§ Sir DOUGLAS NEWTON
I beg to move, in page 5, line 41, after the word "sell," to insert the words "or let for hire."
45 Briefly put the object of this Amendment is to enable the Board to let for hire anything required by producers in the production of a regulated product.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I remember that in Committee the hon. Member pointed out that the powers in the Bill might not enable a board to let empties to their members, and that in some cases it might be desirable that members should be able to hire them rather than have to purchase them. I promised the hon. Member that if he would put down an Amendment I would accept it, and I am glad to do so.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Major MUIRHEAD
I beg to move, in page 6, line 2, at the end, to insert the words:(d) for empowering the board to cooperate with any other person in doing anything which the board are or might be empowered to do by virtue of paragraph (a) or paragraph (c) of this section.This Amendment deals with the question as to what the Board may do in the matter of processing. Under the Bill as it stands, if the board wants to take in hand any processing in any of these operations, it has no alternative but to set up new machinery. It would be very undesirable for the board to do that, because there would be a tendency for the machinery to overlap with existing machinery. For these reasons, I think it is very desirable that some power should be given to the board to enable them to co-operate with existing interests. The Minister was kind enough to meet my Amendments in substance dealing with the financial part of the Clause, and I hope that he will accept this Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I beg to move, in page 6, line 19, at the end, to insert the words:( ) for empowering any person authorised in writing by the board for the purpose of securing compliance with the scheme, to enter and inspect, at any reasonable time and on production of his authority, any 46 part of the land or premises occupied by any registered producer which the person so authorised has reason to believe is used for producing the regulated product or for doing any of the following things which is regulated by the scheme, that is to say, grading, marking, packing, or storing the regulated product or adapting it for sale.This Amendment has been put down as a result of a very long discussion in which it was pointed out that the powers sought to be conferred on the board, and as provided in the Bill, might go too far. As a result of prolonged discussion, I agreed to try on the Report stage to find words which would meet the objections then raised. It will be seen by the Amendment that the person so authorised would be:authorised in writing by the board for the purpose of securing compliance with the scheme.Under the original words, the area of inspection for this purpose was thought to be too wide, and it was argued that a man would be entitled to go into another man's premises and turn over the books and inspect his accounts. I agree that that power was too wide, and it has been excluded from this Amendment. The authorised person will be able to inspect in regard to any of the following things which are regulated by the scheme, that is to say:grading, marking, packing, or storing the regulated product or adapting it for sale.The person so authorised will be entitled to see that the producer is carrying out the requirements of the law in those respects and investigate questions which have arisen with respect to those matters. By this Amendment, I have tried to meet the main points of criticism raised in Committee, and I hope the House will accept the Amendment in the form in which it is proposed.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I do not view this Amendment with the same amount of satisfaction as the Minister. Although the Labour Government have been in office for two years, England is still supposed to be a free country. How long it will remain so I do not know, and I am afraid it will not be for very long if the Minister of Agriculture and his friends have their way. I dissent from the idea that it is proper for the board to send one of its officials even at a reasonable time 47 and with a mandamus from the board to pry all over any farm or process in order to see that the farmer is conforming with the orders of the board. I am not opposed to marketing reform, but there must be some limit to the interference to which individual farmers may be subjected. I believe that this Amendment is quite unnecessary. If a farmer does not observe the regulations of the board in regard to price, grading, marking, packing or storing, all those things can be ascertained at the market, where there are easy methods of catching the man who is not playing the game without invading the privacy of his farm and treating him like a kulak under the Soviet regime. We do not want to import that spirit into our agriculture or into the working of organised markets.
For these reasons, I appeal to the Minister not to press this Amendment, but to see whether the Clause cannot be left without all these inquisitorial powers. After all, the board can never succeed unless they have the good will of the farmers behind them, and this Amendment is not the way to promote good will. I admit that this proposal is an improvement on the original Clause, which enabled the farmers' books to be inspected and examined by the inspectors, and I am glad that that part has been dropped. I hope the Minister will agree to drop the remaining part of his Amendment. I am sure we shall never get the co-operation of the agricultural community by imposing upon them methods of this sort.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I want to support very strongly what has fallen from my right hon. Friend. It is true that the Amendment of the Minister is an improvement on the original Bill, but the original Bill was quite unthinkable. An inspector of the board was to be enabled to visit any part of a farmer's premises and inspect any books and documents. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman has now brought it within reasonable limits. But, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, and it is true, the way to deal with such offences as are outlined in the Amendment regardinggrading, marking, packing or storing the regulated product or adapting it for sale48 is to find out the delinquent when the article is finished, or when it is offered for sale. It is, to me, unthinkable that at all times in the process of manufacture an inspector should be able to poke his nose into everything going on in a farm. I do not like it, and I cannot see one of these inspectors coming round my farm. The right hon. Gentleman is generally expansive in his explanations of Amendments, but he did not enter into details on this occasion. What is to be the process under the Clause suppose an inspector finds something going on which he does not like? Is he simply to warn the producer that he had better mend his ways and make his butter in another way? Is he to be allowed to do that without any reference to any other authority? If so, I should think it was quite wrong. But if he is not allowed to give a sort of caution, is he to report the matter to the secretary of the board? What does the board do then? Is the man to be brought before the petty sessions? It might help discussion if the right hon. Gentleman would explain those points. As he has outlined the Amendment, it does not suit me at all.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
I had not the opportunity of taking part in the Committee stage of this Bill, but I have had many representations made to me with regard to the provisions of the Bill, which is not very popular in farming quarters. If the Minister is anxious to get this Measure to work smoothly I can conceive of nothing more calculated to make it unpopular than the provision in this Amendment. How does he think it is going to work? Take an ordinary farm during the harvest season. The earlier part of the apple crop, we will say, has been got in. The inspector visits the farm to complain of the method of grading or marking the apples. The farmer is busy getting in his harvest. Somebody has to be sent to fetch him, and he has to leave what is essential work in order to meet the inspector because of some twopenny-halfpenny complaint about the last apples he sent under the grading and marketing scheme into the market prescribed to the sale of those apples. I ask the Minister whether he has not powers enough already, and will he not listen to the representations made from the Front Opposition 49 Bench as to the appropriate time and place to raise these questions? It can be done by correspondence if the farmer does not comply with the rules laid down. He can be warned through the post in the ordinary way, or his consignment might even be returned to him. It might save an enormous amount of time, rather than have visits from inspectors at all hours, irrespective of what is going on in the farm, perhaps without any notice of what the particular complaint is.
After all, what is the crime of which the farmer will be accused? Some technical breach of the many regulations laid down for the marketing of his produce. All these regulations are not going to be popular, or easy to work, and if you have this inquisitorial power placed in the hands of the board, with inspectors going about at any time visiting farms and smallholdings, I am certain there will be such an outcry against the scheme that it will break down. Therefore, I ask the Minister, in the interests of his own Bill, to avoid bureaucracy as far as he can in dealing with the rather ticklish subject of agriculture. There are no people in the whole country who more value their freedom in carrying on their industry than farmers, and I say it with pride, and there is no section of the population who will more resent regulations of this kind to be carried out by minute inspection of their premises at all hours of the day, no matter what particular business they may be engaged in at the time. It will mean an enormous waste of time, and there is a good deal of complaint about the wasting of time in marketing now. Now the Minister is proposing regulations which may delay a whole morning's work because of some trifling error which the farmer is supposed to have committed. I suggest, in the interests of his own Bill, that the Minister should drop this proposal.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Perhaps I may be allowed to intervene for a moment to dispel some of the misrepresentations, or, rather, misapprehensions. The hon. Baronet spoke about bureaucracy. If there is one thing of which these boards cannot be accused, it is that of introducing Whitehall bureaucrats. The marketing board is going to do all this. 50 It is not a Socialist Minister or official in Whitehall, but the board of the producers, their own board, men of their own class appointed by themselves to operate for their own benefit. If that is so, and if they are going to do the foolish and outrageous things which the hon. Baronet suggests, the first thing the producers will do at the annual meeting will be to replace them by some sensible people.
§ Sir B. PETO
Does it not mean that the first thing they will do at their first annual meeting will be to scrap the right hon. Gentleman's own Amendment?
