HC Deb 06 April 1932 vol 264 cc153-99

I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, after the word "year," to insert the words: during the continuance of this Act. The object of this Amendment is to limit the period of operation of the Act, and it should be taken in conjunction with a later Amendment to Clause 19 in which we propose that the Act shall not continue in operation beyond the year 1937. We have strongly opposed the principle of a permanent subsidy to agriculture at the expense of the consumers of bread in this country, and, while we recognise that in this House today we are powerless to prevent the Government from carrying out their wishes, we claim that an automatic opportunity should be given to the House and to the country to bring this Measure to an end and reconsider all that it implies before proceeding any further. It should be realised that this is, after all, a proposal to pay an enormous sum of money to a few people for a purpose which does not justify the continued expenditure for all time of the enormous sum of money which is to be collected and spent in connection with this Measure. We propose that this expenditure shall cease automatically five years hence.

The Minister himself has stated that this is in form a trial Bill. I do not think he will say it is intended to be permanent. The Lord President of the Council put the same idea in happier words than I could use in dealing with the question of abnormal importations and the general issue of tariffs and Free Trade. He said there was no possible way of avoiding this change in our fiscal system. Those who did not believe in tariffs must be reconciled to the idea of a trial, and they would all be judged by results. When the tariffs of which he spoke had been in operation for two or three years an opportunity would present itself for an appeal to the country, and tariffs would be judged, not by what was said about them, but by their effect on the economic life of the nation. If the Lord President of the Council holds that view in regard to tariffs, why does not the Minister of Agriculture recognise that he cannot to-day legislate for all time, and that he cannot to-day fix the provisions of this Bill and impose them upon the nation for all time without any possibility of reform or termination?

I think the Minister, too, has his doubts, because, while he has fixed one factor in the scheme for a period of three years, even he will not go beyond that three years, and he has laid down as a working principle that after the first three years the standard price may be revised and the committee of three is to have regard to the economic conditions in the industry. They are to inquire into the world price of wheat, the cost of production, the amount of deficiency payments, and the general condition of agriculture, and at the end of three years they will be empowered and required to recommend to the Minister that the standard price shall be maintained or varied as they think fit, and the Minister is to accept the recommendation and to make an order for variation, which is to take effect subject to the approval of Parliament. The Minister himself recognises that the Bill as it is cannot be carried on indefinitely without being brought under review and reconsideration, and, if we are wrong when we ask that it shall terminate in five years, there is an equal measure of blame attached to the Minister for his failure to guarantee the 45s. a quarter beyond the period of three years as is laid down in the Bill. He shares the condemnation which would fall upon us from those who say that he should guarantee the price to the farmer without any danger of it being cut off or recalled at any time.

The deficiency payments are likely to amount to a very considerable sum, and I invite the House once again to consider whether we are doing right in allowing the machinery of the Bill to operate to pay to registered growers of wheat a deficiency payment the extent of which no one really knows. There is every likelihood that in the first year the subsidy payment will not be less than 18s. or 19s. a quarter, and it may be raised to a figure of 22s. or 25s. No one knows exactly. There is no limit in the Bill to the amount of deficiency payment for each quarter of wheat and no limit to the aggregate amount to be paid in any given year. The prospects are that the amount will not be much less than 20s. a quarter and the aggregate not much less than £6,000,000 in any given year unless world conditions change very much, and the indications are that, if they do change, they will change in a direction which will give the farmer a claim to a higher payment than he has at present. There is a large surplus of wheat in the world, wheat-producing methods are con- stantly tending to produce cheaper wheat, and the indications are that the world price for the next few years will be lower than at present. In the meantime, the standard price is to be maintained for three years, and the deficiency payment is very likely to increase.

