put into operation as speedily as possible by the present Government.

After security of tenure, it is essential, in our estimation, that there should be some kind of stabilised conditions and stabilised prices. It is true that they may fluctuate with the weather and with the time, but as far as it is possible there ought to be stabilised prices. It ought to be possible for the consumers of commodities to have some knowledge of how prices have been arrived at, and I agree with the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Ellis), who delivered a critical speech in relation to this matter, when he said that the chain between producers and consumers certainly ought to be lessened by very many links. It has been admitted, on very good authority, that the price of vegetables is about 300 per cent, higher than it would be if middlemen, or a large number of those links, were taken out. The consumer is exploited by reason of the fact that there is such large number who are really, from the standpoint of the industry, purely parasitical persons living upon production.

It is essential that there should be proper marketing arrangements, that there should be co-ordination from the source, from production, right down to the consumer. We endeavoured to make some arrangements for that in the last Parliament, but they have been entirely ignored. We are surprised to find, from some remarks that have been uttered by hon. Members opposite, that they do not now appreciate what was meant by the late Minister of Agriculture when he was advancing his scheme for experimental large farms in this country. It will be remembered that that section was taken out of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill in the other place, but, judging from most of the speeches that we have heard today, there is a case from their own remarks for large experimental farms.

8.30 p.m.

How is it possible for us to treat farming upon scientific lines if farmers are being entrenched in their peculiar indi- vidualism, as they will be by this Bill? You are merely in this Bill entrenching individualism in the British farmer. We are hoping—we do not see that it is possible in this Bill—that the Minister of Agriculture will really face up to the fact that, in studying agriculture, particularly in Canada and the United States of America, it is evident that large farms are becoming ever more essential. I know that there are some physical difficulties, such as boundaries, drainage, and problems of that kind, which we have to face, that may not have to be faced in Canada or the States, but we are hoping that, as far as it is possible to apply, that which was defeated in the other place will be introduced in another Bill.

One feels that there is room for some satire when one hears some of the remarks of hon. Members opposite. It is really amazing that it should be essential, within a matter of a few weeks, for the Government to introduce a Bill in order to stop the people of this country obtaining cheap food, for that is the sum and substance of this Bill. Our interest in regard to this matter is in solving unemployment. Frankly, we do not believe that it will be possible for us ever to absorb the normal complement engaged in the mining industry. The hon. Member for Winchester referred to the migration from the country to the town. There must be a cause of migration. Man is not exactly like a swallow; he does not migrate by instinct, and—


The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Ellis) is not in his place, and it will be within the recollection of those who were here when he spoke that he, referred to the cause of migration.


Quite so, and I think the hon. Member made a remarkable speech. Of course, during the War there was a substantial reason for migration. People left the land in order to get into a sheltered industry rather than face up to the question of joining the Forces, but one knows that one reason why we have had migration from the country to the town is that in the towns there are certain inducements that are not to be found in the country. Indeed, that was one point advanced by the hon. Member for Winchester. What was the inducement? The major inducement was a higher standard of life. It is true that it may have been the amusements and other forms of recreation, but the substantial reasons for migration were that there was better housing in the towns, though there were some slums, and that wages were higher. It will not be possible to solve the unemployment problem, which is more acute in the towns than in the country, unless the Government face up to the fact that there must be some inducement to enable people to get away from the towns to the country. The inducement must be, as it is for the farmer in this Bill, security of tenure for the agricultural labourer. He must have a cottage that will enable him to live. We would like to see smallholdings developed on a large scale. I am not so much concerned about the British farmer succeeding as I am about the British people. If we are to cause a migration of the 300,000 miners who are unemployed from the towns back to the land on a large smallholding scheme—

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR

Was not the hon. Member just now pointing out that he was in favour of large-scale farming?


Yes, that is for the farmer. I am talking about unemployment and the labourer. I am concerned about giving security of tenure to the persons who are unemployed, to the men who really matter. If I were concerned with the farmer I would not leave him to his individualism and let him get more deeply entrenched in it. I would have experimental farms and the application of science and system to the agricultural industry, ploughing on a large scale and horticulture on a large scale, such as is now carried on in the States. We do not believe that it will be possible for the English farmer, with any assistance that this Bill may give him, to compete against the large farming on the Continent. Will it be possible for the poultry farmer or the dairy farmer to compete with Denmark where they have colleges and apply the principles of cooperation, and where for a generation they have tackled this problem along scientific lines?

By keeping these products out the Government are certainly putting a tax on food. I am pleased to find that we have one hon. Member—the hon. Mem- ber who last spoke—who is prepared to declare frankly and honestly that he stands for food taxes. It is the first declaration of the kind which we have had. We have had all kinds of apologists, but not one to say that food must be taxed. We hope that the Government will face up to the unemployment question and will give an inducement to the unemployed man to get on to a smallholding. It would really pay them. It would pay to put the unemployed man and his family on to the land and give him unemployment benefit for a few years until he has hardened his hands and his nature and has become physically adaptable to the land. It would pay the Government to face that method as one of the means of solving unemployment. That is the issue that confronts the Government, and that is the issue which will bring the Government down. You cannot afford to pay enormous sums to a rentier class and at the same time maintain millions of unemployed.


I have listened to the hon. Member for some time, and I think that he is now getting far away from the Bill.


I am putting it to hon. Members that the major purpose of this Bill is to produce dear food, and it is introduced on the pretext that the British farmer will be able to produce the commodities that are now produced by foreign farmers. Hon. Members on this side, particularly the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), has clearly shown that the tomatoes that are being imported do not in any sense compete with English tomatoes. We are hoping to have a reply from the Minister on this point, and I am almost induced to believe that he will withdraw tomatoes from the Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

Oh, and destroy my constituency.


I did not know that they grew tomatoes in the hon. and gallant Member's constituency. We are still inclined to believe that on further consideration the Minister will withdraw tomatoes from the Bill, for really there is no case for them in the figures which are published by the Board of Agri- culture. If there be no case for including tomatoes, and they are left in the Bill, the only deduction that we can draw is that the Government are endeavouring by hook or by crook to initiate a system of taxation of foreign food. It might also be applied to foreign capital or to certain Members of the House—look at their pedigrees. I may be out of order, however, if I took that much further.

When the Bill was being discussed before, a suggestion was put from this side of the House which I should like the Minister to consider. It is difficult for us to see why the surpluses that are coming into the country should be prevented at all. By applying a little rationality one would be able not only to help the people to get cheaper food, but also help the tinplate industry. Why is it essential that this produce which is coming in should be taxed, seeing that people will have to pay a higher price for home-grown products, while we are sending tinplate from Llanelly, Pontypridd and other places in South Wales out to America to be used in canning tomatoes which are afterwards sent back here? Why not can the tomatoes here? Why prevent them coming in? [Interruption.] An hon. Member suggests that it is revenue that is really wanted. We put it forward as a constructive, practical suggestion to the Minister that rather than prevent surpluses coming in from other countries we should permit our people to have these goods as cheaply as possible, and if they are goods that are perishable then can them and let the people have them in their preserved state. My hon. and gallant Friend laughs.

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

Tomatoes grown in the Lea Valley are grown in hot-houses and are extremely expensive, and you could not can them.


I am not speaking of them, I am speaking of imported tomatoes. My case is that the surplus products of other countries which cannot be consumed there should be allowed to come in here and be canned here. That would stimulate the tinplate industry, the steel industry and the coal industry—all the cycle of industries which go to the making of tinplate—and at the same time our people would be enabled to get cheap food.

Lieut.-Colonel MAYHEW

Why should we not grow them here and can them here?