§ Dr. ADDISON
The Amendment does not compel them to do anything. All it says is that, if they wish to do it, they shall be authorised to do it. So that it will be the act of the producers' board, and nobody else, and all this supposition about stupid intervention and inquisition is quite beside the mark. It will be their fellow-farmers who will be doing all this.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman want to extend the scope of the Amendment? This is limited to the producers' board, and this inspection is for the purpose of securing compliance with the scheme. All these other suppositions are really beside the point, and I suggest that the producers' board will not want to annoy their fellow-men in doing this sort of thing at unreasonable times. It will not happen—that is all. They would be turned out, and quite rightly. This is a democratic Bill. The Noble Lord understands this Bill thoroughly as we all know, but he overlooked this point. Take his butter question. The right hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Ashley) went even further astray, and said that the inspector would poke his nose into everything going on in the farm. That is how he reads the Amendment. All I have got to say is, that if anything of that kind is to happen, he will require some further authorisation than this Amendment gives, because all that this does is to allow him to see thatgrading, marking, packing or storing the regulated product51 are in accordance with regulations. Now take the case of butter. That is a very fair illustration. Suppose a complaint comes to the board that certain of their producers are not sending butter of the right quality, or not in accord with the grading required. It is in the interest of the producers and of the whole industry that their product should be of an agreed grade and above suspicion, and it is perfectly reasonable, in the interests of the whole industry, if a case arises, that the board should be able to empower a person authorised in writing to look into the matter of which complaint is made. It is perfectly fair that they should be able to do so in their own interests, and I suggest that, as far as the criticisms were generally hostile, they were quite beside the point. I am sure that any board of any kind would want this power, and would desire to exercise it now and again where a case arose. It is entirely voluntary, but I think that they should be authorised to protect themselves and support the good name of their industry when required.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
I am rather inclined to agree with the Minister with regard to some of the observations which fell from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway. I think that their imagination ran riot about what might happen with regard to these inspectors prying all over the place at all hours of the day. Without something of this sort, I do not see how this Bill, or any other marketing Bill, could work. The Amendment says:for empowering any person authorised in writing by the board for the purpose of securing compliance with the scheme.and the scheme is for the grading, marking, packing or storing of the regulated products. If those things are not carried out in a proper manner, no marketing scheme could possibly succeed. We always hear these stories about bureaucracy, and that sort of thing, but you get it in other industries. You get real bureaucrats from Whitehall inspecting other industries, and prying into all manner of things. This is purely a visit which can be authorised by a board set up by the farmers themselves. Unless this Amendment be carried, I do not see how a scheme of this sort could work.
I think the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the 52 motive of my right hon. Friends and myself in opposing this Amendment. What we want is, not to remove our own misapprehension, but to remove the misapprehension on the part of the farmer. It is not so much the spirit of the Amendment to which we object as its wording. In the case of those of us who have been some time in the House, familiarity with this legal phraseology breeds contempt, but that is not so with the general public outside, and I think that, if the Minister wants to allay some of the suspicion which the farmers have as to this Bill, he ought to try in another place to attain the object of this Amendment in a rather simpler way. We agree that he at any rate does not intend that an inquisitorial system should be set up, but I think he must admit that the wording he has used would not conduce to a feeling of contentment among farmers, but would rather make them suspicious of the interference to which they might be subjected. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are not opposing this Amendment with any idea of impeding the administration of the Bill, but because we want to make its working easier, and we honestly believe that, if this Amendment is carried in its present form and is included in the Bill when it becomes an Act, it will not help the farmers to welcome the Bill, but will make them more anxious to defeat the schemes, or at any rate to be excluded from taking any part in them. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at his Amendment from our point of view, realising that we are trying to assist him in the easier working of the Bill, and that our opposition is not merely factious.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
The Minister will remember that, when this matter was discussed in Committee, this provision was very much wider in its principle than the present Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman will, no doubt, remember that, when the principle of inspection was being considered, obviously a majority of the Committee were opposed to the original proposal, and the Minister said quite frankly, when he was withdrawing the original Clause, that he recognised the possibility of a great deal of misrepresentation in connection with a Clause of this kind. I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke 53 (Major Lloyd George) that some such machinery may be necessary, but I would point out that, while the Clause is optional—it says:Subject to the approval of the Minister a scheme may provide"—and so on—the Clause is headed, by a strange irony:Regulation of marketing and encouragement of co-operation.We are asking farmers to support a scheme for the better marketing of their produce, and at the same time we are asking them to allow some Government inspector to come along—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—we are asking them to vote for a scheme which may provide that a Government inspector—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—it provides for inspection through the Board—
§ Dr. ADDISON
The hon. Member has misunderstood. He is not a Government inspector at all; he is a farmers' inspector, appointed by the farmers.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
I quite agree, but, so far as the farmers are concerned, this scheme is to be set up under an Act of Parliament, the board is to be appointed under an Act of Parliament, and, under one of the Clauses which the farmers are asked to support, that inspector may come along and do various things in order to see that they are complying with the scheme. With a view to helping forward the acceptance of these schemes, I would suggest to the Minister that he should consider this point. These schemes are to be put forward by agriculturists themselves, and I suggest that he should allow those who are working the scheme to decide what they think are the necessary steps under the scheme. [Interruption.] I think the Minister would serve the same purpose if, instead of using these words, he would state in general terms that the scheme may provide, in accordance with the decision of the agriculturists themselves, any necessary steps to secure compliance with the scheme. I am sure that it would be accepted in that form.
§ Mr. MAITLAND
The Amendment says that any person authorised in writing by the board is to have power to enter and inspect at any reasonable time, on production of his authority, any part of the 54 land or premises. My point is that this is part and parcel of a scheme upon which a farmer is asked to vote, and it may very well be that this is just the sort of thing that he will oppose, although it may not be in his interest to oppose it. Therefore, I suggest, that the Minister should consider the adoption of wider phraseology which does not tie down the board's inspector to enter or inspect the premises, but gives the proposers of the scheme the right to settle for themselvse the particular means that they may think necessary.
§ Mr. PERRY
I hope the Minister will stick to his Amendment. The point he has made that this inspector, if appointed, will be appointed by the board itself, is a very good point. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) to talk about the farmers being the most free individuals in the world, but, as a matter of fact, they are complaining that whenever they have a scheme the rank and file of the farmers are not loyal to the scheme. In my own county of North-amptonshire, the farmers are pressing the National Farmers' Union to arrange a national milk scheme, and are pointing out that one of their greatest difficulties at the present time is to deal with those farmers who will not play the game, but who, by under-selling, will wreck every scheme that they attempt to put into operation. I suggest that, if a farmers' board, elected by the farmers themselves, thinks that it is desirable to appoint an inspector to examine as to whether the scheme is being put into operation, that is something that the farmers have no need to be afraid of. I was very glad to hear the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite say that the farmer may be brought away from his haymaking or some other task to meet the inspector. That is a great step forward since 1911 and 1912, when I was a Government inspector under the Insurance Act. In those days the farmer never came to meet us; he sent his largest dog—
§ Mr. PERRY
It was generally of the largest size. I am very glad indeed that that step forward has been made. [Interruption.] I suggest that in the scheme itself the farmers should have the power to deal with those who are not 55 playing the game, and I think that the protests which have been made against the Amendment are beside the mark.
§ Sir D. NEWTON
The really important question which this House has to consider is whether any inspection of this sort is or is not required. I venture to think that the powers which these boards will have will be absolutely adequate to safeguard the working of the schemes. Boards are to be set up which are to have more extensive and comprehensive and far-reaching powers than any other trading organisation. What reason is there for superimposing, on these full and exceptional powers, a further power of inspection? It seems to me, also, to be unfair to expect our farmers, harassed and harried as they are now, to submit to further inspection while leaving out of account altogether the inspection of similar commodities produced overseas. Only a few days ago, an eminent entomologist in my constituency, when he was spreading some butter on his bread at breakfast, found a "bug" in the butter. Being an eminent entomologist, he at once proceeded to investigate the species and see where it came from. He saw at once that it was not a British "bug," and he was able satisfactorily to prove that it had come from a distant overseas country, where no inspection exists, and where none could be made to exist by us so far as butter is concerned. I do think that, before we embark upon a scheme of inspection and pressure such as this Amendment envisages, we ought at least to try other methods, and ought only to exercise this power as a last resort and as a result of further legislation if this particular Measure breaks down.
