Marquess of HARTINGTON
I beg to move,That, in view of the dire distress of many persons engaged in the industry of agriculture and the failure of His Majesty's Government to give effect to their election pledges to make farming pay, the Government no longer deserves the confidence of this House; and, further, this House is of opinion that immediate steps should be taken to support this basic industry so as to enable it to uphold the wages of workers employed therein.I move this Vote of Censure on the Government for their failure to produce an agricultural policy or to redeem the pledges which they have made to put cereal farming upon a sound economic basis. The promises which the party at present in office made during the last election and since were very numerous, 1080 but in no instance have they been more formal or more definite and in no instance have they been more hopelessly broken than in the case of agriculture.[An HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"] An hon. Member thinks that they have broken other promises even worse than I supposed, but I doubt if that could be so. Their failure in this case has been absolute. I will not detain the House by detailing the occasions upon which the promises have been made. We had towards the end of May, on the Adjournment, a short agricultural Debate, and on that occasion these pledges were fully admitted. They have not been denied either by the Prime Minister or by the Minister of Agriculture. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that he hoped at an early date to be able to announce his agricultural policy. In January of this year the Prime Minister said that he supposed he would be able to announce it in March. In April he had said nothing, but he said then that he had hoped to announce it as soon as the Imperial Conference of 1930 was over. As times goes on—and we are now within a few days of the Recess—there seems little hope but that another sowing time will go past without anything being done to redeem the pledges of the Government and to relieve the sorely pressed agricultural industry from the difficulties which beset it.
I do not want in the least to minimise the immense difficulties of the problem. It would be futile to deny that to put agriculture on its feet is a problem of immense difficulty and complexity. It is a problem which is extremely complex and which has many sides, but it may be summed up very briefly and simply. Put in its simplest form, the problem of agriculture is how to carry on the industry in spite of the fact that for various reasons, over most of which we in this country have no control, production of most forms of agricultural produce can be carried on cheaper abroad and the produce sent here cheaper than we can produce it at home. That, I think, reduced to the simplest words, is the problem with which agriculture has to deal.
The factor which is immensely aggravating the problem at the present time is the disastrous fall in the price of all primary products all over the world which is hitting every farmer, miner and 1081 planter throughout the world. Even without that aggravating factor the position of English agriculture is one of immense difficulties. It remains the case that, without that factor of world prices, the English farmer, owing to various conditions, to the fact that great new tracts of territory have been opened up for agriculture where for various reasons, climatic and other, production can be carried on cheaper than it can here, is being under-sold. It affects other branches of agriculture in that owing to our northern latitude and to modern improvements in communication the first consignments of fruit, potatoes and other products can reach our market before the English farmer can get in, and obviously the highest prices are available when the first consignments of each kind of fruit appear. All these factors make things extremely difficult for English agriculture.
Modern communications and modern methods of refrigeration have done a very great deal to deprive the English meat grower and the English milk producer of the natural advantage which he used to enjoy of having a large urban population at his door. There are many reasons of that kind; I could go into many of them. There is the fact, for instance, that in Canada, practically speaking, the whole of the wheat growing is carried on upon land which, unlike English land, requires no drainage, and the fact that the crop can, in normal years, be got in in a very much shorter time. The harvest time there is much shorter than it is here. There are many reasons which combine to make the problem of English cereal farmers, and, indeed, of farmers of all kinds, an extremely difficult one. I need not go on upon those lines. I only wanted to say that in order to make it clear that we on this side of the House fully realise the immense difficulty of the problem. But the Government ought to have realised that difficulty before they made that definite and binding promise that cereal farming was going to be made to pay.
I have not touched at all, in dealing with the difficulties, upon the question of wages. I have left that out because it is common ground, I think, on all sides of the House that, although the wages difficulty is a very serious one, the reduction of agricultural wages here is not, 1082 and cannot be, a solution of the problem. I put that aside. Quite apart from wages, it is obvious that our problem is one of immense difficulty. The production of all meat, except the very best kinds, for instance, can obviously, and for many years to come, be carried on more cheaply in the great new countries of South America than it can be here. I have referred to the question of soft fruit. Again the foreign grower, owing to climatic advantage, is able to get first into the market and to get to the public while the public is still willing to pay higher prices. The contraction in the size of the world which modern transport has brought about to the immense advantage of the great bulk of the population has very seriously hit the English producer of foodstuffs. I hope that I have said enough to show that I realise the immense difficulties with which the Government are faced, and also to show that no attempt at a solution which tries to deal with this question only from this end, no regulation of production or marketing which works only in England, can hope to solve this problem successfully. We are dealing with factors, many of which, so long as we allow absolutely free imports, are outside our control. No matter how skilfully it may be devised in a marketing Bill, no system and no regulation of production here can hope to solve the problem.
The party to which I belong believe that they have a policy which, if it will not solve the problem in its entirety, will, at all events, go a very long way towards solving it. We believe that by guaranteeing cereal farmers—and those after all are the farmers who are suffering most severly from the present depression—a remunerative price for their wheat and by ensuring that a fixed proportion, or a proportionate quantity of the wheat consumed in this country shall be British grown we can put a most hardly pressed section of the agricultural industry on to its feet.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
The hon. Member says why did we not do that when we were in office, but it must be familiar ground to him that the disastrous fall in wheat prices which has made the position so desperate only occurred since 1083 the party opposite came into office. Agriculture was very far from thriving during our period of office and we did all we could by relieving it from the burden of rates and by taking other steps to deal with the depression. The present acute problem, under which English wheat growing cannot compete, has arisen since the present Government took office.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
On the contrary, we have absolute faith in our policy. We believe that it is a workable policy, one that could be brought immediately into operation and would set the most distressed section of agriculture on its feet. Having regard to the losses which it would save, the employment which it would give, the fact that wide fluctuations in the price of wheat have taken place and the serious drop in the price of wheat has occurred, without the advantage being passed on to the consumer, we believe that our policy could be carried into effect without imposing a burden on the consumers of wheat in this country. Having regard to the unemployment that must ensue unless something is done, we believe that what we propose could be done without casting more than a very moderate burden upon the taxpayers. That policy, unless and until the party opposite produces a better policy, holds the field.
The party opposite have been very definite in their promises. They have gone beyond anything that we have dared, in regard to their agricultural policy. We said that we would do what we could to help, but they have said that agriculture would be made to pay. Month after month, sowing time after sowing time, they have shilly-shallied and have delayed and evaded the issue. If they cannot find a policy or they are unwilling to grapple with the problem, they ought to give way for others who have a solution and are prepared to deal with the problem.
I hear murmuring on the benches below me, that this policy will infringe the inviolable principle of Free Trade, that it will cost the taxpayers a great deal of money and that it will not work. The Liberal party in their turn have failed 1084 to deal with the problem. I have quotations from their leader on the subject. We believe that our policy is a sound and coherent attempt to grapple with the problem.
We are attacked by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) who tells us that wheat represents only 4 per cent of our total agricultural production. That is true, but the right hon. Gentleman forgets that wheat is not grown on the same land every year and that if we could ensure a remunerative price for wheat production, we should ensure the continuance of the rotation of which the wheat crop is only a part. By putting wheat growing on a sound economic basis, we should ensure the retention in cultivation of very much more than 4 per cent. of our agricultural production. More than that, we should ensure some form of stability for that part of agricultural production which is by far the most sorely pressed at the present time, and we should ensure some measure of safety for that part of our agricultural industry which finds employment for by far the largest number of men.
We believe that our cereal policy, coupled with the policy to which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is already committed, the policy of checking dumping, and coupled—I am now speaking for myself—with some policy which will ensure that English fruit growing, which is becoming a very important branch of agriculture, shall not have the best of the market taken by foreign competitors would be very effective. On those lines I do not say that we could bring immediately great prosperity to the agricultural industry, but we could relieve the appalling conditions into which it has been allowed to fall. My right hon. Friend will wind up the Debate, and it is not part of my business to spend more time in discussing our agricultural policy. What I have said has been with the object of showing that our action this afternoon is not merely negative and that it is not mere criticism. We believe that, if we have an opportunity, we can tackle this problem successfully.
In this House we very frequently have to revise our opinion of men and measures, and I am not ashamed to confess that when the present Minister of 1085 Agriculture took office I looked upon it as almost the crowning disaster for a hard pressed industry; but I am bound to say that I have had to revise that opinion. The right hon. Gentleman has done a great deal of very hard work in Committees upstairs and, speaking for other hon. Members on this side as well as myself, I can say that we have come to a very different opinion of the right hon. Gentleman than we had when first he met us across the Floor of the House in his present office. Within his limits, he does mean really well. I believe that he is out to help the agricultural industry. He has certainly shown invariable courtesy and consideration in considering our Amendments and in dealing with any difficulty in our constituencies or elsewhere, to which we have drawn his attention. He has done his best. I have said so much to make it clear that our Vote of Censure is not by any means confined to the right hon. Gentleman. We believe that his colleagues are very much more to blame than he is, and I think that if he had had the chance and had not been restrained by his colleagues, he would have done very much more for agriculture than he has been able to do.
The right hon. Gentleman realises the desperately serious condition of agriculture, which is more than most people do. If the real condition of agriculture, especially the cereal districts, was realised in this House or in the country something would have been done before now. Most people know very little more of agriculture than they see when they are travelling through the country and they look out of a motor car or out of the window of a train. They see the incomparably beautiful English countryside. They see the country looking fresher and greener than ever. They see the sheep and cows in the fields and they see cultivation going on which, to the lay mind, is pretty well as usual. They see prosperous looking homesteads nestling in the trees, but they have no idea of the tragedy that is going on behind.
They do not understand that practically everything they see is mortgaged up to the hilt, that the whole countryside is cumbered with a burden of debt which at present there seems to be no means of shifting. They do not realise the great tragedy of the farmer's fight against an ever-increasing burden of debt and the ever-increasing new dread to the farm 1086 labourer of unemployment, which means the loss of his home, without the dole. The tragedy of unemployment is far worse to the farm labourer than it is to the industrial worker, but neither the bulk of hon. Members in this House nor of the people outside have any idea of these things. The appalling seriousness of the situation is not generally realised. The Government know; it is their business to know. It is the business of the right hon. Gentleman to bring it to their attention if they do not already know, and it is because they have done nothing of any real use to assist agriculture, in spite of their repeated pledges, that we bring forward this Vote of Censure. Hon. Members opposite have put down an Amendment to this Motion and have given a list of remedial measures which have been applied by the Government. I should like to deal briefly with these various Measures. The Amendment—welcomes the Government's efforts both in legislation and administration to improve the quality of our stock, the standard of production, and the efficiency of marketing and disposal of agricultural products.That means, I suppose, the scrub bulls Bill and the Marketing Bill. I am willing to give them full credit for the scrub bulls Bill. It may have some small effect on the standard of cattle in the less good catle districts of this country, but in the good cattle districts like Derbyshire they do not use scrub bulls now. The Bill may, in the course of many years, have some slight effect on the standard of cattle, but the right hon. Gentleman knows that the price of the stud fee of a good bull in the farmer's pocket is worth more than twenty such Bills. It is a small and trivial Measure. As to the Marketing Bill, I am willing to agree that it may give substantial value to the hop grower, and it may possibly, though I am inclined to doubt it, have some beneficial effect on potato growing, but no one connected with agriculture can really believe that this enormously cumbersome Bill, with its mass of machinery, can really operate to the advantage of the great bulk of our agricultural industry without some form of control of imports to back it up. It is putting a great deal of money into the pockets of a very large number of officials but very little money, if any, into the pockets of any farmer or farm labourer. As regards the large majority of agricultural 1087 products I doubt very much whether the Bill will be anything but a dead letter. Then in their Amendment hon. Members opposite also welcome the proposals of the Government—for the improved utilisation of the land and facilities for settlement afforded to the agricultural worker and others.That refers to the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill; a Bill which gives the right hon. Gentleman power to spend unlimited money to set up a subsidised competition to existing farmers who are not able to make both ends meet. It gives the right hon. Gentleman power to reclaim the Wash and bring more agricultural land into the market when we are unable to carry on the economic cultivation of the land we have already. It is a Bill, also, which, because of the Amendment the Conservative party moved, enables farm labourers to be settled on the land. I admire the audacity of the Amendment when it is considered that the agricultural workers were inserted in the Bill by the Conservative party in face of the strong opposition of the Minister of Agriculture and his supporters. I do not want to deprive the right hon. Gentleman of the credit he can get for these small Bills. They will not do very much harm, they will cost some money, and no doubt they are the uttermost to which his colleagues in the Government would allow him to go. At the same time I do not think they are worth a week's wages bill to any farmer engaged in cereal production. So much for the benefits conferred upon agriculture by the present Government.
Let me now look at what they have not done; it is rather a longer list. They have done nothing about dumping. They have saddled the producers in the country with a great cumbrous and expensive machine. They have caused many serious apprehensions amongst the people who are trying to carry on production to-day. They have made no attempt whatever to deal with the factor which again and again has knocked the bottom out of the market, that is, the sudden arrival of dumped produce, and that omission is all the more remarkable in view of the Debate on 19th November last in which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs took part. I will not weary the House with 1088 many quotations, but there are just one or two which I will read:It is not merely a question of fruit, of currants and plums, but it is also a question of wheat and there may be other things. I have always been against dumping. I do not consider, as I have said before here, that Tree Trade is bound to carry that monster on its back. … I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear the matter in mind because, when we are setting out to establish people on smallholdings and allotments and cottage holdings, I do not think that they should be subject to a competition which is absolutely unfair."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1930; col. 481–2, Vol. 245.]Earlier in his speech the right hon. Gentleman said, referring to treaties:If there are treaties, I think it is time that they should be revised. I hope that the Government will face that matter.4.0 p.m.
The Government know quite well that whatever our views may be they can rest assured that they would have our fullest support in dealing with that matter, and they know that they have had the weighty support of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs since November last, but they have taken no steps which would have removed from agriculture the fear of this form of competition which was described as unfair by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. They have done nothing. They have been very active in enforcing the various regulations which apply to the production of milk and dairy products in this country. I do not blame them. It is quite right to maintain a high standard of excellency and cleanliness in our dairying industry, but surely it is reasonable, if you are going to send round inspectors to inspect English farms to investigate the conditions under which English milk production is carried on, that you should take some interest in the conditions of those foreign products which are coming into this country and destroying the market for English produce. In that question the Government betray no interest whatever. They spend large sums of money in inspecting English production but in the conditions of foreign production they take no interest whatever. Russia is a sacred subject to hon. Members opposite, and I want to be very careful to avoid saying anything which will hurt their feelings; but surely it is not unreasonable to make some inquiries into the production of Russian milk products which are at this moment coming in to 1089 this country, and are hitting the prices of English producers very severely. If only in the interests of health, they ought to make some kind of inquiry into that matter. We have not very much information on the subject, but what we have is definitely discouraging. I think that hon. Members opposite will probably admit that the Russian newspaper "Pravda" is more or less to be relied upon not to give too unfavourable a view of Russian milk production. I will not weary the House with quotations but the official report of the Soviet Government shows the appalling conditions under which milk and butter production is carried on. I do not want to stress this too much, but the fact that even one tick is found in imported Russian butter is surely somewhat discouraging.
I do not propose to set up as a bacteriologist, but I understand that a tick is to a tubercle bacillus very much as St. Paul's Cathedral is to a tick, and I cannot help fearing that even if one tick can get through the Soviet churn, a very large number of tubercle and other bacilli may do so. Anyhow, it seems unreasonable before exposing producers in this country to the full blast of this sort of competition, and before exposing consumers to what must be admitted to be a substantial risk, that serious and careful investigation should be made into the source of supply. But on that question the Government are not interested. They have money to lend to Central European farmers, but they have not money to spare on investigation of this kind, which might cost one-tenth of the amount.
I want to refer to one more subject before I sit down. I have referred to the Bills which the Government have passed for the benefit of agriculture. I have referred to the things they have not done which they might easily have done to benefit agriculture. I want to refer once again to their pledge that farming must be made to pay. Since the beginning of this year, they have passed two Bills which did seem to carry out that pledge. They have introduced a Budget under which all agricultural land to which any value higher than its cultivation value can be attached—and the cultivation value is decreasing daily—will be made to pay a heavy tax. "Agriculture must be made to pay." It is rather an 1090 interesting commentary on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. He interrupted me once in the course of a speech, and said he was only concerned to get at the urban landlord. The agricultural landlord, he realised, was already in a very bad way, and he would not do anything to endanger him.
I would remind the House that nearly a quarter of all the land of England is owned by the farmers, that is, nearly a quarter is in owner occupation. The right hon. Gentleman said that the urban landlord was the only landlord whom he wished to tax. As a result of his good offices, we are left with this position, that the urban landlord, who, after all, is getting ground rent, is only to pay one-eighth of a penny in the £ on land which is producing a substantial income, but the agricultural landlord, who has land to which a building value may be attached, even although it may not be realised, because for various reasons he may not be able to put the land in the market, is to pay the full penny in the £ on land which is not producing anything but a purely agricultural revenue. The agricultural industry in that respect owes a deep debt to the right hon. Gentleman.
Then the Town and Country Planning Bill has also been set on foot. Under that Bill, any farmer whose land has improved in value owing to the construction of an arterial road, or owing to any other operation undertaken under a town planning scheme, can be called upon to pay immediately 75 per cent. of such alleged increase in value. I, for one, should have no kind of complaint to make of that if the betterment value were payable on realisation. I do not know whether the House fully realises that the effect of the Bill as it stands, having come through the Committee, is that where it is alleged that increase in value has taken place, 75 per cent. of that increase is payable within 12 months of the scheme coming into operation, although it may be quite impossible for the farmer to realise that value except in a period of years. "Agriculture must be made to pay," and it is going to be made to pay. The Government's failure to redeem their promise is complete and absolute, aggravated by 1091 the fresh burdens which they have placed upon a sorely oppressed industry, unrelieved by any attempt to grapple seriously with the problem, and I believe that, in moving the Motion on the Paper, I express the views of every farmer, every farm labourer, and every one throughout the country who is connected with agriculture.
§ Captain BRISCOE
I beg to second the Motion.
This Motion, which has been so ably moved by my Noble Friend, is to censure the Government for their utter failure to carry out the pledges which they gave at the last election. Never has there been a political party which has given the country such definite, such emphatic and such far-reaching pledges as the Socialist party gave previous to the last election and since that date. Having given those pledges, they have sat on the Front Benches opposite ever since in the most callous complacency, watching the industry go from bad to worse, and making no effort whatever to come to its assistance. We have seen, in spite of all the things they promised, wages in some of the agricultural districts declining. We find fewer men being employed on the land. We find farmers bankrupt all over the country, and bereft of the necessary capital to carry out proper cultivation. We find the tradesmen and merchants in rural areas feeling the pinch very hardly to-day. We find our local market towns also feeling the depression, and we see a general decline going on throughout the whole of our rural districts. It really is a frightfully critical situation. I imagine that the Minister does know it, and realises it. Like my noble Friend who moved this Motion, I realise the great difficulties there are in solving the situation. The Minister realises those difficulties, too; but why did not the party opposite realise them before they gave these enormous pledges, because, after all, they are sitting on the benches opposite with the power of administration very largely because they did give those pledges, not only to the industry itself, but very largely on account of the far-reaching pledges which they gave to the workers in the industry. I shall refer to those matters in a few moments.
1092 It does appear to me that the agricultural industry has special features which claim the attention of this House from time to time. To start with, the agricultural industry, unlike the manufacturing industries in this country, of necessity fails to have the same amount of elasticity that other industries enjoy. In other words, when prices are high and times are prosperous, owing to the law of diminishing returns the agricultural industry is unable to exploit those good times to the full. On the other hand, when you get to bad times, low prices and depression, the agricultural industry, unlike our manufacturing industries, is not able to close down or to work half-time, except at an absolutely prohibitive cost and loss of capital. For those reasons, it is in a very special position. Secondly, I believe that it is in a special position because it is generally held, I understand, that it is of national importance that there should be some sort of balance between the urban population and the rural population. It is generally considered that that is important for the general physical well-being and prosperity of the country as a whole. For those two reasons, those engaged in the industry have a right to come to this House and demand special attention, and they imagined from the promises they got from the present administration at the last election, that their appeals would not fall on deaf ears. Not only do we find that the industry itself is in a special position, but it is now more or less generally held that in that industry as a whole the wheat crop and the cereal crops generally do of themselves demand special attention. That fact was brought out first of all by the conference called by the present Government. That conference reported on 28th February, 1930, in the following terms:That in view of the present position of arable agriculture, increasing unemployment on the land and land going out of cultivation, steps should be taken to assure to the farmer a remunerative price for cereals.The same conference—a joint conference of the partners in the industry called together by the present Administration—finished up by declaring:'That in order to avert further deterioration, there is urgent need for an immediate pronouncement calculated to restore confidence to the industry in the meantime.1093 Those recommendations were, as I have stated, made on 28th February, 1930. But not only has that particular conference realised that wheat is in a special position, but the Minister himself on more than one occasion has admitted it, and I propose later to give one or two quotations from his speeches. Not only is it admitted by the Government that wheat is in a special position as regards the industry as a whole, but the Minister has also admitted that wheat growing is essential for good husbandry. Speaking at Cambridge not very long ago, the Minister used these words:I recognise that with the drier and lighter soil you have got to have a lot of land ploughed periodically to get the best results, not only then but in the years between the ploughing.Then I understand that the party opposite generally has recognised that for the general good of the country cereal growing is necessary, because they have flooded the countryside during the last few years with pamphlets and literature condemning the farmer in the most violent terms for his failure to cultivate well. This is from one such pamphlet:Thousands of acres are used as sheep runs when they ought to be under the plough. The landlords' neglect and the farmers' bad farming are a gain to the foreigner and a loss to the British farm worker.So we have it recognised, first of all by the conference which the Minister himself set up, and by the Minister himself, that wheat growing is necessary for good cultivation and good husbandry. It is recognised as essential to the country by the whole of the party opposite. Have the Government done anything at all to put wheat growing on a stable basis in spite of all that they have said and the pledges they have given? Only a year ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down to the House and to the very great surprise of most of us held out hopes to the industry, for many of us remembered the remarks he made in this House only a few years previously when he said:Agriculture is not overburdened; as a fact it is a parasite upon the general industry of the country. Agriculture has always been the pampered darling of the Conservative party."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th May, 1926; col. 472. Vol. 196.]However, he softened his heart, and on 1st August of last year he came to the 1094 House and told us that the position in the cereal districts was critical and demanded immediate attention. Since that date, as I have mentioned, the Minister of Agriculture has spoken at Cambridge. That was only a short time ago, on 18th April of this year. He then addressed the farmers at Cambridge and repeated a pledge twice very definitely:We have got to recognise that the cereal problem, small as it is in its money values as compared with the total agricultural products, is a special problem that does require special treatment in the districts particularly acccted. … I recognise that, and we made a pledge to that effect—to do our best to produce plans to put cereal growing into a position of economic security. I regard that pledge as binding.A little later in the same speech the Minister referred to devising schemes which would give "a reasonable measure of security to the proper kind of cereal cultivation." He said:We have been hammering at this, and I do not propose to let it go. So far as I am concerned I want you to understand that I regard the redemption of that pledge in an effective and reasonable fashion as binding upon us.A little later he came to the House and told us in pathetic tones that he had spent many weary weeks trying to thrash out that problem—weary weeks while the industry had been going on for weary months losing money and finding itself deeper and deeper in depression. If the Minister wanted to spend weary weeks he ought to have spent them before he gave those pledges to the country. It is only natural that the electors of the country and the members of any industry when they are given a pledge by a Minister that something will be done should think that the Minister has some sort of idea how his pledge can be carried out. But what happened was that the Minister of Agriculture had been going up and down the country giving pledge after pledge, and he has not the faintest idea how those pledges can be implemented. Nor do I believe that he cares very much. The party opposite for years and years have shown that they care very little about agriculture. They are mainly concerned with the urban population. It was a very sorry day for agriculture when it found itself governed by a Socialist Administration. For a few moments let us turn to the pledges given to the workers in the industry at 1095 the last election. I have here a pamphlet which was distributed in my constituency. It starts off by saying:Farm workers are getting only 30s. a week, which is a starvation wage.Later in the pamphlet there occurs this:The State will insist on a high level of farming and the payment of good wages.A little later there was another pamphlet. Large parts of it were actually reprinted by my Socialist opponents in an appeal to the electors on the evening before the poll. Here is a quotation:Farm Workers! What you need are three things: 1. Good wages; 2. A safe job; 3. A free cottage. The Labour party is the only party that can deliver the goods. … Vote for the Labour party—the farm worker's friend.It is quite clear that, first of all, the Socialist party condemns the present rate of wages, which are lower in some instances now than they were then. But since that time the party has admitted something else. Socialists now admit that, although wages may be bad, it is impassible for the farmer to pay higher wages. The Minister of Agriculture, in this House on 22nd May, said:With regard to wages, I agree that they are the result of the disastrous conditions of agriculture, but I think, after having been in direct touch with both sides, that it is only fair to say that no responsible leaders of the farmers do anything but deplore the wages."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1931; col. 2457, Vol. 252.]Again at Cambridge, in the speech to which I have already referred, when questioned about what he was going to do with wages, the Minister of Agriculture replied:With regard to agricultural wages, the problem must be tackled in the proper order. We must put the industry in a position to pay higher wages.We now have got this far: The party opposite realise that wages are inadequate and they pledge themselves to improve the wages. They have also admitted that that improvement cannot come out of the industry. Surely that is a direct admission that they are responsible for taking some action in order to improve the wages. They have admitted responsibility. They have given a pledge that they would give higher wages. But they sit still and do absolutely nothing, in spite of their having got hundreds of thousands of votes at the last election, 1096 after having given that pledge. That, I submit, is the severest condemnation of the present Administration. It is a mean form of vote catching. It is a form of vote catching which creates the most terrible disappointment in the minds of the people to whom the pledge has been given. Without any doubt they will suffer very severely when they go to the electors once again.