I have to presume that it cannot be done. Why are these things imported? Who imports them? [Interruption.] An hon. Member makes a reference to our paying higher wages. I claim to have met that point on Friday, when I was dealing with the impoverishment of the world, showing how the purchasing capacity of the world is going down and down, and it would not be in order for me to deal with that point to-day. Who orders these things? Who is it patronises the foreigner? They are not imported by the supporters of the Opposition. We are not financially interested in commerce. We do not order these articles. They are ordered, I presume, by the supporters of the present Government, by people who are able to make a substantial profit out of them.

Lieut.-Colonel MAYHEW

I suggest that the weekly wage earners want them.


The people who consume these things do not order them. They are not the people who keep the shops and go down to the docks to buy them. The point I am putting is that these things are ordered by Britishers because they are able to make a profit by buying foreign goods and selling them to English people.

Lieut.-Colonel MAYHEW

They are—


Order! I must point out to the hon. and gallant Member that we cannot carry on the Debate in this way.


I put it to the House that these goods are coming into the country because they are necessaries—at least some of them. You can have your asparagus. I have never managed to disfigure myself by consuming it. I never had that displeasure. Most of the Members on these benches could, however, tell some stories about pulp—about the 7 lb. pots of plum and apple jam in the days when we were small, produced from swedes and mangold-wurzels. I do not want to touch upon the maiden speech of the hon. Member who told us about putting on a cap and going to stand in an unemployed queue. Some of us have been doing that for a few years. We know what it is to be unemployed in a real sense. There is no need for us to experiment upon ourselves in order to find out the woes of others, our colleagues and our friends and families are experiencing unemployment to-day.

We are concerned about cheap food, about agriculture, about security of tenure, about getting people back to the land. The only thing that stands in the way of successful agriculture in this country, which is essentially necessary to absorb the unemployed, is landlordism. In their method of dealing with this problem the Government are taking the easier way. They know that if they were to tackle the essence of the problem, which is landlordism, there would be a feeling of revulsion within their own ranks. Therefore, they are attacking the defenceless people at the bottom, the people who have to buy these cheap commodities because their wages do not permit them to buy those of a better quality. People are not satisfied with cheap tomatoes, they are not satisfied with cheap things, but they have to buy them because they cannot afford the dearer qualities. The people have not the money to buy those articles. I could cite a good many cases where the average wage is not more than £2 per week, and where they have to pay an average rent of snore than 10s. per week. Consequently, the subsistence level in those cases is little more than 30s. per week. How will it be possible for those people to buy the high priced articles which will be sold in this country after this Measure becomes law? It is well known that British farmers are carrying on their business with practically no marketing schemes for the disposal of their products on an extensive scale. This Measure is the initial step towards Protection, and it may be instrumental in keeping out just a few luxuries which are now imported.

9.0 p.m.

The Members of the Opposition are not so much opposed to keeping luxury articles out; we have never been in the fortunate position of being able to consume them or buy them, and consequently we shall never miss them. We are more concerned with the fact that by this Bill the Government are initiating the preliminary arrangements for a system of placing further taxation on the necessaries of life. That is the reason why the Opposition have put forward this Amendment. The Government are now supporting dear food and opposing cheap food coming into the country, and they will soon realise that it will produce a repercussion in a demand for higher wages. How are the poor people to buy English tomatoes at 8d. or 10d. per lb.? Propably I should be out of order if I discussed the question of the wheat quota, but hon. Members opposite have declared that they are not satisfied with the Bill which we are discussing, and it is my opinion that they will not be satisfied until they have succeeded in reducing the standard of life of the common people to the very lowest level. The Government are proposing to do this in order to be able successfully to compete with other nations where they have lower wage levels. By reducing the standard of life of the common people hon. Members opposite hope to be able to place our commodities on the export markets at a price which will compete with foreign competitors. This Bill is regarded as a means of reducing the common people to the subsistence level in order that the industrialists of this country can compete successfully with the industrialists of the rest of the world. There is no doubt that this Measure means dearer food and a lower subsistence level for the people of the country, and we are told that all this is being done in order to balance the Budget and rectify the adverse balance of trade.

An hon. Member opposite referred to the fall in the pound, but I am not going to proceed on that strain. It needs a great stretch of the imagination to connect this Bill with the fall in the pound, and I hope the Government will make it doubly clear that the real purpose of this Bill is to initiate a system of food taxation that will reduce the subsistence level of the people in order to enable our industrialists to compete successfully in the world's market. We shall be satisfied if the Minister of Agriculture will make that declaration, because that will be a correct interpretation of what is meant by a free hand.


The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) referred to a great many things, and one of the points he dealt with was that of landlordism, which he said had been the bane of agri- culture and was causing agricultural depression. I feel sure that if the hon. Member for Ogmore informed himself of the actual results of farming operations of owner occupiers during the last year lie would quickly change his opinion. The system of landlordism in this country has acted as a cushion in times of depression, and it is a great pity that that cushion has been so much attenuated by the heavy taxation on landlords tinder this Bill the Minister of Agriculture is dealing with the imports of vegetables including potatoes, and I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the step which he took last September.

I do not look upon the Bill with the same enthusiasm as the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Ellis). I represent a Northern agricultural constituency which will get very little benefit from this Bill, but I look forward with confidence to what we are to receive at a later date. My attitude is one of grace before meals. The first course does not whet my appetite very much, but I am wondering what is kept down in the kitchen, and will, I hope, be brought up at a, later stage of this Parliament. How and when it will arrive I do not know; perhaps even the chef himself does not know at this time; but I appeal to him to remember the very difficult times and the very pressing and urgent need that there is for the bringing in of other Measures in the course of a very few months. The days and weeks that pass by while the decision is maturing are spelling ruin for the farmer whose perishable produce is wasting away while he cannot find a market for it, and for the farmer whose stock is being kept and fattened in the hope that prices will rise, but for whom the only price that has risen at the moment is the price of his feeding stuffs. It is a hard situation, and I very much regret that this Bill touches such a very small part of the whole agricultural problem. [Interruption.] I am asked whether feeding stuffs are imported. The answer is "Yes." If my hon. Friend would go through the bills of these farmers and find out how much American feeding stuffs are being used for the fattening of beasts, he would realise the difficulties of the farmer at the present moment.

The President of the Board of Trade in introducing his Abnormal Importations Bill, and the Minister of Agriculture in introducing his Money Resolution, both defended themselves for not dealing with this agricultural problem and for giving no immediate relief, but the action that they have taken has been different, and I regret that the difference has been to the disadvantage of agriculture. The President of the Board of Trade introduced a Bill which dealt with products in Class III of the Imports List, and this present Bill merely deals with certain horticultural products, such as asparagus, bulbs, and rose trees. It does not affect, and does not attempt to affect, any of 'the agricultural imports that are coming in and are doing real harm to the agricultural industry. I wish that the Minister had introduced another Bill—a Bill that would have comprised within its scope all the products included in Class I of the Imports List. The President of the Board of Trade, on the Second Reading of the Bill, appealed to the House to trust him, saying that he would not abuse the confidence of the House in exercising his powers. I do not think that the House regards the Minister of Agriculture as less trustworthy than the President of the Board of Trade. I do not believe that the House would think that he would abuse his powers. But he asks for this small Measure for his industry—a tax on a few selected horticultural products. He is not, I believe, even completely saving the market gardener. He is bringing the market gardener half-way—half on shore and half on the rocks—while the agriculturist is not even touched by this Bill.