§ Mr. BLINDELL
I think that as a business proposition, if the board is to have any authority to order the grading, marking and packing of agricultural produce, there must follow some system of inspection to see that those orders are carried out. But, having said that, I think that this Amendment, although, it is a tremendous advance on the Clause that was originally in the Bill, and I congratulate the Minister upon that fact, goes a little too far. Perhaps the Minister could tell the House exactly why he desires that there should be an inspec- 56 tor—or, as he says, a fellow-farmer, who in some instances would be worse than an inspector—who will have the power to inspect any part of his neighbour's land or premises. That is what the Amendment says. I suggest that, while it is quite necessary that the board should have the power to insist upon their standard of grading and marking and packing, they ought not to go beyond that, and, if the Minister can draft an Amendment along such lines, I feel sure that the House would agree to it; but I feel sure that no inspector ought to be able to go on to a farm and inspect the whole of the farmer's land and premises, under the pretext that he is following out the instructions of a marketing board who only desire to see that the grading, marking and packing are carried out under decent conditions.
§ Mr. ROSBOTHAM
Speaking as a farmer, and as one who hopes to become a registered producer, I have pleasure in supporting this Amendment, which I think is absolutely necessary if the Bill is to work in a proper manner. The object of this Bill is to safeguard the loyal producer, and it is the disloyal minority that we have to guard against. That is what the Amendment seeks to do, and I trust that the Minister will stick to the Amendment and that eventually it will be embodied in the Bill.
§ Captain BOURNE
If I may follow the last speaker, I would say that this Amendment may go a great deal further than the point that he wishes to safeguard, and I should be glad if the Minister would answer this question for me. Under this Amendment, if an authorisation is once given to an individual, can that individual go and inspect at any reasonable time all the farms occupied by registered producers, whether any complaint has been received against any of them or not? As I read this Amendment, once the board has given authority to an inspector, he will have a general right to go and inspect farms where the regulated product is made. If the Minister merely desires that there should be power, when a complaint is received by the board, to inspect the premises, I do not think that anyone in the House would desire to withhold that power, but I suggest that, if the right hon. Gentleman looks at his own Amendment, be will see that it might quite easily be construed to go very much wider than 57 that. I gathered from his speech that what he really desired was that there should he power to investigate complaints, and not that a powerful board should give roving powers of investigation to any inspector that they might choose to appoint. I think it would be of great assistance if the right hon. Gentleman could clear up that point.
§ Mr. BOWEN
I think that the opposition to this Amendment is, as the Minister has said, based upon a complete misapprehension of its intention. If, as has been suggested in earlier speeches, there were an element of bureaucracy in it, I could understand the opposition. As I appreciate the Amendment and the Bill, it is an endeavour to apply the principle of cooperation to the fullest possible extent. Is it overlooked that this is really a cooperative scheme, and, if that is so, are we to allow any partner in the co-operative scheme to work entirely on his own and to do what he thinks fit in regard to storing, grading, and packing without any regard to the effect of v/hat he does on the work of his fellows? The Minister is not desirous of imposing his authority upon any board at all, but he is saying to the board: "If you find that there is no system of co-operation among these people, but that they only pretend to co-operate, we will give you power, if you want it, to make certain inquiries and investigations." I cannot regard that as being in any way undesirable. Some safeguard is necessary. The illustration that has been given as to the desirability of inspecting overseas supplies is really an argument in favour of the point that we are making, that our produce should be above suspicion. If we stand for good produce, no one could object to any suggestion that a person should be pulled up if it is found on examination that he or she is not doing what is necessary to be done to make the scheme a success. Clause 4 says:Subject to the approval of the Minister a scheme may provide for all or any of the following matters:If in its wisdom a board does not think it necessary to adopt the Amendment, it will not do so. It can please itself as to whether or not it adopts this power. But, if we who believe in the Bill feel that it is necessary to provide for such powers, there should be no difficulty about accepting the Amendment, because 58 there must be someone to see that the work is well done.
§ Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
In spite of the Minister's arguments, I would ask him to consider this point of view. His Amendment is clearly directed to the wrong end. The point at which you want to check the marking, packing and storing of the regulated product is the point where any consignment of it comes within the possession of the board. The board will have a depot, they will receive consignments, and will probably open samples. That is the point where they want to ascertain whether the producer is doing his job properly and in accordance with their wishes. If they find a consignment wrongly packed, wrongly graded, and wrongly marked, presumably they will write to the producer and tell him the price they can get is very much lower than what they could get for the produce of other producers, and tell him what he should do. They should go on to say: "We shall be pleased to give you all the assistance in our power. We shall be glad to send to your farm, if you like, a man who will show you how to pack apples correctly." That is a very different thing from sending a man on to his land with power to go into any premises and inspect them against the wishes of the producer. In that case you are merely creating hostility to the Bill. The reason why so much hostility is shown to it is on account of the compulsion. The right way to approach this difficult problem would be to withdraw the Amendment and insert another elsewhere designed to show that the board would, if necessary, assist producers to pack, store and grade their produce properly.
§ Major G. DAVIES
Generally speaking, there is a good deal to be said for the principle of the Clause. I have had personal experience in various methods abroad. If you are to have some form of regulation, there must be some form of inspection. The hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. Bowen) said that this was merely a co-operative concern, but he forgets that there is a possibility of a third of the co-operators being very unwilling. That introduces an important issue into the matter of compulsion. There needs to be a power of inspection, but it seems to me that the Minister goes in two directions too far and in one 59 direction not far enough. My hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out that the real interest of the inspector is the product that is going to be placed on the market. What happens up to that point is really not his concern. Therefore, the provisions in this Clause, which give a roving commission to go all over the premises of a farm, are raising unnecessary alarm. If they are not needed, have them out. The inspector needs to go to the place where the final marketable product is actually stored. The Minister would remove a great deal of apprehension if, instead of this provision, that the inspector, having once got written permission, can go all over the place, there were a provision which only operated in the case of an actual complaint coming to the board itself, and if then the inspector were armed with authority to assist rather than to interfere.
In those two directions the Amendment goes too far and in the third it does not go far enough. It seems absurd that we should set up all this machinery and should confine the functions of the board to going to our own producers only to regulate—"interfere" is a word which the Minister would probably deprecate—what they are doing, and that at the same time there should be no control of any sort over products from abroad which are probably coming in in much larger numbers than the amount marketed by the board. If we are to provide for the one, there should be some provision for the board to satisfy itself that the conditions in which goods are marketed overseas are at least of the standard of those of our own people, who are being to some extent harassed and chased by the provisions of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman would modify the Clause and limit it in two directions and extend it in the third, I believe it would remove a large amount of misapprehension from the mind of the farming community generally.
§ Mr. DUNCAN
There are two ways in which this inspection may come into operation. It may be that a person has not packed his goods the right way and an inspector is asked to go down and see them. In the second place, the inspector may go down with a view to giving guidance and help. It is the most obvious 60 thing in the world that there should be some experienced person to give these people help. I cannot understand the idea that seems to prevail on the opposite side that anyone whom the farmers appoint will have a very long nose and will go poking it into the butter, and all the rest of it, in order to create difficulty and disturbance. I should think that is the last thing an inspector would ever desire to do. He would rather work along a helpful line. I am sure experience will prove that the guidance and help of these inspectors will enable our people to produce and market their stuff as well as those who are competing with them. One need not go beyond any greengrocer's shop to see the care and attention that has been given to the grading and packing of apples, from wherever they come, to see that they are all of a very high quality, and fetching a very high price, too. I wish fruit produced in this country could command as high a price as fruit coming from abroad. I am sure this is the right way, and I am sure that it is only a question of time before our people will be able to hold their own. It will lift production on to a higher level and so bring success to agriculture.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
There appears to be nothing in the Amendment that will encourage inspectors to give help. They are to criticise and to interfere. If anyone wishes to make certain that no scheme is ever put into force, he will support the Amendment because it will prevent any scheme from passing the poll. There is a good deal of suspicion about the whole of the Bill throughout the farming community. They dislike the compulsion which is being put upon them. If the Amendment is carried, people opposed to the scheme will go to every market place before the poll is taken and say, "If you vote for the scheme, you will have inspectors coming over your property at all times of the day, going through your private business and interfering with you." There is misapprehension in the House and much greater misapprehension outside. In the interest of the scheme itself I urge the Minister to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I will look into the point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Cap- 61 tain Bourne), which is quite a good point. It is not our intention that anyone should have a roving commission of any kind, and I do not think the Clause gives it, but I will look into the matter, and, if it needs to be rectified, I will see if I can rectify it. We have had a useful discussion, and I hope the House is now prepared to come to a decision.