The right hon. Gentleman defended the claim of the landlord to a share of this subsidy. That is the first time in the discussions on the Bill that that claim has been made. We had never heard a word about the poor landlord. We have heard about the poor farmer who is unable to continue to grow wheat, but the Bill has not been brought forward to enrich the farmer—not even to save him from making losses. The idea bas been to enable him to continue to grow wheat in the national interest, and we are paying a very high price indeed for this desire, legitimate in some circumstances, to grow the quantity of wheat foreshadowed in the Bill. But there is no reason why this House, or the country, or the consumers of bread, should be called upon to pay additional rent to the landlord, and I feel sure that even this House, constituted as it it is, the result of a political accident or something even worse, a House which is not a representative House, will not agree that the poorest people should be called upon to pay an additional price for every slice of bread they have in order that landlords may draw for an indefinite period higher rents than those they have enjoyed so long. I remember the Lord Privy Seal, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, concocting a very smart joke when he described the effect of the additional taxation on tobacco and said the smoker would have one draw for himself and 15 or 16 for the Exchequer. Here is an occasion when for every slice of bread eaten by the poorest people a contribution is to be made, one bite to the farmer and one to the landlord, for every alternative bite enjoyed by the person himself. This is the first time we have heard of the landlords' rights, and I should think that that is sufficient reason for limiting the period.

The Minister referred to the Opposition, and, indeed, confessed that we have not indulged in fractious opposition. Today our opposition is more justified than ever, because now we are told that part of the subsidy is likely, and legitimately, to be taken to enrich the landlords of this country who have derived enhanced interest and value in the land which they have held so long without making a single contribution towards that enhancement. The best way to check this sort of thing is to impose a time limit upon the operation of the Bill. If to-day we decide that the Act shall operate only for five years, it will be much more difficult for a landlord to impose additional rents upon his tenants. If the landlords and the farmers know that there is always to be a standard price of 45s. a quarter for homegrown millable wheat, and that deficiency payments up to that figure are to be made under the procedure of this Measure, the landlords will very soon make an approach to their tenants, and we shall see a rent ramp very early in operation in the wheat-growing districts of the country. If the landlord knows that the Act is only to remain in operation for five years, it will be very difficult for him to make arrangements to raise his rents, especially if he knows that there may be a possibility that rents will have to be reduced when the five years come to an end.

We are rightly entitled to call the attention of the Minister of Agriculture to the absence of any provisions for helping the agricultural labourer. I will not dwell upon this subject, because I know that it is not in order, but we are entitled to put forward this point in contradistinction to the claims made by the Minister upon the question of rents. We want the Bill to be tried out. We have become resigned to it. The Bill has to be tried out. We believe that it will not effect its full purpose, and that there are many faulty pieces of machinery in this very complicated Measure. It has been said in this House that the Bill is one which nobody understands. I exclude myself from that category, but there are only a few of us who know the Bill. Knowing the Bill as we do, we venture to predict that a good many weaknesses will be found when it operates in its very complicated fashion in the years ahead of us. Five years is not a long time, but it is long enough to give the Measure a fair trial. The present Government will have been dead long before the Measure, with the limitation we propose, comes to an end. The Minister will have passed away to the political haven, the Tir Na Nog, which his forebears yearned to reach after lives of turbulence and strife. We wish him rest in that final political retirement. We do not wish to bind the House and prevent it from having an opportunity of expressing by full and free volition whether the Measure shall be perpetual in the agricultural industry, and that is why I have moved the Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I desire to express my feelings upon the Measure, and I trust that the Minister will agree to limit the operation of the Bill, which, in my opinion, is the most despicable piece of legislation that has been introduced into this House in the last 100 years. Here you have a Measure which proposes to help in the reorganisation of agriculture. None of us disagrees with the principle of reorganisation, but the Measure places the cost of reorganisation upon the poorest people in the land. We could have understood the Government coming forward with a policy of agricultural reorganisation if they had made proposals for any financial help towards agriculture being drawn from the Exchequer, to which the rich make a contribution. But here you have a Bill fundamentally based, in giving agriculture financial help, upon taxing the food of the poorest people of the country.


The hon. Member is not justified in proceeding with a speech which is more suitable to the Third Reading of the Bill, but which is not in order on this Amendment. The hon. Member is now speaking against the whole Bill and not upon the question of a time limit.