We were told, in the discussions on the former Bill, that there were no abnormal importations of agricultural produce, but I should like to remind the House of some of the figures with regard to agricultural products that have been imported in the last few months. I have not the November figures with me, but the Minister will have them, and will be able to compare them with the earlier figures of this year. The imports of butter for the first 10 months of this year increased by 1,000,000 cwts. over last year—an increase of 20 per cent. The imports of barley increased by 2,400,000 cwts.—an increase of 24 per cent.; while the imports of bacon this year increased by 1,800,000 cwts.—an increase of 25 per cent. This is a problem that has to be faced. Hon. Members on the Labour benches have been shrieking at taxation of food, but, unless we deal with these imports, the farmers in my constituency and throughout the country will have to go out of business. We cannot stand the large increase of imports which has taken place this year, following the many hard years that we have had, and I do hope that these abnormal importations will be limited, whether by tariffs, by licence, or by means of a quota. What I ask for with regard to these imports is action and very early action.

The scope of this Bill is limited to luxury imports, or those which we could produce ourselves, but no truly agricultural import has been deemed a luxury. There has been, in the last few years, an increasing importation of poultry, and I urge the Minister of Agriculture to deal with the importation of poultry as soon as he possibly can. The importation of poultry in the year amounts to some £3,000,000, and I think that, if these importations were stopped, it would be of real benefit to the poultry farmer. There are two other products that I want the Minister to consider. They are both products which are not benefiting the consumers of this country, but are causing a great deal of ill-health among those who consume them. I allude, in the first place, to the imports of dried and liquid eggs from China, which amount in one year to £3,500,000; and, secondly, to the large and growing imports of condensed and skimmed milk which comes from Holland, amounting in a year, taking the 1929 figures, to £5,500,000. If it were possible to deal, either by a Bill such as this, or by a larger Measure, with the imports of condensed and skimmed milk, there would be an end of some of the problems that are upsetting the dairy farmer, who is now finding that be can get no price for his milk, and welcomes very much the new action which is being taken and which has put up the price of milk by a small amount during the winter months.

Taking the whole scope of this Measure, there is one most amazing omission. The Schedule mentions potatoes, but only gives the Minister power to deal with new potatoes. I would ask the Minister to consider very carefully whether he cannot extend the Schedule to deal with all potatoes. It is sometimes forgotten in this House that that Schedule is a list from which the Minister can draw and issue Orders at his will and discretion. I would ask, with regard to potatoes, that there should be a latch on the open door. I am aware that there has been a somewhat patchy potato year throughout this country, but at the present time the importation of potatoes is growing alarmingly week by week. [Interruption.] An hon. Member below me challenges my remark; let me give one or two figures. The importations of potatoes for October of this year were 21 times the amount that they were in 1929, and, com- paring the October figures of this year with the October figures of 1930, we find that the imports were seven times as much in October of this year as they were in 1930. We had an importation this year amounting to 12,000,000 cwts. in the first 10 months, compared with 5,000,000 in 1930 and 1929. If that continues, the price of potatoes will reach the ridiculous figure that it reached last year, when potatoes in my constituency were being sold at 15s. a ton.

There is, I agree, need for caution in the matter, because the Minister is faced with a shortage compared with last year of some 600,000 tons, but that shortage has already been swallowed up by imports of foreign potatoes. I read to-day that 3,000 tons of potatoes came into Goole Harbour yesterday, and the Minister is defenceless. The farmers, I believe, will be wiped out while we in our leisure are thinking out a plan to help agriculture. There is a good deal to be said on this potato question, because it is the one product which will help allotment growers more than any other in the country. If you can guarantee the potato grower that next year foreign potatoes will be shut out and that he will have an assured market, you will put a great many more men on the land than you would do by any of Dr. Addison's schemes for dealing with the unemployed.


What does the hon. Member assume would be the price of English potatoes if you had a repetition of the blight which has been felt this year and if all foreign potatoes were excluded?


I think the price would be the price they were before foreign imports came in—some £8 a, ton. At present it has been lowered by these foreign imports. It is only the wholesale price and not the retail price which has been lowered. So long as potatoes remain at £10 a ton or under, I do not believe the consumer will be at a disadvantage. I am not suggesting to the Minister how he should deal with these potato imports, but I am quite ready to welcome a duty on potatoes so long as they are under the figure of £10 a ton, because the farmer can grow them at a reasonable profit at that figure. What he cannot do is to grow them when they average the unprecedented level of 15s., or even £2 a ton, that it may well come to.

I welcome the Bill because I hope it shows the line of country we are going to ride through, but we must go faster. In the North Country we are at our wits end with regard to agriculture, and we have this ridiculous position, that the House is going into Recess at the end of this week with nothing done for the main problems of agriculture. We are to have that Christmas leisure until February, and then some time will elapse before the farmer can be really helped. To my mind, the one urgent problem to-day is to get agriculture on to its feet again, to get people migrating from the towns to the country and reviving life in the rural areas. I do not believe the Bill really touches these problems. I ask the Minister to enlarge its scope if he possibly can and to take power to put in other products and not leave his hands tied to the few luxury horticultural products that are mentioned in the Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN

I represent a constituency which is in the centre of the great glass-house and nursery industry. It may interest the House to realise how it came into being. It was born in my constituency. In 1880 there were three men who, above all others, started the real hothouse industry on a very large scale. They first of all realised the possibility of building hothouses which were large and at the same time extremely cheap. In those days we were able to send our goods to Covent Garden in ordinary horse-wagons, and we could get a market close at hand for all the goods which we could produce. They started with grapes, and to-day the Rockford grape is known as the best on the market. To-day we have no less than 1,500 acres of glass in the Lea Valley, and there are only 3,000 acres of glass in the whole of the United Kingdom. We exported grapes to Paris and to the United States. One of our best customers is New York. France realised that they could grow grapes and they put a prohibitive duty on British hothouse grapes. That lost us that market. Then New York followed suit, but the grapes of the Lea Valley still go to America. They go out on the great liners, and they are eaten on the return voyage, because they will keep for the whole voyage out and back again, whereas grapes purchased abroad go bad on the voyage out if they are not eaten.

Then came the tragedy. The duty imposed by France and America closed those markets to us, but it did something very much more. Belgium was growing hothouse grapes for the French market, and she, too, was competing with the Lea Valley. As soon as France put on a prohibitive duty, Belgium was shut out as well, and she dumped her grapes into our Free Trade market, grown as they were at wages far less than those paid in the Lea Valley, and took away our home market from us. The result was that the grape vines were all cut down, and then we recovered by substituting tomatoes for grapes. I do not wish to be understood as saying that we have got 1,500 acres of glass for tomatoes only. We also grow cucumbers and flowers, and we still grow the highest class of grapes. They are grown purely for the luxury trade, and are grapes which are so costly that they are left for the multi-millionaire. That trade is very important, and if we could shut out the high-class grapes from abroad, we should once more see the vines planted throughout the Lea Valley and have the grapes supplied in this country at far less cost, as luxury grapes, than to-day, because there would be a competition which does not now exist.

I want to say one word about tomatoes. So many hon. Gentlemen have spoken to-day about the tomato trade, apparently without very much idea of what a tomato is. One hon. Member said that people would even go without shoes in order to get these things. I cannot imagine anyone going without shoes for a tomato, but, apart from that, I want hon. Members to understand what the trade in the Lea Valley is. Perhaps I may be allowed to give a few dry figures to show the immensity of this trade. We have 900 acres of glass for tomatoes at present. That is not acres of land, but of glass. We have 75 acres of grapes and 100 acres of miscellaneous produce, most of which is flowers. The total area for the whole of Great Britain is only 3,000 acres of glass, and half of this is in my constituency. It represents a capital of £12,000,000, and 15,000 men are employed in the industry. We burn—and this may interest hon. Members above the Gangway—500,000 tons of coal a year when we are at work. At the present time you can go through the Lea Valley and you can see from the train miles and miles of derelict glass without a fire burning. That is because flowers, tomatoes and other produce have been undersold on the early market by produce imparted from abroad, and particularly from the Dutch. One hon. Member said that the Dutch did not count, because their produce came in with the ordinary supplies. That is not so. The Dutch grow their tomatoes under glass as we do, and they compete very severely with the tomatoes in the Lea Valley, because they bring in the same hothouse tomato at the very period when we are looking to put ours on the market—that is the early and dear luxury tomato.