Mr. R. W. SMITH
It has been said that this is a voluntary scheme, but it is not voluntary so far as 33⅓ per cent. is concerned, and that is a very serious point. If we want this scheme to be a success, we must make it appeal to the ordinary farmer. There is no doubt that the small minority would have no say in the election of the board. They will be a minority, and they will be absolutely powerless. As the Clause is drawn, it certainly gives power to some person—it does not even call him an inspector. The board will be composed, no doubt, of farmers who are competing with the man whose premises are to be inspected. It is not to be a Government inspector. In many ways, it would be better if it
was someone who is quite disinterested. It is very hard that this power is not confined to a case where a man is proved to have committed some breach of the scheme. If it had been proved that he had committed a breach of the scheme or if he were assumed to have committed a breach, then it would have been quite a different matter to enter his premises. You are not saying that. Your man can go on to the premises before there has been any breach of the scheme. It is very unfair. The Bill provides ample power in Clause 5, Sub-section 1 (c) which says:
For requiring the board to impose on, and recover from, any registered producer who contravenes any provision of the scheme made in pursuance of the last foregoing Section.
§ There you have power to deal with a man, and with that power it is quite unnecessary to ask that this further power shall be given to inspect a farm.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 240; Noes, 125.65
|Division No. 387.]||AYES.||[4.47 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Compton, Joseph||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Cove, William G.||Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Cowan, D. M.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cripps, Sir Stafford||Harbord, A.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Daggar, George||Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)|
|Arnott, John||Dallas, George||Harris, Percy A.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Dalton, Hugh||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Ayles, Walter||Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Haycock, A. W.|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hayes, John Henry|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Barr, James||Duncan, Charles||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Batey, Joseph||Ede, James Chuter||Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Edmunds, J. E.||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Herrlotts, J.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Edwards, E. (Morpeth)||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Egan, W. H.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Benson, G.||Evans, Major Herbert (Gateshead)||Hoffman, P. C.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Foot, Isaac||Hollins, A.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Freeman, Peter||Horrabin, J. F.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Isaacs, George|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Brooke, W.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Brothers, M.||Gibbins, Joseph||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Gill, T. H.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Gillett, George M.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Glassey, A. E.||Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Buchanan, G.||Gossling, A. G.||Kelly, W. T.|
|Burgess, F. G.||Gould, F.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Kinley, J.|
|Caine, Hall-, Derwent||Gray, Milner||Kirkwood, D.|
|Cameron, A. G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne).||Knight, Holford|
|Cape, Thomas||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Lang, Gordon|
|Charleton, H. C.||Groves, Thomas E.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Chater, Daniel||Grundy, Thomas W.||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Law, A. (Rossendale)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lawrence, Susan|
|Lawson, John James||Palmer, E. T.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Leach, W.||Perry, S. F.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Phillips, Dr. Marlon||Sorensen, R.|
|Lees, J.||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Pole, Major D. G.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Lloyd, C. Ellis||Potts, John S.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Price, M. P.||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Pybus, Percy John||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Longden, F.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Lunn, William||Rathbone, Eleanor||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Raynes, W. R.||Tillett, Ben|
|Mac Donald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|McElwee, A.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Toole, Joseph|
|McEntee, V. L.||Ritson, J.||Tout, W. J.|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Vaughan, David|
|McShane, John James||Romeril, H. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Malone, C. L' Estrange (N'thampton)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Walker, J.|
|March, S.||Rowson, Guy||Wallace, H. W.|
|Marcus, M.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Tudor|
|Markham, S. F.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Watkins, F. C.|
|Marley, J.||Samuel Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Marshall, Fred||Sanders, W. S.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Mathers, George||Sawyer, G. F.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Matters, L. W.||Scurr, John||West, F. R.|
|Messer, Fred||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Middleton, G.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Mills, J. E.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Milner, Major J.||Sherwood, G. H.||Williams, David (Swansea. East)|
|Montague, Frederick||Shield, George William||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Williams Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Morley, Ralph||Shillaker, J. F.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Shinwell, E.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Mort, D. L.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Muggeridge, H. T.||Simmons, C. J.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington)||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Palin, John Henry||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)||Mr. William Whiteley and Mr. Paling.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Nall-Cain, A. R. N.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Ferguson, Sir John||Peake, Capt. Osbert|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Fermoy, Lord||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Fielden, E. B.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Ford, Sir P. J.||Remer, John R.|
|Blindell, James||Frece, Sir Walter de||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Ganzonl, Sir John||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E.|
|Boyce, Leslie||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Glyn, Major R G. C.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Savery, S. S.|
|Butler, R. A.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Haslam, Henry C.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hurd, Percy A.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Lamb, Sir J. Q||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Latham, H. P. (Scarboro' & Whitby)||Thompson, Luke|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Macquisten, F. A.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Marjoribanks, Edward||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Milne, Wardlaw-, J. S.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Muirhead, A. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Womersley, W. J.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton||Captain Sir George Bowyer and|
|Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley||Captain Wallace.|
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I beg to move, in page 6, after the words last inserted, to insert the words:( ) for requiring registered producers to furnish to the board such estimates, returns, accounts, and other information relating to the regulated product as the board consider necessary for the operation of the scheme.We have just passed a very dangerous Amendment moved by the Government which threatens farmers with Peeping Toms hovering like wasps round a honey pot, and it is our business on this side of the House to try and mitigate some of the effects of such a proposal. I do not altogether like this Amendment, but at any rate it gives the board a chance of writing first of all to the unfortunate people who are going to be interfered with in this way. If the House will study the Amendment for a moment, they will Bee that there are two points which are to a certain extent modified. First, any information required must relate to the regulated product, and, secondly, the information must be necessary for the operation of the scheme. I should have been very glad if there could have been other qualifications put in, but, in view of the discussion which took place in Committee, I feel justified in moving this Amendment. I do not think that the Minister is properly seized of the opposition there is in the country to his Amendment. I move the Amendment because it is a mitigating Amendment, and I hope the Minister will accept it.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member spoke so halfheartedly of his own proposal. The Amendment has resulted from a discussion in Committee, where it was arranged that we should try and deal with the matter of accounts on this basis. The Amendment is the embodiment of what was there agreed upon by the hon. and gallant Member and his friends, and I congratulate them upon the way in which they have dealt with the undertaking they entered into. Although the hon. and gallant Member seems to be cold-hearted about it, I am prepared to accept the Amendment.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
It is really my Amendment, and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has accepted it.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir B. PETO
I think that the Minister of Agriculture should tell us, as he is so enthusiastic about the Amendment and my hon. and gallant Friend did not seem very cheerful in moving it, why a board should require accounts to be rendered. Surely, if there is one thing that should be kept private as far as the farmer or producer is concerned, it is the knowledge of what it has cost him to produce his stuff and what he gets for it. My hon and gallant Friend did not tell us why the board should require the production of the farmer's accounts. Unless the Minister is prepared to cut out that most objectionable word, I cannot see my way to support the Amendment. I do not like the Amendment. The Minister's Amendment, with which we have just dealt, was very objectionable and went far wider than he stated, but I am frankly shocked at this Amendment. I was not present in the Committee which seems to have resulted in the production of this Amendment. I can only imagine that the Minister must have produced something which was terrible, if the present Amendment is a modified form that is offered to him as a kind of peace offering. I do not mind so much the provision of estimates and returns, although I am very doubtful about the estimates. Of course, the board may require returns about the regulated product, but why a farmer's accounts should be produced for the inspection of his fellow-farmers, when very likely he has had to come under a board whose operations he does not support. That the board should then be given power to demand his accounts is most unreasonable. I could never be a party to that. Even if I was alone in my opposition to this Amendment, I should have to oppose it as far as I was able.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
I endorse what the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) said with regard to the accounts. There is another thing to which the farmer objects and of which he has a great deal of fear, and that is the filling up of innumerable forms. The Amendment says: 67returns, accounts and other information relating to the regulated product as the board consider necessary.There is no limitation whatever. The board may consider something very necessary so far as they are concerned, but it may entail a considerable amount of trouble and probably expense to the man to prepare the return.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Perhaps I may be able to dispel the apprehensions of the two hon. Members opposite. This information is necessary if the board is going to deal, say, with the milk supply. They must have from the suppliers statements with regard to the milk outlook and what is likely to be sent to the market. There are many other things which may properly be described as "accounts," but are not accounts in the way suggested by the hon. Member opposite. It will be noted that the information that is required in this Amendment is information which the board "consider necessary for the operation of the scheme." They would not be entitled to ask for other information. The Amendment is strictly limited in its extent. The board must, however, have this requisite information if it is to carry on.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir D. NEWTON
I beg to move, in page 6, line 21, at the end, to insert the words:(i) a board shall not provide premises for the sale of any regulated products or commodities except with the consent of the Minister who, before giving such consent, shall consider the facilities for the sale of such products and commodities at any market situate in the area to which the scheme is applicable or in the neighbourhood of such area, and shall also consider any representations that may be made by the owner of any such market.(ii) No slaughter-house shall be established by or for the purposes of any board except with the consent of the Minister of Health who, before giving such consent shall have regard to the facilities for slaughtering cattle at a slaughter-house provided by a local authority and likely to be affected, and no such slaughter-house shall be provided, maintained, or used except subject to such conditions as the Minister of Health may impose.68 I would preface my observations by saying that I have read the Bill. When we have brought forward Amendments or used arguments from this side, we have been told on more than one occasion that we have not read the Bill. I have not only read the Bill but I have re-read it, and although I cannot claim to have any greater knowledge of it than anyone else, I do claim to have a knowledge of the Measure. The Amendment has been tabled on behalf of the Association of Municipal Corporations and is also supported by many urban district councils. We think that we are able to put forward a strong case for the Amendment, unless the Solicitor-General can give us some other explanation regarding the working of the Clause than we were able to extract from him when the Bill was in Committee. The object of the Amendment is to protect the interests of existing market authorities. In protecting those marketing interests, we also desire to see that full use is made of the existing facilities. These are very praiseworthy and laudable objects and I do not think that the Minister can take exception to them.