I feel very strongly against the whole Bill, but nevertheless I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and will confine myself to the Amendment. It is because of those principles and many others already illustrated by my hon. Friend that I am seconding the Amendment to impose a limit upon the duration of the Act. Surely we are entitled to ask that there shall be some opportunity given to the House to re-examine the position within a few years from now so as to find out what has happened with regard to British agriculture and the growing of wheat during the time that the Measure has been in operation. I was astonished this afternoon when the Minister said that he agrees that landowners should have part and parcel of the benefits of the operation of the Act, and that under the Measure an increase of rents would be justifiable. In Amendments which we moved previously we suggested that there was a danger, unless there was a safeguard, that landlords would take advantage of the operation of the Measure and increase their rent charges. We were told that there was no need for such a safeguard and that the landlords would not dream of doing anything like that, but the Minister gets up this afternoon and encourages them. He says, "You will be quite justified," and he no doubt expects them to do so. Therefore, we shall not be surprised if our prophecies come true. I hope, in face of all the Bill proposes to do and the despicable way in which it proposes to do it, that, whatever Government may be in power five years from now or less, the House will be given a free opportunity of discussing the merits of the Measure in the light of what it has accomplished.

4.0 p.m.


I listened with very great care to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment and also to that of the Seconder. The hon. Member who moved it asked that some opportunity should be given for the revision of this Measure, and he asked me specifically whether I was in accord with what the Lord President of the Council had said, with reference to another matter, that there would be opportunities for dealing with tariffs at a later stage. Of course, I am in agreement with what the Lord President said, and I think it is obvious that in the scheme of this Bill there is to be an opportunity at the end of three years to judge of this problem—not prejudge it without knowledge of the circumstances at that time, but to judge of the problem at that time. This industry of agriculture which we are endeavouring to assist is not an industry which can be rapidly developed like some other industries, but it is clear, as we have debated this matter in the Committee stage, that there is provision for the whole problem to be examined by an independent body at the end of three years to judge and report upon the circumstances at that time, and, of course, it is within the rights of Parliament to make such decision as it chooses on that report. In these circumstances, it is clear that the Government cannot accept this Amendment.


The right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in skating again around this topic, which, apparently, is causing him and his colleagues some difficulty. He seemed to be quite unwilling to state frankly whether or not this Measure is intended to he permanent. We have had expressions of opinion of all sorts from the Ministers who are in charge of this Bill, and no one can yet find out from an examination of those statements whether it is the intention of the Minister that this Bill should permanently be enforced for the benefit of the farmers of this country. Throughout this Bill we have had the same difficulty in trying to induce the right hon. Gentleman to call a spade a spade. May I suggest to him for his edification a form of words which he might use the next time he wants to speak of a spade? He might call it a useful article which might have been used for the purposes of husbandry, if such an article had been required for use by the person owning the land on which the said husbandry was proposed to be carried out.

That is a typical example of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman tries to give a clear statement of the policy of the Government. We suggest that in this particular instance it is a matter of very vital importance not only for the consumers but for the farmers, because the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is a matter of importance for the farmers of this country to know whether his view or the view of the Secretary of State for Scotland is the one which is accepted by the Government. Surely this great National Government can make up its mind whether the farmer is entitled henceforward to lay down his agricultural policy for the period on the basis that this is to be a permanent institution in this country, and not on the basis that it is to be temporary. We say that there is every argument in favour of being quite honest with the farmer, and saying, "This is experimental and temporary. If at the end of the experimental period Parliament decides that it is necessary to continue this as a permanent system, Parliament shall be left to decide, but we will not delude the farmer into the belief now that we are making it permanent, when really at the back of our mind we have promised the Free Traders of the Cabinet that it shall not necessarily be permanent."