To-day, particularly owing to the present Administration, not only have we got a certain amount of unemployment, but we have got what is very nearly as bad—a dread among the whole of the workers in the industry in East Anglia that unemployment will come upon them. That dread is hanging over them the whole of the time, and everyone must sympathise with them. The dread is very horrible for them to endure. I asked the Minister and the Government really to take some sort of action. They smile benignly and sit on the Front Bench complacently. It is very callous of them if they realise the distress that will come this winter in a large part of East Anglia, especially where cereal growing forms the major part of farming operations. I appeal to the Government to take some action. They have broken their election pledges so far, and that is sufficient condemnation. Through their inaction they have already lost the confidence of the country. I believe they have entirely lost confidence in themselves, and I am certain that if a free vote of the House were taken they would find that they have lost the confidence of the House of Commons.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Mr. T. Johnston)
The two hon. Gentlemen who have brought forward this Motion can certainly not be accused of having painted their picture with too narrow a brush. The Noble Lord roamed over a very wide field, from ticks in Russian butter to the Town Planning Bill and the iniquities of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). There was no field in agriculture or in anything relating to agriculture to which the Noble Lord did not refer. But the main burden of his indictment, as I understood it—I listened to him very carefully—was that cereal farming was in a very bad way, that this Government had been unable so far to make it pay, to put it on an economic basis, and because cereal farming in this 1097 country was in a very difficult position the Government and the Minister for Agriculture were deserving of the censure of the House.
I am certain that no one in any part of the House would seek to minimise in any way the sorry plight in which portions, but not all, of our agricultural industry, are in to-day. No one would seek to defend the miserable wages paid. No one seeks to defend the present plight of the farmer and the man who has sunk his capital and enterprise in tillage. Ever since I have been able to take any interest in public affairs, wheat farming or cereal farming seems to have been in a parlous plight. I never remember hearing that wheat farming in this country was not in a difficult position.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Yes, I think there were periods when wheat prices were as low as they are to-day. It certainly is the case that, in regard to wheat farming, farmers have continuously been in difficulties over the past two or three decades, and no party has ever held the reins of office, which has not been compelled to give pledges of some kind or other to deal with the wheat farming position. Apart from party politics, what are the special circumstances with which we are faced? In the period from 1909 to 1913, taking the average, there were under wheat in Canada 9,500,000 acres; but by 1928 Canada's wheat acreage had jumped to 24,000,000 acres. Australia has doubled her wheat acreage, and what we have been faced with during the past two-and-a-half or three years, has been a wheat glut, with such a surplus of the commodity, that prices all over the world have collapsed. Indeed I saw in the papers the other day that Kansas wheat was down to a shilling a bushel. With the producers of wheat all over the world—in Protectionist America, in Protectionist Canada, in Protectionist Australia, as well as in free import Britain—"down on their uppers," unable to purchase tractors and implements, in many parts of the world unable to purchase clothes or boots, it is idle for hon. Gentlemen opposite to attempt to fasten upon my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture any special censure, or any special responsibility.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I am going to deal with that point. At present I am merely pointing out that wheat farming all over the world, in Protectionist and in Free Trade countries alike, has produced so much wheat that there is a glut and prices have collapsed, so that farms have been mortgaged and farmers are unable to buy goods in the market. Indeed, that is a primary cause of the grave trade depression in the world to-day, and I say that, in face of these admitted facts, it is idle to blame the Minister of Agriculture specially, or to blame the Government specially, for the collapse in prices in this country. The Minister himself, I understand, proposes to deal with this portion of the Government's policy—in wheat and cereals—but might I, in the short time which I intend to occupy, suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite and indeed to my hon. Friends on this side, that if we are faced with the progressively increasing production of a commodity in the world—
§ Viscount WOLMER
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Minister of Agriculture is going to announce the Government's wheat policy this afternoon?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I did not say anything of the sort. What I said was that the Minister was going to deal with the cereal position—[HON. MEMBERS: "And the Government's policy!"] I am sorry if I have been misunderstood—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] My intention was to depart from the question of cereal production and cereal marketing, and the methods by which cereal farming might he made to pay, and I said that I was certain that the Minister of Agriculture would deal with the whole cereal position.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
What I did want to say was this—that there might be additional policies which all parties in this House might consider, as far as the depressed cereal growing areas are concerned. I take it, that if there is a commodity the world production of which is increasing by leaps and bounds and of which there is already a 2½ years supply 1099 in the granaries; if we are faced with an additional producer—Russia, which is coming again on to the world market—then might we not consider whether there is not some method by which we could change over, at least in part, from the production of the commodity of which there is a glut to some other commodity, by which our people would stand a better chance of making an economic livelihood.
Let me take, merely as an illustration, the question of the production of bacon. During the past 10 years we have imported £700,000,000 worth of pig products. Denmark alone supplies us, on an average, with about £49,500,000 worth per annum. Our visible exports to Denmark are £10,500,000, leaving an invisible trade balance against us of somewhere about £39,000,000. Is it not worth while considering whether we could not stimulate the home production of part at least of these pig products? Instead of continually harping upon the necessity of maintaining a 4 per cent. production of wheat in this country, should we not consider whether we could not change over part of that production to such a commodity as bacon?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will allow me to state my case. I am trying to meet the point that the Government are worthy of censure simply because they have been unable, so far, to meet the position in the distressed cereal districts. As I have already said, only 4 per cent. of our agricultural production is wheat and I am suggesting that there may be other methods, rather than the methods always suggested by hon. Gentlemen opposite, by which we can deal with the cereal position in these distressed agricultural districts. I take also the example of poultry. In 1930 we imported, between living birds and dead birds, eggs in shell and liquid eggs, a total of £24,750,000 worth. I for one do not believe—and in this I speak for myself, but I speak with some little knowledge—that we require to import poultry or eggs to this country at all. I believe that we could take steps, not necessarily, 100 per cent. steps each year—probably that would be a foolish way of dealing with the situation—but steps under which we could progressively 1100 raise our own production of poultry and eggs and supply our own people with fresh products, produced in our own country. The hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) has asked how it can be done. I have never believed that there was any single short cut. I believe that there are many methods and that many roads must be trodden, but one or two of these I am going to indicate.
Whatever else may be said of my right hon. Friend the Minister, he has during the past two years pursued, with success as I believe, and, certainly with diligence, the improvement of marketing methods in this country. Other methods are being attempted now. For example, I happen to be chairman of the marketing committee of the Empire Marketing Board and we have set about experiments in mass canvassing. We took 11 towns in Lancashire—Manchester, Stockport, Wigan, Warrington, Chorley, Bolton, Oldham, Bury, Rochdale, Blackburn and Preston—where the Danes have always had a complete monopoly in the butter market. We sent canvassers round the wholesalers there, and round the retail shops as well, with this remarkable result—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman who was formerly Secretary of State for the Dominions will confirm what I say—that the unanimous opinion of the Empire Marketing Board, on which all parties are represented, is that the experiment has justified itself a hundred-fold, and has justified in every way the opinion expressed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, that if we set about organising our home markets in the right way, we can do a very big service indeed to our home producers.
Here are the results. The number of retailers handling home and Empire butter in these 11 towns has jumped from 43 per cent. to 73 per cent. on a re-canvass. The Wholesale Co-operative Society's return shows that they are now selling 500 per cent. more home and Empire butter in those 11 towns than they were doing before our canvass started.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think that is a very important question. Could the right hon. Gentleman assure us that there has been a substantial increase in the home product? I can well understand that he has not been able to give the actual figures, but has there been a substantial increase in the home product?
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at first Australian butter was advertised in Lancashire and was sold; that thereupon the Irish Free State intervened; that more money was spent by the Marketing Board, and that Australian butter was not sold any longer, but Irish butter; and that, thereupon, I understand the Ministry of Agriculture and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister himself intervened and more money was spent in order that English butter should be sold there, and that no Irish butter was then sold but only English butter.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. The Irish Free State butter, which comes into the market at a later period of the year, has now been added to the list of butters which our canvassers are pushing in East Yorkshire and in some of the towns in Lancashire. But the point that I am seeking to make is this, that if we organised our markets properly, if we set about skilled salesmanship as we could very well do, and will do, under the Marketing Bill—[Laughter]. I am sorry that some hon. Members opposite regard that statement as one justifying levity. If we set about organising our market properly, we believe we can do a very great deal indeed to ensure that our home producer secures a better home market. We propose to proceed further. We propose to attempt the better marketing of British canned fruit and British vegetables. We propose to take two selected areas in this country and see whether or not we can supplant, perhaps, Californian canned fruit with 1102 British raspberries, British loganberries, British plums, and other British fruits. My right hon. Friend has developed and extended the National Mark in every possible way, so that it now covers apples, pears, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, eggs, home-killed meat, cherries, canned fruits and vegetables, and so on. My right hon. Friend is considering the application of the National Mark to plums, bottled fruits, vegetables, mutton, lamb, cheese, and honey.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to meat; has he approached the Secretary of State for War to get him to take National Mark meat for the Army?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I will leave my right hon. Friend to answer that question. I find it difficult to give a connected answer if there are continuous interruptions which can only be described as irrelevancies. I am making the point that the Minister has pushed, is pushing, and intends to push the development of the National Mark system, and I am arguing that if we market our home products a little more effectively, if we apply our skill and our brains at mass efforts on the British market in the supply of guaranteed, standardised, and graded goods, we shall probably do more to benefit the British agriculturist than by any of the other old-established political nostrums which have held the field for so many years.
The other day I had a talk with a section of the British canning industry. I was seeking to induce them to give a better price to the producer of raspberries, as a preliminary to our organising the sale of these canned raspberries on the British market, and they agreed at this point to raise the price 25 per cent. to the home producer. I do not think that it is enough—I think they will still go higher—but they agreed on the spot to raise the price 25 per cent., in view of the fact that we propose to assist in putting these raspberries permanently on the British market. I do not know any method so simple and so easy by which we could raise prices to the British producer than through organised marketing and the development of the National Mark scheme.
I only want to say this in conclusion. The Government have been in existence 1103 some two years. They have not, in a world of collapsing price, been able to make cereal farming pay, but there are other forms of agriculture which do pay and are paying well. The Government by assisting the production of high-class meat, have got a better price for it in the London market. The Government have at any rate done something in land drainage. [Laughter.] Well, they have given three times the money that our predecessors gave. The Government have shown themselves interested in the subject by securing the passage through this House of two reclamation Measures, large-scale, land drainage Measures. The Government have inaugurated great milk experiments, including one experiment in Lancashire, costing £10,000, to see what effect the regular supply of tuberculin-tested milk would have upon school children in necessitous areas. The results in physique, in health, have been marvellous, and the dairy industry, and the milk industry in Scotland at all events, are highly gratified and thankful for what the Government have done in that connection.
The Government have spent more upon, and given more encouragement to, research than our predecessors. The Government only last week fought through this House a Measure designed to provide 40,000 rural workers' cottages. The Government are pushing through a Bill to improve the production and the quality of our meat by the abrogation of the scrub bull. The Government are spending money on research in fisheries. The Government have had one of their important Measures of the Session, a Bill designed to improve the marketing in this country—[Interruption]. There have have been a dozen Measures in two years, not throwing money out of the British Treasury into the pockets of landlords, but through 20 or 30 different avenues attacking the problem of inefficiency, and poverty, and inability in our agricultural areas, endeavouring to secure—[Interruption]—I do not know what that interruption means. If we find money for research, if we find money for better land drainage, if we find money for more efficient marketing, if we set about giving examples of how collective marketing will pay the producer, then I am certain of this, that it will be appreciated by in- 1104 telligent sections of the farming community—and there are such, and those sections pass resolutions thanking us for what we have done. There are farming newspapers which are kind enough to say that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has done more for British agriculture in his term of office than any other Minister that they remember; and there are hon. Members opposite who, in their calmer moments, actually have congratulated the Government on what they have done for agriculture. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) said:I must pay the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture the compliment that he has stirred things up a bit since he came into office.Stirred them up from the quiescence in which they were before his time. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who is the whip of the Agricultural Committee of the Conservative party, I understand, said:The agricultural community, although possibly not in the way I should desire, owe him"—that is, the Minister—a debt of gratitude for the way in which he is working on our industry.
§ Captain DUGDALE
I would not take back one word as regards the Minister of Agriculture. The only thing I would say is that I am sorry he is in such a moderate team.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I am sure that when the right hon. Gentleman goes into the Division Lobby to-night he will welcome the presence and the assistance of the hon. and gallant Member and those who think with him. In any event, I do think that, reasonably and honestly, the Government can find their justification in what they have done towards better marketing—those efforts are only in their infancy. Whatever steps are ultimately taken to create an economic livelihood for the agricultural workers and the farmers in the depressed cereal districts, I trust they will not be taken on any narrow party lines, but as part of a national policy, for while Governments come and Governments go, the effort to plant upon the soil of our country a peasantry able to maintain itself should be the object of all parties in this House; and certainly, 1105 as the Government have already given evidence in their marketing legislation, that is the aim and object of the present Administration.
§ Mr. GRAY
In this Debase we on these benches are somewhat in the position of a referee. This is a Motion of Censure from a party who occupied the Government benches for nearly five years upon the present Government for failure to deal with this tremendous problem of agriculture. Therefore, before we come to any decision we want to bear in mind what is the Conservative party's alternative and what is their record in agriculture, because, to use the analogy of the football field, it seems to me they are somewhat offside in their endeavour to kick a goal at this moment. They claim to have helped agriculture under the Derating Bill, but that is not a claim that I should admit, because when the full reaction of that Measure is taken into account, and we compare the advantages the manufacturing industries gained as against those that went to agriculture, I am not at all sure that the agricultural industry is not at a disadvantage. One thing is perfectly clear, and that is that the returns which under that Measure went to agriculture tended to go almost immediately into the pockets of the landlords. An hon. Member behind me laughs, and no one objects to any amusement he can find, but if he likes to get into touch with people who have let land they can readily inform him, as they have informed mo, that they have had added offers of rent for farms—not, I admit, in the cereal districts of East Anglia, but in other parts of the country—for the sample reason that we have reduced one of the standard charges on the farm.
§ Mr. GRAY
In the west, I cannot give private information across the Floor of the House, but I got the information direct from a Member of this House, and I will put my hon. and gallant Friend in touch with him. Another Measure which had a very big and serious reaction on agriculture, particularly in the cereal districts, was the Tithe Act, passed in the last Parliament. That Act fixed the tithe rentcharge, which is based—or should be based—upon the price of wheat, at a price far above what would be fair 1106 to-day. That was a further gift of the Conservative party to the agricultural interests. But the most startling thing is this, that in their main policy, in their great fundamental policy of Safeguarding, they deliberately excluded the agriculturaly industry, deliberately shut it out during the period when they occupied the Treasury Bench from any share in the policy which is the great plank in their platform.
The Conservative party have little real claim to stand out as the protectors of the agricultural industry. I should feel inclined to say that in the main they have been prepared to sacrifice agriculture to the other industries and have endeavoured rather to assure the security of the landed interests as opposed to the actual farming and agricultural interests. One of the great difficulties with which many farmers are now faced arises from the fact that they had to sink their capital in buying their farms at a time when the price of land was abnormally high in order to get security of tenure, and are to-day faced not only with a falling price for the commodities they produce but a considerable reduction in the value of the land which they bought seven, eight or nine years ago.
I have heard no constructive suggestions from the Conservative party during this Debate on how to deal with this immense problem. Broadly, there are three ways only of dealing with it. We can bring an added return to the agricultural interests by the imposition of duties on imported goods. If we wish to change the fiscal system of this country and go in for Protection, I have no hesitation in saying that the industry which has the first claim is that of agriculture. No industry in this country has to meet such a large measure of foreign competition, and there is no industry which, from the point of view of getting practical results from a tariff, should give such a swift return. I think that must be admitted by all sides. But the trouble of the Conservative party is that the moment they endeavour to employ that method they at once place a grievous and heavy burden upon the great centres of population which, by the higher prices they would pay, would have to provide for this extra return which is to go to agriculture. That is the reason why the Conservative party have always hesi- 1107 tated before an election to state clearly to what extent they are prepared to benefit agriculture by any of their tariff proposals. The right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin), speaking at Hull, said emphatically that he was not going to make this country a profiteer's paradise or the Legislature a crook's corner; that he would find means of adjusting his tariff to prevent that. One thing is certain. He will hesitate, and I think he is wise in hesitating, before he goes to the country with a general proposal to raise agriculture to a position of profit by the imposition of a broad range of tariff duties.
The second alternative which they are inclined to use, and which, in fact, they did use, is the subsidy. They can claim to have spent something like £30,000,000 on the subsidy to beet sugar. I am sure that if any Government had gone to the farming interest, and said, "We have £30,000,000 which we are prepared to spend on your industry" the farmer would not have asked for it to be spent on the beet-sugar subsidy. The great bulk of that subsidy did not go to the agricultural interests at all, but went into the pockets of the owners of the sugar factories, mostly men with somewhat un-English sounding names. To-day we find ourselves faced with this problem; as we cut the subsidy down the return to the grower is becoming unprofitable, and it is still doubtful whether we have not to choose between spending money continuously on a subsidy, or after the expenditure of this large sum of money, allowing the industry to go back to the influences of the ordinary economic laws, and possibly seeing it disappear. If we are not prepared to carry on a policy of subsidies—and I do not think the House is—and if we are not prepared to carry out a great programme of Protection for this industry—and I am sure the House is not prepared to do that either, and I doubt whether any party would care to commit themselves to any such policy—then we are faced with the alternative that either the industry must be prepared to work out its own salvation or must be prepared to submit to a very much larger measure of control than either the individual farmer wants or hon. Members on this side would wish to impose.
1108 I can quite understand that the party opposite welcome the complaints which come from this side, because their response might be, "Well, there you are, your capitalist system cannot make agriculture pay, and the only thing we can do is to take it over and make a national industry of it." I do not accept that conclusion. I do not think that agriculture does not pay. We must have some sense of proportion in this matter. I am not at all sure, if you take the drop in prices in the cotton industry from their height in the years 1919–20 to to-day's prices, that you will find that the drop is very much larger than the general drop in agricultural prices. The real truth is that it is not agriculture only that is passing through a time of stress; every industry is. A few industries of a peculiar kind, perhaps, are making headway, but the great basic industries are in the same difficulties as agriculture, and we have to face the fact that all we can hope to do at the present time is so to organise legislation that we do not impose unnecessary burdens upon this or any other industry, and that as far as possible we shall relieve it of burdens that it ought not to have to bear.
A good many of us in this House feel that agriculture is not handicapped so much by the added ability of foreign producers of agricultural products; in this country we have some of the most capable and effective agriculturists that are to be found in the world. It is not handicapped because these people across the seas have a better market than we have, for we have here one of the greatest markets for agricultural produce in the world. We are faced with the fact that we have in this country an old, ingrained feudal system under which access to the land is difficult. The Noble Lord who opened the Debate, in a speech on which the whole House will congratulate him both for its breadth and ability, and for the model way in which it was put, said that agriculture would have an added burden in the Land Tax. Surely, however, everyone realises that the great land values are not in agricultural land, but in the great centres of population, and that the great value in those centres is not flowing into the pockets of the agriculturists but into the pockets of the landlords. If you take a portion of 1109 that great value and put it into the public Treasury, you are relieving other taxpayers in the community from finding that particular proportion, and the test of taxation for the agriculturist must always be this, if he can measure it—does it on the whole bring in a larger percentage of revenue from other sources than that from the actual operation of agriculture?
My own view about this problem is that we shall find our way through, as we have found it in other problems. I do not think that it will be wise to turn our attention to any Measure tha will increase more than is absolutely necessary by a single bushel the production of wheat to-day. That is in the main a totally unsound policy. The business of our agriculturists to-day is to produce as little wheat as they can, and to turn their attention as far as they can to other sources of production. It is always difficult for those of us who are engaged in industry and not in agriculture, as it is difficult for those engaged in agriculture and not in industry, to appreciate our relative difficulties. The other man's business always seems perfectly easy, and he always makes his profits without effort. Just as every heart knows its own bitterness, every trade knows its own troubles. I do think, however, that in the agricultural industry we have to try to avoid increasing the production of wheat at this moment. There is a peculiar problem, particularly in East Anglia, where we have an area of land which is peculiarly suitable for the production of wheat, and rather difficult to turn to the production effectively of other agricultural products. If that be so, it is a question, which the House might consider, as to what extent we are prepared to call upon the public Treasury, if the need is clearly shown, and if the result is worth while; but it is not within the province of the party above the Gangway to censure the Government because they have not adopted any policy of that sort. There is not at the moment a majority in this House for such a policy. There are too many of us who are not convinced, first, that there is real necessity, and next, that the method is the right one, and is worth while.
I suggest to the House and to the country that in dealing with the problem of agriculture, it is necessary that we should endeavour to give it all possible 1110 help to reorganise itself. It is part of the peculiar genius of our people that we like to go our own way, and most of us realise that farmers in particular do not want to be coerced. That has been the suspicion under which we have worked in the Standing Committee which has been dealing with the Agricultural Marketing Bill; the feeling in the industry is that they do not want to be forced to market their produce in any particular way. In this House we might possibly have had, particularly in the early days of this Parliament, a closer cohesion of the three parties to try and find a national policy on which we could act without violation of any of our party principles. That is much easier to say than to realise in practice. We have to realise that this industry cannot expect to have an unlimited draft upon the Treasury, and it cannot expect to have itself protected by larger tariffs. With such assistance as the Legislature can give, it must find its own way out of the problems which it has to face. In the end, the only solution in any industry is an economic solution by which the industry is made efficient and effective, and able to realise out of the sale of its products what is necessary for the remuneration of its workers, the overhead charges of its industry, and some profit to its proprietors.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I desire to try to do two things—to bring before the House some very important facts which should be before it when considering the position of British agriculture; and to put before the House in particular the disabilities of Scottish agriculture. So far, we have heard only of the special difficulties of English agriculture. I often have the pleasure of listening to speeches of the Lord Privy Seal, for he never fails to be effective and vigorous; but if he will forgive me, I do not think that I ever heard him so ignore an important issue as he did in the speech which he delivered a few moments ago. The same consideration applies to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Gray). The Lord Privy Seal spoke about the difficulties of the wheat producers all over the world, and how it was impossible for him to supply himself with tractors necessary for producing on a large and efficient scale. He spoke of the increase in Canada's area under wheat since the 1111 pre-War period, and of the increase in Australia's wheat area, but he absolutely ignored the increase in the area of wheat and other cereals that has taken place in Russia in the last year or two. I listened very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman, and although there was one reference to Russia, I did not hear any reference to the fact that Russia has made tremendous efforts, which have met with great success, to increase the area under cereals.
Last year she actually brought the area under grain of all kinds above the figure for 1913. In this year, according to the Soviet Press, she has further surpassed the 1913 sowing. The total area of wheat sown this year in Russia is said to be 6.6 per cent. more than the area sown last year. The Communist party at a recent meeting announced that next winter's wheat sowing was to rise from 12,600,000 hectares to 15,000,000 hectares. If that is carried out, it will mean an increase of 5,600,000 acres more under wheat from next winter's sowing alone, exclusive of the increase that has taken place in this spring's sowing. It is also evident that the most strenuous efforts are to be made to ensure that a bumper harvest follows upon the strenuous effort that has been made to increase the area sown this spring. It has been decreed that harvesting is to be continued at night as well as by day, so that it is evident that no effort is to be spared to secure that this harvest yields even more than last year's harvest.
Such a tremendous increase in the area sown in Russia must surely be borne in mind when we are considering the question of production in the world at large. It may be said, as it is said by the friends of Soviet Russia, that it is not much more than what was under cereals in 1913, but we have to remember that other countries, such as those mentioned by the Lord Privy Seal, undertook to increase their area largely because Russia went out of grain exporting. As we know, for several years the exports of grain from Russia were negligible, and it was on account of that, during a period when the world had not the former supplies from Russia, that other countries increased their areas under wheat. Therefore, my second criticism of the speech of the Lord Privy Seal is that he left 1112 us with the impression that if any countries were to blame for having increased their production of wheat, they were Canada and Australia. He left that impression because he said nothing of the increase of the Russia area under grain. The position in all three countries should be considered at the same time; otherwise, the House is seeing only one corner of the question, and is leaving some big facts completely out of consideration.