9.30 p.m.

I should like to explain the facts about the tomato trade, because they are very important. We grow these tomatoes under 900 acres of glass, and they only fetch the high price of 6d., 8d. or 10d. a pound retail when they have two characteristics. One is that the tomato is perfectly smooth and round, and has no ribs, and the other that there shall be no spots on it. No man growing tomatoes can prevent spots coming on them. The higher class of glasshouse tomato has spots on it, and consequently when these tomatoes are being sorted for the market, thousands of them pass over a machine and experts stand by and quickly remove each tomato which has a spot. The tomatoes that pass down as good may fetch 8d. to 10d. a pound as luxury tomatoes, but the very same tomato, which is equally good eating but which has a blemish, or spot, or rib on it, is picked out, and fetches only 2d. to 3d. a pound. That is the tomato that the poor man eats, and I venture to say it is equally good in every way with the luxury tomato. That, really, is a very important point for hon. Members who have considered that in putting on this tax we are stopping the poor man's tomatoes. We are doing nothing of the kind. We are increasing the number, because the more you grow the more there are with spots, and so the more there will he for the poor man.

I have one word of warning to utter. Hon. Members will realise the bigness of the trade, in spite of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who said that we had little minds and looked after little things. I do not know that little minds are such a bad thing. It is the weak mind that is bad, and not the little mind. I would remind the hon. Member of the words of Juvenal who said:

Orandum est ut sit mens sana.

If I may come back to grapes for one moment, the highest class of grapes, of which there are 70 acres of glass in the Lea Valley, are sold in the luxury market. The point I want to make is that these grapes are grown in the Lea Valley for nine months in the year. That is a most extraordinary thing and, when you consider our very cold and foggy climate, that it is possible on the same vines to produce crops for nine months is little short of a miracle. That has been done by two generations of growers who are now the greatest experts in the world, and it is done simply by scientific manuring, which keeps the vines growing all through those nine months. We are thus able to produce expensive grapes for the Christmas market which have been estimated at 17s. 6d. a lb., and which are grown in my constituency.


Are they for the poor man?

LieuL-Colonel APPLIN

The poor man gets the wages for growing them, and if they did not bring 17s. 6d. a lb. the poor man could not get his wages. The point I want to make is that there is far too wide a gap between the price paid to the producer, which includes my hon. Friend's workers, and the retailer. Perhaps the Minister of Agriculture would be good enough to listen to this point. I have gone round the biggest shops and wholesale merchants, and have had advice from the very best experts, and they all admit the same thing. They say they are handicapped by the great gap between the price which they get from people like George Monro, known throughout the world as one of the great Covent Garden wholesalers, and the price charged by the retailer. I went the other day into a shop for the purpose of bringing a bunch of grapes here and showing the price. I looked at George Monro's list, and the maximum price for the Rockford grapes fetched in Enfield was 5s. a lb., but the same grapes cannot be purchased in any big West End shop under 10s. to 12s. a lb. The gap is too great. It would be invidious and wrong in this House to mention individual traders by name, and I do not propose to do so, but I have the catalogues here and I have investigated the prices.

That is the only thing in regard to this Bill that I want the Minister to notice, namely, the very big gap between the prices received by the retailer and the grower. The grower ought to get a better price for these luxury goods, and the retailer should be able to ask a smaller price, so that we should be able to produce more. If we get this Bill, as we shall get it from this National Government, I have no doubt that all these miles of glass houses, which are more or less derelict, will at once start again and 5,000 to 6,000 trained market gardeners who are out of work in my own constituency will get back to work, and we shall begin to grow this produce, which is so valuable to the country. We have no wish that you should in any way interfere with the ordinary importation of tomatoes in the height of the season. Nobody suggests it. We do not wish to interfere in any way with the poor man's grapes. Let them pour in from the Continent. It does not affect us in the least degree. But we ask for protection in trades where we are employing men on the land for the production of tomatoes, cucumbers, flowers and rose trees.

I have been advised only to-day that if we protect our growers from the foreigner who exports his rose trees to this country, they can in 18 months produce the whole of the rose trees demanded by the market of this country. On Sunday evening I went to tea with an old friend who sat for 30 years in this House and who has had a rose named after his wife. He said to me, "Look at this. Here I have from the Continent a price list with a letter saying that they can produce the rose trees of my wife's name at half the price." Surely we are in a fool's paradise when we permit this sort of thing. I welcome the Bill as one which will restore to us in the Lea Valley the old industry which we started—and we are the pioneers—in 1880 and which will employ at least 15,000 trained in agriculture and employ 100,000 others outside in various trades. I very heartily support the Second Reading of the Bill and trust that it will be found to work in the way I believe it can be worked.


I was greatly interested in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Lieut.-Colonel Applin), because I represent a constituency quite near to his constituency, and which many years ago was a nursery, but is now an industrial constituency. I wish to ask him one or two questions on the speech which he has delivered. I was keenly interested in what he said about Enfield, but the tomatoes from his area, which I know are of splendid quality, are sold At 8d. or 9d. per lb., and, surely, cannot be affected by the many tons of cheap tomatoes which are sold in our highways on Fridays and Saturdays at 2¼d. or 2½d. a lb. The market in this country for tomatoes saleable at 8d. a lb. is in no way affected by the available market for cheap tomatoes bought by thousands of people at 2½d. per lb. because they cannot afford to buy English tomatoes at 9d. a lb. I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman if it is possible to assume that if you exclude the tomatoes imported from foreign countries the English tomatoes now sold at 8d. or 9d. a lb. will, because of the prohibition of foreign imports, in 18 months from now be so reduced in price that they can be sold even at 4d. a lb. I do not think that there is anything to lead us to assume that possibility.

I protest against this Bill, not because I am academically a Free Trader, but because, first of all, I must, owing to the present industrial position, defend the provision of cheap food for the poor working people of this land. An hon. Gentleman called the attention of the Minister to the great import of Danish bacon. My wife tells me that bacon is cheaper in this country to-day than it has been for 12 years, mainly, I believe, owing to imported Danish bacon. If you introduce measures to exclude from this country any article which is a stable article of food, and which to-day is procurable by the housewife at a reasonably cheap rate commensurate with the wages which her husband earns, whether it be bacon, butter, poultry, tomatoes, broccoli, or asparagus, you must in the long run so affect the home prices that the housewife cannot, with her few pounds or shillings, procure sufficient to maintain herself, her husband and her children. By your very Bill you will increase the cost of living of the bulk of the working people of this country. I think that that contention is fairly reasonable and logical. It is quite outside the academic question of Free Trade versus Protection.

If the Government or the farmer or the industrialist had done anything scientifically to organise the resources of this country so that side by side with the introduction of a prohibitive tariff we had husbanded the resources of this country and equalised things, I should not have minded. But you have decided to introduce a tariff which will increase the cost of living of the bulk of the workers of this country at a time when you have made no safeguards. Therefore, I propose to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill solely and only from the point of view that it increases the cost of the living of the working classes. It is therefore unjustified even from the point of view of the General Election, and I beg of Members of the House to realise it from that point of view and to support us in the Lobby and do what they can to keep from this country what is called Protection but what is really dear foor for the workers of the country.