It may be argued that the Bill does not contain any provision which enables, authorises or empowers any board which may be set up under the Bill in any way to ignore, disregard, overrule or override the existing law in regard to existing markets. Under the law there is a prohibition against the setting up of any new markets within a radius of six and two-thirds miles of any existing authorised market. It is an offence under the Markets and Fairs Act, 1847, Section 13, for anyone to sell a marketable commodity outside the market, unless he does it as a vendor in his own shop and on his own premises. In spite of these safeguards we hold that in certain cases the interests of existing markets may be jeopardised under the Bill. Take the case where the board is dealing with a regulated product and another commodity is produced out of that regulated product. It could sell that commodity on its own premises in direct competition with the existing markets, and that might very well lead to the endangering of existing market facilities.
When you set up a market you seek to get as many people as possible to go to the market. You do not want cer- 69 tain dealers going to one market and others going to another market. You want as big a concentration of the selling and buying public round one particular market as possible, in order to stimulate competition and to promote the interests of producer and consumer. Under our Amendment we do not try to prohibit the setting up of any new slaughterhouses, but say that new slaughtering facilities shall not be provided except by the consent of the Minister, and we believe that consent will not be unreasonably withheld. The Amendment would leave the absolute discretion in the hands of the Minister to decide whether or not a new slaughterhouse should be established. There would be no compulsion on the Minister one way or another. We think it is fair to leave the matter in the hands of the Minister, who will be unbiased.
It may be said and probably will be said, that power for the Minister to do that exists under Clause 1 (7) which provides that:If the Minister, after making such modifications (if any) as aforesaid, is satisfied that the scheme will conduce to the more efficient production and marketing of the regulated product, he may, after consultation with the Board of Trade, lay before each House of Parliament a draft of the scheme ….That Sub-section may give the idea that when a scheme is under consideration the question of additional marketing facilities will necessarily come under review. I do not take that view of Subsection (7). Under that Sub-section the scheme would be put through and it might lead to the extension of marketing facilities and the building of more slaughterhouses which were never contemplated in the original scheme, and to which no mention was made in the original scheme. Therefore, I regard those words as failing to safeguard the existing mark-its. Many thousands of pounds of ratepayers' money have been sunk in the provision of marketing facilities, and while we do not ask for prohibition in regard to any further marketing facilities we do say that there shall not be a wild rush of speculators or any precipitate action on the part of the board to set up markets without due consideration to the existing facilities and needs. It may well be that, if we are not careful, instead of better business we shall have muddled markets. 70 Therefore, we feel that the right way to view this matter is to leave it in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture, so that he may take into account, before giving sanction to further marketing facilities, the full rights of the existing market authorities and see that they are adequately safeguarded and protected.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I am glad that the Solicitor-General is here, because he may be able to clear up a doubtful point which is a matter of concern for the local authorities. The urban district authorities at their annual meeting desired this Amendment to be moved in order that the point may be cleared up. There is considerable doubt as to what is in the Bill. Are municipal slaughterhouses and markets and private slaughterhouses and markets treated alike under the Bill? In small country towns the markets are mostly private. There is great anxiety in North Lincolnshire as to what is going to happen to the local markets when the Bill comes into force. People come in from the country with their poultry and their eggs and if they are not to be allowed to sell them in the open market, it will be a great hardship.
§ Sir J. LAMB
I support the Amendment. My hon. Friends have dealt with markets. There is a considerable amount of alarm as to the position of the board in regard to the provision of premises, and I hope the Minister will give some idea of what is in his mind in regard to the provision of buildings. This is a matter of importance to the producer, because he is not in the position to provide the capital necessary to erect buildings for distribution purposes. It would be unfair to allow a board to take up public money to provide buildings in substitution of those already provided by ordinary traders, unless it can be proved that the ordinary traders are doing something which is not correct. I hope that the Minister will relieve the anxiety which exists throughout the country as to the power of these boards to provide buildings and premises in substitution of those which legitimate distributors have already provided at considerable expense, and also their power to increase the liabilities which will be thrown upon local producers.
§ Mr. BOWEN
The time will be far distant before we can expect such a development in the marketing of agricultural produce as will require a great expenditure in the provision of alternative premises. We on this side of the House do not yield to hon. Members opposite in our desire that as little as possible should be done to disturb the existing marketing arrangements of local authorities, but there appears to be many fears regarding the operation of this Bill on the part of municipal authorities and urban district councils with regard to their own markets. There has been considerable development of agricultural markets in various towns, which have gone to considerable expense to improve the facilities and to provide the necessary accommodation. In my own constituency, the town of Nantwich has been able to gather a good deal of produce at their market and to dispose of it satisfactorily, and, if it is suggested that the county of Cheshire and the agricultural producers in that county may form a new market, then the town of Nantwich would have some fear that their interests might be in jeopardy and that no consideration would be given to their future. A good deal of this apprehension is, I believe, misplaced, and the Minister will be able to give us a satisfactory explanation. At the same time, I feel that he would not be doing wrong if he accepted the Amendment. It gives an assurance to these authorities and to other people concerned that they will have a fair and square deal when these matters are considered.
When new schemes are put into operation some interests must be affected, and one can easily imagine that a widespread proposal of this description will have some repercussions here and there. It is with a desire to minimise these repercussions that the Amendment, I understand, has been moved. I support the principle of the proposal, and I hope the Minister will be able to give us an assurance on the point and, if possible, adopt it. A board with such power, perhaps too much unrestricted power, would not become a democratic body which the Minister desires but such an autocratic body as might rule out of consideration things other than their own immediate concern. It is with the object of securing that there shall be a first and a second thought given to interests which 72 are now in existence, particularly relating to municipalities that before something else takes their place, it is proposed that they shall be given an opportunity of stating their case for the consideration of the Minister of Agriculture. It would give the Minister some control over the board, which is a board to deal with the marketing of agricultural produce, and, therefore, might not be always willing to consider whether something that they may do in a locality would have an adverse effect upon another section of the community. Seeing that many towns have gone to a good deal of expense in providing accommodation for the marketing of agricultural produce it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Minister should view with some friendliness the concern of those people who, if there is to be a change, should have an opportunity of stating their case before any conclusions are reached. It is with the object of getting a reply from the Minister on this subject that I support the Amendment.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Stafford Cripps)
Hon. Members may be quite sure that the Minister of Agriculture will take all the ways open to him, and there are many under the Bill, of seeing that everybody who is affected by a scheme will be heard before it is put into force. It is not the desire of the Minister to do away with existing facilities. The object of the Bill is to increase the facilities for marketing, not to take away those which already exist, but, on the other hand, it would not be right to lay down that under no condition could a board set up fresh marketing places, whether retail or wholesale. In the first instance, I imagine that most boards will confine themselves to the building of such premises as are necessary for the purpose of sorting, grading, and collecting the produce, wholesale, and the markets which already exist, so long as they are efficient, will no doubt continue to be used for the purpose of disposing of the produce. On the other hand, there may be cases where, after experience, it is found that either because of the lack of markets or because of the inconvenience of certain markets it may be necessary to start a fresh market. That can be done by any individual at the present time so long as he does not infringe the existing legal rights of the market. The Bill will not in itself enable anybody to in- 73 fringe these legal rights, but there is a clear distinction between the infringement of the legal rights of a market and a possible interference with its business.