The House, I suppose, realises what a large proportion of Russian wheat has come to this country. Figures supplied to me the other day by the President of the Board of Trade, which have not appeared in the OFFICIAL REPORT, show that last year, after having imported no Russian wheat in 1920, we imported over 18,000,000 cwt., which was one-fifth more than the average of our imports of wheat from Russia in the last years before the War. Our Russian imports of wheat, therefore, rose from nothing straight off to something bigger than we had in the pre-War period. That surely was a devastating matter for the British farmer, particularly in view of the prices at which these imports were disposed of in this country. The average price for Russian wheat imported last year worked out at only 6s. 1d. per cwt. And in the first three months of this year wheat was coming in at an even greater rate than last year; it will amount to something like 24,000,000 cwts. if it continues to come in for the whole year at the same rate, and the price is even lower—an average of about 5s. 1d. per cwt.
Those difficulties are serious enough. Everybody knows what a tremendous drop in price the Russian imports have caused in regard to British wheat and wheat imported from our Dominions. But in the near future we may have a very much larger importation of Russian wheat, because we know that the area under grain in Russia last year was more than in 1913. But exports of wheat, at least last year, were considerably less than before the War. We also know that the population of Russia in 1930 was less than in 1913 owing to the States which have separated from the Soviet Union. Further, we have good reason to know that the Russian people are being very poorly supplied with wheat. A reply given by the Parliamentary Secretary to 1113 the Department of Overseas Trade in January showing the tremendous price charged for wheat flour on the internal market last December is a sure sign of the scarcity there. Putting these facts together, it seems certain that a considerable portion of the cereal harvest of last year has not yet been exported, and may be dumped on this country at any moment most favourable to the Soviet Government.
We have to remember that the rouble has no value abroad, and that the Soviet Government have to export at any price they can obtain in order to secure foreign currency with which to purchase the machinery to enable them to prosecute the five-year plan. Therefore, while British and Dominion wheat farming have suffered greatly from the dumping of Russian wheat and other cereals, there is reason to fear that an even larger quantity of Russian wheat may be put on the markets of the world in the near future than we have known in the past. Unfortunately, we are likely to continue to have in this country our full share of Russian wheat imports. I understand that there is a special Anglo-Soviet agency in this country for the import of Russian grain, an agency on which the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise) represents the Soviet organisation known as Centrosoyus. That agency seems to have been extremely successful in subjecting the British wheat farmer to ruinous competition and at the same time in depriving the Russian people, in large measure, of the wheat which it is their right to eat because they produce it.
I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that one way in which the Government could meet the situation would be to put these facts before the members of the cooperative societies of this country in order to show them how these imports are affecting British farming and are still further increasing the sufferings of the Russian people. I think an appeal ought to be made to the co-operative societies to discontinue this kind of trading. I could produce figures to show that there has not been anything like the increase of importations of wheat from any other country as there has been from Soviet Russia. Our importations of Canadian wheat are very much down and we know that some Canadian and Australian farmers have been actually burning their 1114 wheat because they cannot find a market for it.
I come to my third point. The British wheat farmers have been seriously hit by Russian imports, and they are likely to suffer more severely in the future, but Scottish farmers have been hit even more severely. According to a well-informed writer in the "Statist" newspaper, while last year we imported 33 per cent. of Russia's wheat exports, we imported 35 per cent. of her oats and no less than 75 per cent. of her barley. Oats were imported from Russia at between 4s. and 5s. per cwt. and barley at very much the same price. In the case of these imports, the sudden increase was almost as striking as in the case of wheat. If we take oats, in 1929 we imported 23,000 cwts., and in 1930, 2,757,000 cwts. In the case of barley, the import rose from nothing in either 1928 or 1929 to nearly 6,000,000 cwts. in 1930. Those figures speak for themselves, and it is all important that they should be present in the minds of hon. Members, and still more in the minds of Members of the Government when dealing with this question. How futile to suggest that the British farmer should give up growing wheat because Russia is increasing her area under wheat and her imports are increasing. If wheat must be given up by the English farmer the next thing will be that the Scottish farmer will be told, "You must give up growing oats and barley."
Russia is not limiting her efforts to wheat, as these figures show very clearly, nor is she limiting her production to cereals. We know that she is sending us butter which is terribly needed by her own people, who in many cases cannot get butter at all. The answer which was given on 26th January by the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department again gives an idea of the scarcity. It may be said that the imports of Russian butter are not as great as they were, but I am afraid that we shall have to meet much larger importations of butter in the future when Russia has built up her herds once more. The same argument holds good in regard to pigs. The number of these has been depleted, but bacon is still coming here, and no doubt will be imported in greater quantities in the future. What guarantee have we that we shall not have an increase in this also? 1115 The right hon. Gentleman has talked of poultry farming—but even at a time when Russian poultry are scarce, they are being exported to this country. Moreover, I do not know what the average Scottish farmer would say if you asked him to give up producing oats and barley and to try to make his living entirely out of pigs and poultry. But even if the farmers increased pigs and poultry, we have no guarantee that in the course of a year or two they would not be driven out of those forms of production, just in the same way as the Minister of Agriculture, we understand, suggests to drive out the wheat farmer.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the National Mark, and what it has been able to do. Those sitting on this side of the House were responsible for introducing that system. We are extremely glad to know that the Government are pressing forward that policy, and we welcome every indication of its success. But although it may have considerable success, we cannot be sure that it is going to do everything we want. If I am asked for any argument to back up that assertion I would mention the fact that the Minister of Agriculture has felt obliged to introduce a Marketing Bill giving powers to compel all producers to come into this scheme. I will not go into the question of how compulsion may be exercised, but the root principle of the Agricultural Marketing Bill is the power which it gives to compel a minority to come in and act with the majority. What is that but saying that you cannot do everything by voluntary means. I think that is the answer to the right hon. Gentleman when he tries to make the House believe that by a policy of national marking he can adequately protect British agriculture in its various forms from this ever-increasing competition with foreign imports.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested a national mark for British raspberries. Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten how raspberry farms were thrown out of production last year by imported Russian raspberries? I know of farms only a few miles from where I live where the raspberries were left rotting on the canes, and the workers there worked only three weeks in the season instead of six weeks, because of the importation of Russian raspberries at a ruinous price. 1116 That is what brought the price of raspberries down. Even if they were not imported in great quantities Russian raspberries were sold at a price far below that at which people in this country could offer them. I can assure the Lord Privy Seal that in a constituency next door to his own there were many raspberry producers thrown out of business altogether last summer on account of the importation of Russian raspberries at several pounds per ton less than they could offer.
We all know that if even a small quantity of goods comes in at a cutthroat price, other people have to bring down their price. That is what has been happening with everything that Russia has exported. Prices are like a chain, the strength of which has to be judged by its weakest link, and that is what has been happening all over the world with Russian exports. Everything has had to come down to their price. Until the Government face this question properly they are only playing with a very fundamental issue which is vitally affecting the welfare of this country. It is no good ignoring these facts. They have to be brought into the open and faced, and if the main policy which the Government have to offer is simply to suggest to the growers of a crop which is our main article of food, and of which we only grow about 15 per cent. of our requirements, that they had better give it up, then the policy of the Government is one of despair, and the country I am certain will, at the earliest opportunity endorse the Vote of Censure which we are moving to-night.
§ Mr. DALLAS
The speech to which we have just listened was a speech of the kind that makes the members of the Conservative party, both in and out of Parliament, the laughing-stock of the whole country. I wondered whether, if the Noble Lady had been speaking last year or the year before, not about Russia but about the Argentine, everything in her speech would not have applied exactly to the Argentine, rather than to Russia. The Mover and Seconder of this Motion drew attention to what they considered to be the present Government's violation of pledges with regard to agriculture, but the last thing that any Member of the Conservative party should talk about is the violation of pledges 1117 given to the country in regard to agriculture. The pledges given by the Conservative party in 1924 were clear, definite and precise, and they were never kept. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin), in appealing to his constituents in his election address, which was broadcast throughout the country, said:I regard it as vital that the great basic industry of agriculture should be not merely preserved but restored to a more prosperous condition as an essential balancing element in the economic and social life of the country. For a permanent solution of the agricultural problem a common agreement between all parties is desirable.They set out, first of all, not only to preserve agriculture, but to restore agriculture. How did they succeed in this very noble ambition? Let me take one or two tests. In 1924, the number of people employed in agriculture, when they came into office after the Labour Government, was 806,463. When they left office in 1929, the number of people employed in the industry had dropped to 770,252, so that they not only failed to restore the industry, but they did not even preserve the number of people employed in it.
Again, when they came into office, the arable acreage in this country was 10,928,673 acres. When they left office in 1929, the arable acreage had dropped to 9,947,758 acres, so that here again they completely failed to keep their pledge, and, under the Tory regime, 1,000,000 acres of arable land went right out of cultivation. Let me take a very vital test so far as the farmer is concerned. The index of agricultural prices in October, 1924, was 66, while, when they went out of office, it had dropped to 44, so that the farmer found that he was getting a considerably lower price for his agricultural products after four and a-half years of Conservative Government. Therefore, no matter from what angle one looks at it, the Tory party completely failed either to preserve or to restore the vital industry of agriculture. Everyone recognises that, at any rate in present circumstances, it is very difficult to get a policy to go through a House where the Government is in a minority.
§ Mr. DALLAS
I am going to describe how much the Conservative Government produced. I will read it to the House, and will let Members on this side and on the opposite side be the judges as to which Government has produced the best policy. The point that I was going to make was that the Conservative party failed to restore or preserve the industry, but the present Prime Minister, right at the beginning of this Parliament, set out to see if he could establish a Council of State. To return to the election address of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley, he said:For a permanent solution of the agricultural problem a common agreement between all parties is desirable,and, in a speech delivered at Taunton on 17th October, 1924, he said:Everybody in this room would be agreed, as after many years the other two political parties have come to he agreed in their manifestoes, that agriculture is in some ways possibly the greatest of the industries of this country, and we should all be agreed that, unless something can be done, arable farming throughout Great Britain will become less.That was a prophesy. It became 1,000,000 acres less in the 4½ years of his administration. He went on to say:The agricultural industry wanted fixity. They did not want interference, and they did not want legislative chopping and changing. They wanted to know where they were and to get about their business. He could not say that he was sanguine of any conference between the parties, as party feeling ran high, but, if that failed, he should then prepare to confer with the whole agricultural industry—owners of land, occupiers and labourers—and discuss these things from a business point of view.There, again, a definite pledge was given to the agriculturists of the country. The right hon. Gentleman admitted in his election address that it was highly desirable that a common agreement should be arrived at between all parties. He said in his speech at Taunton that he would set out to get a conference of all parties, but, in the 4½ years during which the Conservative party were in office, the Government never once attempted to get a conference of the political parties, [interruption.] I do not want to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman. He tried to get a conference of the various sections of the industry. He made a very good attempt, and I regret that he did not succeed. I myself at that time did everything I possibly 1119 could to get this conference of the people in the industry, but I was in a minority. At any rate, the pledge to get the political parties together was never implemented in the slightest degree. It is true that the Conservative Government did try something. They came into office in 1924, and in 1926 they produced a policy. A more anaemic policy has never been produced to this House in the history of British agriculture. This was the Conservative Government's agricultural policy of 1926:The Government have considered various proposals which have been submitted to them involving subsidies, either direct or indirect, to encourage corn growing or the increase of the arable area, but they have come to the definite conclusion that they cannot support or advocate any of them.As regards all the proposals for subsidies, direct or indirect, that had been brought forward, the Conservative Government came to the conclusion that they could not accept any one of them. They went on to say:A subsidy may sometimes be justified as a purely temporary expedient, or if it is required to support a new industry like beet sugar, but any general scheme of subsidies for agriculture is open to the gravest objection.That did not come from the Socialist party, or from a Socialist Minister of Agriculture; it came as the official policy of the Conservative Government of 1924–29, in the year 1926. They continued:Even a subsidy of £2 an acre on arable land would amount to over £20,000,000 a year, would not necessarily result in any considerable increase and, in the present financial situation of the country, it is impossible to contemplate a large additional charge on public funds without any guarantee of a corresponding national benefit.If that was true in 1926, then, in view of the condition of the national finances in 1931, there can be no possible case for proceeding on those lines. I have seldom seen a stronger case against subsidies for agriculture put forward by any body or any party than the case against subsidies put forward by the Conservative Government in 1926. They said also:Moreover, in view of the extreme variations all over the country in the quality or productive capacity of the land, it is impossible to devise any scheme of subsidies which will not result in the payment of a 1120 bonus to farmers who do not need it and for which no return will be received by the nation.That, I think, is perfectly conclusive. Can we imagine, after the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of this Motion and of their supporters, and from all the things that have been said about this Government, that less than five years ago that was the policy promulgated by the same hon. and right hon. Gentlemen when they were sitting on this side of the House?
I say quite frankly that no industry in the history of this country has ever been so basely betrayed as the agricultural industry was by the Conservative Government of 1924–29. [Interruption.] The financial situation of the country was totally different then, and the Government was not a minority Government. They had an overwhelming majority of 200 in this House, and they had a permanent majority in another place. They could have done anything that they liked. There is no legislation of any kind to help agriculture that could not have been put through this House if the Conservative party had desired to put it through, but they had not the slightest desire to do so. There was no economic blizzard then, there was no world economic crisis, there was none of the present catastrophic falling of agricultural prices; but the Conservative Government slept during those five years, and allowed that glorious opportunity to go by, and now they blame the Labour Government for having failed to do what they themselves failed to do in their time.
I can remember every Minister of Agriculture and every President of the Board of Agriculture right from before the War, and I challenge contradiction when I state that we have never had in our lifetime a Minister of Agriculture who has worked so hard for the industry as the right hon. Gentleman who is now on the Front Bench. We know that perfectly well, and his friends on the other side know it. He has left no stone unturned to do everything possible to help the industry through its difficulties, and the Bills that have been brought forward are proof of the fact that every effort has been made.
Let me turn to another aspect, which will be, I hope, a little less controversial 1121 than what I have been saying. I think that this tit-for-tat kind of play between one side and another is futile, and does not help the industry very much, but if our friends start off, they cannot expect us to turn the other cheek as if we had not a case to put against them. I want to turn to the case of the cereal-growing areas, because, no matter what our politics may be, we are almost wholly agreed that it is in the cereal-growing areas that the crisis is the greatest, and that crisis is likely to continue, and even to be accentuated, in the next six or 12 months. Therefore, there is something in the question of dealing with the cereal problem now, and I hope something will be done now. It may be that what the Lord Privy Seal has said is sound—I will not enter into the region of controversy—that it would be wise to turn to pig-growing or something else, but you cannot do that in a day, and do not be too sure that, if you do that, you are going to solve the problem. If anyone took a graph for the last 40 years it would be found that with an increase in the population of pigs you have a decrease in the price, and that with a decrease in population you have an increase in price. Therefore, if we were to sweep round and rapidly increase the pig population, probably the farmer would be in greater distress than he is at present.
I am not saying that in controversy with what the Lord Privy Seal has said, but you cannot sweep round. Supposing we say to the people in the arable areas, "You must change your type of cultivation. In face of world competition, in face of the prairie lands not only of Russia but of Canada, United States and the Argentine it is really uneconomic, and you will never be able to compete on a sound, economic basis and you must change over." To what is he going to change over? It is no use changing over to potatoes. We have reached the point of saturation so far as potato production is concerned. Suppose you say, "Change over to cow-keeping and milk." That would be suicidal. In fact, part of the difficulty which is looming up now in the grassland areas, and which may overwhelm us in six months, is the fact that so many people have changed over to the production of milk. Suppose we tell the farmer to go in for live stock production. People who talk like that do not realise 1122 the effect of the decline in arable production on the live stock industry. If you have low prices, and land going out of cultivation, it is bound to have a reaction on the producers and breeders of live stock in the grassland areas. The farmer knows his business. Do not let us pretend that he does not. There are poor farmers and there are poor Members of Parliament. There is not an industry in which you cannot produce inefficient people. But the British farmer stands without a peer in any part of the habitable world. He has nothing whatever to learn from other farmers, and he can do his job as well as anyone else. Supposing he saw a possibility of profit, has he the capital to change over? If you say, "Go in for live stock," has he the farm buildings, has he the cowsheds, has he the necessary equipment? It cannot be done. We have to face up to the situation with something that is tangible and practical, and something that will meet the situation now. I hope I cannot be called a political Rip van Winkle. If I have certain economic theories and they do not fit in, they will have to be changed and moulded to suit the times. If we have to give some artificial aid to industry, I do not think that will be any violation of any principles that are represented on this side.
I regret that nothing has been suggested from the other side that could be done. The question of import boards has been thoroughly examined, I understand, from top to bottom by the most expert people who can possibly be found in the country or in the Dominions, and, for a variety of reasons, I understand that it is not a practical proposition now. The compulsory incorporation of a quota of British wheat in British flour has been suggested. I am not tied to a quota of any kind but, if there is no other remedy coming forward, I am going to take that remedy. If hon. Members below the Gangway opposite do not agree with that, I say, "Face up to the position and tell us what you are going to do." Last year I travelled thousands of miles in the United States and hundreds of miles in the Eastern States. I saw the sub-marginal lands where in the last 10 years 30,000,000 acres have gone out of cultivation. I saw the hills and vales which had once had a teeming population, where all kinds of wealth had been pro- 1123 duced, but the people had gone. I saw nothing but ruin and desolation. There was not a single inhabitant. Are we to face that in the Eastern counties? Is that going to be our fate? This is becoming an increasingly serious situation which one of these days will break and it has to be grappled with, either by this Government or by some Coalition of all the Members of the House now. We cannot afford to let the Eastern counties starve. It is up to all of us to put our brains together and get some temporary help until we are able to think out a sound economic policy which will put the Eastern counties and the industry of agriculture on a sound, prosperous basis.
§ Mr. CHRISTIE
I cannot imagine the case of the Eastern counties being better put than the hon. Member has put it. The county in which I live is a sort of headquarters of cereal-growing in this country. The farmers there are having the most doleful time that can be imagined. They are doing their utmost. They have maintained the wage at 30s., which is really more than the industry can afford, and that can easily be proved by the appearance of the cornfields. Anyone who goes into East Anglia now will see more docks and thistles than at any time within the knowledge of living people. The farmers have consented also to a £11 harvest wage, with the inevitable result that the number of men employed will not really be adequate, and the harvest will be protracted. It is not only the farmers and labourers who are having a bad time. It is reflected generally in the whole county. You will see in Norfolk a real decay of country life. The landowners are impoverished. They are trying to sell their places. Big houses are being pulled down and the staffs are being dismissed. Other houses are standing empty, with a consequent serious loss to the rates. Our position is the most unenviable one of having the highest rate of any rural area. Last year we were paying 14s. in the £. This year we have come up to 15s. 1d. The rate for the second half of this year is no less than 98d. in the £. That sort of thing, naturally, makes things worse all round, because the untortunate people who are living on pensions or on their 1124 savings simply have to economise and to turn off the people they employ.
Thus we are now faced with a really serious unemployment problem in Norfolk which we never had before. Since the beginning of last April, we have spent nearly £30,000 out of the rates, generally speaking in relieving unemployed workmen. The prospect for the coming winter is appalling. I cannot imagine what is going to happen. We have not the large areas of sugar beet on which to employ our men that we have had in the past. It is no good my going back to Norfolk and telling the farmers that the Lord Privy Seal says they have been very successful in selling butter in certain towns in Lancashire through the efforts of the Empire Marketing Board, or that they have had a very successful experiment in feeding children on milk and that sort of thing. What the farmers want is some advice as to how they are to pay their way after the next harvest. That is the only thing which interests them in the slightest degree. The prospect at present is really too appalling to think of. I cannot imagine what is going to happen to the county. It is obvious that we cannot go on at the present rate, and we shall eventually get to the position that the ratepayers will have to refuse to pay their rates. They have not the money. As a county, we shall have to go completely bankrupt. That is a position which no Government can afford to neglect. It is not a question of what pledges they made or did not make, or what action the Conservative party took or did not take in the last Parliament when you reach a position of the possible bankruptcy of the whole county, with the whole of its industry being absolutely ruined. We have a perfect right to say to the Minister and to the Government that the sort of legislation that they are introducing cannot with the very best intention possibly do anything to alleviate the situation.
I implore the right hon. Gentleman to take action. I have always been told that he has a kind heart; in fact I know he has. If he is not satisfied with what I have said, I beg of him to come down and confer with the local authorities and see for himself the financial position of the county. I know that he is aware of the serious position of the agircultural industry, and I know that he will agree 1125 with me when I tell him that our farmers have done their utmost to get over their difficulties by going into other lines such as fruit growing and so on. I beg of him to realise the situation of the county and see whether he cannot do something, at any rate, to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to assist our cereal growers in their appalling plight. I honestly think that hon. Members opposite, and certainly hon. Members below the Gangway, do not in the least realise the situation; otherwise we should not have had the sort of speech that was delivered by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Gray). If something is not done to tide us over the coming winter, it is no good talking about the future. It is the coming autumn and winter for which something must be done, or there will not be any agriculture left with which to experiment with marketing Bills and so on. We shall all be absolutely broken, and find practically the whole of our county down to very inferior sheep. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish that to happen. I implore him to see if he cannot do something to help the cereal grower to survive the coming winter.
§ Mr. PRICE
Hon. Members who are moving this Motion of Censure upon the Government for their agricultural policy will hardly convince the House that the Government have neglected agriculture since they have been in office, in view of the fact that they have brought forward as many as four major Bills dealing with agriculture during this Parliament which are likely to find their way on to the Statute Book, if they are allowed to do so by another place. The Noble Lord who moved the Motion of Censure said that the Government had promised to make farming pay, but he seems to have forgotten that that promise did not involve its being carried out in a very short time nor even, I would say, in one Parliament. There are several steps to making farming pay, and I suggest that the Government have taken one step, and a very good step, in the Measures with which they have dealt so far. I am not going to pretend, however, that they have gone very far towards solving the very distressing agricultural depression. What Government could, either in this country, or in any other country, where depression is as great if not greater than here?
1126 If this is a hurricane and waterspout sweeping over the world, no Government can do more than clear out the watercourses and get the surplus water away until such time as the hurricane abates, and makes it possible for some steps to be taken towards cultivating the land again. It makes the position all the more unreal for certain hon. Members to refer to the dumping of foreign produce into this country as being the cause of this difficulty. There is not an agricultural country in the world which is not suffering in one way or another from this depression. Dumping is not a cause but an effect of the general price slump which has swept all over the world, and which, as I shall show, is due to something which is not entirely inherent in the agricultural industry, but is concerned with the whole financial and monetary system of the world. Agriculture is the one industry which, perhaps, suffers from price deflations more than do other industries, because the turnover is much slower. When you have a fall in price taking place and your turnover is only three or six months, you will not suffer as much as you do in agriculture where the distance of time between sowing and selling is nearer 12 months, or where the raising or fattening of cattle is 12 months or 18 months. Therefore, it is obvious that agriculture will feel the depression far more than industries which have a quicker turnover in a time of falling prices.
The arable areas of this country may, perhaps, suffer more than the arable areas of the least developed lands, for this reason. The arable areas of the least developed lands have been able to mechanise cereal production. It is very easy for them to do so upon huge tracts of land which have no hedges and where perhaps they can run a tractor for five or six miles, as in the case of Canada, the United States and Russia, and where they can bring down their cost of producing wheat from what it was under the old horse system—from 45s. a quarter down to 30s. a quarter. Even they are hit now. Even the mechanised system of production, with its cost of production brought down to 30s., cannot face the present world price of 25s. They are now facing bankruptcy. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Dallas), in a most able and interesting speech, told us of the ruin and calamity 1127 taking place on vast areas of production in Canada. At the same time, we must not altogether lose our balance. It may be that raw materials, products like cereals and wool, are feeling it most. The end products of agriculture are still keeping their end up fairly well. It is true that they, too, are suffering from falls in prices in view of the general deflation, but it is in the main the arable areas which produce the basic cereal products which are most affected, and therefore it is desirable that we should approach the problem from their point of view.
Hitherto the policy of the Government has been to deal with Measures which can be of immense assistance to those who are dealing with the end products, but I submit that there is another side to it as well. We cannot all produce end products in all parts of the country. We cannot all turn over to pigs and poultry. We cannot all turn over to fruit, apples and pears. There are areas—I know them too well—close to where I live where I should have a difficulty in knowing what to do if I had a 500 or 600-acre farm as have many men whom I know. I should find some difficulty in finding some means of meeting the situation with the slump in the world prices of wool and wheat.
As I was saying at the beginning, this is all part of a big international problem. I do not believe that in the long run it can be solved without international action through financial measures. I believe that the big central banks of the principal industrial countries of the world can do more to help us by co-operation and by the extension of credits to countries which are in difficulties at this time to prevent the fall in the prices of the raw material and even to bring about a hardening of those prices by measures of this kind. There is at the present time, owing to the concentration of the gold reserves of the world in the hands of the Federal Reserve Board of America and in the Bank of France, a movement being created—I will not go into the cause of it—which is accentuating the fall in prices, which, I believe, is far more due to that fact than to over-production. I would call the attention of the House to the fact that in the year 1927 there was a large increase in the world production of wheat, and yet there was no 1128 fall in wheat prices in that year. The world production of wheat in the last three years has kept pretty steady. There has been no very large increase. There was a very large surplus from former years held on the other side of the Atlantic during those years, but there has been no very large increase in production. Yet while that has been going on there has been a catastrophic fall.