Perhaps I might conveniently intervene at this stage to say a few words, and I promise that they shall not be many, in reply to the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill. I have listened with very great interest to the major part of the discussion, and when I was not able to be in the Chamber I have had reported to me what has been said. I was very glad to welcome into the Debate some of the first speeches of hon. Members who are interested in this problem. It is perhaps right that I should be obliged to one Scottish Member, the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. McEwen) for the very pleasant picture which he painted of the dove carrying the asparagus. I was also very much interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) because he spoke on this problem, obviously, with a knowledge of the subject. It is, at least, refreshing to find that this Measure, be it as important as some would have us believe or of no account as others suggest, has produced so many interesting speeches, including that of the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Lieut.-Colonel Applin), dealing with the magnitude of the glasshouse industry, which have brought before the House some of the realities of a side of horticulture, parts of which impinge upon agriculture, which is of great and ought to be of increasing importance to this country.

What were the major considerations which induced the Government to deal with this subject at the present time? They are quite obvious. They are due to the fact that we recognise that in our trade and commerce of every shape and form we have been importing a great variety of things for which we found it increasingly difficult to pay. Obviously, it would be well that we should lessen these imports and that we should turn our minds not only to the major lines of agriculture but to some of those smaller and, in my judgment, equally important aspects of the problem, and that we should do that at once. It was obvious to anyone who studied what was happening on the Continent and elsewhere that, with the general world disturbance and the alterations that are taking place in a good many markets on the Continent, in regard to a great part of those agricultural products, whether it be early potatoes, tomatoes, grapes, rose trees Or bulbs, for which avenues in certain markets were closed by action which is well known, we, being a Free Trade country and a market which is readily and easily exploited, were undoubtedly going to be the very first to feel the brunt of these channels of output.

I have heard it said to-day that the action which we have taken may lead to reprisals, that it may lead to bad blood between ourselves and other countries. I do not take that view. If it is to be said that at all times we should take no steps whatever to protect the producers of our horticultural and agricultural articles, and that in no circumstances are we to reply to action taken against us, I do not concede that to be really practical politics. It has been my good fortune recently to meet representatives of those who speak for the other countries. I have discussed with them, in a perfectly amicable frame of mind and with, I hope, mutual advantage, some of the aspects of these problems, the problem of the tomatoes that we get from the Canary Islands, or the early potatoes which we get from Spain or the other goods which come from Holland, Belgium or France. I have been able within the last few days to discuss these matters without rancour and without ill-feeling. When one sees what has been happening in regard to the action which some other countries like France have taken against us, I confess that any argument as to this Bill leading to grave difficulties leaves me unmoved.

I am anxious to reply, as far as I am able, to some of the questions which have been put to me by hon. Members on the Opposition benches, and to some who feel that I did not deal as fully as I might have done with some of the problems involved. I have been asked why I did not include cabbages, vegetable marrows and onions. I have been asked if I have considered what the effect is going to he upon the canning industry in this country, and also if I have decided what is to happen to the Channel Islands and the Canary Islands. I would say this, that the list in the Schedule does not pretend to be a complete list. It is an experiment. It is obviously an emergency list. It is a list in which I have attempted to deal with some of the more essential of the horticultural products, and I have purposely left out some of those more debatable products which even hon. Members opposite must admit will have to be considered at some future time. Take the question of fruit pulp. It would have been hopeless and useless to have included raw raspberries. They are excluded from the list. The fact remains that the importation of the ripe, raw fruit is very small and does not count. What does count is the fruit pulp, and that will be a problem to which any Government, from wherever they are drawn, must give careful consideration in the future.

Another question was raised in regard to Empire products and the definition of products coming from the Channel Islands, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Man. In the Finance Act of 1919 it is specifically declared that: With a view to conferring a preference in the case of Empire products, the duties of Customs on the goods specified in the Second Schedule to this Act shall, on and after the dates provided for in that Schedule, be charged at the reduced rates shown in the second column of that Schedule, where the goods are shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise to have been consigned from and grown, produced or manufactured in the British Empire. I think those words are quite explicit. It is clear that it will rest upon those who import the goods to show their origin.

I was asked a question in regard to appeals. I tried to make it clear to the House that the machinery which we propose to employ in regard to the working of this Act and the Act introduced by the President of the Board of Trade will mean the appointment of an arbitrator to decide any questions of doubt. I explained that this was done to simplify the procedure and that it had been operated in a similar kind of legislation for a considerable period of years. The machinery which was so operated has been found to work so smoothly that in all that time there has not been more than a few cases; they do not reach double figures. The arbiter has not yet been appointed. The House does not give authority until the Bill is passed, but when the Bill is passed the arbiter will be chosen as each case arises and will be selected, I understand, from a panel by the Lord Chancellor. There can be no difficulty in working that kind of investigation.

A great deal has been said about some of the items in the Schedule. Take the question of tomatoes. Quite clearly the tomato is a vegetable used by a great mass of our population, and it would be a foolish thing if by any action or Order for which I was responsible I should make it impossible for the mass of our people to get the advantage of eating such a vegetable. But let me say this. During the winter months we get a good many tomatoes from the Canary Islands and these consignments are admitted at a low price. I do not think they can be termed a luxury. On the other hand, in the months of May, June, July and August, substantial supplies come into our markets from the Netherlands and France, and it is these imports which directly compete with the home produce. I am confident that the tomato industry of this country could make good any amount of imports which may be shut out under these Orders. It is a foolish policy to neglect the opportunity we have of utilising the acreage of glasshouses in existence to-day which are not fully developed at the present time. It would be a foolish policy in these days of unemployment not to make a really strenuous endeavour to increase that acreage, and to increase the output which that acreage can give, whether it is in the Lea Valley or elsewhere. This Bill does not apply to one part of the country. There are parts of Scotland where the tomato industry is just as important to great numbers of modest capitalists, if I may use that term, as in any other part of the country.

10.0 p.m.

When I hear speeches, as I do, about security of tenure and the abolition of the landlord as being the way to solve this problem—hon. Members who hold those views are, of course, entitled to hold and to express them—I must say that they ere the kind of speeches which do not take us very far. Capital and enterprise and organisation are required if this industry, or the agricultural industry in the larger sense, is to be developed as we desire it to be developed. There must be a great deal of organisation and better marketing in order to bridge the gap between producer end retailer. No doubt that will come, but frankly I am dismayed and disappointed when I hear people always approaching these kind of problems with a disregard and scorn of the skill and enterprise and energy of existing horticulturists and agriculturists. These things are not learnt in a day. I heard one hon. Member opposite speaking tonight as though we did not have in this country a large number of colleges and schools of instruction and experimental farms, as though we were not using machinery on a large scale; of course we are. It is a dream of some hon. Members opposite that instead of helping those who are skilled, instead of utilising the material which lies at our hands, the men who do know how to handle a spade, and who know something about the pruning of fruit trees, we should make use of the men who have been bred in the cities, the men who have left the mines and who have to learn these industries. While it is quite true that allotments and smallholdings can be useful, for Heaven's sake let us give our help to those people who really know their job and who can give us the results as quickly as possible.

This Bill is not devised to injure the canning industry. I have listened to the comments upon that aspect of the problem. Clearly the canning industry in this country is making considerable progress, but if it is to be made successful it must be brought into touch with those areas where the vegetables are fresh and where it does not depend in the main upon fruit which comes from overseas. It is true that there are certain classes of fruit, like blackcurrants, from overseas, which enter into early competition with the fruit produced here. It is used by the canners and, being so used, cuts out the man in this country who has put his capital and energy into the growing of fruit which is as good if not better than the foreign fruit, and is much fresher than that which comes from overseas. Let us be quite frank about this matter. It is essential that we should go on improving our canning industry and give to those who are putting their capital and energy into that industry the knowledge that they will have a reasonable chance to use the tinplate which is made in South Wales in this country rather than send it abroad.