Every fresh market and shop interferes with an existing market and existing shops, and that has always been the system upon which marketing has been carried on except in those cases where you have a legal franchise conferred upon the owner of a particular market. In those cases the owner of the market will not find himself in any way injured by the Bill, and, even if he thinks his commercial rights may be infringed, he will have every opportunity of making representations to the Minister of Agriculture, either at a public inquiry or through the investigation committee, and, if the Minister considers that it is unwise, from the public point of view, he will be able to take the necessary steps.
The hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) asked whether there is any difference in the position of municipal authorities and private markets under the Bill. They may be in a different position according to their franchise, but, as municipal and private markets, they are in no different position because neither of these markets is dealt with by the Bill. The point in his mind was the possible withholding from the markets by sellers of goods which had customarily been sold there. The answer to that, of course, is that, if the market is as it should be, the most efficient place for the disposal of the goods, it will no doubt continue to be used, but, if, on the other hand, either owing to the facilities of the market itself or owing to the unfortunate practice which sometimes prevails among purchasers, it ceased to be an efficient place for the sale of agricultural produce, no doubt the board would take other steps to dispose move efficiently of their produce, so that the consumers may benefit to the full extent.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
Do I understand that the board will have the power to prevent the sale of any particular product in any particular market?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
It will not do it in that form. It will market it in its own way, which will imply that it cannot be marketed in another way. It 74 will not prohibit it being sold in a specific place, but it will say that it must be sold in some other way, it may be through the board itself, if it is graded, or it may send it up straight to London. It may be uneconomical to sell, say, fruit in a local market. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member will appreciate that that is one of the objects of the Bill, in order that you may get better marketing. Obviously, it would be unwise to do anything which would encourage the persistence of uneconomic markets. So long as existing markets maintain their efficiency, or make themselves efficient, for disposing of the articles for sale the board will no doubt continue to use them. There is no question of the Bill authorising any infringement of any legal right. The only possible result is that the market owner by reason of another market being set up may lose business, just as he may do today if someone has the enterprise to set up a market. I am sure that the House would not desire the board to be in any worse position than any private individual as regards that matter. I hope, with this explanation, that the hon. Member will be satisfied that the Bill gives ample protection to anyone who desires to make representations that their market is liable to suffer; and it is obviously one of the matters which the Minister will be bound to take into consideration.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I am much obliged to the Solicitor-General for his explanation. May I sum up his observations in this way. The Bill does not in any way override the rights and privileges of existing markets, and does not allow any rights and privileges of a market to be set aside. If the charter of a market says that no public market shall be held within 10 miles, this Bill does not allow that to be done. The learned Solicitor-General says he does not see why a marketing board should not sell its produce in the cheapest way, that is to say, that if a market, whether private or municipal, is managing its affairs badly in the opinion of the board, it is hard that the producers should be obliged in any way to sell their products in that market. With that I agree. But about another point I have some difficulty. It is said that the Minister, when a scheme is put up to him, will 75 sanction any proposals. He will, I take it, if there is a modification of this scheme, have to sanction it, and he will be the person to decide whether any additional marketing facilities should be allowed by the board. I think I must agree with that proposal. I am not fully satisfied, perhaps, that everything should be left to the Minister. Perhaps the Minister is not satisfied himself, for this will involve a great deal of trouble. However, I do not see that there is any other alternative to the Minister, who is responsible to this House.
I must, however, call attention to a point which I raised in Committee, namely, the provisions in Clauses 12 and 13, which enable public money to be advanced to these boards. This public money may be used to enable these marketing boards to compete unfairly with existing municipal or private markets or municipal and private slaughterhouses. Let the best man win, but is it fair to weight the scales in favour of one particular form of enterprise, namely, the marketing board, seeing that no public money is given to the municipal or private market and slaughterhouse? If the House will look at Clauses 12 and 13 they will see provision made for short-term loans and long-term loans. The short-term loans are for only two years and they are for initial expenses, and therefore any apprehensions that the money may be used to set up markets are unfounded. But in Sub-section (3) of Clause 12 a short-term loan under this Clause:Shall not be renewed unless the renewal is recommended by the appropriate agricultural marketing facilities committee, and that committee shall not recommend the renewal unless they are satisfied that the board are in a position to repay the loan forthwith,"—and these are the words which follow, to which I would direct attention:that the renewal is required to provide for additional services which the board propose to undertake.Therefore, at the end of two years, if the board wish to start a marketing scheme or market, and the agricultural facilities committee recommend it, there is no prohibition against renewing the loan for extra facilities, that is to say, for setting up markets in opposition to existing markets. Then the long-term loans may be used for the same purpose. The 76 position is not as simple as the Solicitor-General said. I appreciate the legal point of view; it is quite watertight and fair; but I am a little concerned as to what use might be made of the money given under these powers.
§ Dr. ADDISON
It is quite clear that the amount available and the limitations on its use in Clauses 12 and 13, ensure that there can be no effective competition in any sense with the markets to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. In the case of the short-term loans the amount would be very limited, and it is conditional on the board having to prove, first, that they can repay what they owe, and, secondly, that the renewal is required to provide for additional services which the board propose to undertake. In regard to long-term loans, if hon. Members will look at the end of Clause 13 they will see the words:Provided that the amount outstanding of the loans shall not at any time exceed £100,000.That is for the whole of England. A large market obviously spends vastly more than that in the provision of one market. It has already been stated that the city of Sheffield spent £400,000 on one market. Therefore it is clearly not intended to use this money for purposes of that kind in any effective sense. In any case the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will recognise that the scheme has to be approved by the marketing facilities committee. The money would be spent for the provision of storage, the initial provision of apparatus, and things of that sort. The fact that it has to be distributed amongst the whole of the boards of Great Britain shows that it can be used only for purposes of that kind. I am sure that no competition of any effective kind can conceivably arise. It is clear for what kind of purpose the boards would require the loans.
§ Mr. BLINDELL
I understood the Solicitor-General to say that he has full sympathy with this Amendment, but that it is unnecessary. I listened carefully to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I understood him to say that the Bill, as drafted, does give to the boards power to provide both wholesale and retail stores if they so desire, and, further, that the Bill gives the boards power to establish alternative markets. I 77 understood the hon. and learned Gentleman to state that the boards will not be able to infringe the legal rights of existing markets. That is true, and I appreciate the fact. But I would draw attention to Clause 4 of the Bill, and paragraph (d), which says that the boards may take power to regulate the price at which a commodity can be sold:and the persons to, or through the agency of, whom, the product …. may be sold.So while it is true that the boards would not establish alternative markets in the sense of being competitive markets directly, they could establish a market, and under Clause 4 they could insist that the whole of the agricultural products be sent to that particular market, and so be in active competition with present undertakings. What I have in mind is this: In my own division there is the township of Spalding. Some weeks ago, at the instance of the urban district council, I asked the Minister whether it was wise for them to spend the ratepayers' money in establishing a new cattle market, and whether I could have an undertaking that nothing in this Bill would injure the prospects of that new cattle market. The Minister then replied that he could not definitely commit himself. Let us presume that the urban council proceeds, spends this money and establishes a new cattle market, and that then the board comes along and establishes another market, or directs the producers in that district to divert their stock to another existing market. The urban district council will have spent a considerable sum of the ratepayers' money in granting facilities for the marketing of fat stock in the township of Spalding, and the board under this Bill may direct that the fat stock be sent to an alternative existing market.