I suggest that something more than production is the cause of the price collapse. It is part and parcel of the monetary system which has got entirely out of gear, and we want to find a means of oiling the machine of international exchange to make it possible for credits so to be placed that they will increase the purchasing power of the undeveloped parts of the earth and enable them to increase their purchases from the industrial areas, and thereby increase the power of those industrial areas to absorb the surplus parts of the undeveloped areas. In the long run, I believe that it is the only way in which this terrible situation can be solved. It is nothing which the Minister of agriculture can do and which this country alone can do. It can only be done by international action through the agencies to which I have just referred. I understand that in South Eastern Europe the countries there are faced with financial catastrophe owing to the slump in the articles which they export, and out of which they pay their debts. Some scheme is being thought out through the League of Nations and the Bank of International Settlements to give them assistance. An idea has been brought out that by some means of preferential arrangements whereby they can unload their surpluses into central Europe and exchange them for central European commodities exported to them, the way may be found to assist them.
I think that that is the line along which solutions are going to be found. I do not believe that this country can stay out. If there are going to be international agreements for the exchange of products, it will involve some form of central import and export boards. We see the beginnings of it in the United States and Canada, and in South-East Europe—it is here already, and has been for many years in the Soviet Union of Russia—and I do not see how this 1129 country can remain outside and entirely unaffected by the developments which are going on. I am strongly of opinion—I am speaking entirely for myself—that the old slogans of Free Trade and Protection belong to the nineteenth century, and that the slogan of the future has to be scientific international trading through central boards, exchanging products for products, and taking steps thereby to stabilise prices. Some measure of this kind must come if not only agriculture in this country is to be saved but world agriculture is to be saved from an appalling catastrophe which may shake civilisation to its foundations.
Although in the long run it is only by international action of the kind to which I have referred, and by organising our foreign export and import trade that a final solution can be obtained, I am of opinion that the Government of this country are able to take steps to assist agriculture in its most seriously affected parts. I admit that the measures which we take will be only palliatives, but even palliatives are extremely important. We must remember that we are faced with heavily fallen and still falling cereal prices, and yet there are parts of the country where low cereal prices are an advantage. We have, somehow, to evolve a system whereby we can assist the arable areas of East Anglia, and at the same time not impose any burden upon those stock-raising areas of the West of England and the Midlands which use cereals as their raw material. I have found in my own experience in the last 12 months land in the West of England which I farm where the cost of keeping live stock has fallen by nearly 20 per cent. That is partly due to the very good hay harvest of last year, but also to the fact that the cost of the basic materials which we use for feeding dairy herds and raising cattle has fallen considerably in the last 12 months. Therefore, we have to work out some means by which we can assist one without damaging the other.
Although wheat growing is only 4 per cent. of the total agricultural production of the country, it is not fair to argue from that that, therefore, it can be allowed to fall. In East Anglia and in the areas near where I live, in the Cotswold Hills, wheat is an important factor in the production of the farm, and 1130 where you have wheat and sheep, and where you are also fattening cattle m the winter, if you can sell your wheat and get a little cash it enables you to buy your stores in the autumn. Not only have you in this way a useful method of feeding, but you get the straw which is necessary for bedding. There are many farmers in the arable areas who are so hard up that they cannot find the means to purchase their stores, in view of the collapse in the price of wheat. If one of the outgoings of the farm fails you upset the rest of the rotation.
A strong case could be made out for attempting new methods of wheat growing. I understand that some new experiments are going on in some parts of the country, but it is still too early to say whether they are successful or are likely to be successful. It is very desirable that the experiments should be extended. The experiments to which I refer are those whereby, by organised production, you can grow wheat over a large area, reduce your costs of production to a very low figure and also, by a different system of cropping, you can grow wheat for a number of years with only a relatively small rest.
Whatever may be found out with regard to the future, it will take a long time. It is not going to be done to-day or to-morrow. But the catastrophe is with us now. Therefore, it is more necessary than ever that we should, even though it may be a temporary measure, take some steps to deal with the situation and to assist those arable areas which at the present time sec no other way out. It may be that a good deal can be done in the way of poultry, fruit and pig production, but I do not believe that that can solve the problem. It may be that a new process of organised farming can be used, but even that will take time. Therefore, we must fall back upon some other means. The social consequences of this breakdown in the arable areas is too great to be ignored. It may not be sound economies, but I maintain that there are times, and that the time has come, when economic theory has to bend before social and political policy. The time has come when the present policy should be thoroughly reviewed. I will not go into detail, but I feel strongly that if the Government cannot take steps to explore the possibilities of 1131 introducing some method of import control by import boards, it is not impossible for them to find some other method.
We have heard it spoken of as an open secret that the idea has been discussed that we should establish some system of wheat quota, milling quota, whereby a certain percentage of English flour should be used in the English loaf. I believe that that would work perfectly well, with or without an import board, with an import board by preference, but without it if that cannot be. I believe that the milling industry is in a position to work a scheme of that kind. I also believe that if a price was fixed such as would give remuneration to the arable farmers, there would be no burden upon the consumer in this country. There is already far too big a spread between the existing price of the loaf and the pre-War price of the loaf, and it is quite possible to effect economies out of that spread without involving any increased burden upon the consumer. The whole question of the method whereby our wheat is milled and conveyed to the consumer requires very careful investigation by the Government if they have not already considered it, and if they have considered it I should like to know whether it will be possible for them to take action. That is the way out as an immediate palliative and it is a sensible way out.
I do not know whether hon. Members opposite are hoping that they can really solve this question by means of tariffs. We know that they have from time to time attacks of tariffitis in a greater or lesser degree, and we have head that the subsidising of wheat growing in this country by the operation of a tariff on manufactured imports holds favour with some of them. I think, however, that we can rely upon the Government not to tamper with that kind of method. Tariffs are, obviously, an entirely unsatisfactory method of recovering our international trade. You never can tell whether tariffs are going to keep out articles or whether they are going to produce revenue. If you are going to try to produce revenue in order to finance a scheme of wheat quota, then tariffs are too uncertain a method by which a scheme of that kind could be financed.
1132 If there is one thing which proves that the Vote of Censure is unnecessary, it is the Government's Agricultural Marketing Bill, which we hope is now being favourably considered in another place. It is obviously no use taking steps to control imports either through quotas or through import boards unless we first guarantee that British agriculture is in a position to fill the gap. There is no evidence whatever that British agriculture at the present time is sufficiently well organised. Alas, we are not well organised. The whole method of agricultural distribution in this country requires overhauling, and the Marketing Bill is a means by which it will be possible for the industry voluntarily to organise itself. In trying to bring about agricultural co-operation minorities have a tendency to stay out to the last minute, making it difficult for the, loyal majority to carry on. There are always interests, dealers, middlemen and so forth who exploit the small minorities and turn the scale against an attempt to establish an orderly system of marketing. That is why agricultural organisation on a voluntary basis has largely failed, and that is why the Agricultural Marketing Bill is so necessary, because it enables the loyal majority to bring discipline into the marketing side of the industry.
The Noble Lord who moved the Vote of Censure referred to the Marketing Bill as if it were nothing, as if it were of no real importance, except to the potato trade. He entirely forgot the dairying industry. A very serious crisis is threatening the dairy industry. Largely owing to the slump in the arable areas, large numbers of farmers are going over to milk. Although they can scarcely make a profit out of their milk, except barely to cover their cost, they are throwing milk on to the market when formerly they produced no milk. Consequently, we have surplus milk in the country which is threatening the existing prices, despite the fact that there are large areas which have been producing milk for many years and the prices that they obtain only just enables them to cover their costs of production.
We are faced with a possible further price fall next September. What we require is a national pool, a national milk pool, whereby the industry can subsidise itself and be able to compensate those 1133 who are producing surplus milk and also put by a sum of money for the purpose of advertising, and thus increase the consumption of milk in this country, which is very low indeed as compared with the consumption of other countries. Even if the Bill gets through another place it cannot be made operative for some months and a most serious situation will arise next September. Cannot something be done before the Bill comes into operation by means of a voluntary scheme which may be submitted to the farmers by the Ministry? Their opinions, I believe, are changing. They are still suspicious, as they always have been, of Bills of this kind, but there has been a change in the outlook of dairy farmers during the last two or three months. Is it not possible for a voluntary scheme to be introduced to meet the situation? I think the Government are to be congratulated for the work they have already done, and if they show the same courage and perseverance in tackling the further problems, and the most serious problems of all, in the spirit in which they have tackled the problems hitherto I have no fear in regard to their agricultural policy.
§ Mr. BUTLER
After the interesting address of the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Price) it is necessary for me to call the House back to the immediate state of emergency which exists in agriculture although agreeing that the hon. Member has made a contribution of distinct value to our Debate this evening. I should like to deal with one point to which he referred. He is clearly an authority on international prices, and I rather wish that he had put his knowledge at the disposal of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Dallas) and told him that the reason why the situation was not so serious from 1924 to 1929, when the Conservative Government were in office, was because the serious break in wheat prices did not take place until the year 1930. I have figures here compiled by leading statisticians of this country, based on the Sauerbeck Index, which show that the break actually occurred in the middle of the year 1930—
§ Mr. DALLAS
On a point of Order. I suggested that that was not the reason, 1134 but that your Government had four years.
§ Mr. BUTLER
That is not exactly a point of Order, and if I am not misrepresenting the hon. Member he has no right to interrupt me in the middle of my speech. If he will look at the index figure he will find that in the second quarter of 1930, as against, the Sauerbeck Index of wholesale prices, wheat stood at 104, in the third quarter it fell to 91, and in the fourth quarter to 82. In 1931 the index figure was 66. If that is not a spectacular break in price I should like to know what is; if that is not a good reason for the emergency existing at the present time I should also like to know what is. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Gray) declared that there was just as spectacular a fall in the price of cotton as there was in the price of wheat. Wheat has actually fallen to a greater extent than cotton. They are very technical figures, and I shall be prepared to give them to the hon. Member after the Debate.
The Lord Privy Seal has said that as long as he could remember wheat prices had been nothing and that a fall did not matter. If he had lived more in England he would have realised that when he was about the age of 12 there was the worst slump in wheat prices for the past 30 years, that was in 1894. After that wheat prices steadily rose until the Great War, with the exception of the year 1913, and the reason why they did not rise in 1913 Was because there was a great increase in the Russian crop that year which had a great influence in causing prices to go down. Then came the Great War, and farmers had the time of their lives. In 1894 and in 1913, when we had low peaks in wheat prices, there was a very large shipment of Russian grain into this country, and farmers in this country had to submit to very drastic and unfair foreign competition. It is rather remarkable that when the index figure slumped in August, 1930, we had the first shipments of wheat from Russia, They were offered in the London market, as anyone will see by reading "The Times" of the 10th February, 1931, at 38s. and 39s. per quarter c.i.f. This was too near the 39s. 6d. which could be offered for No. 1 Manitoba wheat, and, therefore, the first parcel of Russian wheat sold afloat was reduced to 1135 the figure of 34s. It was reduced purposely by the Russian Government in order to combat our trade and depress farmers in this country. It is a rather remarkable fact that this stream of Russian imports comes to meet the prices in England at the exact moment when the index figure slumped, and that was the precise moment when the Russian Government took steps to debate prices in this country. That is a scientific fact, and I am basing my figures on Broomhall, whom I take to be a much bigger authority than the hon. Member or indeed myself. The same thing occured in the shipments of barley from the Danube Ports. It was done in a manner which we regard as a contravention of the proper methods of international trade, that is to say, it was done purposely by the Russian Government for their own ends and by methods which we regard as a contravention of free or fair trade.
What has the Minister of Agriculture done to meet this competition? Russia has been a bear on the market, and all that the Minister of Agriculture can do is to put up his scrub bull to meet it. This competition of two noble animals is not to the advantage of the British farmer, unless it is that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to feed this bear with some of the milk and honey offered to him in the schemes of the Lord Privy Seal. Let me turn to the observations of the Lord Privy Seal. He informed us that it was necessary to turn to products other than wheat, to some other commodities, and he at once mentioned bacon. I was not surprised. It is time the Government attempted to save their own bacon. I wish they had recommended some method, but I listened to the Lord Privy Seal and I was unable to find any method by which he proposes to save the bacon industry of this country. I agree with him that it is an important industry, but if he makes a speech in this House and tries to ride us off the question of wheat by mentioning other commodities and referring to bacon in particular, and gives us no solution for the bacon problem, it is a waste of the time of the House and also a waste of his own time which might be devoted to curing the unemployment problem.
1136 I should not like it to be thought that I was restricting myself to purely destructive criticism and, therefore, in order to save the bacon of this country, and my own bacon as well, I should be glad to see a tariff considered. I regard it as part of the policy of the free hand which we advocate. About a year ago I asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he had any policy for saving the bacon industry and he replied that the method of import boards for bacon was under consideration. I am afraid that I have no message that I can take back to that excellent bacon factory existing in my own constituency, the Dunmow Flitch, which I have the honour to represent, and although the genial disposition of the right hon. Gentleman might make him a good candidate for the Flitch, he is not a good candidate for the suffrages of the workers in the constituency. The Lord Privy Seal told us that we must go to commodities other than wheat. If you are going to do that you must not neglect the arable problem. The agricultural correspondent of "The Times" says:The future of agriculture is closely bound up with the progressive development of stock farming"—This would be in sympathy with hon. Gentlemen opposite, and he goes on to say:but it would in many ways be regretted if this meant the decay of arable farming, the plough can conveniently be used to develop the area of stock farming.It is precisely because we believe that livestock farming and arable farming should go together that we maintain that it is essential to save arable farming at the present time. If you take the long view in regard to British agriculture the most profitable way is the family farm employing labour, rather than the smallholding or the large scale farm, on which four men with two tractors are able to do the work of a 500 acre farm and send the unemployed into the town. We believe in the policy of the family farm of the right size, employing a small amount of labour. We do not believe in putting all our eggs into one basket, but rather in having arable farms, carrying livestock, as the most profitable way of solving the problem. I do not propose that all the corn should walk off the farm in the shape of stock or that we should keep prices down in order that farmers should rear stock. The farmer needs money 1137 from his arable crop in order to stock his farm. We cannot hope for the farmer to exist solely upon the internal economy within his own farm. It is essential for him to have some income, and when we make arable agriculture profitable we ensure that to him.
That is a sounder policy than the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. He is proposing large scale farms, which will drive men to the towns. He is proposing smallholdings, which will be most profitable when they are in the neighbourhood of towns. Both these measures drive men to the towns, and however excellent as a policy it is clearly not going to help the outlying districts, and especially the arable areas of the country, because it is fundamentally unsound and typical of what a Labour Government may do. Let me now turn my attention to the Liberal party. I hope the hon. Member for Mid Bedford will live to regret his speech. He said that he could not see why an extension of the wheat acreage should be the national policy of this country. That contravenes the doctrine of agricultural economy which has been handed down by centuries of tradition in this country. I prefer tradition to the policy of the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire.
I should like to put one question to the Liberal party which I trust will be answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I cannot understand why the Liberal party will support a policy for rural housing, which is a direct subsidy for the purpose of something which would ordinarily come out of the profits of agriculture, and yet they take such pains to object to any form of subsidy for the arable districts, and to attack the sugar-beet industry, the extension of which is the only remedial measure of any importance that the Minister has introduced. That Measure is certain to be passed, because the Minister has the support of the Conservative party. I cannot understand all the evolutions which lead to the policy of the Liberal party, but I can only presume that, when their support is necessary for the majority of the Government, they strain their views to suit the circumstances. That is borne out by their agricultural policy. Again, I should like to ask the 1138 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs a question. The Lord Privy Seal has been unable to tell us what the wheat quota policy of the Government is; perhaps he will be able to do so? The Minister has taken the trouble to explain his policy to the Liberal party, and I had the privilege of reading about it in the newspapers. If the Minister is unable to explain what the Government's policy is, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway will do so. I think it is time a protest was made from this side of the House that the Minister should find it necessary to explain his wheat quota policy to the Liberal party, who have so far been unfriendly to any form of assistance or subsidy, before he had explained it to hon. Members on this side, whose keenness on the subject is well known. I am hoping for a full and frank explanation of the Government's wheat quota policy from the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that, if there were a majority in the House in favour of action being taken in the arable districts, we ought to get together and force our will upon the Government. If the hon. Member, and the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell), and I hope the hon. Member for Whitehaven, will join with some of us, indeed I believe our whole party, on this issue, so that we may force this matter through the House of Commons, I shall be very proud to offer my assistance, for what it is worth. I trust that the Minister for Agriculture, when he hears the opinions of those behind him, will see that it is essential that this policy should be carried through at once, and that there should be no further delay, and no further explanation to the Liberal party in order to see whether their assistance is wanted. If they do not want to develop the arable acreage of this country, we will tell them that we can do without them. If the Minister wants a majority to face his Chancellor of the Exchequer, let him come to us and get his majority from us. This will be the first action that this Parliament will have taken as a Council of State. I believe there is a majority of Members who are in favour of assistance to the arable areas, and, if the Minister wishes to use that majority, let him use it. We are here, troops ready to be led, if he will introduce a policy of that sort. 1139 He has tried his best, and we know that the Cabinet—so far as we can make out from newspapers—will not accept it.
We are faced with this position: How are we to deal with the present emergency? The Minister has a policy which he will not put into force. Our only course was to move a vote of censure this afternoon, and I sincerely hope it will be carried and that the hon. Member for Wellingborough and those others who are sympathetic in attitude, will suit the deed to the word and come with us to the Lobby. The right hon. Gentleman for Carnarvon Boroughs can go into the Lobby with the Government, and we will see what the result will be.
I want to ask the Minister if he has read the book "A New Policy for Agriculture" by Mr. F. N. Blundell? I sincerely believe that he will find it is better than the view he is taking from the book of Mr. Orwin, and upon which he has based a great part of his policy hitherto. If he will read that new book, and if he will consult the tables at the end, he will find that it is possible to introduce a quota without a subsidy, if he wishes. If there is only 20s. difference between the world price and the price he wishes for British farmers, and if his quota is 15 per cent of British wheat, that will amount to 297 of a penny on the 4lb. loaf, which is just over a farthing. If he finds that this price is worth paying in order to succour the arable farmer, let him put through his wheat quota without a subsidy.
I can assure him that that is a policy which will be worth considering. The figures are unanswerable. If he does not want to do it with a subsidy which, I believe quite frankly, is the only way of doing it, let him introduce a quota, and do it in that form. I suggest that he should listen to the words of the hon. Member for Whitehaven, and operate with the assistance of the banks. I believe that the banking system in our agricultural districts is taking the place of the old landlords, and that the farmer is coming to regard his bank manager in much the same way as he used to regard his landlord. The banks have been shouldering a burden which is almost too great. If the Government want a method of meeting the present emergency, and does not want a subsidy 1140 plus a quota, is the Minister willing to give a subsidy in order to help to pay the wages bill? I believe that is the only emergency measure that, with the collaboration of the banks, will see us through the next winter.
The Minister has not the courage to introduce a quota system. I would like to remind the House that we are going to have unemployment in the arable districts in the autumn. Just before hay harvest in my district, there were 70 unemployed in 14 arable villages. The Minister asked me to send him these cases and I did so, and I have since heard that he has taken great trouble about them. I understand from my authorities that the figures were correct, as far as we could make them, and I believe that they will be accentuated when the autumn comes. If there is that number unemployed in so few villages, what will there be in 100 villages in one division, or in all the divisions of the country? I ask the Minister to take trouble this summer to get current statistics of the likelihood of unemployment. I do not believe the unemployed can be supported by the rates alone. I ask the Minister to evolve some method of dealing with this emergency. We do not wish to have delay in the arable districts; we wish to have a constructive policy, some way of keeping a man in being and at the same time to allow him to keep his wife and child. We believe that the only way of meeting the present emergency is for the Minister to have a constructive policy, and to use any hon. Members of this House to help him to put his policy through.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We have heard from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down a very interesting, and in some parts very amusing speech, containing one or two suggestions which were worthy of consideration. He is the only hon. Member I have heard to-day, and I have heard most of the speeches on this Motion, who has really explained why this Motion was ever introduced. I could not understand when he got up. In form, the Motion is a Vote of Censure; in substance, it is an offer of a coalition to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture. It is extraordinary. The words say that it is the opinion of the House that 1141the Government no longer deserves the confidence of this House.But the Government is worthy of the confidence of the hon. Gentleman. He is prepared to co-operate and work with them. In fact, he said: "Just throw over these hon. Members down here, and we will embrace you and work with you. You are worthy, at any rate, of our confidence." I have had no other explanation of why this Motion was tabled at all.
The hon. Member has been good enough to ask me two questions. First, as to what my opinion is about the quota. I should like to know what is the opinion of hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative Benches on the subject. We have here a demand that "immediate steps should be taken to support this basic industry," and to make it so prosperous that it can pay wages. What are those immediate steps? After all, this is their Motion, not ours. It is not for us to explain, but it is for the hon. Member, and for his right hon. Friends, to explain what they mean. The hon. Member is the only man to say he is in favour of a tariff, but is that the opinion of the hon. Gentleman's leaders on the Conservative Benches? I think we are entitled to know. They are very silent on the subject. I think we should get some information from them.
I have never seen a Vote of Censure like this tabled before. You have about 200 Members, all rank and file, and not a single leader has yet spoken upon this subject. I should have liked to have a Debate on agriculture; it would have been very useful in reviewing the condition of the wheat industry, and discussing what could be done to help other branches of agriculture. It would have been very valuable. But hon. Gentlemen have chosen to put this in the form of a Vote of Censure, and we have to discuss it from that point of view. Not a single leader of the Conservative party has spoken, and I understand that no leader intends to speak, unless the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) has attained that rank. He is the only person on the Front Bench whose name is attached to the Motion. It is a Charge of the Light Brigade—[Interrup- 1142 tion]—the very light brigade. It is not war; it is not even magnificent. I should like to know why they have at this particular moment tabled the Motion. We are to discuss, not what we are to do for agriculture, but a. Vote of Censure upon a Government at the end of the Session, for what they have neglected to do. I have not heard any case put forward up to the present moment on that.
If ever there was an agricultural Session, this has been an agricultural Session. Let us look at what has happened. Four Bills on agriculture have been introduced by the Government and pressed right through. It is no fault of theirs that those Bills have been mutilated in another place. If this appeal were made to another place I could understand it; a Vote of Censure passed on another place I could understand, but not a. Vote of Censure on a Government that has really made a considerable effort. My only regret is that the effort made in regard to agriculture has not been followed in regard to other branches of industry. With regard to agriculture, a very great effort has been made to put forward a bold policy. Just look at it. Here is the most comprehensive and thorough Marketing Bill that has been introduced into this House in my time. Marketing is a very difficult problem, but there is no doubt that it has been tackled with a great deal of courage, and it has been carried through by the Minister of Agriculture with very great skill and good temper and knowledge. [Interruption.] Does anyone doubt that? There is no doubt about it at all. Anyone who knows anything about agriculture must realise that the organisation of marketing will have far more to do with restoring prosperity to agriculture than anything else. It may be that other things as well could be suggested, but, whether you carry your quota, or any other suggestion that you introduce, you never will succeed in restoring prosperity to agriculture until you organise its marketing. The right hon. Gentleman has brought forward that Bill. I do not know what stage it has reached, but I hope the fates may be kinder to it than to other Government Bills.
Then there is the largest Measure for the establishment of family farms ever introduced. I do not know what the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) 1143 meant when he tried to distinguish between this and the policy that I have been putting forward. I do not see the distinction. The hon. Member said a good deal which I thought was extraordinarily good and wise about arable farming, about wedding it to livestock, which is the policy of Denmark and Holland.
§ Mr. BUTLER
My definition of a family farm includes the employment of labour, a holding which is not too large but which is not a small holding, and comprises livestock and an arable farm.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Then I agree that the hon. Member's policy and mine differ. I have urged, rather, farms of a smaller size which can be run without labour, that is to say by means of the labour of the family. That is a system which has more or less made the success of Danish farming and Dutch farming. But at any rate here you have a policy for the purpose of establishing family farms, which was recommended by the tribunal appointed by Mr. Bonar Law when Prime Minister, that is to say appointed by a Conservative Government. The tribunal unanimously recommended this policy. Not only that, but they put it into the forefront of their recommendations. I have just been reading that tribunal's report, and a remarkable report it is. I invite those who are interested in agriculture to do what I have done during the last two or three days, and that is to re-read that report. The tribunal puts the estalishment of family farms in the forefront of its recommendations for the restoration of agricultural prosperity. The Minister of Agriculture has been putting through a Bill in order to carry that policy forward.