In conclusion, may I say that I have never suggested that this Measure is anything more than a temporary expedient. I have never said that it was in any way the long view of the agricultural policy of the Government. It is an experiment, and I believe after it has been tested for a few months, that this House will feel constrained to say that it is something which shall be brought into operation over a longer period. I am at one with those who say that if we are going to stimulate horticulture or agriculture it must be done by giving the industry confidence, not only for a few weeks or months, but over a period of time. For indeed if there is one industry more than another which is slow of development, which of necessity we must take some years in building up and strengthening, it is that of agriculture and horticulture. I propose to operate these Orders not in a vindictive spirit, not in the kind of spirit which will shut out everything but thought of the repercussions on our people here or the trade and commerce of the country, but to give a reasonable and fair opportunity to our people to go forward in these industries with the knowledge that they are not to be let down by this House or by the Department over which I have the honour to preside. I am obliged to those. Members who have supported the Bill. I am obliged even to those who have been critics of it. Indeed I am more obliged to the critics than to any others, because in my judgment, when the country comes to consider this problem, it will see that the criticisms, well meant as they undoubtedly have been, are not destructive of a principle which the country is firmly determined to carry forward.


The Minister has at least something to thank the Opposition for, if only for having saved him from his own friends. This is the fourth speech that the right hon. Gentleman has made on this question, and for the first time the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to explain the articles in the Schedule and how the Schedule is likely to affect the people of this country. The right hon. Gentleman referred to tomatoes, but even in that ease he failed to give the House the benefit of his knowledge of the figures relating to that trade. For instance, he might have informed the House when tomatoes were imported, where from, at what price and in what quantities. He might also have given us some information as to the quantity and the price of the tomatoes grown at home. The House might then have been in a position to understand exactly what the right hon. Gentleman intends with regard to that particular vegetable. He has failed to tell us whether he intends to put an import duty on tomatoes because they are imported at too cheap a price or because they are too dear. The right hon. Gentleman ought to make up his mind, for not only Members of the Opposition but Members on the Government side must know whether or not the duty is calculated to increase the price.

In the document entitled "Agricultural Statistics" we find that the price of English tomatoes was 31s. sd. per 12 lbs. of first quality in April, 1930. The price of imported tomatoes from the Channel Islands and Holland followed much the same course; they were cheaper in the year until September and for the most part somewhat dearer subsequently. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, does he intend to put an impost on tomatoes before September because they are too cheap, or to put an impost on them subsequent to September because they are too dear? We shall be interested to hear his reply. I observed, as the result of an interjection by one hon. Member earlier in the day, that the Minister said that not only flowers and bulbs but all foliage would come under Part III of the Schedule. Does that include mistletoe? If so, has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the trade? Has he consulted his own colleagues, if it is his intention to deny them the sport usually obtained about Christmas time? We are entitled to know something about that.

The Members of the Opposition are not readily falling into the trap prepared for them by the right hon. Gentleman. We have never suggested that English farmers are not considered the best or that they do not understand their job. What we have suggested and what we are entitled to emphasise is that, while production in agriculture may be as efficient as the production of coal, steel, cotton goods or any other commodities, there has always been something seriously lacking on the organisation side. I listened with interest to the speeches of hon. Members on the Government side who declared definitely that this problem of horticulture and of agriculture is not so much one of tariffs as of organisation. My mind goes back to the Linlithgow Committee. The report of that committee stated, as an example of the lack of marketing organisation, that while the consumer was charged 1s. 3d. per lb. for tomatoes, the producer received only 5d. per lb. Is it too much for hon. Gentlemen opposite to ask the Minister whether, before he entices us to accept a proposal which is likely to increase the price to the consumer, we must insist on some element of organisation in the industry? We are just as anxious as the Minister for the welfare of the horticulturist, but we are anxious not to be exploited because the horticulturist or the average farmer persists in pursuing a policy that was pursued by his ancestors 100 years ago on the marketing side of the industry.

The Linlithgow Committee said it was not at all unusual for six wholesalers and retailers to handle the same article from the time it left the producer until it reached the consumer. That is a question to which a former Labour Government gave attention. While the 1924 Labour Government was in office, one of the things it did was to establish a Marketing Board. It was an attempt to inspire the farmer and the horticulturist with a desire to organise his business so that he could secure better results and the consumer secure a commodity at no increase in price. Sad to relate, the Conservative Government of 1924 to 1929 did little or nothing to help the farmers to organise the marketing side of the industry. Only a short time ago the right hon. Gentleman in reply to a question indicated that this Government were taking no effective steps to help the farmers to take advantage of the agricultural Marketing Act of this year. Therefore, we are entitled to view this Bill with some misgiving unless and until we have some assurance that the producers of the commodities which are referred to in the Schedule are going to be compelled to organise their business, as every business in the country must be organised in order to cope with present-day conditions.

The terms of the Amendment clearly state the feeling of the Opposition. We say that the Bill is not likely to be of real advantage to the farmer, because, excluding the purely luxury articles in the Schedule, the other articles are almost of a non-competitive nature, and the farmer will get relatively small benefit out of the application of the Bill. I should have liked the right hon. Gentleman in commending this Bill to the House to have dealt in detail with some of the articles in the Schedule. It would have eliminated from the minds of hon. Members the general belief, not based upon any examination of the facts, that the mere passing of the Bill is going to do horticulture any amount of good.

Last week when the question of horticulture was being discussed, the Solicitor-General made an interjection about the huge quantities of strawberries which, he said, were dumped into this country. The hon. and learned Gentleman obviously cannot have examined the figures or he would not have made that statement. It is clear to me that he has not had this subject explained to him, and that he has not had the time or the will to examine the problem himself. He has made himself believe that the mere passing of this Measure is going to be of profound assistance to the producers of strawberries in this country. If he cares to examine the figures when he has leisure, he will find that the total production of strawberries in this country last year was less than 50 per cent. of the normal quantity available in this country, end that, even with the quantities imported, the total quantity available was still only about 50 per cent. of the normal quantity. Therefore, I suggest that no import duty is likely to improve the strawberry business, and that the producers of strawberries are not likely to derive any real benefit from the process of putting an import duty on to the 68,000 cwts. of strawberries imparted last year.

If the Minister cares to look into the details concerning the various articles in the Schedule, such as gooseberries, cherries, or even currants, he will find that no substantial case can be made out for imposing a duty. If he told us that for the purpose of balancing our Budget and securing a favourable balance of trade, that he intended deliberately to prohibit these commodities, there might be something to be said for such a policy. But to lead the producers of these fruits to believe that the passage of the Bill will achieve wonderful results and give them higher prices in subsequent seasons is calculated to do horticulturists more harm than good. Almost every page of every "Orange Book" and every document produced by the Ministry of Agriculture has gone to prove that if agriculturists or horticulturists or fruit-growers feel that a decent price may be obtainable for a particular commodity in the ensuing season, they grow an amount of that commodity more than sufficient to meet the ordinary demand. They produce a surplus because of the good price which they hope to obtain, or have obtained this season. The next thing that we always discover is that, because they have over-supplied the demand and created a surplus, no marketing scheme being in existence to care for the surplus, they knock the bottom out of their own market, and not infrequently they have less of an income from a double output than they previously received from a 50 per cent. output.