There is another point. If it is not the desire of the promoters of the Bill that these alternative and competitive markets should be established, what is the objection to accepting the Amendment? The Amendment definitely says that the board shall not provide premises for the sale—not for the packing or grading, but for the sale—of any regulated products, except with the consent of the Minister. Before the Minister gives that consent he has to take into consideration the existing facilities. Surely that is giving the 78 Minister all the power that he desires, and to an extent it would certainly safeguard local authorities with regard to existing markets. The next paragraph of the Amendment asks that the Minister of Health, before giving permission for new slaughtering facilities, shall take into account the slaughter-houses already established and under the control of the local authorities. I think the Amendment is very reasonable. The Minister and the learned Solicitor-General have in fact accepted the principle of it, but they say that the Amendment is not necessary. No doubt there are certain people who fear that there may be a danger of competitive markets being established, and local authorities generally have a feeling that there is a danger of their markets being hampered. With these points in view I hope that the Minister even now will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. BUTLER
There are so many points in this Bill that are really psychological, that I would like to raise that issue at this point. I think the learned Solicitor-General rather forgets that his right hon. Friend the Minister made a terrific onslaught on local markets and marketing conditions in his Second Reading speech. As a result many of these markets have a genuine fear that the Bill is directed against them. I am satisfied that the Solicitor-General's explanation, that the legal rights of existing markets will be protected under the Bill, is correct, and we are grateful for that statement. But there is in the country towns a very serious fear that the Bill has been directed against country markets. Every opportunity should be taken of inserting in the Bill provisions which will ensure that that feeling does not persist. The Minister knows that there are several of us on this side who wish this Bill to be as well received as possible in country districts. I believe that if the Amendment were inserted it would not spoil the Bill but would improve the psychological value of its presentation to the public.
The Solicitor-General gave no reason why he could not accept the Amendment. He did not even refer to it. He made a general statement about the position of schemes under the Bill, but made no reference to the Amendment and no reference to slaughterhouses. I do not see 79 why we should not have an explanation why the Amendment is not possible. I believe it would assist materially in the country districts if it were inserted in the Bill. The Solicitor-General referred to the possibility of the Minister using his powers to protect the rights of local markets. He gave us no instance where he could use his power to protect local rates. Perhaps he referred to Clause 8, Sub-section (4). If we have an assurance from the Government that they mean to interpret that Clause in the right spirit, as regards the position of old and traditional markets, it will help us.
There is nothing which we can take away from this Debate which will help us to get these schemes considered, in the country districts, in the best possible light. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us assistance in that respect. This is rather a case of dignity and impudence. We have the dignity and tradition of the old markets which have been established from time immemorial in towns like Saffron Walden and we have, against that, the impudence of a modern marketing scheme, with the powerful assistance of this Measure competing with the old tradition of the country markets. Unless we receive some safeguard in the nature of this Amendment, which is totally harmless to the Bill and is supported by powerful organisations, it will be difficult even for those who are inclined to be friendly towards the Bill, in country districts to regard it in a favourable light.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I desire to explain why I, personally, cannot vote for this Amendment if it is carried to a Division. It seems to me that it would prevent a board from establishing a shop in which to sell its produce unless it obtained the consent of the Minister. What I, personally, have endeavoured to do in connection with this Bill has been to improve it and make it a better instrument for the farmer. If a board think that farmers can sell their produce better by having a shop of their own in any locality, I do not wish to put impediments in the way. Particularly, I do not want it to be under the permission of the Minister, who is a Minister of State and a politician, and I wish to keep the State separate as far as pos- 80 sible from all these trading organisations. The Amendment appears to err in the direction of not being quite fair to the farmers' boards, and it brings in the Minister, to which I, as a strong individualist, object. We have had the assurance of the Solicitor-General that nothing in the Bill interferes with the rights and privileges of markets and with that assurance I am content. As long as old-established markets which have existed under charters or Acts of Parliament or the like for many years, are not interfered with in their rights, I do not see why a board should be hampered in deciding in what way it will sell the produce. I want to see the board selling the produce to the best advantage of the farmers.
§ Major DUDGEON
I have listened to the speech of the Noble Lord with great pleasure, because it shows that he is consistent in this matter—far more so than his hon. Friends behind him who have previously urged that there is "too much Minister" in the Bill, and that the freedom given to the boards is not sufficient. I think it idle when we are discussing this Bill to say that it will not affect certain vested interests in connection with the distribution of agricultural produce. In my opinion, the Bill would be useless if it did not affect some vested interests which are adverse to the agricultural producer and also to the great consuming public. In regard to many agricultural products, we want to reduce the margin between the price which the producer receives and the price which the consumer has to pay. The great difficulty with regard to many agricultural products at present is that the producer receives no more than the bare cost of production, while the consumer has to pay a figure that is far above the cost of production and the legitimate costs of distribution.
It is essential that a board should have freedom, not only to use existing channels in the form of markets, as I hope they will do to a very large extent, but also where necessary to set up new channels in both wholesale and retail markets. As regards meat, I agree that many large corporations have gone to large expenditure in creating up-to-date places for the slaughter of stock, but there are other places where such expenditure has not been undertaken and where these facilities 81 are not available We want meat factories where every process in regard to meat will be dealt with properly. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will not accept the Amendment which would curb the power of the boards to make the best possible use of up-to-date methods for distributing regulated products.
§ Dr. ADDISON
May I now appeal to the House to conclude this discussion. I think it has brought out the fact that the general desire of the House is not so much that the Clause should be amended in the way proposed as that an opportunity should be given to my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General of making a statement on the position of the statutory market authorities. He has now done so, and I think his statement will be regarded as satisfactory. The case for the Bill could not have been more aptly stated than it has been by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galloway (Major Dudgeon). We want these boards to be free to improve the marketing of their products for their own benefit, and the House has already received an assurance with regard to the position of the statutory authorities which is the main point of the Amendment.
§ Mr. MARSHALL
I am sorry that I was not here when the assurance to which the Minister refers was given with regard to the municipal markets, but I wish to say that there is very genuine disquiet on the part of municipal authorities with respect to the powers given under this Bill. I think the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) hit the nail on the head when he said that the Bill would enable a producer's board to set up a shop, probably in a consuming area, to sell regulated products. That shop would not, of course, be a market, but it would operate exactly like a market in active opposition to and in competition with municipal markets. I do not know what are the legal rights of market authorities in all parts of the country, but certain municipal markets can only operate within a radius of six miles round the market itself. They fear that the provisions of the Bill may militate against their interests. They genuinely fear that markets may be set up, with graded and regulated products, in a producing 82 area which will actively operate against municipal markets in the great consuming areas. Reference has already been made to the manner in which some of the municipalities have brought their markets up to date. Sheffield has spent on one abattoir and wholesale meat market £350,000, and on a retail market £50,000. Liverpool and Manchester have undertaken enormous expenditure on bringing their markets up to date and one can see that these authorities have a perfect right to be suspicious about the operation of the Bill. I would like the Minister to give some assurance that those markets which have been made thoroughly up to date, will not be prejudicially affected by the Bill.
§ Sir B. PETO
Despite the Minister's request that we should not prolong the discussion of this Amendment, I fear I must intervene as one of the Members of this House—perhaps one of the few Members—not wholly satisfied with the way in which this matter is being left. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) takes a view with which I generally sympathise. He does not like leaving too much power in the hands of the Minister. When we consider the two parts of the Amendment, we find that it proposes, as regards markets, to leave the decision in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture and as regards slaughterhouses to leave the decision in the hands of the Minister of Health, but all that the Amendment asks is that the Minister should have regard to the facilities already provided. I hold that the Amendment is an extraordinarily moderate proposal on the part of the municipal authorities.
§ Sir B. PETO
It is not a question of a shop, and I wish to show the Noble Lord exactly how the proposal in the Bill may operate. A shop may be of any size. It may actually be indistinguishable from a market; it may be alongside an existing market. I am in thorough agreement with other hon. Members as to the desirability of getting the consumer into the closest touch with the producer, but I am bound to point out that in many places there are retail markets, sometimes very old traditional markets, where the producers of such things as 83 eggs and butter, or the wives of the producers, attend week by week and sell the produce of their farms direct to the consumer. You cannot get closer touch between consumer and producer than that. You cannot eliminate the middleman to a greater degree. I wish the House to consider what will be the effect of the Bill on retail markets of that kind, such as the Barnstaple pannier market.