Then the hon. Gentleman said to me, in effect: "You are in favour of subsidies for rural housing. Why should you not be in favour of State aid for other purposes in agriculture?" I have always said that you will never restore agriculture to prosperity in this country, because it has been let down so low—it is not worth while for the moment to consider who is responsible—that you will never do 1144 it without very considerable aid from the State. The principle has been applied in the case of rural housing. There you build because no one else is in a position to do so. The rural district councils cannot do it, and they have been less able than ever to do it since the De-rating Bill. The last Government practically bankrupted these rural areas. The landlords cannot do it, and are less able than ever to do it since the War, because of the heavy taxation and the increased cost of everything. I see that the hon. and learned Member for Fareham (Sir T. Inskip) smiles at that statement. I have said the same thing over and over again.
§ Sir THOMAS INSKIP
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not accuse me of any discourtesy if I find his speech interesting.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. and learned Gentleman is the last man I would accuse of discourtesy. At any rate, I have always said that the reason why I have been in favour of grants-in-aid for the building of houses for workmen in rural areas, even more than in urban areas, is that there is no one else to do the work in the rural areas, which are too poverty-stricken. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the report of the tribunal to which I have referred, a tribunal appointed by a Conservative Government, he will find that the present Government are carrying out the very policy recommended six or seven years ago by that tribunal. The tribunal said: "You cannot make it pay at first. It will take a very long time before you get your money back." What does that mean? Undoubtedly it means that the State will have to put a considerable sum of money, not merely into buying the land, but, into equipping it, reconditioning it generally, and probably lending money for the purpose of enabling the smallholders and poultry farmers to begin work. You have to do it.
Here the Government have brought in a Bill to carry out the report of a Conservative tribunal or committee—a report which right hon. Gentlemen now leading the Opposition neglected for five or six years. But what do they do? They bring in a Vote of Censure the very year that the present Government are putting those recommendations through. I do not understand it. The Government are 1145 establishing holdings, allotments and poultry farms, and are providing for the reclamation of uncultivated and under-cultivated land, and the equipment of land, all things that were recommended by a Conservative Committee. There is a Bill for Scotland, a very admirable Bill. I wish it had gone further, but no doubt it will be very helpful. Then there is the Rural Housing Bill for the building of 40,000 houses. The farm labourers are leaving the country districts, not merely because there is no employment, but very often because there are no houses for them. Young people cannot settle down there when they marry because there are no houses, and, if they can find employment somewhere in the towns, off they go. The housing problem has a good deal to do with the depopulation of the rural areas. I could give illustrations of that within my own knowledge. Even the Consumers' Council Bill has a good deal to do with the sale of the produce of our rural areas. [Interruption.] If it does not, I do not want to raise any question outside the scope of our discussion. In any case, I have mentioned four Bills which directly affect agriculture.
Within my experience, there never has been a single Session of Parliament in which there has been anything comparable with it, and at the end of it the Opposition bring in a Vote of Censure upon a Minister who has done all this in the course of the second year of the life of the Government. Are right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who support this Motion really in a position to move a Vote of Censure for the Government's failure to carry out pledges to the farmers and to agriculture? I have some pledges here. Supporters of this Vote of Censure have said that a pledge was given by someone to make farming pay. You cannot make farming pay by any Bill that you carry in the course of two years, anyhow. I think that ultimately by the establishment of these smallholdings you will make farming pay. I can say from my experience of a country where we have the family farm that they are the only farms that have weathered the storm. Your 200-acre farm, where you have to pay a very heavy labour bill, has failed. The small family farms have at any rate been able to carry on, and in some cases where they have received a remission of rent 1146 they are in a fairly good condition. But listen to this: In 1924 there was a General Election, and the right hon. Gentleman who now leads the Opposition gave a pledge. He said:I regard it as vital that the great basic industry of agriculture should be not merely preserved, but restored, to a more prosperous condition, as an essential balancing element in the economic and social life of the country.[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] There is one hon. Gentleman here who still believes in that pledge. But Conservatives did not believe in carrying it out.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If the statement about making farming pay was a pledge, surely this statement about restoring agriculture to a more prosperous condition must necessarily be a pledge. What else does it mean? The hon. Gentleman who interrupted did not hear the speech delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridgeshire (Captain Briscoe), an admirable speech from his point of view, though it had nothing to do with the Vote of Censure. The hon. and gallant Member did allude to the Motion in a very admirably phrased speech. He said in effect: "We assume that when Ministers make a promise they have some idea of how they mean to carry it out." When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) said that it was part of his policy to restore agriculture to a more prosperous condition, I assumed that he had some ideas as to how he was going to carry it out. That was the pledge; that was the promise. [Interruption.] Well, we will call it the lure, the bait. At the beginning of 1925 there was a paper issued to show how the Government of that time was going to carry out its pledge, and one of the things laid down was this: "The aims of the Conservative Government were to be—to stop rural degeneration, and, next, to increase the arable area by at least 1,000,000 acres." To increase it, not to arrest the down-grade movement, but actually to extend the area. But it went down year after year, every year that they were in office, until at the end of their term of office the area, so far from having increased by 1,000,000 acres, was reduced still further by 900,000 acres.
1147 What right have they to bring in a Vote of Censure? In 1925—nothing done. In 1926—practically nothing done. I think there was a little Bill about smallholdings which created about 300 smallholdings a year, while reduction was going on at the rate of 1,000. In 1927—nothing done. There were three years, with practically no attempt to redeem these pledges to increase the number of arable acres. And the Noble Lord the Member for Western Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington) was a Member of that Parliament. Did he move a Vote of Censure upon that Government? The hon. and gallant Member for Cambridge was actually secretary to the Minister for Agriculture in that Government, so that one can forgive him, but as far as I have been able to discover, neither of these hon. Gentlemen, in the whole of these three years, took part in any Debate on agriculture. Now they are very excited about it. Their hearts are bleeding for agriculture. There was none of these symptoms of cardiac haemorrhage during those three years when absolutely nothing was being done.
I can give them irrefutable testimony of the failure of their own Government. At the end of 1925, that is after they had been in office a year, there was a meeting of Conservative associations at Brighton and a resolution was passed, calling upon the Government to make, without delay, a definite statement of their agricultural policy and to carry it out forthwith. The Conservative associations were not in the least pleased with the efforts that were being made. Then there was a White Paper in 1926, and for all that it contained it might have been all white. Then, there were all sorts of things to be done. In 1926 we had a little Bill about smallholdings which I think created about 100 smallholdings a year. Meanwhile in that year, the arable area was down by 134,000 acres. In 1927—nothing done and the arable area down 137,000 acres in that year. At the end of 1926, the Noble Lord the Member for Western Derbyshire ought to have been moving a Vote of Censure on that Government; but we had 1927—their third year of office—and nothing done. At last, there came a resolution from the Conservative associations' meeting, I think, at Cardiff—in a very good atmosphere. Their resolution was: 1148That this conference urges the Government, owing to the depressed condition of the agricultural industry"—almost the same terms—and in view of the urgency of the case and or its importance to the national welfare, to take what effective measures are open to it during the lifetime of the present Parliament to relieve the situation.They had been in power for three years, and their own constituent associations passed a resolution practically saying that it was about time that they did something for agriculture. Then the farmers began to move. What would be said if a resolution of this kind had been carried by the Farmers' Union about the present Government? This was passed at a meeting of the Farmers' Union at Ipswich:That this general meeting of the Suffolk County Branch of the National Farmers' Union wishes to record its emphatic dissatisfaction with the present Government's"—not the Government sitting over there, but the Government of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen now sitting on this side—so-called agricultural policy, which has aggravated the fanners difficulties and rendered them in a definitely worse position than when the Government assumed office.That is exactly what hon. Members who support the Vote of Censure have been saying about this Government. But where was the Noble Lord in 1926? In the same year we find the newly-elected president of the National Farmers' Union delivering his presidential address. This was three and a half years after these gentlemen had taken office, having given a pledge to restore agriculture, to make it prosperous, to pay higher agricultural wages, and having issued a White Paper to say that they were going to increase the arable area by 1,000,000 acres. What did the president of the Farmers' Union say? He said:The Government had lamentably failed to achieve the purpose of securing to all agriculturists their just reward. The industry to-day was very much worse off than when the Government came into power.And during all this time these intense agriculturists, these men who cannot bear to see the Government neglecting the interests of agriculture, were silent. They were dumb. Nothing was done, and they had a majority in this House of 200 and they had a perfectly subservient upper Chamber that would have carried anything they proposed. If they had 1149 proposed to restore the Laws of Howel Dda, that Chamber would have passed it, yet nothing was done. Where were they all that time, these 200 Members? During all those years there they were—the sleeping beauties—and they suddenly wake up and find that a Labour Government is in power and they start scolding that Government. Why do they not wake up their own snorers? That is not my phrase but the phrase of a distinguished Member of their own party. They move a Vote of Censure in the second Session of this Government—a Government which after all has not many agricultural Members behind it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is so, but here on the other side is the country party, the party trusted by the agriculturists, returned by the agricultural vote upon some promise or prospect of something being done and nothing was done. What about the callousness of which we have heard? What about deceiving the electorate? At any rate, if this Government attempted to deceive the electorate they were not very successful in the agricultural areas. But here was a party that had a great phalanx of agricultural Members and yet nothing was done during the whole of their period of office. When it comes to equity, there is no party in this House with less right to move a Vote of Censure upon the Government for neglecting agriculture than that party.
I agree that this is a very serious problem. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Well, I have been constantly calling attention to it and urging it not only upon hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite but upon hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side when they were in office. It was at my request that this tribunal was appointed. I pressed it upon the late Mr. Bonar Law. He chose the men. I had nothing to do with the choice. If we compare 1870 with the present time we find that there has been a more or less steady decline in agriculture here—and this is the only country where that has happened. That is a matter of very grave importance, because it is not merely the largest industry in the country from the point of view of the numbers employed in it, but it is far and away the most important for any country. Yet during those 61 years, arable land in this country has gone down by about half—not merely grain- 1150 growing land but arable land. Not only that, but in 1870 we were ahead. Taking the production per 100 acres ours was the highest in Europe at that time. We have now been outstripped by Germany, by Belgium, by Denmark, by Holland—in units, in cattle units in production per 100 acres, in the numbers employed. We have been going down and they have gone up steadily. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tariffs!"] It is no use saying that that is due to tariffs, because the country where there is the most remarkable increase is Denmark, where I think the only tariff is upon cheese, and in Holland, where there is practically no tariff at all.
§ Sir H. CROFTindicated dissent.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I leave Holland out. I do not want a controversy on this point with the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). I take Denmark. Their units have increased by 75 per cent. In this country they have been stationary and if anything have gone down. [HON. MEMBERS: "Subsidies!"] There have been no subsidies in Denmark. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman is proposing far more in the way of grants-in-aid from the State than has ever been done in Denmark. But this is the point—because this is a Vote of Censure moved by hon. Gentlemen of the Conservative party. If you leave out the War period, and the period of the Coalition, when right hon. and hon. Gentlemen here had not the sole responsibility—leaving out those two periods and taking the period when there was the interplay of parties and party interaction, they were in office for more than half the time to which I have referred. They are not in a position to turn upon a Labour Government who have only been in office for two years, and who are doing their best, in their second year of office, with barely a score of agricultural Members behind them. They are not in a position to turn to that Government at the end of the second year and to say, "You are not worthy of the confidence of the country" when the Government are trying their best to carry through four great agricultural Measures. No, I wish it had been possible—[Laughter]. The Noble Lord is not in a position to laugh. He was here for four and a-half years and never uttered a 1151 single word on agriculture. I attended practically every Debate on agriculture during those four and a-half years and took part in most of them, but the Noble Lord never took part in one of them, and he comes here and moves a Vote of Censure on the Government at the end of its second year.
The Government are carrying through the policy which has been recommended by that very able tribunal. They are doing their very best, and let me point this out, that when you come to the question of a subsidy for grain, that tribunal condemned it. They were in favour of subsidies for arable land as such. That was turned down in 1923, but the subsidy for grain was turned down by this tribunal, for the reason that it did not discriminate between the rich land and the poor, but gave exactly the same subsidy to the rich land that did not need help as it gave to the poor land that did need help. The other point is this, that if you take Scotland, about one-twentieth of the grain that is produced there is wheat. Go to Wales, and not merely to Wales but the whole of the West of England, and the game thing applies. The farmers there are buyers of that commodity, and in their poultry farms and in everything else they are dependent upon having the very cheapest food and the very cheapest wheat and all the offals which are the result of the milling.
They turned it down, but the one thing that they did not turn down was the policy which the right hon. Gentleman is carrying through now, the policy of family farms, the policy of marketing, the policy of improved agricultural instruction. They are carrying out the policy which has been recommended by that tribunal, and so far from deserving censure, I should have thought that the party which has always called itself the country party, and which undoubtedly is more associated with agriculture than any other party, would have had the courage to get up and say, "We wish the right hon. Gentleman had gone further, but at any rate he is doing his very best, having regard to his difficulties, to meet the case of agriculture." That is what he deserves, not a condemnation of this kind, and in their hearts hon. and right hon. Gentlemen 1152 above the Gangway know it perfectly well.
But what we would like to know is this: Why have the leaders not taken part? I can tell the House straight away:And, further, this House is of opinion that immediate steps should be taken to support this basic industry.What are those steps? The hon. Member for Saffron Walden says a tariff on bacon.
§ Mr. BUTLER
I said that a tariff on bacon ought to be considered, but that is part of the policy of the free hand advocated by my party. I am quite willing to see a tariff on foreign bacon considered.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. Member is willing to have the tariff, but he cannot commit anybody else. But surely we are entitled to know. If this Motion is carried, those gentlemen opposite will be out, and these gentlemen here will be in. [An HON. MEMBER: "How?"] By the working of the Constitution. The Sovereign would naturally have to send for those responsible, or he would probably send for the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridge. Are we not entitled to know what the policy is? Is a tariff a part of "the immediate steps"? We know now why there is no leader taking part, and why they have put up a leader who can be thrown over by the responsible leaders of the party. [Interruption.] I do not want to say anything disrespectful to the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot, but I am talking about his position in the hierarchy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do not be offensive!"] If it is offensive, I withdraw at once. I had not the slightest intention of being offensive to the Noble Lord. He has one policy on which I am entirely with him, and that is the telephone policy, and if he thinks I have been offensive, I withdraw it at once. I did not intend that. I meant that he at any rate has not got the position in the hierarchy of his party that would enable him to enunciate a great policy.
Surely that is not offensive. He has never even had Cabinet rank, and therefore they have chosen somebody who could not possibly declare their policy, and that, upon a Vote of Censure, where, if it were carried, the responsibility for 1153 formulating a policy would fall upon them as the Minister of the Crown. Is that playing fair with the House of Commons? On the contrary, I say that it is not. Is there to be a tariff on bacon? Is there to be a tariff on wheat? Is there to be a guaranteed quota?
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I know, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not always been able to carry his policy. We know where he is. He has always been quite straightforward, he has taken a perfectly open, straightforward and courageous way, so that everybody knows where he is. Does he say that that is the policy of his party, that they have guaranteed a particular price for wheat; and if so, what? What figure? They are now getting 25s. What is the figure? The farmers are asking for 55s. Is it to be that? That is bigger than a tariff of 100 per cent. Is it to be 50s.? That is a 100 per cent. tariff. Give us a straightforward tariff instead of that. You would then know where you are, but it is worse than that.
This quota is to be extended to the Dominions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] Is it not? I also say, "Ah!" I am told that the quota is to be extended to the Dominions. You have either to give a tariff or a quota to the Dominions. Very well. Is that quota to be at the world price? If it is not, what is the good of it? Are you going to say to Canada, "Your quota is 40 per cent. or whatever it is," and Canada will say, "Very well, we must get 35s." Are you going to say to them, "Very well, it is off; there is no quota"? If you are going to have a quota, you must say to them, "It is either the world price, or you must fix it." Is that the policy? Then what does it mean? By means of a quota you will have a heavier tariff than the straightforward tariff of 10 per cent. which Mr. Joseph Chamberlain proposed. Now we really are entitled to know from the right hon. Gentlemen here. They ought not to leave it to an ex-Under Secretary to proclaim their policy, and I am not sure that he will; he will be too discreet. I am sure he will not do it; he dare not.
But where is the Leader of the Opposition? There he is. He could answer that question. Is there going to be a 1154 guarantee of a price to the Dominions? Those who are in favour of a quota say, "It is no use to us unless you guarantee the price." Do they imagine that Canada will take a different line? If they do, is that guarantee to be given whatever the world price is? If the Argentine offer us wheat—a good customer of ours; just as good a customer of ours as Canada—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, very much the same figure; there is not very much in it between the two, and the Argentine has always been a good customer of ours. Supposing they offer wheat to us at a lower price, are you still going to buy it at the higher price? We really ought to know, when there is a Vote of Censure that is going to transfer these right hon. Gentlemen over there.
I thought when I saw this Motion signed by the noble 200, a Motion not merely censuring the Government, but demanding immediate steps, that at least we should know what they proposed to do, but not only do they not tell us, but they make it impossible for us to know or to put a question that will enable us to know. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal was cross-examined, in the middle of his speech, by the right hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain). He could have asked question in return; he could have returned the compliment, and if the right (hon. Member for Edgbaston had spoken, he could have said to him, "What price are you going to fix your wheat at?" But the right hon. Gentleman is not taking any chances; no chances. Nobody can say that the condition of agriculture is not one that deserves the gravest consideration by this House. I deeply regret that this consideration has been in a form that has made it a partisan attack instead of an examination of the problem.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister invited the two parties to cooperate in considering what was best to be done for agriculture in this country. The right hon. Member for Bewdley, no doubt advised by his colleagues, refused to co-operate. I think that will always be regarded as a very disastrous step in the interests of agriculture. There are a great many things that can be done in agriculture by consultation between the parties, which it would be difficult 1155 for any individual party to do for itself, because where a concession is to be given to one party and to another, there is something which is recommended by all parties, considering a problem in the spirit of doing the best for the greatest industry in the State, and a good deal could have been achieved.
I wonder whether it is too late for the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider it. He is now embarking on a policy which he himself—one can see it—does not like. He has put up a great fight, he has fought what I call a rearguard action, he has been driven from point to point. I feel in my heart that that is not what he wants, and I wonder whether, when you have this great industry, upon which the life of the nation depends—as anybody knows who had anything to do with the War, and as anybody knows who begins to contemplate what is going to happen, with all the unemployment that there is in every country—it would not be possible, even now, for the right hon. Gentleman to say, "I am willing to put the whole of the strength and the brains and the mind of my party behind a real national effort to restore this great industry to prosperity,"
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
I venture to say that when the speeches in this Debate are read to-morrow morning by the country, the speech which the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Dallas) made will be read with much greater interest than the speech which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has just delivered. The reason why the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has lost his hold on the country is that he will persist in delivering speeches such as he has just delivered. There has not been a single constructive suggestion made in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—all chaff and old stuff, in which the country does not take the slightest interest. For the right hon. Gentleman, who has been Prime Minister, to come down to the House in a time of agricultural crisis and rake up old stuff of that kind, and not tell the country how agriculture can be put upon its feet, is not carrying out the lead which he gave us during the War. The 1156 right hon. Gentleman said that he was obliged to make the kind of speech which he did because of the Motion. He could, however, have chosen any ground he liked, and have made any kind of speech he liked, and, if he had wanted to give a lead to the country, he could have propounded a national policy which we could all follow. He has mentioned the quota, and I wish to give some facts with regard to it which any hon. Member can ascertain for himself.
Opinions on the question of the restoration of agriculture to prosperity have been changing. At one time it was considered that tariffs were the only way, but a great many of us think that there is a much better way. There is also the method of the control of imports, and the method of using a certain proportion—I prefer that word to quota—of the produce of our land with imported produce. I do not know whether the wheat quota is a part of the official policy of our party, but I have been working it out quietly as an independent Member, and I do not hesitate to give the conclusion to which I have come. The quota will be the great foundation on which the fiscal policy of this country will rest in future, not only in regard to agriculture, but in regard to many other things. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs spoke of the millions that the quota would cost the Exchequer—
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have never used the words "cost to the Exchequer." I have spoken of the "cost to the country."
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
Let us see, then, what it will cost the country. A 4-lb. loaf of bread to-day is sold at 7d. Will the Minister of Agriculture tell me when he replies whether I am correct when I say that the cost of the wheat in the loaf is comparatively small. Sir Daniel Hall, the chief adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture, said the other day that the cost of wheat in a 4-lb. loaf, which is sold at 7., is 2¾d. I believe that it 1157 is 2½ have had that verified to-day in certain quarters, and I believe that that is the reply which the President of the Board of Trade gave when he was asked a question by an hon. Member on these benches. Therefore, the labour and all other charges involved in a loaf of bread cost 4½d. The suggestion I make is that 85 per cent. of the wheat in a loaf should come from overseas, and that 15 per cent. of it should be of home production. That proportion might become greater in future. At present, however, 15 per cent. would absorb all the wheat grown in these islands and give the farmers a ready and secure market. What is 85 per cent. of 2½d.?
One must reduce this to fractions in order to ascertain the real cost which the quota would be to the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has used this point, and my figures can be checked by him if he will do me that honour. There would be an increase in cost on only 1½ farthings of the 2½d. if 15 per cent. of the wheat were British. If you take the maximum price which the farmer could get—let it be 45s. or 50s. or 55s., as you like—the difference in the price of bread would be infinitesimal—less than half a farthing. [Interruption.] I know I am very bold to make these remarks in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman, but I am bound to do it, because I can see that he has not thought over this question with the thought which he gave to the problems of this country during the War. There would be an infinitesimal increase in price if 15 per cent. of English wheat were put in at 45s. or 50s. or 55s. a quarter and the remaining 85 per cent. were put in at the world price.
We want to give cheap bread to our people; that is the essence of our policy. Do not let the Liberal party say that we are going to raise the price of the loaf. If my calculations are accurate, this policy would not raise the price of the loaf at this moment by one farthing. Can it be done? It can be done easily. It is being done at this moment. This loaf which I hold in my hands is made of flour in the proportions that I have mentioned, namely, 15 per cent. of home-produced wheat, and 85 per cent. of Canadian, and it is sold at 7d. It is a 1158 beautifully white loaf, and as good a loaf as can be produced. It is being sold in tens of thousands within 10 minutes of where we are. Our suggestion is that the use of a proportion of the home-grown wheat should be made compulsory. There is no difficulty in mixing and milling the two kinds of wheat. The hon. Member for Wellingborough appealed to the parties to get together on this question, and I would urge that we should all do something independent of the Front Benches.
The right hon. Gentleman has been talking about research. Everybody talks about research, and we spend hundreds of thousands of pounds every year on it. But what is the use of research unless our farmers can get a reasonable price for their produce? The average yield of wheat in this country is about 38 bushels an acre, and with one exception that is the greatest yield of any land in the world. If hon. Gentlemen will go to Cambridge and see the extraordinary investigations which they have made into the rearing of cereals, they will find that they have invented a Yeoman wheat which yields 92 bushels per acre. Give the farmers security, and every farmer will be after getting a bigger yield. I tried in on a small scale in September, and I have had a report about it this morning. I planted only 20 seeds of a very inferior poultry food. I planted them, as they do at Cambridge, six inches apart. I had a letter from my gardener this morning to say that the wheat was over five feet high, and it looked as if it were going to yield a thousandfold. It is the talk of the neighbourhood, and the farmers all round are flocking to see the 20 seeds which I sowed.
Let farmers have security and hope, and they will all try to increase their yield. Instead of 38 bushels, they will have 48 and 58 bushels an acre, and with greater yield they will be able to take smaller prices. It cuts both ways. We are going to give the farmers better prices to begin with, and then they are going to get better yields. I will not take up any more time, but I have stated certain things which can be checked, and if the right hon. Gentleman who has been talking about the quota would be good enough to check them and give the House his unbiased information with regard to them I believe we could make a start 1159 which, while it would not completely restore agriculture, would at least give hope to wheat growers.
§ Mr. ROSBOTHAM
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:this House regrets the serious difficulties of the agricultural industry due to the world-wide depression and intensified by the failure of the previous Administration to take steps to promote the efficiency and well-being of the industry or to formulate adequate proposals to that end; and welcomes the Government's efforts both in legislation and administration to improve the quality of our stock, the standard of production, and the efficiency of marketing and disposal of agricultural products, as well as their proposals for the improved utilisation of the land and facilities for settlement afforded to the agricultural worker and others.Seeing that a Vote of Censure has been moved on the Government, perhaps it would be as well to try to find out what is the cause of the present disaster to agriculture. There is no doubt whatever that the breaking up of estates caused the disaster. It created insecurity, and many of our best cultivators and many of our best farm workers have left the land. Credit is due to those landowners who are trying to maintain their estates, living frugal lives and taking a personal interest in the land. There are many of them, and I say credit is due to them. Meanwhile, a change in the system of the land tenure is taking place. Any new system which takes the place of the old must give security of tenure to the good cultivator, and he must also get the land at a fair rent. The smallholdings Acts which have been passed since 1908 have done much to bring about that state of things, but something more is required, and the Government have endeavoured to secure that something more by the introduction of the Land (Utilisation) Bill. The Conservative Opposition strenuously opposed that Measure both in this House and in the Committee, and in another place it has been mutilated, and yet the Conservative Opposition are moving a Vote of Censure on the Government for having done nothing.