I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to delude the poor farmer in that way, not to lead him to go forward on a statement, which may be read to mean one thing or the other, believing that it is to be a permanent institution, when, in reality, it is the intention at the end of three years, as the right hon. Gentleman has told us, to have a review which may result in the cancellation of the whole system. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I am obliged for that. Then the review which is to take place in three years is to be nothing but a review of price, a review of how much is to be paid. He does contemplate, then, that the system is to be permanent, and the argument which he has just put forward suggesting that there will be a review, and that it is all to be open again to decide whether it is wise or not, is really camouflage. He himself now says that that review is not intended to decide whether this is wise or not. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman said so by nodding his head. If he wants to deny it, I will give way at once. The right hon. Gentleman does not want to deny it, and I take it that he confirms it. Therefore, this review is not to decide on the principle of this Bill. The principle of this Bill is intended to be permanent, subject only to a price revision.

There is all the difference in the world between a Bill which is permanent in its nature, and can only be got rid of by repeal by this House, and a Bill which is bound automatically to come up at the end of a given period for re-enactment if it is required to continue it, because under the one system the House, in effect, rules out control, and under the other system this House can keep under control the question of determining whether this system shall be continued or not after a period of five years. In the circumstance in which the world is at the present moment, I should have thought that even the right hon. Gentle- man would have found difficulty in forecasting beyond five years what was necessary for agriculture in this country, and I should have thought that he might have given Parliament an opportunity in five years' time to have this necessarily brought before it. It is for those reasons that we do press that this Bill should be made of a temporary and not a permanent character.


I must say that I am very disappointed at the attitude of the Minister of Agriculture on this Amendment. I know it is difficult for him to accept Amendments on the Report stage, but if he had made a statement of the policy of the Government towards wheat cultivation in the future and with regard to this Bill now before the House, it would have modified, at any rate, a good deal of my opposition to this Bill in the remaining stages. After all, the whole justification of this Bill, as has been said quite rightly, is that it is to be used as a lifebuoy temporarily to help farming through a very difficult time of abnormally low prices But if this Amendment is to be rejected, wheat growers throughout the country will be justified in saying that the Government of the day have given encouragement to the idea that they should go on cultivating wheat indefinitely, and as part of the permanent policy of the country. The Minister said that agriculture is something that is not rapidly developed. I know that farmers have to take a long view. They have to cultivate their land over a period of years, and, as I understand, the whole justification of this Bill is that it is to enable them to tide over the change from one form of cultivation to another, and to weather the period of low prices.

I would remind the Government that they are a National Government, an emergency Government, to deal with an emergency period, and that their legislation, therefore, should be, on the whole, not of a permanent, but of a temporary character. I have supported the National Government more or less. I realise that they represent all that is best in the country, and have come together to tide over period of financial stringency, a financial blizzard throughout the world. The Minister of Agriculture thinks that this is an opportunity to introduce permanent legislation of a reactionary character. I would suggest to him that five years is a very generous period. Under the Parliament Act this Parliament comes to a termination at the end of five years. Then there is the precedent of the Safeguarding Acts which were deliberately limited to five years, so that the various industries concerned should have time to put their industries in order, to reorganise. I would suggest that five years even for the agricultural industry ought to be a sufficient period to reorganise, either to adopt American methods of mass production, by introducing the system of large farms, up-to-date machinery, to clear away hedges if that is possible, and so forth—I do not suggest that this country is particularly suited for wheat growing—or, alternatively, to transfer to other crops, to milk production, poultry or pig production, or whatever it may be.

It is unfortunate that in the year 1932 the message should go forth that the Government intend this kind of legislation to be permanent, and not come to an end after five years. This Amendment having been moved, it is most unfortunate that the Minister should not lay down his policy, and make it clear, as the Secretary of State for Scotland did, that this is a respite which the Bill will secure for the cereal farming industry and cannot be more than temporary. That is what he said on Second Reading. I am sorry that the Minister has not confirmed the attitude of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I wish the right hon. Gentleman were here to take the opportunity to announce his attitude to the Amendment before the House.

Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN

The reasons which the Mover and Seconder gave for this Amendment were that the agricultural landlord might get a bite out of this Measure, and also that the agricultural landlord has made no contribution to this problem. I know that it is a political party cry, and even on an Amendment like this it cannot be kept out, but if that sort of thing is said too often, people will really begin to think that there is something in it. I despair of converting the hon. Member to the truth, but I want to tell him a few facts. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who often talks on these subjects and on land taxes, never makes the mistake into which my hon. Friend has fallen. He always makes a great distinction between the landlords of urban or town dwellings and the agricultural landowner in the country. The agricultural landowner himself farms not less than one-third of the whole area of agricultural land, and to that extent it is right that lie should secure what every farmer will secure by a quota Bill. So far as the putting up of rents is concerned, I would point out that the agricultural landowner provides two-thirds of the capital for agriculture in this country—as Lord Ernle has pointed out many times, and it is being confirmed—for less than 2½ per cent. If he is not to be allowed to get his rents even up to 2½ per cent. or even less than he is getting now, agriculture must be in a very bad way. If my hon. Friend's party ever get into power and they nationalise the land, I am certain that they will not be content with the return that the agricultural landowner gets now. I hope the hon. Member will be more generous towards the agricultural landowner in the future.


It is to be deplored that the right hon. Gentleman cannot utter one or two words to reassure a few of his followers who sit opposite to me. On every occasion that I have listened to Debates in this House whether on this Bill or other Bills of a somewhat analogous nature, I have always gathered that they feel that they have been rather had, that they have been passed the buck and that they are not very easy about it. They remind me of a somewhat cheerful gentleman who. went into a revivalist meeting. He had scarcely got into his seat before the-preacher on the platform said to the audience: "All those who are saved, please stand up." As this was an invitation for everybody to exhibit their virtues, everybody stood up, with the exception of the cheerful gentleman, who could not get up quite so quickly as the rest. By the time that he was on his feet the clergyman said: "All those who are not saved, stand up." As the cheerful gentleman and the clergyman were the only persons standing, he looked round and said to the preacher: "Well, guvnor, I don't know what we are voting about, but we have lost." My hon. Friends opposite are in much the same position. They scarcely knew what they were voting about at the election, but they have certainly lost. They always tell us that that is so, and they nave certainly lost something. I think the right hon. Gentleman might reassure them that things are going on as well as could be expected from the kind of Government that they assisted to make.

What the right hon. Gentleman said on the previous Amendment does not reassure us. We have asserted that, on various grounds, and we have proved the case by economic reasoning, there would be an increase of rent under the terms of this Bill. That cannot be avoided. The law of supply and demand will see to that. We have always been assured that that would not take place, but the right hon. Gentleman now assures us that it will take place, that it ought to take place, and that quite justifiably it ought to take place. Therefore, part of the £6,000,000 is for the refurbishing and replenishing of the landlords' depleted exchequer, if it has been depleted. I think that five years is long enough for a Bill of this description. No one can say what is going to happen under the

Division No. 137.] AYES. [4.25 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Grithffis, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Attlee, Clement Richard Groves, Thomas E. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Batey, Joseph Grundy, Thomas W. Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)
Bernays, Robert Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Maxton, James
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Owen, Major Goronwy
Briant, Frank Harris, Sir Percy Parkinson, John Allen
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Hicks, Ernest George Pickering, Ernest H.
Buchanan, George Hirst, George Henry Price, Gabriel
Cape, Thomas Holdsworth, Herbert Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Janner, Barnett Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cove, William G. Jenkins, Sir William Thorne, William James
Cripps, Sir Stafford Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Tinker, John Joseph
Daggar, George Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Wallhead, Richard C.
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Kirkwood, David Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Edwards, Charles Lawson, John James Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Leonard, William Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Lunn, William
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) McEntee, Valentine L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) McGovern, John Mr. Gordon Macdonald and Mr.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Barclay-Harvey, C. W. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Browne, Captain A. C.
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Buchan, John
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Blindell, James Burghley, Lord
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Borodale, Viscount Burnett, John George
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Bossom, A. C. Cadogan, Hon. Edward
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Castle Stewart, Earl
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Broadbent, Colonel John Cautley, Sir Henry S.
Balniel, Lord Brown, Ernest (Leith) Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)