Undoubtedly, under the Bill registered producers can be compelled to sell their produce only through certain channels, and they may be debarred from going to the traditional local retail market. The Solicitor-General said there was no intention of infringing the legal rights of market authorities. Probably not, but if nobody in the neighbourhood is allowed to sell in the market, then the market will not be of much use. The Minister might say that that is an unreasonable supposition, but I do not think so. Under the arrangement in the Bill, will the small producers of poultry, eggs, butter, fruit and the like, who have been selling for generations in these local markets, be allowed to continue doing so? Supposing they are not registered producers. At present they pay an annual toll to the local council for the right to sell in the market. Will they be free to continue paying their dues and taking their produce to these markets; will the members of the public be there to buy and will they be allowed to buy? Or, under this scheme, will it be possible to say to them, "You are not registered producers, or, if you are, we have our own system of marketing, and this simple system of getting directly into touch with the consumer does not suit our scheme which is larger and on more grandiose lines"?
I am not satisfied and I do not think that my constituents are satisfied, as far as they are able to understand the Bill up to the present, with the position as regards interference with existing markets, and all we ask in the Amendment is that the Minister should give five minutes of his time to consider all these matters before setting up either the shop of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot or the market of somebody else. We only ask that the Minister before setting up any of these new organisations should satisfy himself that 84 the new organisation is in the interests of the public and the producers and is not going to interfere with the interests of those who have been in the habit of using an existing market. Reference has been made to the large sums of the ratepayers' money spent in different parts of the country in building great covered markets, but that is the least part of the question. It is a means of getting the stuff direct to the consumer, and I want to be assured, where we have this simple system, that has been used for many generations and has operated usefully to the small producer, that we are not having in this Bill, under some newfangled process, something which will do away with the present useful system. Practically nothing has been said on the question of slaughter-houses. I cannot conceive what can be the Government's reason for opposing such a simple and moderate proposal as that the Minister of Health should consider a scheme setting up a new slaughter-house and decide whether it is really necessary when there is an existing slaughter-house. Much as I dislike the interference of the Minister, and much as I agree with the Noble Lord on that point, I should have thought that in a matter of this kind it would be reasonable, because I cannot conceive of any better authority to consider the subject, and somebody should have a little control over people who may be rather led away with a desire to carry out the whole of their scheme thoroughly and who may say, "The existing slaughter-house is not good enough; we want something much bigger and more modern."
I want to have someone, when we have not an unlimited amount of capital to invest in these things, to say that they are going at least to consider whether it will be an improvement or not. Nobody has said from the Government Bench that the acceptance of this Amendment would interfere with the operation of the Bill. It would do a great deal to satisfy public opinion, and particularly the opinion of municipal authorities, and I cannot understand why the Amendment, which cannot do any harm and may be very useful in putting just a little check on the exuberance of some of those who will control these new marketing schemes, cannot be accepted by the Government. 85 I hope the Mover of the Amendment will press it to a Division, on which case I shall certainly vote for it.
§ Major DAVIES
I do not want to turn a deaf ear to the Minister's appeal to get on to something else, but he has shown himself, as ever, a super-optimist in suggesting that the learned Solicitor-General has satisfied all of us. The more I listened to the Solicitor-General, the more my admiration increased for his skill at skating on thin ice and avoiding the unpleasant point at issue. He never alluded to the real point. He seems to have satisfied the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) about something to do with a shop—I believe that they want to set up some kind of shop between them—but some of the rest of us are anxious about the matter, and I cannot understand the continued opposition of the Minister to this very reasonable suggestion. The Solicitor-General said that the existing markets will not have their statutory rights and privileges interfered with, but unless I have entirely misread the Bill, it will give these boards the right to set up their own methods of marketing, and it gives them the power to say, "You can only market in the way that we wish." If that is so, obviously the particular regulated product may not be sold at that existing market, but must be sold in the other, and therefore you are interfering with the statutory rights and privileges of existing markets, although not perhaps from a legal point of view.
There is a very real danger, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) has pointed out, there is a possibility that local boards under this Bill may want to splurge with a completely new and up-to-date market. This Amendment only proposes a little break or check. Those who represent rural England are not concerned with £400,000 markets in Sheffield, but with something much more modest and with amounts which can quite easily come out of the financial provisions of this Bill, under which a special institution can be set up by a board in spite of, in opposition to, in competition with, either private or municipally-owned institutions already in exstence. We are only asking for a little check and for the Minister to have consideration and a final veto.
86 This matter has not been satisfactorily answered by the Solicitor-General. He has put a certain legal aspect, but he has not touched the point that we have tried to argue. This is a matter about which existing markets are really anxious, because if this board says, "In the interests of carrying out our new activities, we must have a place of our own, a shop perhaps," you will immediately remove the whole of that product out of the channels that that market has been set up, possibly at great cost, to handle. I hope the Minister will realise what is behind the Amendment and give it sympathetic consideration in another place.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
Whether the Amendment is necessary seems to depend on the answer to quite a simple question, which perhaps the Solicitor-General will be good enough to answer. That question is: Can a board provide premises for the sale of products otherwise than as part of a scheme? As I read the Bill, it cannot. If it is part of a scheme, the opening line of Clause 4 shows that a scheme has got to be subject to the approval of the Minister, and Clause 1 provides that anyone affected by a scheme has the right of being heard. The whole point of the Amendment is that owners of markets and slaughter-houses should have the right of being heard, but if they have already got that right, the Amendment is wholly unnecessary. On the other hand, if these premises can be provided otherwise than as part of a scheme, then I think the Amendment is justified, because they have no right of being heard.
I have had a great many representations from local authorities in my constituency, who are perturbed about this question, but my view has been that this alternative selling provision can only be part of a scheme. I see the learned Solicitor-General nodding his head, and if that is so, I cannot see that this Amendment will add anything to the powers that owners of markets have already got under Clause 1. If the Solicitor-General would give me that assurance, so that it could get into print, I think it would do a good deal to remove the fears of local authorities and owners of markets.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am afraid that I did not refer to the pro- 87 visions of the Bill before, because I had been warned by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment that I must not do so because he had already read them very carefully. I was sure the whole House had in mind the provision to which the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) has just referred, as (regards inquiries. Certainly my view is that any provision of marketing facilitities of this sort would have to be part of a scheme, and objection could be raised when the scheme was advertised. The objector could appear at the inquiry and put his case, and the Minister would then have to consider it and would have to determine whether it was right or wrong before approving the scheme.
§ Sir D. NEWTON
Does the learned Solicitor-General give us a definite assurance on that point, that any marketing facilities must be part of a scheme?
§ Sir B. PETO
Do I understand that if a scheme has the approval of the Minister, and does not include powers to provide a market, and it is found at a later date that a market or shop is required, there is no possible means under the scheme of getting the market or shop erected?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
My view is that if marketing facilities of the type with which we are dealing are to be provided, they must be mentioned in the scheme, and if it was found on a subsequent date that some further facilities were required then an amendment of the scheme would have to be made to make the scheme cover it. As in the case of a private Bill, if one wants power to do anything of that sort, one must have it expressly mentioned in the Bill, or get another Bill giving power to do what is required.
§ Colonel RUGGLES-BRISE
Can the learned Solicitor-General give an assurance with regard to the following point? Where a local authority own market rights in a town—for instance, a cattle market—under some very ancient charter, would it be possible under this Bill for a board to promote a scheme and operate it, setting up a rival market in that town? Would the Minister give his sanction to a scheme which would conflict directly with the rights received by a local authority under a charter?
§ Dr. ADDISON
It is impossible to answer a recondite question of that kind. It must depend on the precise proposals put up. The rights of statutory market authorities are defined, and their cases may be heard, as my hon. and learned Friend has explained, but it is impossible for anyone now to say for all time what would happen in a particular case.
§ Sir D. NEWTON
In view of the explicit and definite assurance of the learned Solicitor-General, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Major MUIRHEAD
I beg to move, in page 6, line 22, after the word "that," to insert the words:except in the case of a substitutional scheme.This is purely consequential. As there is no initial poll for the setting up of a substitutional scheme, the question of the suspension of powers on the declaration of a poll does not arise.
§ Amendment agreed to.