Part I of the Land Bill gives greater powers to the Minister of Agriculture to acquire land. We want the acquisition of land to be made easier. It also gives him power to take over mismanaged 1160 estates, and there have been many estates mismanaged, as we all know. He is also given powers to set up large-scale farming to retrieve some of the million acres which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said the Conservative Government, when in office from 1924 to 1929, allowed to go out of cultivation. That is what the large-scale farming is intended to do, bring some of that land into cultivation again. There are also powers to establish demonstration farms. Surely those are worthy objects? Part II gives power to set up smallholdings, cottage holdings and allotments, and gives special aid towards putting on the land suitable unemployed persons and agricultural workers. Thanks are due to the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) for the part she took in seeing that special advantages should be given to agricultural workers. Did we get any support from the Conservative party for those proposals? No. They withheld their support from them. If this day could have been available for passing that Bill into law on its return from another place, then our time would have been far more profitably spent than it is in the discussion of this Vote of Censure.
We all know the advantage of smallholdings. They assist in bringing back to the land the large numbers who have left it and to stimulate the production at home of those foodstuffs which we are buying from the foreigner to the extent of £200,000,000 a year. It is noticeable that it is in industrial counties like Lancashire and Glamorgan that smallholdings have been the greatest success, but there are other counties which are deserving of mention. I have received a report from the Cheshire County Council, showing they have done a great work in Cheshire; and the West Riding of Yorkshire and other places have set an example. But, on the other hand, there are many counties in England which have never yet created a smallholding. The Land (Utilisation) Bill gives power to the Minister to create smallholdings where county councils have failed to do their duty. The Marketing Bill brings about organisation, co-ordination and regulation. Without Protection are those useless? My predecessor in the representation of Ormskirk has written a book called "A new policy for Agriculture." 1161 In a preface to that book the right hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) says:We should develop marketing organisation with statutory backing, but with the assent and active co-operation of those concerned.That is exatly what the Marketing Bill does.We should encourage the increase of smallholdings on sound and careful lines.What does the writer of the book himself say? It is only fair to the writer to say that these are his own personal observations:If the arguments set out in these pages are sound, organisation among farmers is as important for their industry as Protection. While in the case of most agricultural commodities a tariff might well ensure that somebody would make a greater profit, once the produce had left the farmer, that somebody would probably not be the producer. Protection for agriculture is by no means so simple a proposition as many farmers think. Without far more efficient organisation than at present exists, the application of a moderate import duty would not, in most cases, materially benefit the producer as such.Those are very significant words, especially as the Conservative Opposition seem to be very much amused whenever the Marketing Bill is mentioned, and gave no support to it. A marketing board for milk is an absolute and urgent necessity. The Government deserve credit for having got the Marketing Bill so far towards the Statute Book, and it is to be hoped that it will soon become an Act of Parliament.
Then, what about the Drainage Act? Is no credit due to the Government for passing the Drainage Act? A Royal Commission was appointed by the Conservatives when they were in power, but they never carried out the recommendations of that Commission. It was left to the present Minister of Agriculture to pilot a Measure through the House and through Committee and to pass it into law. At present many catchment boards are at work and employing large numbers of men under that Drainage Act. The Improvement of Livestock Bill has created a good deal of amusement; nevertheless it is of the greatest value for improving the livestock of this country. The Government have done so much that it would take a long time to state all that they have done. They have passed the Rural Housing Act, Clause 4 1162 of which gives definite powers for the erection of rural dwellings, and it also gives large- powers to the county councils. If local authorities do not do their duty in this respect, the Minister has power to compel them. Under the Rural Housing Act, provision is made for the erection of 40,000 rural dwellings, and that is worthy of commendation on the part of the Government. The Government have renewed the Rural Housing Act, 1926. Any yet a Vote of Censure has been moved to-night, in spite of all that the Government have done! Water supplies have been provided for rural districts, and agricultural education has been extended to a remarkable degree. Agricultural research has been attended to. One of the Whips has just brought to me this magnificent potato in order to show the success of scientific research. This potato represents a new variety called Arran Crest, it is seven days earlier, and it is entirely free from black scab or any other disease. Veterinary science has received attention from the Minister of Agriculture, and the question of unemployment insurance for agricultural workers is under consideration, and will be attended to. I need not refer to the great strides which have been made in the canning of fruit and vegetables, in grading, and other directions. The National Mark has made great strides under the present Minister of Agriculture. To-day's "Yorkshire Post" complimented the Minister of Agriculture on the passing to another place of the Marketing Bill, and that journal refers to Dr. Addison as a, parliamentarian of the first order. And yet a Vote of Censure on the Minister of Agriculture is being proposed to-night!
The Minister of Agriculture holds a very difficult position in any Ministry. I remember the first Minister of Agriculture who was appointed, and I have followed the careers of succeeding Ministers. Every one of them has had a difficult position because agriculture has always been put into the background. I can imagine previous Ministers of Agriculture being shoved into a corner at meetings of the Cabinet and being told to "keep quiet," but that is something which Dr. Addison will not do. The stock farmer desires cheap foodstuffs and cheap oats. Bacon has been mentioned. The Secretary of State for War was in- 1163 vited the other day to buy British bacon for the Army. He told the House that there was not a sufficient supply of bacon in this country to supply the Army, and he had to spend £150,000 a year with one firm in order to provide the bacon required. Surely that is a reason why there should be more co-operation and reorganisation in the bacon industry.
I should be very sorry to see wheat growing go out altogether in England, and if we allow that to take place, we shall be neglecting a national duty. Wheat growing is necessary for the rotation of crops, and it assists spring operations. It also supplies a national need. If by any means we plunge into war, which I hope we never shall, and our wheat is out of cultivation it will be a national loss. As regards the quota system, I should be quite prepared to support that system for wheat as an immediate necessity. It is altogether an uneconomic proposition to grow wheat in this country at the present world price. We must protect our home-grown crops from disease and pests likely to come from other countries. The present Minister of Agriculture is fully alive to that, He has taken immediate action with regard to the Colorado beetle, and it will be a great relief to the farmers when they know that their crops are being protected from pests likely to come from foreign countries. A question has been put by an hon. Member opposite to the Minister about imported straw and hay and straw packing coming from foreign countries. I know that the Minister of Agriculture is carefully watching that danger. It is foolish for people in this country to say that it does not matter about this foreign packing straw because it finds its place in the manure heap in the fields; nevertheless, there is a great danger from it, and the Minister of Agriculture is fully alive to that danger. In spite of all this, a Vote of Censure is being moved to-night.
That there is a more sympathetic outlook in regard to the cultivation of the soil-to-day than there was two years ago in this House, I am convinced from the conversation which I had when first elected in May, 1929, and I am sure that on all sides of the House hon. Members desire that something should be done. It is the old tradition that is keeping things 1164 back. I think that the suggestion which has been put forward by the leader of the Liberal party to-night ought to be accepted, and the sooner agriculture is freed from the trammels of party politics the better. The Conservatives have always refused to co-operate with us on this question, and now they are putting forward a Vote of Censure. In that respect I think the Conservative policy has been very inconsistent. A good deal has been said about Protection, but I would like to ask, will the Conservatives bring in Protection if they are elected? I would remind the House that it was Mr. Ritchie who, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, removed the threepenny Corn tax in 1903. It was a Conservative Minister of Agriculture who repealed Part I of the Corn Production Act, 1921, and that enabled a better price to be paid to the producer as well as a living wage to the agricultural worker.
With regard to afforestation, the Government have doubled the grants for that purpose for a period of years, thus finding more work for the unemployed. What is the policy of the Conservative party? Instead of pronouncing their policy, they are moving a Vote of Censure. As a matter of fact, the Conservative party have a new policy every new moon. The policy announced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) in 1923 and 1924 has vanished like smoke. Then we had the broccoli policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and now he desires to restore confidence to his party by saying that Members on this side of the House do not know the difference between a globe mangold and a swede turnip. There are many hon. Members on this side of the House who commenced work on the farm at 6d. or 1s. per day, and thinned both swedes and globe mangolds. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman knows the difference between a broccoli and an autumn cauliflower? I am sorry that he is not here, so that I might ask him that question. We do not question his ability and sincerity in regard to agriculture. He is a typical agriculturist. He enjoys a pipe in his spare moments, just as the agricultural labourer and the farmer do at "bagging and drinking" time.
All parties should work together in this matter. Where is the New party? What are they doing for agriculture? 1165 We have not seen them since last Wednesday night, when they kept us up for 19¾ hours. They were going to be the party of the future, the national party. They were going to bring evolution and reforms to this old country, and one would have thought they would be here to support the cause of agriculture, but I suppose we shall see them again in a few months' time. We have had derating, and I do not want to belittle it. We value it and we welcome it. I have always maintained that the land, the raw material of the farmer, should be free from rates, and the last quarter of them was taken off by the Conservative party. It was not a big concession, but we appreciated it. It will, however, all be lost if it is not followed up by a constructive agricultural policy.
I wonder, also, where the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) is this afternoon? Does he take any interest in an agricultural policy? He represents a party of his own now. If he had been here, I was going to remind him that I drove hares for him from my farm when he went shooting. I occupied the very humble position of beater, but I was proud to do it. I thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to be a friend to me in the future, that he was going to look after me and my agricultural neighbours, and so I did myself the honour of beating hares for him to shoot. He shot a great deal, but he did not kill much. He then went away to Oldham to woo the electors, and he was successful on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman is not here to support agriculture to-day, but he comes down sometimes and fires off his political shots, and those political shots are just like the shots that he made at the hares—they misfire. Therefore, we cannot expect much from the New party or from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in the way of help for agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has retired to plough his lonely furrow, but the ploughing of that lonely political furrow will not assist agriculture.
I am sorry, also, to see that the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) is not here, because I have some recollections of the Noble Lord when he was returned for the Newton Division, a 1166 part of which I have the honour now to represent. Joy bells rang and bonfires blazed when the Noble Lord was first elected for Newton, because he was returned with the assistance of the agricultural votes in that Division, and we thought we were going to have a friend in him. How does he occupy his spare time? Not in agriculture. He spends his spare time in trying to find how he can sell the Post Office, and agriculture goes into the background.
No Government has ever had to face such great questions as this Government is facing to-day. Look at the question which is being discussed in the Prime Minister's room to-night, and other great questions like that. There are grave responsibilities resting upon the Prime Minister and upon the Cabinet, and yet they have found time to bring in four Measures of importance to agriculture, and they have not had the support of the Conservative Opposition, nor have they had support in another place. Now, therefore, we trust that the agricultural divisions will resent this attitude of the Conservative Opposition, and that they will take note of the fact, which has already been pointed out, that, with a majority of 200 in the last Parliament, the Government from 1924–1929 allowed 1,000,000 acres to go out of cultivation and a large number of men to leave the land. The Labour party fully realise and appreciate the necessity for a prosperous and happy countryside, and the national value of a healthy rural population. I beg to move.
§ Mr. WILLIAM BENNETT
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do so with some little trepidation as the representative of a London borough. It is said in this House that only those who represent agricultural constituencies have a right to talk upon these subjects, but personally I rather resent that point of view. It seems to me, in the first place, that every Member should take an interest in any subject for which we in this House are all responsible, and that he has a right to take part in debates upon it. I do not like these "partial affections" and particular interests, especially in such a subject as agriculture, which in-my opinion is of paramount importance, not only to every constituency in the country, but to every individual and to every Member of this House. Townspeople are, or should be, as interested in 1167 this question as country people are, for it is quite certain that, if the agricultural workers did not produce more than enough food to keep themselves and their families, all of us who are townspeople would have to starve. In one sense all townspeople live on the backs of the farmers and of the agricultural labourers, and a country which is developed all on one side is not in a particularly safe position.
We owe a debt of gratitude to those Members of the Opposition, even though they are back-benchers, who have tabled this Vote of Censure, because it enables us to raise this matter of agriculture and have a good discussion upon it. The Debate so far has involved principles of the utmost importance, not only in regard to agriculture, but in regard to all the basic industries of this country. I rather deplore, though I am not finding fault, the continual tendency to take political and party advantage to drive one's opponents into a disadvantageous position. I should like to see this question of agriculture discussed entirely on its merits. But the comparison between the Opposition and the Government has been raised, and, therefore, it becomes inevitable that we should discuss it from a party point of view.
I am rather surprised that the Opposition have had the temerity to table this Vote of Censure on the Government, when one remembers not only the immediate record, but their past record, and to find fault with the Labour Government after its two years of office, because the Opposition parties—the Gentlemen of England—have had complete control of the countryside and of the Government of this country for some 500 or 600 years at least unchallenged by the working class. What sort of job did they make of it? We certainly cannot accept responsibility for the state of agriculture to-day, or of any other of the industries of the country. The Opposition has a complete monopoly of the responsibility so far. What sort of job have they made of it? The housing of the agricultural workers is so bad that the State has had to come to their assistance. Their wages have been so bad that for at least 200 years the Poor Law came to the rescue and made up their rent. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member 1168 for Fareham (Sir T. Inskip) was boasting the other night about the great and good work that quarter sessions have done for agriculture in the past. It reminded me that, from the reign of Elizabeth until the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria, the landowners and farmers in quarter sessions assembled fixed agricultural wages at half what it would take to keep the labourer alive, and the rest was made up out of the Poor Law.
Agricultural policy has been the plaything and the sport of politicians. Is it any wonder that English farmers are individualists and look with the greatest suspicion on any offers of assistance or advice? The Labour party is a party of working-men. It is not more than 30 years old. It arose almost entirely in the great industrial centres. When we came in at last, after this very short time, a minority Government, we only had a handful of agriculturists on our side of the House. If we had had 50 Members from the county constituencies with us, it is certain that they would have had a very great effect in moulding the policy of the party. In spite of all that, the Labour party in two years has done more for agriculture than any other Government for very many generations past has done in the same time. We have nothing whatever to be ashamed of in our record during these past two years. We have done the very best we possibly could in spite of the almost unprecedented difficulties under which we have been labouring, and we are expected by this Vote of Censure to have done more in those two years than has been done in the past centuries, and we are censured because we have not solved a problem that has defied statesmen right down through the ages. It is demanded that we should settle this great problem of production and consumption, of supply and demand, in the first two years after these centuries of neglect, with the continual hindrance of those who claim to be before anyone else the representatives of the countryside and the agricultural interests.
I am astonished at the votes that have been cast in the House and in Committee against the Bills introduced by the Minister of Agriculture. I should have thought it was the very worst possible policy for the gentlemen who went into that Lobby, but I suppose they know 1169 where they are. They know that their family traditions and their social influence will carry them into power in spite of anything that they do in the House or anything that we do on the other side. Time after time we have had to sit here and listen to all sorts of insults from hon. Members opposite, who talk about the betrayal of promises and deceiving the people and the mean policy of the Labour party, after saying they would make agriculture pay and put it on its feet, not to have done it in the first two years. That comes very badly from the Opposition.
Ever since the abolition of the Corn Laws right down to to-day there has not been a single election where the carrot of Protection has not been dangled before the noses of agriculturists. Even if the Leaders of the party have not definitely promised it, it has always been possible to get individual Members to talk about it to the farming interest, and the farmers have thought every time that it was going to be done. Even if you are not yourselves prepared to promise Protection and food taxes, you can always get the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) to come down and make his speech, and that will be as good. The farmers will be convinced that it is exactly what you are going to do. Even when the Opposition have had a tremendous majority, never once has any attempt been made to redeem these implied promises. We have done our best. The most important Bill that we have introduced, in my opinion, is the Marketing Organisation Bill. That is of paramount importance. It is the first gleam of hope that the countryside has had for a very long time. Members of the Opposition who know most about agriculture are the most ready to admit that there is something in the policy which we have carried out in the last awo years and are prepared to give the Minister some credit. They know that in our present Minister of Agriculture we have a man who takes a passionate interest in this matter. He has a cool head and high courage. Whatever Government is in power, we ought to be very grateful indeed for the fact that the English Civil servants are among the most devoted and loyal men that there are in the world. In spite of all the sneers that it has been the fashion to throw at bureaucrats and all the rest of 1170 it, the Labour party has had the greatest possible assistance from men who take a real interest in it, the permanent officials of the Ministry, in backing him up in what he has been doing.
We are well aware that this organisation that we have tried to bring about is not sufficient, and we shall have to go further. The policy of our party can be summed up, as regards not only agriculture but all the other industries of the country, almost in a phrase. It is the organised control of all the processes of life, from production to consumption. That is the ultimate aim that we have in view, and we have gone a long way in regard to agriculture to commence this organisation. Time after time the case of Denmark has been quoted as an example of a country where scientific organisation has been carried to the pitch of perfection. It was used by the Lord Privy Seal to show that the Bill that we have passed will result in a much better organisation and a much greater production of bacon. In order to show that that is not sufficient, and that we have to go a great deal further, I will quote the market report in connection with Denmark issued in June:During the first five months of the year the export of bacon and eggs has increased by 35 per cent. Unfortunately this expansion, together with similar exports from Poland, the Baltic States and Holland, has overfilled the English market and reduced the bacon quotation from 94 kronen to 70 kronen per 100 kilos, the lowest since 1908. Breeding is thus going on at an absolute loss to the farmers and the deepest pessimism prevails in agricultural circles.This depression is not confined to our own country. It extends to others. Here is a little country which founded its entire economic life and its complete organisation upon the English market, and upon the export of bacon and butter to be sold in England. They did not develop their secondary industries and manufacturing industries. I believe that they purchase more per head of the population than any other country except New Zealand. The Lord Privy Seal said that even when this is done—and they are large buyers from us—there is a trade balance against us of £39,000,000 a year. They are in exactly the same position as we are from another point of view. For a century and a half we have based our entire economic organization 1171 upon producing manufactured articles and selling them abroad. Our markets have broken in our hands. If there is one lesson which we ought to have learnt in the last few years, it is that poverty is the most contagious disease in the world, and that when a country goes down we all suffer. There must be a remedy for it, and the remedy must be found whether at home or abroad, in a greater control by humanity over all the processes of production and of consumption.
We have the case of cereals. That is what the Opposition mean by their Vote of Censure. I understand that wheat is 23s. a quarter to-day. I wonder how many Members of this House realise what wheat at 23s. a quarter really means. Not only in Norfolk and Suffolk and in a great part of this country, but in the prairies of Canada or down in the savannas of the Argentine or in the bush in Australia, everywhere, it means the same thing. With wheat at 23s. a quarter there is not a crust of bread we eat in this country which is not bitter with the miseries of men, women and children who give their labour producing that wheat. We put too much importance upon the question of cheapness. It is all very well to say that if you cannot make farming pay, you must turn to something else and produce bacon or something of that sort. We have to go a great deal further than that. Cheapness! I do not think that anyone has the right to eat bread which has been produced at the expense of the people that do the work, or to warm oneself at a fire, the coal of which has been produced at the expense of underpaid labour. This sort of thing applies all the way round, and we have to find some way out of it. We must drop this political scoring and this bitterness and anger. We have to get down to bedrock, and discuss the matter clearly and quietly, and come to a conclusion about it. The hon. Member for Mid Bedford (Mr. Gray)—and I know that he would be backed up by my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren)—and other Members in all parts of the House, think that in the long run things will adjust themselves. No doubt they will, but at what a price! I believe that 1172 it is possible for mankind to take a hand in the situation and to introduce order into our economic life. I think that a great change is now taking place in men's opinions. That change has been put better than I can possibly put it in the report of the Macmillan Committee on Banking, Currency and Finance. I will read a few words from it, because it has a direct bearing upon that about which I have been talking. They say:In the development of every civilisation there comes a stage when reflection awakens. Of our own nation pre-eminently it may be said that it has attained its great position not by the pursuit of any preconceived plan, but by a process of almost haphazard evolution based on trial and error. There has been little conscious direction of the national activities to definite ends. The most distinctive indication of the change of outlook of the Government of this country in recent times has been its growing pre-occupation irrespective of party, with the management of the life of the people. Parliament finds itself increasingly encouraged in legislation which has for its conscious aim the regulation of the day-today affairs of the community, and now intervenes in matters formerly thought to be entirely outside its scope. We may well have reached the stage when an era of conscious and deliberate management must succeed the era of undirected natural evolution. We are indeed at the parting of the ways.I believe that to be true. I think that all matters are turning that way. To-day, if we only understood it, we should all be prepared to accept the policy of organised control. That means the control of price, of our production and of our consumption. You have more wheat than you can possibly consume. Granaries are bursting throughout the world. There are more clothes than you can possibly wear, more houses than you can possibly occupy, more boots than you can possibly wear, but do not allow them to break the price and ruin the people that do the work. Our whole object must be to attain that control. I believe that what I have just read to the House to be true, though I can hardly conceive, after all these weary years on the soapbox and at the street-corner, that at last a Royal Commission has reported in favour of the doctrines for which this party alone stands—the complete control of all these processes, a managed cur- 1173 rency, a managed banking, a managed supply and demand, managed production and distribution, and controlled prices.
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Robert Young)
I would remind the hon. Member that we are really dealing with agriculture.
§ Mr. BENNETT
I apologise, and will not offend again. It seems to me that that is the key to the situation, whether at home or abroad, Our party must go a great deal further in their agricultural policy. The best help that hon. Members opposite can give is to join our party and help to mould its policy, and, above all, to support the Amendment that I have the honour to second.
§ Mr. HANBURY
Many of us on this side heartily agree with the opening words of the Amendment, which speaks of the distressful state of agriculture in this country, but when the Amendment goes on to applaud the legislation and proposals made by the Governmentfor the improved utilisation of the land and facilities for settlement afforded to the agricultural worker and otherswe heartily disagree. We cannot believe that the Government have really carried out their election promises. We in the West of England heard with wistful hopes the Socialist party's slogan at the election, that farming must be made to pay. Those pious hopes were expressed, but two years have shown that the Government's policy, far from making farming pay, is such that they propose to spend a great deal of money in very expensive experiments. The Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill proposes to use large areas of land at great expense to the taxpayer. The Committee upstairs—I did not sit on it—approved of proposals for increasing allotments and smallholdings. Well and good. But it also approved the utilisation of large areas of land for large scale farming, which has not been proved a success in the countries of Europe. The Agricultural Marketing Bill does not seem to produce any hopes of better prices for the farmer for his produce, and it exercises no control whatever, so far as we can see, over foreign imports. It is the question of foreign domination which is so very serious at the present time. The dumping of oats, wheat and butter, produced in Russia under the most undesir- 1174 able conditions, and of dried milk powder and other agricultural products produced under conditions which would not be tolerated in this country to-day, is a very serious matter. What have the Government done to stop that dumping? We cannot see that they have done anything to deal with the crying need of our markets at home.
It is very difficult for a party like the Socialist party, which is, upheld largely by trade union votes and trade union organisations which strive to keep up the cost of living and to keep up wages, thereby increasing the cost of our manufactured goods, to realise the plight of the farming industry, which has come down to such a low level by the natural difficulties of the farming industry. The trade union movement, which is keeping up prices, will not help us in the, countryside to buy our manufactured goods any cheaper. A sad blow has also been dealt to us by the increase in the number of doles by the stroke-of-the-pen legislation, under which 180,000 people were put on to the dole. For that, we, as taxpayers, have to pay, although, as far as I can see, we get no benefit from unemployment insurance. It is our complaint that the Government, although they have brought in grandiose Measures, have done nothing to control dumping or the import of foreign goods, often produced under slave conditions, which are ruining the markets in this country. Therefore, I rise to do all in my power to oppose the Amendment.
§ Miss PICTON-TURBERVILL
All those who have any connection with agricultural constituencies will be glad that this Debate has taken place, for two reasons. First because it has brought forth from many hon. Members—and I should like specially to mention the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Dallas)—powerful and constructive contributions; and, secondly, because it has shown how unreal and unconvincing has been the Vote of Censure upon the Government, which was presented in a most unconvincing way. The whole House has realised that it is an unreal and unconvincing Vote of Censure. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Captain Briscoe) said that we on these benches were listening to the Vote of Censure, but we were receiving it with a certain 1175 amount of complacency. We were not receiving it with complacency but with a certain amount of indignation, because nearly the whole of the indictment of the Noble Lord was based on what he called the broken pledges of the Government. That comes ill from the other side, who broke their pledges and betrayed agriculture during the five years they were in office.