Bill. If it were a Bill to guarantee the raising of human foodstuffs I could understand the terms of it and the conditions under which it has been pressed forward, but, like the hon. Baronet opposite—I assisted him in the process of eliciting the fact—I know that this Bill is not for the production of human food but more in the nature of a Bill to produce chicken food than anything else. It is not going to provide wheat for the milling of bread for human consumption but meals and wheat for the feeding of poultry to a large extent. I object to the eater of bread being taxed in order to provide the producer of poultry with cheaper fodder. It would be wise in the interests of everybody concerned that the Amendment should be accepted, that a term should be fixed and that the Bill should be considered at the end of that term. The Bill may be good for the landlord and the farmer, but it cannot, so far as I can see, be good for the great mass of the people.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 63; Noes, 260.

Chalmers, John Rutherford Hepworth, Joseph Pownall, Sir Assheton
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston) Procter, Major Henry Adam
Chotzner, Alfred James Hornby, Frank Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Clarke, Frank Horsbrugh, Florence Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Clarry, Reginald George Howard, Tom Forrest Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Clayton, Dr. George C. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Colville, John Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Conant, R. J. E. Hurd, Percy A. Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U
Cooke, Douglas Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Robinson, John Roland
Cooper, A. Duff Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Ropner, Colonel L.
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Rosbotham, S. T.
Cranborne, Viscount Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Ross, Ronald D.
Craven-Ellis, William Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Crooke, J. Smedley Kerr, Hamilton W. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Crossley, A. C. Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Runge, Norah Cecil
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Knight, Holford Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Davison, Sir William Henry Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Dawson, Sir Philip Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Law, Sir Alfred Salmon, Major Isidore
Denville, Alfred Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.) Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Leech, Dr. J. W. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Dickie, John P. Lees-Jones, John Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Dixey, Arthur C. N. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Savery, Samuel Servington
Doran, Edward Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Scone, Lord
Drewe, Cedric Levy, Thomas Selley, Harry R.
Duckworth, George A. V. Liddall, Walter S. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Lloyd, Geoffrey Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Duggan, Hubert John Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n) Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Loder, Captain J. de Vere Somerveli, Donald Bradley
Eady, George H. Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Soper, Richard
Eden, Robert Anthony MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Edge, Sir William McCorquodale, M. S. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Ednam, Viscount Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Elliston, Captain George Sampson McKie, John Hamilton Stones, James
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Storey, Samuel
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Macmillan, Maurice Harold Stourton, Hon. John J.
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Strauss, Edward A.
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Strickland, Captain W. F.
Everard, W. Lindsay Magnay, Thomas Stuart. Lord C. Crichton-
Fermoy, Lord Maitland, Adam Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Tate, Mavis Constance
Fox, Sir Gifford Margesson, Capt. Henry David R. Templeton, William P.
Fraser, Captain Ian Marsdon, Commander Arthur Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Fuller, Captain A. G. Martin, Thomas B, Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Ganzoni, Sir John Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Gillett, Sir George Masterman Meller, Richard James Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Gledhill, Gilbert Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Milne, Charles Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Goff, Sir Park Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k) Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Gower, Sir Robert Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Moreing, Adrian C. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Graves, Marjorie Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Grimston, R. V. Muirhead, Major A. J. Wayland, Sir William A.
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Munro, Patrick Wells, Sydney Richard
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Weymouth, Viscount
Guy, J. C. Morrison Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. North, Captain Edward T. Whyte, Jardine Bell
Hales, Harold K. Nunn, William Williams, Herbert G. (Crovdon, S.)
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) O'Connor, Terence James Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Withers, Sir John James
Hamilton, sir George (Ilford) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Ztl'nd) Palmer, Francis Noel Womersley, Walter James
Hanbury, Cecil Patrick, Colin M. Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Hanley, Dennis A. Peake, Captain Osbert Worthington, Dr. John V.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Pearson, William G. Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Hartington, Marquess of Peat, Charles U.
Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Penny, Sir George TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Haslam, Henry (Lindsay, H'ncastle) Petherick, M. Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) and Major George Davies.
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, at the end, to insert the words: Provided also that twenty-five per cent. of the amount of deficiency payments which a registered grower is entitled to receive under this section shall be distributed by the registered grower in equal shares among any persons employed by him in agriculture as a bonus over and above the rates of wages those persons are entitled to receive under the provisions of the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) Act, 1924, and any sum recoverable under this sub-section by a person employed by a registered grower may be recovered summarily as a civil debt. During all these discussions we have felt that the agricultural labourer is being more or less left to his fate, and since the speech of the Minister of Agriculture earlier this afternoon it becomes all the more necessary that some such provision as we suggest in this Amendment should be inserted in the Bill. The intention of the Amendment is to confer a direct benefit on the agricultural labourer. The supporters of the Measure have endeavoured to justify it on the ground that farmers are in bad way, especially cereal farmers, and under this Clause farmers are expected to reap an immediate and a direct benefit. For the crops which are now growing in their fields they are expecting to reap some advantage from the Bill. Incidentally, the Clause is an illustration of what a Government can do for its political friends in the way of speedy assistance when it commands a majority in this House. The supporters of the Government have expressed a great deal of sympathy with the farm labourer. We are going to put that sympathy to a real test. We propose to give hon. Members opposite an opportunity of translating their sympathy into something definite. They ought to be grateful to us for the opportunity.