I read in my local paper this week, a Conservative paper in my own Division, a report of a meeting of two branches of the National Farmers' Union which solemnly came together at Penistone to debate the question as to whether they should debate the question of agricultural marketing. They had a debate as to whether they should debate the question, and they decided not to debate it. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that this Bill will encourage farmers to grow more of these commodities, and we say to him that, in case they do, it may result not only in the smash and grab policy pursued in the past by horticulturists and agriculturists, destroying their own market, but may lead to greater evils than now exist.

To come back to the question of potatoes, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what really is the policy of the Government in that regard. He says that his purpose is to keep out luxury articles. Personally, I can manage very nicely without new potatoes. I am one of those mortals who very much prefer old potatoes so long as they exist, so that, from that point of view, I invite hon. Members to help the right hon. Gentleman if it is merely a question of saving the funds of the State and helping to secure a proper market for our trade; but we want to know exactly what the right hon. Gentleman intends to do with regard to new potatoes. He tells us that we ought not to import new potatoes at the heavy prices that are charged by the growers in Spain or in Algeria. This is the situation as we find it, and I want to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman wishes to save the funds of this country or merely to create as much confusion as he can for our import and export trade.

The imports for January of 1930 were, from Algeria, first quality, 7¾. per lb., second quality 3¼. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to prohibit the import of those new potatoes because of their very heavy price, and hon. Members intend to support him in that policy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] An bon. Member says, "Hear, hear," but the same hon. Member is going to support his right hon. Friend in permitting new potatoes to come in from the Channel Islands in the same month at 10¼d. per lb. If the right hon. Gentleman desires to deal with luxuries, then clearly, if there is to be any prohibition at all, it ought to be from the Channel Islands.

Mr. D. D. REID

What month did the hon. Member quote?


I was quoting from the agricultural statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture for 1930, and I was giving the month of January. I am presuming that these are the last figures recorded. The price of imported new potatoes from Algeria in January, 1930, was 3¾d. per lb. for first quality and 3¼. for second quality. Imported potatoes from the Channel Islands for January 1930, were, first quality 10¼d., and second quality 7¾d. So the right hon. Gentleman is going to prohibit imports of 3¾d. potatoes, and permit them at 10¼. How is that calculated to help the balance of trade? There is another thing that one might say in regard to the Channel Islands. They make no payment of Income Tax to this country. We have little or nothing to thank them for in the shape of financial assistance. We do, however, send approximately 100,000 visitors to the Channel Islands annually. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman why we should make it possible for a few people in the Channel Islands to exploit this occasion to the extent that they have power to do not only with regard to new potatoes but with regard to tomatoes.

Then I want to ask him whether he hopes that the mere prohibition of imports from Spain or Algeria will be of any material assistance to the potato grower in this country. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues must know that there is no real problem for the potato grower in this country if he cared to organise the marketing of that commodity. The market is constant, and it is only during those seasons when the supply is in excess of the normal demand that in the business of marketing arrangements each farmer, acting as he conceives to be in the interests of himself, sells his potatoes at the earliest possible moment. Thousands of potato growers do likewise, and defeat themselves and destroy their own markets in the process. Then they complain to the Government that import duties or subsidies or some other method ought to be adopted, while the trouble is that they themselves have failed to organise their business as they ought to do.

If as a result of the passage of this Bill potato growers are to be made to believe that prices will be stabilised at a higher figure than has obtained over a period of time, the net result will be that we shall have another great surplus of potatoes and shall have a similar experience to that of the years 1922–23 and 1929, when farmers were unable to get rid of their surplus crops which were rotting in piles instead of being available for human consumption. Because the Bill will create more confusion instead of less, and that it will do the farmer more harm than good, I support the Amendment, which declares that it can have little or no value to the British farmer as such. I cannot see how this Bill when fully applied will be of any material assistance at all in helping the State to balance its Budget or to redress the balance of trade. Rather the opposite will take place. We shall not only not help the farmer, but we shall not help our imports and export trade. The Bill will hinder trade and create friction instead of facilitating trade, and to that extent what the right hon. Gentleman describes as a first step will be a first step in the wrong direction. The Bill was hastily conceived and ill-prepared.

10.30 p.m.

As one hon. Member said, this Measure was not even hinted at in the King's Speech, but had to be produced on account of the pressure from hon. Members behind the Minister; and we cannot think that it will be successful unless horticulturists and agriculturists generally are encouraged to take advantage of the Marketing Bill and to organise their present chaotic business conditions. If the Minister will do that, and satisfy us that all that can be done in that direction is being done, I have no doubt that Members of the Opposition would probably change their minds and might even examine such a proposal as that before us to-day, but so long as he insists upon putting tariffs before organisation we must oppose this Measure.


I rise to a point of Order. It is one which I think ought to be raised in the interests of all Members of the House. We speak to one another, and perhaps I am as guilty as others, and have let my voice carry across the House when I ought not to have done so. I wish to ask whether it is in order for hon. Members to gather below the Bar and engage in conversation which can be heard all over the House when an hon. Member is speaking, or for them to engage in conversation with one another across the Gangway? I wish to ask whether Members are not entitled to be heard in quiet. If any of us here offend, we are willing to be called to Order. I am sure that if a right hon. Member opposite had been addressing the House from that Box and we had engaged in conversation, an appeal would have been made to us to keep order.


The right hon. Gentleman has asked me whether any hon. Member who addresses the House is not entitled to be listened to in silence. Of course every hon. Member who addresses the House is entitled to be heard in silence, but, as the right hon. Gentleman himself knows, it is very difficult to keep entire silence. That is generally secured by the speaker himself. It has been ruled from this Chair that it is almost impossible to maintain entire silence. Various Rulings have been given on the question of Members crying "Divide," and about subdued conversation, which it is difficult to keep in check; hut, as a general rule, I can say that every Member is entitled to he listened to in silence.


Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I sat here while my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. (Williams) was speaking, and the only thing I could hear was the conversation below the Gangway. I cannot help thinking that if those hon. Members had been addressing the House they would not have felt it was decent or courteous for other hon. Members to behave in that way. I do not suppose they did it otherwise than thoughtlessly, and I thought I would do the unpopular thing of asking you whether you would tell hon. Members that if they must converse with one another below the Bar at any rate they should do so in a manner which does not interrupt the hon. Member who is speaking at the time.


Might I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition might show the House a good example in this respect. It has always been the custom for the House to remain absolutely silent when a new Member is making his maiden speech, but that rule is not observed by the Leader of the Opposition.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR

I rise to take part in this discussion because on two occasions I have been returned to this House to support a policy of Protection for agriculture and for our manufacturing industries. This is the only opportunity I shall get to express my profound disappointment that the Measure we are discussing is the only one which will be brought in for agriculture before the House rises. The country has given the Government a mandate to deal with restrictions on foreign imports of which foreign food forms such a very large proportion. In this Bill we are merely dealing with the importation of luxury articles which the Minister of Agriculture has said we can do without.

The Minister knows perfectly well that the Measures we are now considering are completely divorced from what is really required for the protection of agriculture. I raise this protest because something more has not been done for agriculture. Nothing has been done for the cereal farmer or the dairy farmer, and the House will rise without any announcement of the agricultural policy of the Government. Surely, if time means anything to anybody, it means more to the farmer than to anybody else, and, unless a. pronouncement of policy is made before the House rises, what prospect is there for the farmer next year? This is not a new problem. It is not a problem that has suddenly come before the country. Year after year agriculture has been going from bad to worse, and every party has promised to do something for the farmer. Here is an opportunity for the Minister of Agriculture to do something for the agricultural industry. The country will forgive the Minister for doing too much, but not for doing too little. Measures of the sort we are now discussing will shake the confidence of the country in the Government unless in addition they take effective action at once to deal with the agricultural problem.