The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) quoted various statements in regard to the breaking of pledges by the Conservative party when they were in office. I hold in my hand not any mere election leaflet such as that from which the Noble Lord quoted, but the year book of the National Farmers' Union for 1928. As far as I know, the Farmers' Union, though it claims to be a non-party body, is from my experience, to put it mildly, very conservative in outlook. Here is a union composed of the very men whose cause hon. Members opposite profess to champion, and we have their opinion of Conservative policy during the time that the Conservative party were in office. I am always surprised that anybody can vote Conservative, but quite a lot of people do. [Interruption.] I imagine that most members of the Farmers' Union vote Conservative, but this is the opinion of the National Farmers' Union as to the way in which the Conservative Government in 1928, with a majority of over 200, kept their pledge. The manifesto issued by the Conservative party was to this effect:We are determined to safeguard the employment and standard of living of our people in efficient industries in which they are imperilled by unfair foreign competition by applying the principles of the Safeguarding Industries Act, or by analogous measures.When the Farmers' Union maintained that that was a definite pledge to apply the principles of safeguarding to the farming industry the Conservative Government said that they never meant to include agriculture, and this is the opinion of the National Farmers' Union of the Conservative Government:The Conservatives now say that it was never intended to apply to agriculture. Nothing, however, was said to that effect in 1924, and farmers who are simple folk"—and they are if they believe the Conservative Government— 1176went to the poll in the faith that the pledge meant what it said.If they had merely meant to tell the truth they would have said that it did not include agriculture, and farmers, who are simple folk, went to the polls thinking that the Conservative party meant to keep their pledge. The Conservative party is admittedly under a promise to give agriculture a measure of safeguarding or some analogous aid, and, finally, there is a most devastating criticism of the policy of the Conservative party by the National Farmers' Union, not by the Labour party, not by wicked Bolsheviks like ourselves, in which they say:These are fine words; but so far they have not been fulfilled.Instead of falling upon the Government on the plea that they have not fulfilled their pledges it would be well to ask hon. Members opposite to read the opinion of the National Farmers' Union on the pledges and policy of the Conservative party. Nor indeed is the condition of agriculture better to-day in countries where there are high tariffs. Farmers in tariff countries are not struggling but starving. I have relations working in Australia and they say:Things are deplorable out here in Australia. Wheat is selling at much below the cost of production and so is wool and as the State is dependent upon these primary products most of the farmers are broke to the world and nobody has got a penny to spare.
§ Miss PICTON TURBERVILL
It is a country with high tariffs.There are thousands of hungry men—no work to be had, and life is hard without food and nothing to look forward to.It may be just as well that the Conservative party did not put on their general system of tariffs. We have heard a great deal about dumping. The Noble Lord who opened the Debate spoke with almost a catch in his voice on the subject of butter from Russia. It is perhaps as well to realise that there was twice as much butter brought into this country from Russia in 1927 when the Conservative party was in power than there was in 1930 under a Labour Government. I will say it again, there was twice as much butter brought into this country from Russia in 1927 when the Conserva- 1177 tives were in power than there was in 1930 under the Labour Government. I want to rub that in—[Interruption]—because hon. Members are getting very lachrymose on the subject of butter. I will give them the exact figures. In 1937 when the Conservative party was in power we imported from Russia 350,000 cwts. of butter. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] Yes, and that was under a Conservative Government. Last year it was less than half that amount, 165,000 cwts. of butter. Therefore all this talk about dumping comes to this that when you really examine the figures you find that there was more dumping during the time of the Conservative Government than there has been during the period of office of the present administration. And these are the last returns of the Board of Trade.
The Noble Lord also spoke about the wheat from Germany. In 1925, also during the last Conservative Government, we imported 4,000,000 cwts. of wheat from Germany, but in 1929 we only imported 1,800,000 cwts. It only shows that under a Labour Government there has been more prosperity and better sales for our own goods. Take the question of eggs. Over 200,000,000 less eggs have been imported under the present Government than were imported during the last Conservative Administration, and this has been due to the fact that there has been an increase of £1,500,000 in the sale of our own eggs in this country, largely due to the efforts of the Labour Government in the matter of better marketing facilities and the national marking of eggs. [Interruption.] I notice that hon. Members opposite always laugh when they are in a tight place, I suppose it is to cover their confusion. It has been a great blessing to us that the Noble Lord has had the audacity to bring forward this Vote of Censure. It has shown that the Government in one Session have brought in no less than four Bills to improve the condition of agriculture, and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said that in all his long experience no Government in one Session has ever done so much for agriculture as the Labour Government.
The Noble Lady criticised the Lord Privy Seal because he said that the policy was to concentrate on those pro- 1178 ducts which paid and not to concentrate on those which do not pay. She told us how much wheat was coming from Russia and how much more is likely to come, which only shows the wisdom of the policy of the Lord Privy Seal. It ought to be said that the Empire Marketing Board has been much more alive during the last two years than ever before. During the Conservative Administration I will not say that it slumbered and slept, but the Conservative party at any rate slumbered and slept on the subject of agriculture. During the Labour Government no less than four Bills have been brought in, and we rejoice that the Noble Lord has moved this Vote of Censure because it has brought out the fact, which cannot be denied, that this Government has done more for agriculture in one Session than any previous Administration.
§ Mr. R. J. RUSSELL
As the representative of a purely agricultural constituency, and one who was returned to this House as a protest against the inaction of the Conservative Government while they were in power, I have listened to this Debate with intense interest. It started out to be a Vote of Censure on the Government, but the Debate as a whole has been more on the condition of agriculture than as to the position of the Government, and it is from that standpoint that I should like to refer to some of the things that have been said and also to say some things that ought to be said about agriculture. There is a danger that agriculture may be like the patient who is lying on the table while the surgeons are discussing the kind of operation they are going to perform, and sharpening their knives. Meanwhile the patient is rapidly losing his life. I should like to support the appeal made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) as to the need and desirability of all parties coming together to deal with this question. My right hon. Friend has reinforced and reiterated that appeal on more than one occasion. I speak with some little insight into this question when I say that in my judgment the plight of agriculture lies more with the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) for refusing to co-operate at a critical time than it does with anything else.
1179 The one thing that has struck me in all the discussions that I have had with Members of this House on agriculture has been, not the amount of difference that there is to be found among hon. Members in this House, but the enormous amount of agreement that can be found if that agreement can be got together and allowed to express itself. I do not think there is any doubt that to a very large extent hon. Members in this House are agreed upon certain remedies which can be put into operation if they would forget their prejudices, get toegther, and put those remedies into operation. There is a substantial agreement on many lines in regard to agriculture. There is substantial agreement, for example, that the future of agriculture in this country depends much more upon animal agriculture than in any other direction. If we could supply to this country, beef, mutton, bacon, eggs, butter and cheese, we should along those lines do more to resuscitate agriculture than in any other way. There is, further, a considerable amount of agreement that we can never hope to grow sufficient wheat in this country to feed our population without substantial imports.
There is substantial agreement that our land is so limited in extent that it is essential that every inch of it should be properly cultivated, but that the population is so large, that with right methods of collection and distribution, that is, the right methods of marketing, we could not only dispose of our produce, but dispose of it easily and at a better price and under better conditions than we do at present. There is further agreement that, no matter how we reorganise, there will remain a residual amount of land in this country which cannot be used advisedly and well for any other purpose than the growing of wheat. It is put down by some at 300,000 acres and by others at 500,000 acres, but, whatever the amount may be, there is a substantial residual amount of land which, if it were not under wheat, would go out of cultivation. There is also substantial agreement that the present price will not allow the farmer to make cultivation possible.
Then we arrive at the question, what are we going to do and what can the Government do? There is a suggestion that there should be a tax on imported 1180 wheat. To put it quite frankly, I think everybody almost in this House who has spoken has either ruled it out directly or by saying nothing about it, has ruled it out by negation. I would rule it out for the simple reason that it would put up the price of wheat, and, if there is anybody who needs cheap wheat, it is the agricultural industry. I represent one of the western constituencies, and no one can deny that one of the great advantages to the industry at present, especially for dairying food, has been cheap wheat coming into this country. To talk of keeping it out would be to hit agriculture in those districts more than in any other way. We need the imported grain. I have also to rule out the guaranteed price which would involve a subsidy. Both these methods, the guaranteed price and the tax on imported wheat, would stabilise inefficiency and punish the consumer.
There is no reply to the figures which have been given. There is no reply to the figures which have been produced, for example, in relation to sugar-beet by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). There is no reply to the figures which can always be produced as to the relationship between the cost of a subsidy and the smallness of the labour it employs and the high cost of that labour. Neither the miner nor the farmer can persistently live on the dole. I have ruled out also the quota scheme which hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway desire. I do that for one very simple reason. It was devised more to assist their party than the industry. What would it do? It would break the miller and punish the consumer. As has been hinted before to-day, to give a guaranteed price to the home producer and to place a quota on foreign and colonial wheat, would send up the price of the loaf. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why foreign wheat?"] Well, colonial wheat. As the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said to-day, to guarantee the price in the home market and then to add to that guaranteed price the quota on the colonial wheat, must inevitably heavily advance the price of the English loaf. To bring that up would be disastrous. It would do more than that, for it would bring into cultivation a large amount of land in this country which is unsuitable for wheat growing. We do not want to 1181 bring into cultivation either bad land for wheat or to lay down to grass good land which would be better for wheat.
We come to the question of what we are going to do. If we had all the millable wheat we grow and put it into the English loaf, we should not have more than 10 or 12 per cent. I know hon. Members will say there are various figures which have been given us this afternoon and that the only way we can study those figures is to get down closely to them. There may be a variation between the figures I have, for example, and the figures others have given, because we approach it from different standpoints. I have spent a very large amount of time in studying this question of the position of the wheat farmer, not because the constituency that I represent is a wheat-growing constituency, but because I realise, as all hon. Members who have gone into it must realise, that, whenever a report has been drawn up on agriculture, it has come to the same conclusion, namely, that the key to the agricultural position is wheat. That being so, I have gone into the question from that standpoint and I give my figures, subject to correction, but based on long investigation. My figures show that 10 or 12 per cent. of our wheat consumed would be home-grown wheat.
That ought to be an easily handled problem, but how shall we make it a reasonably paying proposition? The answer which I submit is that all we have to do is to eat it. We do it to-day, but I suggest—and it is not an original suggestion, but one that has already been made in various forms and one which I myself made two years ago—that we let the millers know that they can scour the world for cheap wheat, but that they have to use that 10 or 12 per cent. of English wheat. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is the quota system!"] I know what my hon. Friends are leading to, but the fact is that if you go to any part of the House you come down to this, that every Member who has seriously gone to the bottom of the question has to decide that in some form or other we must do something to help the English wheat grower. I grant that. The question is, how are we going to do it? That is the importance of the Debate to-day.
The outcome of this Debate should be, and I believe will be, that at last we 1182 shall get together and say what is the residual minimum that we can in common do to help agriculture. That is the point at which I, as an individual and representing no one by myself, have arrived. If you put this percentage of English wheat into your flour—[Interruption.] An hon. Member brought a loaf here this afternoon. Over last week-end and every week-end for some weeks past, on farms in Cheshire, I have been eating bread made from wheat grown in Cheshire, combined with other wheat. There is no doubt about it that English wheat will improve the dietetic value of the loaf. You are not making any sacrifice at all. But what is going to be the effect of this proposal? What will be the consequence to the producer? A guaranteed market. That is the first thing, and as supplies are limited, there will be a higher price. If you do this you must relate percentage to price, and as the one goes up or the other comes down you adjust the one automatically to the other. If you do that you can stabilise the price of your wheat to within 5s. a quarter, at whatever point you think is the right one.
I know I shall be told at once something about increasing the price of the loaf. I have gone into that question and here are the figures that I give. Assuming a minimum increase of 15s. a quarter, assuming a percentage of 10 in the loaf, the total increase in the cost of the loaf will be between one-tenth and one-sixth of a, penny. I submit that that is an amount which cannot be passed on. But there is more than that. There is ample room in present prices to take up that amount; there is ample margin as between the price in this town and that to take up a great deal more than that without doing any harm to anyone. That being so, I do not think the consumer is going to suffer. But you must remember that the producer is also a consumer. He requires offals for his increasing animal population. The percentage of English wheat in an English loaf will result, not in an increase but in an automatic reduction of imported flour. That means that there will be a greater supply of offals in this country, and, the miller getting benefit in that way, can confer upon agriculture one of the greatest benefits that is possible at this 1183 time: he can stabilise for the year the price of offals, and by that means he can take the gamble out of the agriculture.
We want to increase the number of pigs. I suggest that the direct way to do that is to let the pig farmer know in January what offals are going to cost in November. By stabilising prices during the year we should be helping agriculture, poultry, pigs and other kinds of animal agriculture, in a better way than almost any other. And in that process of stabilisation one hardly needs to suggest that the whole of that one-tenth or one-sixth of a penny will easily be absorbed. I believe you can help the agriculturist all the time. This is a matter which, I submit, can be put into operation by every party in this House. It raises no tariff, it gives no subsidy., It maintains the maximum freedom both in the markets and on the land, and it only carries a step further the objections to the policy of laissez faire which has been carried on by all parties in this House for generations past. It is not destroying or breaking across any principles of any parties. It also gives us a firmer grip in that economic war which is to be the battleground of the future.
I do not want to stress the point as to the need for our making sure of food supplies in time of war. War on the physical plane is going out very rapidly, and I hope that it is going out much more rapidly still as the result of conferences that will take place. But the economic war is coming in. We have seen what happened in America when they put together £500,000,000 to corner the world market in wheat. It is wise for us to look these things in the face. The physical struggle has gone, but the economic struggle is coming in. I have no hesitation in supporting this plea for some stabilisation of the wheat price in this way, so as to enable the arable farmer to meet his difficulties.
There are many other points with which one would like to deal. Briefly summarised, my suggestion is that we have to standardise. If I ask hon. Gentlemen anywhere in this House what is cheese, they would have very great difficulty in telling me exactly. We have to bring in standards to know what things are. What is milk? Who could say what the 1184 standards are? We have to standardise. A great deal of this work has to be done. We have to cut out the heresy of pasteurisation, which has been preached here to-day. Let us have the pure product from the cow. Let us distribute it in a proper way, and we shall increase the demand, so that the price will go up. I appeal to hon. Members in all parties to do what the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has suggested. There are those here who represent agriculture and are prepared to make any sacrifice in order that we may accomplish something to remove these difficulties under which agriculture is oppressed. It is no use hesitating. Appeals have come from all parts of the House. Let us respond to those appeals, and get a move on.
§ Sir DOUGLAS NEWTON
Many hon. Members on these benches feel that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was somewhat ungenerous in his gibes at the Mover and Seconder of this Vote of Censure. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I refer to hon. Members on these benches. We who sit on the back benches on this side feel very strongly about the neglect which has been shown of the great industry of agriculture. [HON. MEMBERS: 'By whom?"] By the Socialist party. It is a great encouragement to Members on the back benches on this side that two of their number should have been permitted to move a Motion of this kind, and I suggest that perhaps one of the reasons why the Conservative party is so strong in this country is because it gives its younger Members a chance.
I would like to remind the House of the promises and the performances of the party now in power in regard to agriculture. In "Labour's Appeal to the Nation" as originally issued certain promises were made, and on 1st May, 1929, those promises were reproduced in the "Daily Herald." They were that the land should pass under public control; that the farmers should receive capital and credit assistance, and that there should be a system of organised marketing and stability in the prices of main crops. The workers were promised a minimum wage—it is true that they have had a minimum wage, but it has become still lower since the present Government came into office—and a pro- 1185 mise was also made that a system of unemployment insurance for agricultural workers should be provided. Those promises formed the basis of a stirring and moving appeal to the agricultural industry.
What however have the party opposite accomplished as a result of their tenure of office? They have pursued, in regard to agriculture, what we regard and what they will find the country regards, as a sterile and useless policy. They have introduced a Land Utilisation Bill which proposes to carry out large-scale farming, but by whom? By officers of the State who have probably had no experience in that class of work. Then, in regard to the administration of smallholdings the proposal in their Bill is to take power to remove from the county councils the question of land settlement, although the county councils are experienced authorities in matters of that kind. There is no question about the fact that their policy in this respect involves a vast added expenditure on the ratepayers and taxpayers of this country. What have they done in regard to land tenure and credit and capital facilities? No legislation of any kind has even been suggested to deal with those matters. As to organised marketing it is true that a Bill has been introduced but it is a Measure which meets with the almost unanimous opposition of the organised farmers of this country. It is a Bill under which fetters will be placed on the farmers of this country, from which their foreign competitors will be entirely free and if it fails to work in accordance with the wishes of the party opposite, there is behind the Bill the spectre of compulsion on the minority who may refuse, otherwise, to come into the schemes proposed under the Measure.
Then what have the Government done or what do they propose to do in the matter of land drainage? We have heard a great deal about land reclamation and the absorption of the unemployed in drainage schemes, but, as far as I know, not one single scheme of any magnitude or consequence has been approved, or put into operation. Farming, they have said, must be made to pay, but the only methods of doing so which they have introduced, are those indicated in the Improvement of Live Stock Bill and the 1186 Consumers' Council Bill. Surely they cannot claim that either of those Measures will make farming pay? What has happened in regard to agricultural policy? When they first came into office the Government set up a conference representative of owners, farmers and workers, but directly that conference began to make recommendations—which were to a great extent agreed—the proceedings were immediately adjourned and the Government have not allowed it to meet since. I think I have said enough to show that, in the policy which they have pursued, the Government have done nothing to advance the cause of agriculture in this country and that we have ample ground for moving this Vote of Censure which I shall support most heartily and cordially in the Division Lobby.
§ Viscount WOLMER
One of the reasons why we moved this Vote of Censure was to give the Minister of Agriculture an opportunity of announcing the agricultural policy of the Government, especially in regard to cereal growing. Therefore, I was rather sorry when I heard that the right hon. Gentleman was going to speak last because it prevented us from offering any comments on the policy which he was going to announce. When the Lord Privy Seal told us that the right hon. Gentleman was not going to announce any policy at all, then I came to the conclusion that he was very wise indeed in speaking last in this Debate. We tax the Government on this occasion with the fact that they made most specific promises as to what they were going to do to help, not only the farmer, but the agricultural labourer and agriculture generally, and that in the face of an economic crisis which is almost without parallel in its intensity, they have done absolutely nothing, with the exception of a small grant in the case of sugar beet, to bring immediate help to the farmers who are struggling against great difficulties. I confess to a feeling of disappointment at the attitude of some hon. Members opposite. There are not many of those Members who sit for agricultural constituencies, but those who do so have in this and other Debates, eloquently supported the main case in regard to cereal growing brought forward by the 1187 Conservative party. I wish they would carry that support further than mere words. When we last discussed this question on 22nd May I was very much impressed with the speech of the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) who used these words in reference to the Government:They promised that they would implement the promise we made at the General Election to make farming pay and at the first available opportunity I shall implement my promise by my vote.Later he said,We have not power on the back benches but the Opposition has the right to table a Motion which would enable us to have a full discussion on the whole matter, without being restricted as we are on this Motion, and to state what we believe to be the right policy to deal with the cereal problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1931; col. 2437, Vol. 252.]I appeal to hon. Members opposite who sit for agricultural constituencies and who have publicly stated their belief in the necessity for some policy to deal with the cereal crisis, to implement that belief by something a little stronger than words. Instead of that, they have merely put down an Amendment, which is almost a vote of thanks to the Government for what they have done for agriculture, and casting a vote of censure on the Conservative party. We are not in the least ashamed of what we were able to do to help the agricultural industry during the time when we were in power. We derated agricultural land completely. That is a total saving of rates to agriculture in the neighbourhood of £16,000,000 a year, half of which was carried in the last Parliament, and if it had not been for that action, the position of agriculture to-day would be so much the worse. We reduced the freights on agricultural produce, we started the sugar beet industry, we instituted the National Mark in the teeth of the opposition of hon. Members opposite, we passed the Merchandise Marks Act, also in the teeth of their opposition, and we passed the Agricultural Credits Act, which has already advanced over £6,000,000 to farmers, and, finally, we passed the Housing (Rural Workers) Act in the teeth of the opposition of hon. Members opposite, an Act which they have been forced, by its success, to renew for another four years. When hon. Members opposite have done 1188 a quarter of that amount to help agriculture, they will be able to suggest that we have been lacking.
But the point of the present situation is that since the present Government came into office, and through no fault of theirs—I am not making a party point out of this fact at all—there has been a terrific fall in prices, which never existed at the time when my right hon. Friend was Minister of Agriculture, and it undoubtedly constitutes a new and very serious problem with which the present Government has had to deal. Only today I got a letter from a farmer in Hampshire, comparing the prices that he received from his produce in 1928, our last year of office, with the prices as quoted in the columns of "The Times" to-day. This is on a comparatively small farm, where he has 200 acres under corn. The difference in prices works out at just over £800 a year, or £4 an acre of his farm. That is the problem which we are up against, and when the Government tell us, in face of that problem, that they are going to put cereal growing on an economic foundation, we are entitled to demand that they shall produce that policy, because it is not the landlords who are suffering in this crisis, or even merely the farmers; it is, as hon. Members opposite who are in touch with the countryside know, the agricultural labourer who is going to suffer most from this crisis, and is already suffering.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown) asked the Minister of Agriculture a question to-day, the answer to which throws a very significant light on the present situation as regards the agricultural labourer. The Minister stated in that answer that out of the 47 wages board areas in this country, in 13 wages have been reduced or hours of work increased since the present Government came into office, and in 20 more wages board areas applications have been made for a reduction. That means to say that since the present economic agricultural crisis started, coinciding with this Government coming into office—I have already said I am not blaming the Government for it—in two-thirds of the wages board areas the wages of the agricultural labourer have either been worsened or threatened. In view of those facts, how can hon. Members opposite sit silent and 1189 apathetic and suffer their Government to go on without doing a single thing to help the serious position in this country?
We listened to the Lord Privy Seal this afternoon, and I confess that I was sorry for him. He was asked to make bricks without a morsel of straw, and I do not think he made very many. [Interruption.] I would not like to say that he dropped any bricks; he is too skilful a speaker for that. What was the first point that he made? He told us that there are very special circumstances in regard to wheat to-day. We all know that. We all knew it in 1929, and I think the Government might have discovered that before they made their pledges. He went on to say: "Look at Canada. Canada has vastly increased its wheat acreage, and other countries have vastly increased theirs." But why were those wheat acreages increased? It was because Russia dropped out of the market. If Canada had not increased its wheat acreage during the time of the War and the Russian revolution, this country and the rest of the world's consumers would have been in a very bad position indeed. What is happening now is that Russia is coming back into the wheat market, and we are faced with this problem: Are we going to buy our wheat from Russia, which has come back to compete against Canada, which increased its acreage to meet the deficiency from which we suffered at the time of Russia dropping out?
That is the question which the right hon. Gentleman made absolutely no attempt to answer. The figures are exceedingly serious. For instance, in 1928, only three years ago, Russia sent us only 81,000 cwt. of wheat, but last year she sent us 18,000,000 cwt. of wheat, at 6s. 1d. a cwt. This year she has sent us already, during the first quarter, over 6,000,000 cwt., at 5s. a cwt. I understand that Russia has sowed more wheat this year than last year. The sowing is heavier, and that, in spite of the resolution arrived at by the Wheat Conference the other day. Yet the Government have apparently absolutely no policy by which to help the farmer in this country or the Canadian farmer, to whom we are indebted for not having had a shortage during the past 10 years. The late Minister of Agriculture, Lord Noel-Buxton, when faced with this Russian 1190 dumping, wrung his hands and said it was deplorable, but he did not do anything, and as far as I can make out the present Minister of Agriculture is not even wringing his hands.
Then the Lord Privy Seal went on to tell us what he has been doing to help the farmer. He said he had been canvassing Lancashire in regard to butter. He gave us a long list of the towns in Lancashire to which he had been to ask them to buy Empire butter. When we asked him if this canvassing campaign had resulted in selling any more British butter, he had to confess that he did not even know. That shows the extent to which the Government are out to help the British farmer.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The Noble Lord must be fair in what is an important matter. This is an experiment of the Empire Marketing Board, and is only to be regarded as an experiment. It was only as an experiment that I was giving the information, and it is obviously impossible for us to give any precise figures.
§ Viscount WOLMER
From the point of view of helping British agriculture, it seems to me that the experiment has not been particularly successful. Then he told us that he was canvassing in regard to meat. I am very glad to hear that he is doing that, and may I suggest that he pays a canvassing call on the Secretary of State for War as soon as possible, and on the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for Air too, because how can the Government expect the public to buy more home-grown produce when the Service Departments refuse to agree to the Conservative proposal for an increased consumption of home-grown meat by the Navy, Army and Air Force? The right hon. Gentleman could not possibly get a better advertisement for his canvassing campaign if he tackled his own colleagues first.
The Lord Privy Seal finally told us what he was doing in regard to the canning industry. It does not seem to me that he is doing very much; it is all being done by private enterprise. It is a movement which we welcome heartily, but I cannot see that this Government are helping it in any way except by applying the national mark passed by the late Conservative Government. Even if he 1191 applies the national mark to honey, it will not help the unfortunate wheat grower in the slightest degree. He invited the farmers to go in for bacon. He pointed out the enormous consumption of bacon in this country, and he asked us, instead of continually harping on a 4 per cent. product in wheat, to go in for bacon. He was effectively answered by an hon. Member on his own side, who pointed out that the experience of pig breeders is that the moment that supply in the least outstrips the demand, the price of pigs falls to an unremunerative level. That is the answer to the right hon. Gentleman unless he is prepared to tackle foreign imports. Does he imagine that the Danes are going to stand aside and let us build up a big industry without taking steps to preserve their own existence? Denmark produces something like 256,000 tons of bacon or pork products a year, and of that 252,000 tons comes to this country. Denmark is absolutely dependent on England for her market, and the idea that you can create a bacon industry in this country without having a weapon with which to meet the menace of foreign dumping, is, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, perfectly fantastic.
The reason why we have been harping on the question of wheat growing is that the Government have given a most specific and definite pledge that they are going to put it on an economic foundation and have not made the slightest effort to carry out their pledge. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) tried hard to prove that an aspiration voiced by the leader of the Conservative party was an election pledge comparable to what the Government have promised, but everybidy knows that that is perfectly absurd. This is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in the place of the Prime Minister who happened to be away at the time, said on the 1st August:The critical position of cereal farmers demands the earliest possible attention.That was a year ago.As soon as the conclusions of the Imperial Conference are known, the Government will take whatever practical steps can be devised to put cereal growing in this country on an economic foundation.I cannot imagine a pledge more specific or more solemnly given by any Govern- 1192 ment under any circumstances, and that is the pledge which we now call upon the Government to implement. If the Government do not implement it, they stand convicted as men who value their pledges on just about the same level as the electors will value them at the next election. After the unfortunate speech of the Lord Privy Seal, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was called in as a sort of big brother to see that little Tommy was not bullied, and as neither he nor the Government have any case, he followed the maxim beloved of every pettifogging attorney, of abusing the other side, and we were treated to about 40 minutes of a blustering harangue which had a great deal to do with the merits and demerits of the Conservative party, but nothing to do with agriculture at all.
We are not in the least ashamed of our record in regard to agriculture. [Laughter.] When hon. Members have done one quarter of what we have accomplished, they will be entitled to laugh. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The issue has already been decided. At the last election, when the country constituencies were asked to record their votes, they elected 156 Conservatives, 40 Liberals and five Labour Members. Hon. Members opposite, therefore, can see what the country constituencies thought of the agricultural policy of the late Government. The party opposite got into power by persuading the industrial constituencies that they would solve the unemployment problem. The countrymen were too wise to be taken in by their pledge that they would make farming pay. Nevertheless, we are going to hold them to that pledge, although they have the valuable support of the arch-traitor of agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs told us to-night that he was going to vote for this Government because they had introduced so many Bills. I agree that we have had plenty of agricultural Bills. The programme of the Minister of Agriculture reminds me of the Irishman who said that he had plenty of luck but that it was all bad. We have had three agricultural Bills from the right hon. Gentleman, and I certainly congratulate him on his assiduity as well as on his good temper, although I am afraid that that assiduity is greatly misplaced.
1193 I would say this to the right hon. Gentleman. One of the first things which his predecessor did on coming into office was to call an agricultural conference on which the landowners, the farmers and the labourers were all represented. He was more fortunate than we were in being able to call such a conference together. That conference sat. Did they ask for the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill? Did they ask for the scrub bull Bill? Did they ask for the Agricultural Marketing Bill? They did not ask for a single one of the Bills the right ban. Gentleman has introduced. What they did ask for was that cereal growing should be put upon an economic foundation, and that is a responsibility which the Government have shirked ever since they came into office—in the face of their election pledges, and in the face of the solemn pronouncement of policy made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer a year ago. The agricultural industry has now reached such a point that it cannot be maintained in the cereal districts unless the cereal grower is given fair play. For the first time in our history unemployment is a serious factor for agricultural labourers. Actual unemployment already has 40,000 or 50,000 of them in its grip, and thousands more know that they are threatened. This Government will neither provide a policy to make farming pay nor even offer the dole to the unfortunate agricultural labourers. We have voted £25,000,000 more for the industrial unemployed, but the Government have not lifted a finger to help the agricultural unemployed. I say that if this House will not condemn the Government the country will certainly condemn them when the election comes.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Dr. Addison)
In common with every Member on this side of the House, and I think a good many on the other side, I am very grateful to the Noble Lord and his friends for this Motion. I am as surprised as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that an official Motion of Censure on the Government is not supported by any Member of the preceding Government. Of course, I know why that is, and I will prove it before I have finished. It is because of their sterility of ideas. But the nature of the proposal is as remarkable as the occasion on which it is made. 1194 This is a condemnation of this Government, at this unprecedented time, on the very night when a world crisis in prices has occasioned a most critical meeting in another room in this House, because this Government, with five rural Members, have not in two years succeeded in doing what the Conservative party failed even to attempt to do during all the time they were in office.
But I am not out—I never have been, and the Noble Lord will support me in that—to make mere party scores in a matter like this. I was blamed by one of the speakers because I went to a meeting with hon. Members of the Liberal party. I say to the hon. Members opposite who are responsible for this Motion that if they ask me I will come to meet them. I see nothing to apologise for in having gone to discuss these great issues with another group of Members of Parliament. I wish we did it more often. That kind of argument is really trifling with the question. May I for a few minutes try to get away from the trivialities of this Motion to the vital matters to which it really refers, bearing in mind all the time that the condemnation of us is that for two years we have not put all these things right? You are hound, when proposing to deal with a great issue like this, to try, if you can, to put the great things first. I am not going to recite the figures mentioned by my hon. Friend behind me, but do let us remember that it is well to see that the first two things emerging if you try to study agricultural problems are these: First, that the section of agriculture which is the most stable, which confers the most promise of gain and real success in this time of depression, is that branch of agriculture which produces the main problem, whether it is meat, or produce of that kind.
The second thing is this: That those agriculturists are holding their own the best who are, in the main, specialists, and are doing the more intensive forms of cultivation. Those are the two outstanding facts, and clearly the sensible policy is to deal first with those facts. I notice that the animadversions of some hon. Members opposite are not shared by their fellow supporters at the end of the passage. The Agricultural Marketing Bill is designed to deal with the first section of that matter, and we have to remember 1195 that, while the cereal problem is of great consequence, in considering the value of agricultural products we are bound to deal with the facts.
We produce at home £49,000,000 of beef a year as compared with about £10,000,000 of wheat. We also produce £24,000,000 worth of mutton, £25,000,000 worth of bacon and pigs, and £20,000,000 worth of poultry and eggs. Clearly this is the section where there is room for immediate advance. What is the main obstacle to advance? The main obstacle is our atrocious and unorganised marketing system and that was why we put the Marketing Bill in front. I take my testimonials, inadvertent though they are, from the "Daily Mail" of this morning. This Bill I am happy to say—the hon. Member for Cambridge will no doubt be disappointed at the hard things said of him—was recommended to their Lordships' House earlier in the day by Lord Stanhope who I noticed faced manfully up to the element of compulsion, and it was carried by their Lordships by 39 votes to 10. [Interruption.] What I want to draw attention to is the leading article in the "Daily Mail" of this morning in reference to this Debate. The heading is "The Farmer's Last Hope." I thought it was the Tory Motion, but not at all. The article says that milk, which is the last resource of many farmers, is being sold at not more than one-third of the guaranteed price of 11d. a gallon, and so on. It goes on to say that milk is in danger, and something must be done about it. It does not say it, but the writer of the "Daily Mail" article knows perfectly well, and so does the writer of a similar article in the "Daily Express" this morning, that the remedy is the Marketing Bill—
§ Dr. ADDISON
The argument is, firstly, that if an arrangement is entered into there is no machinery for seeing that it is made good. The second argu- 1196 ment is the decimating effect upon price of the inability to absorb the surplus margin. Why is it that the National Farmers' Union and their friends, with the best will in the world, have never been able to deal with this problem? It is because they have never had an organisation that could deal with the recalcitrant and often treacherous minority. That is what the Marketing Bill is going to enable us to do. I quite admit that it is not an immediate, present remedy; it represents a more long-distance policy. I agree that it will take six months to bring a milk scheme into operation, but I suggest that it is sounder statesmanship to set up an organisation which will put this industry on a self-respecting, self-developing foundation than it is to fob it off with a mere dole.
There is much more in this than the mere question of price; there is the whole possibility of advertisement. The Noble Lord rather misrepresented my right hon. Friend in the illustration that he gave. He was giving an illustration of the value of advertisement. Under the Marketing Bill, organisations will be set up representing a whole commodity and let it be remembered that the value of the milk produced is £59,000,000 a year. It is not the £5,500,000 of imported milk—dried milk and so on—which damages the market; it is the home surplus, and our inability to use it for other purposes. That £59,000,000 is five times the value of the wheat crop. Is not that a thing to be aimed at at the very beginning? It is right in front of us, and there will be a crisis next October, and I say with a good deal of confidence that, notwithstanding the opposition of the headquarters of the National Farmers' Union, there will be a good many county branches asking for a milk scheme next year. I may say this to the House, that, provided the Bill is passed in an acceptable form, we shall certainly set up a Reorganisation Commission immediately, to help to get ahead with preparing one or two schemes, of which one will relate to milk, because I think our help will be wanted when the time comes and the Noble Lord, if he were at liberty to say it, entirely agrees. A trivial levy of a half of one per cent. on milk would provide £250,000 a year. My right hon. Friend spent £10,000 in an ex- 1197 periment which attracted national attention. It convinced people that, if only mothers could be certain that milk was clean, there would be an enormous increase in the consumption, and that is the first way of absorbing the surplus. But there never was the agency and the machinery to foster and create a public demand. I have been challenged about the livestock Bill. It is true that the name "scrub bull" seems rather opprobrious, but what I want to know is: Why did not the party opposite do it? The Bill has been on the stocks for 17 years. It was of some benefit to agriculture. Some of my best supporters are on that bench, and I thank them for their support. As compared with our other Measures this Session, it is so small that it is a sort of side show but, as has been proved in Ireland in the last six years, the application of this principle has enormously improved the value and quality of their breeding stock, and it will do the same for British stock. Here we have a commodity of which we are producing £49,000,000 worth every year.
Here is another little item of contribution which the Noble Lord and his friends might have made. It is true it is only small. When I became a member of the Empire Marketing Board, I made the inquiry whether Great Britain is or is not a part of the British Empire. With all the money that was being spent on advertising goods, where did we come in? found that we did not come in.
§ Dr. ADDISON
No one has done more for the Empire Marketing Board than the right hon. Gentleman and I freely and fully acknowledge it. At the same time, an advertisement which says "Buy at home," with the words somewhere at the back, was not quite good enough for me. I wanted to bill British beef, with the words in the foreground. The right hon. Gentleman knows the difference between a background impression and foreground advertising. We got £50,000 for foreground advertising, and the result was to sustain the British national mark campaign 1198 against very determined opposition. We could not have done it so well except for that money, for which we are very grateful. My regret is that we have not had more. It has steadied the price of first-class beef notwithstanding the fall in the price of nearly every other food commodity. It is mainly that campaign that has done it. This has convinced me of what a glorious opportunity the party opposite lost for four and a-half years. I long to have a chance like they had. What use we could have made of it!
§ Dr. ADDISON
Anyhow, I got the £50,000 I wanted. All these contributions to agriculture which I have mentioned have happened in this Session of Parliament, and I have nothing like finished the story yet. I come to the next little item. We all know what loss is occasioned to farming through disease, and before I pass on to that—there is no party point about this matter—I am sure that every Member of the House will wish to be associated with me in heartily congratulating the staff who combated the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. They worked day and night, and it was clear that nothing but drastic measures would be efficient. And with regard to what it saved the country, I may say that the outbreak of 1922 and 1923 cost the country over £3,000,000 in compensation, whereas the present outbreak has cost £72,000.
There are two other little items which have been bandied about, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite could easily have done them both. One was really to get a move on with the reconstruction of the Royal Veterinary College. I found a very large number of most interesting reports on the subject, but they did not get a move on. Well, we have got a move on. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, flint-hearted man as he is believed to be, gave an extra £50,000 for work of that sort. There is one other thing which has, perhaps, been so small as to escape the notice of hon. Members opposite, but which, as compared with their Rabbits and Rooks Bill is a great thing. Everybody recognises that one of the chief necessities—and the right hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) prepared a very interesting report which 1199 I read with much pleasure when I took the office which I now occupy—is the need for the creation of a central research organisation to focus and direct research into the prevention of diseases among animals which lose us an immense sum every year, so as to get it properly directed by the most skilled body possible. What did I find? The thing had been talked about for a long time. There was an invertebrate sort of report. We have cleared that little item out of the way. As everybody knows, this organisation was created last month under a Royal Charter.
§ Captain BOURNE
On a point of Order. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has quoted from a document which is not before the House, and is he not bound to lay it on the Table?
§ Dr. ADDISON
I do not mean to do anything improper. I was referring to certain records and notes which I came across. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member is so touchy about it. The point is that they ought to have done it.
§ Dr. ADDISON
The second line of advance was the development of schemes for the utilisation of land. The Land Utilisation Bill, which was read a Second time before last Christmas, is still not on the Statute Book. That is not the fault of the Government. Is it my fault that I am still unable to take a demonstration farm? Is it my fault that we cannot take land that needs draining, and put men on to it? The responsibility rests with hon. and right hon. Members opposite and their friends. Is it my fault that we cannot take land and put men on to smallholdings? Hon. and right hon. Members opposite and their friends at the other end of the passage are to blame. Their main complaint is that the Land Bill is too courageous; that it attempts to do too much. I would ask the House to note the manifesto of 1924 of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in which he said: 1200We shall promote the provision of small and cottage holdings by affording facilities for occupation and ownership, and we will encourage the allotment movement.I want to tell the House how that pledge was redeemed. In 4½ years the total number of smallholdings that they provided in England and Wales was 728. Not one was provided in Bedfordshire, while in some counties with the finest land in England, like the Lindsey division in Lincolnshire, in five years they provided not a single smallholding.
§ Dr. ADDISON
If there were plenty in existence, why did the right hon. Gentleman undertake to provide more? We have done our best. I am sure that the House will join with me in expressing our sincere grief at the death of Sir William Waterlow, who helped to guide and carry on the work of our Allotments Committee for the unemployed with such conspicuous success. Even with that modest contribution we have provided for over 64,000 unemployed men, without any Parliamentary powers, except a Vote in aid of seeds. If we have done that with that trifling power, what could we have done if they had given us our Bill? What could we have done if we had had their majority? The Land Drainage Bill is made the subject of scoffing by hon. Members opposite. That Bill was recommended in its main outlines by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in 1927. Why did not they introduce the Bill? It was a very good proposal, and it has gone through. It has meant the mapping out of all the river beds. Nearly all the schemes are prepared and some 35 of the 47 boards have already started work.
With regard to the accusation as to the amount of grants made for land drainage schemes last year as compared with the last year of the previous administration, I may point out that in the last year of the Conservative administration two schemes were completed costing £3,600 and four schemes were in operation costing £72,000. In 1930 198 schemes were in operation costing £94,000 and 29 more schemes, costing £20,000 in the initial stage. They were only trivial schemes I agree, but larger schemes have also been prepared, and the only obstacle is the question of finance. I now 1201 turn to what is the favourite topic of hon. Members opposite. Whatever else they may say they cannot say, with all these various Measures crowded into the Session, that we have been idle, and I have by no means completed the recital. There is sugar beet and various other Measures which I have not even mentioned, but they are all contributions made during one Session of Parliament. We have tried to render, in this one Session, more active real service to agriculture than gentlemen opposite did in the whole of their four and a-half years. [An HON. MEMBER: "Look at the result?"] Does the hon. Member expect to get results from the Marketing Bill before it is passed into law?
The next thing is the question of arable farms. I am not going to shirk that question any more than any other. I recognise the pledge, and I shall not run away from its implications. I cannot be accused during this Session of running away from any of our pledges, but hon. Members must understand in regard to this industry, for which they have done nothing during the last 30 years, except to assist it by doles, that we cannot make up for their two generations of neglect in two years. It cannot be done, and I do not apologise. But for all that I recognise the importance of the pledge. I agree with the Noble Lord that there are many parts of the country where you must maintain, in our present stage of knowledge, a periodical ploughing of the land. In the drier districts of the country you cannot grow good produce unless you plough the land periodically, but, at the same time—and this is certainly a necessary ingredient of any cereal policy—you must have a reasonable stabilisation of prices. That is what the Labour policy of import boards proposes. I know that this question has terrific difficulties, and the reason why hon. Members opposite talk so glibly about solving the cereal problem is because they have never applied their minds to it. They have this quack nostrum of theirs, which is administratively unworkable as far as I have seen it proposed. Their form of the quota is not the only form, but their form is administratively impossible.
At the same time I quite agree, and I am not going to hide the fact, that this question raises some of the greatest political issues of our time. You can- 1202 not deal with this problem unless at the same time you link up to it measures for dealing with two or three other problems. Let me tell the House what they are. You cannot do anything which will interfere with the supply of cheap feeding stuffs to our farming community—of much wider consequence than the cereal crop itself. The talk of putting on a 10 per cent. revenue tax is the merest flapdoodle. It would not do anything, but increase the price of something that you want to provide cheap for feeding. Therefore, it is quite beside the mark. In the next place, it is clear that no policy is sound unless it would, in its operation, tend to induce agriculturists to take up the more profitable sides of production for which, in this country, our great industrial market is the most adapted. I do not pretend that we have not found great difficulties in working this out. We have. I am not ashamed of them. The mere fact that we have come up against those difficulties shows we have been trying to face the realities of the problem. We are not yet in a position to put proposals before the House, and I am not ashamed to confess it. It is not because we have not been working at it. We have, and we are working at it still, and I have no doubt that before we have finished we shall produce proposals which are worth more than all the nostrums of the Tories in the last two generations. I am, of course, replying to the attack of hon. Members opposite but I want to say that I should not have been able to get all the numerous Measures I have mentioned through this House this Session without a considerable amount of good will and friendly cooperation from hon. Members opposite. It is only fair that I should say that.
Then I am sure the whole House will wish me to pay a tribute to the staff of the Ministry, which has had a prodigious amount of labour thrust upon it by the large number of Bills going through Parliament in one Session. Hon. Members will know very well what it entails on the Department. The preparation of a great Bill, for example, like the Land Bill, or like the Marketing Bill, means a prodigious amount of work. There have to be innumerable consultations, and every Bill must mean a large amount of work. The whole development of marketing, on which I have not touched, means 1203 a prodigious amount of labour in the office. In acknowledging the debt which we owe to the staff at the office, I ought to say—and every experienced Minister in the House will agree—that it is a direct disproof of the rubbish that we see so often in the newspapers depreciating the loyalty of the civil servant. [An HON. MEMBER: "Duly and Dally!"] I take this opportunity of saying that, because I think there is nothing more damaging to the public services than the references we see now and then in the papers, about the mandarins in Whitehall, red-tape, and rubbish of that kind. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Daily Herald!"] I do not care what paper. It is quite unworthy of British public life. The reason I am taking an opportunity of paying this tribute is that I have told the House of a record of work of the Department, both legislative and administrative, which, I believe, we can honestly say is quite unprecedented. It is right to acknowledge our indebtedness to those who have done the hard labour behind the scenes.
This is a half-hearted Vote of Censure. There is nothing in it. No one knows that better than the hon. Members opposite. They are ashamed of it themselves, for they know that we do not deserve it. But the House will forgive them. At the same time there have been in this Debate some notes which, I am sure, were welcomed on all sides. On many occasions the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) has himself contributed effectively. After all, there is growing up in this House, and I am sure there is growing up outside, a very great amount of good will, and a desire to treat agricultural problems, as far as is possible, apart from party controversy. The thing that stands out in my mind in regard to this great issue is the waste of
§ opportunity by this country for the last 20 to 50 years. We have some of the finest land in the world. We have in our different branches some of the finest cultivators in the world.
§ We have unquestionably the best food market in the world, and we are within a motor ride of any part of it. All this time, ever since, as I well remember, my own father with many lamentations sold wheat at about 23s. a quarter—from that day until now we have had parties in this country talking about Protection and turning their minds to a tariff as if that were the only remedy. We have had them chasing that will-o'-the-wisp and missing the realities and possibilities which were just in front of them. That is unquestionably true. We have, believe me, in the country, a measure of good will for these Bills and others, if we are given a chance. We have an opportunity, I believe, of framing a system of agriculture which gradually, not quickly, will begin to re-populate our countryside and attract to itself the good will and support of men of all parties. I believe that when the dust of party conflict has blown away, in time to come, agriculture will recognise that this Session of Parliament made a notable contribution to the formation of an enduring agricultural system in this country.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
The right hon. Gentleman still has two minutes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] Is it too much to ask him to devote them to the subject of the Vote of Censure, namely the definite and binding pledges which he has given in regard to cereal policy, and his utter failure to redeem them?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 230; Noes, 278.1207
|Division No. 441.]||AYES.||[11.1 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Balniel, Lord||Briscoe, Richard George|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Beaumont, M. W.||Broadbent, Colonel J.|
|Albery, Irving James||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. Berks, Newb'y)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Buchan, John|
|Alien, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Bullock, Captain Malcolm|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Bird, Ernest Roy||Burton, Colonel H. W.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft.||Butler, R. A.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Butt, Sir Alfred|
|Atkinson, C.||Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Boyce, Leslie||Campbell, E. T.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Bracken, B.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Castle Stewart, Earl of|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Brass, Captain Sir William||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt, R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Barton||Hammersley, S. S.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W)||Hanbury, C.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hartington, Marquess of||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Christle, J. A.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnos)||Remer, John R.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Haslam, Henry C.||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Rosa, Ronald D.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hurd, Percy A.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Inskip, Sir Thomas||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Iveagh, Countess of||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Savery, S. S.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Kinderaley, Major G. M.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Knox. Sir Alfred||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Latham, H. P. (Scarbero' & Whitby)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Llewellin, Major J. J.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Stewart, W. J. (Belfast South)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Long, Major Hon. Erie||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faveraham)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Making, Brigadier-General E.||Thompson, Luke|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Ferguson, Sir John||Marjoribanks, Edward||Thomson, Mitchell-, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Fielden, E. B.||Meller, R. J.||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Fison, F. G. Clavering||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Milne, Wardlaw-, J. S.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Ward, Lieut.-Cot. Sir A. Lambert|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Morrison, W. S. (Gios., Cirencester)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Muirhead, A. J.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Nall-Cain, A. R. N.||Windsor-Cilve, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptsf'ld)||Womerstey, W. J.|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||O'Connor, T. J.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||O'Neill, Sir H.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Peake, Captain Osbert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Penny, Sir George||Commander Sir B. Eyres Monsell|
|Gunsten, Captain D. W.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||and Major Sir George Hennessy.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Caine, Hall-, Derwent|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Benson, G.||Cameron, A. G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Birkett, W. Norman||Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Charleton, H. C.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Bowen, J. W.||Chater, Daniel|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Church, Major A. G.|
|Arnott, John||Bread, Francis Alfred||Cluse, W. S.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Brockway, A. Fenner||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.|
|Ayles, Walter||Bromfield, William||Cocks, Frederick Seymour|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Bromley, J.||Compton, Joseph|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Brothers, M.||Cove, William G.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Cripps, Sir Stafford|
|Barr, James||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Daggar, George|
|Batey, Joseph||Buchanan, G||Dallas, George|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Burgess, F. G.||Dalton, Hugh|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Law, Albert (Bolton)||Romeril, H. G.|
|Day, Harry||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lawrence, Susan||Rowson, Guy|
|Dukes, C.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Duncan, Charles||Lawson, John James||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)|
|Edge, Sir William||Leach, W.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Edmunds, J. E.||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Sandham, E.|
|Egan, W. H.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Sawyer, G. F.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lees, J.||Scott, James|
|Evans, Major Herbert (Gateshead)||Leonard, W.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Foot, Isaac||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Scurr, John|
|Freeman, Peter||Lindley, Fred W.||Sexton, Sir James|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Logan, David Gilbert||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Longbottom, A. W||Sherwood, G. H.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||Longden, F.||Shield, George William|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Gill, T. H.||Lunn, William||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Gillett, George M.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Shinwell, E.|
|Glassey, A. E.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Gossling, A. G.||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Gould, F.||McElwee, A.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||McEntee, V. L.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Gray, Milner||McKinlay, A.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B.(Keighley)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Groves, Thomas E.||McShane, John James||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Manning, E. L.||Sorensen, R.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Mansfield, W.||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||March, S.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Marcus, M.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Hamilton, Sir R, (Orkney & Zetland)||Marley, J.||Sullivan, J.|
|Harbord, A.||Marshall, Fred||Sutton, J. E.|
|Hardie, David (Rutherglen)||Mathers, George||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)||Matters, L. W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Messer, Fred||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Middleton, G.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Haycock, A. W.||Mills, J. E.||Tillett, Ben|
|Hayday, Arthur||Milner, Major J.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Montague, Frederick||Toole, Joseph|
|Henderson, Arthur, Junr, (Cardiff, S.)||Morley, Ralph||Tout, W. J.|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Townend, A. E.|
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Mort, D. L.||Vaughan, David|
|Herriotts, J.||Muff, G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Hicks, Ernest George||Muggeridge, H. T.||Walker, J.|
|Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Murnin, Hugh||Wallace, H. W.|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Naylor, T. E.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Hoffman, p. C.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Hollins, A.||Noel Baker, P. J.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Hopkin, Daniel||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||West, F. R.|
|Isaacs, George||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Westwood, Joseph|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Owen, H. F. (Hereford)||White, H. G.|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Paling, Wilfrid||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Palmer, E. T.||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Perry, S. F.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Lelf (Camborne)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Pole, Major D. G.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A. (Preston)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Price, M. P.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Wise, E. F.|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Raynes, W. R.||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|Kinley, J.||Richards, R.||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Knight, Holford||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lang, Gordon||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Ritson, J.||Hayes.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.