There is another question I wish to touch upon, and that is the Dominions. I am glad that under these Measures, small and unimportant though they are, the Minister has said that the Dominions will not be affected and that food from the Dominions will come in free of tax. That is the statement of principle which was enunciated in the Abnormal Importations Bill, and I welcome it. It is the first step in Empire Free Trade. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] At any rate, the best way to get Free Trade throughout the world is to have an Empire which is one economic unit. As soon as we place a tariff on a few manufactured articles, we find the Ministers for France and other countries coming over here to beat down our tariffs, and that is why we require an extensive Empire trade. We want as soon as possible a pronouncement of the agricultural policy of this country, and that policy must be the taxation of foreign food. Unless the taxation of foreign food is admitted in principle and put into action, there will be no real expansion of Empire trade, and the holding of the Imperial Conference at Ottawa will be a farce, because there will be no basis upon which to go.

I am not quite clear about the operation of this Bill. It is to restrict the importation of luxury articles at the beginning of the season. I hope, however, that the tariff which is placed on the foreign goods affected will not be released when that early season comes to an end, but that the protection for these products will be continued over the whole season. Otherwise, after a time, we shall have, as we have had in the past, our market flooded with an excess of foreign food, and again our producers will be unable to obtain an economic price for their products. I hope that before this Houses rises, and before this Bill passes its final stages, the Minister will give a positive declaration of agricultural policy to the farmers and to the country. Otherwise, I am certain that the confidence of the country in the Government will be shaken.

I welcome the Bill so far as it goes. So far as it will help production in the few items which come within its scope, it will give a market for our people and decrease unemployment. I hope that the Minister will extend this principle, or at any rate declare his policy, so that the farmers may be assured that it is the intention of the Government not to wait till the Budget, not to wait till it is too late for next year, but to enable the farmers of this country to obtain the only benefit which will put them on their feet—the benefit of protection from the importation of cheap foreign food which is killing their market to-day.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 315; Noes, 36.

Division No. 33.] AYES. [10.45 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Bateman, A. L. Briscoe, Richard George
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Broadbent, Colonel John
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. p. G. Beaumont, R. E. B. (Portsm'th, Centr'l) Brocklebank, C. E. R.
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Brown, Ernest (Leith)
Albery, Irving James Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.) Bernays, Robert Browne, Captain A. C.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Buchan, John
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.
Apsley, Lord Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Burghley, Lord
Aske, Sir William Robert Borodale, Viscount Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Bossom, A. C. Burnett, John George
Atholl, Duchess of Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Cadogan, Hon. Edward
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald Caine, G. R. Hall-
Balniel, Lord Bracken, Brendan Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.) Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Brass, Captain Sir William Caporn, Arthur Cecil
Carver, Major William H. Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G.A.
Castlereagh, Viscount Henderson, Sir Vivian L, (Chelmsford) Pearson, William G.
Castle Stewart, Earl Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Peat, Charles U.
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hepworth, Joseph Penny, Sir George
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Herbert, George (Rotherham) Percy, Lord Eustace
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (P'rtsm'th, S.) Hillman, Dr. George B. Perkins, Walter R. D.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Peters, Dr. Sidney John
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Petherick, M.
Chalmers, John Rutherford Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston) Hore-Belisha, Leslie Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Hornby, Frank Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Horobin, Ian M. Pybus, Percy John
Chotzner, Alfred James Howard, Tom Forrest Raikes, Hector Victor Alpin
Christie, James Archibald Howitt, Dr. Alfred 8. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles}
Clarry, Reginald George Hudson, Capt. A. U. W.(Hackney, N.) Ramsbotham, Herswald
Clayton, Dr. George C, Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Ramsden, E.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hume, Sir George Hopwood Rankin, Robert
Colman, N. C. D. Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Ratcliffe, Arthur
Colville, Major David John Hurd, Percy A. Rea, Walter Russell
Conant, R. J. E. Inskip, Sir Thomas w. H. Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Cook, Thomas A. Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Reid, David D. (County Down)
Cooke, James D. Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Held, William Allan (Derby)
Copeland, Ida James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.
Courtauld, Major John Sewell Jamieson, Douglas Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L Jesson, Major Thomas E. Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Craven-Ellis, William Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Robinson, John Roland
Crooke, J. Smedley Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Ropner, Colonel L.
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C, (Gainsb'ro) Kerr, Hamilton W. Rothschild, James L. de
Croom-Johnson, R. p. Kimball, Lawrence Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Cross, R. H. Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Runge, Norah Cecil
Crossley, A. C. Knebworth, Viscount Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Knight, Holford Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C. Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Rutherford, Sir John Hugo
Davison, Sir William Henry Law, Sir Alfred Salmon, Major Isidore
Dawson, Sir Philip Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Denville, Alfred Leech, Dr. J. W. Sandeman, Sir A, N. Stewart
Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Dickie, John P. Lewis, Oswald Savery, Samuel Servington
Donner, P. W. Lindsay, Noel Ker Scone, Lord
Dower, Captain A. V. G. Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe- Selley, Harry R.
Drewe, Cedric Llewellin, Major John J. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Duckworth, George A. V. Lloyd, Geoffrey Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Duggan, Hubert John Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n) Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Dunglass, Lord Lovat Fraser, James Alexander Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Eastwood, John Francis Mabane, William Smites, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Edmondson, Major A. J. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Smith. Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Ellis, Robert Geoffrey McCorquodale, M. S. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Elliston, Captain George Sampson MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Somervell, Donald Bradley
Elmley, Viscount MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Soper, Richard
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) McEwen, J. H. F. Spender-clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare McKie, John Hamilton Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)
Fermoy, Lord McLean, Major Alan Stones, James
Fraser, Captain Ian McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Ganzoni, Sir John Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.
Gillett, Sir George Masterman Magnay, Thomas Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Glossop, C. W. H. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Summersby, Charles H.
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Sutcliffe, Harold
Glyn, Major Ralph G. C. Margesson, Capt. Henry David R. Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.(P'dd'gt'n, S.)
Goldie, Noel B. Marjoribanks, Edward Thomas, James p. L. (Hereford)
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Thomas, Major J. B. (King's Norton)
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Mills, Sir Frederick Thompson, Luke
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tt'd & Chisw'k) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Graves, Marjorle Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Thomson, Mitchell-, Rt. Hon. Sir W.
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Mitcheson, G. G. Thorp, Linton Theodore
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Grimston, R. V. Moreing, Adrian C Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Morgan, Robert H. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Gunston, Captain D. W. Morrison, William Shephard Turton, Robert Hugh
Hales. Harold K. Muirhead, Major A. J. Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Munro, Patrick Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon) Nail-Cain, Arthur Ronald N. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Hanbury, Cecil Nation, Brigadier-General J J. H. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Hanley, Dennis A. Newton, Sir Douglas George C. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Hartland, George A. Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Normand, Wilfrid Guild Wells, Sydney Richard
Haslam, H. C. (Lindsay, Horncastle) Nunn, William Weymouth, Viscount
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. O'Donovan, Dr. William James Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Wills, Wilfrid D. Wolmer, Rt. Hon Viscount Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George Womersley, Walter James
Winterton, Ht. Hon. Earl Wood, Major M McKenzie (Banff) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Wise, Alfred R. Worthington, Dr. John V. Mr. Blindell and Lieut.-Golonel
Sir A. Lambert Ward.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Attlee, Clement Richard Groves, Thomas E. Maxton, James
Batey, Joseph Grundy, Thomas W. Milner, Major James
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)
Briant, Frank Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Price, Gabriel
Buchanan, George Harris, Percy A. Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cape, Thomat Hirst, George Henry Tinker, John Joseph
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Daggar, George Lawson, John James Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lunn, William
Edwards, Charles Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) McEntee, Valentino L. Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr. John.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.