We are told that as a result of this Measure there is likely to be a return of prosperity to the agricultural industry. We have also been informed that if agriculture declines the farm labourers suffer in proportion to the extent of the decline, but that, if the industry recovers a measure of prosperity, as a result of this measure, prosperity will come to the agricultural labourer as well. The right hon. Gentleman, however, wants that prosperity to come, not in a direct way by legal enactment, the way in which he seeks to give prosperity to the farmers, but by a somewhat indirect method. He imagines that as a result of the general prosperity which will come to the industry by reason of this Measure the agricultural labourer will derive some benefit. That is all problematical; it is leaving it to chance. We ask hon. Members opposite not to leave it to chance, but to insert in the Bill a provision which will ensure that if the farmers benefit by the operation of the Bill the agricultural labourers will also get some advantage. The Minister, I know, will say leave it to the wages board. We are not quite certain about that. What about the inspectors he has dismissed? Does he intend to reinstate them in order to make sure that the wages board will work more effectively? We do not want to leave the matter to anybody. We want to give the agricultural labourer here and now, by legal enactment, some real advantage out of this Bill. I ask the supporters of the Government again to translate their sympahy so often expressed with the agricultural labourer into something real and definite. Let them come with us into the Lobby and insert these words in the Bill. The agricultural labourer has been the drudge of the industry through the ages. Are you going to leave him to his drudgery. The policy of the Bill is a policy of protection. If you are going to protect the farmers, then join with us in protecting the agricultural labourer. I appeal to the supporters of the Government to join us in the Lobby in support of this proposal.


I beg to second the Amendment.

The £6,000,000 involved is to be distributed among a few, thousand farmers at the outside. Is it seriously suggested that not a single penny shall go to the agricultural labourer, without whose toil and skill not a solitary bushel of wheat could be raised? The Minister of Agriculture has suggested that a proportion of this sum will reach him by indirect methods, but against that there is the declaration of the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) who during the Committee stage said: The answer to this proposal is that it cannot be done on 45 shillings, for the simple reason that farmers cannot out of that price afford to pay higher wages than are being paid at the present moment. The landlord, we have been told, is going to get his share; the farmer will certainly get his share, but the farm labourer is to get nothing, because the farmer cannot afford to pay more with the figure at 45s. Other hon. Members have dropped hints that there will be no money available for the labourer. By a perusal of the provincial Press, and particularly those in Eastern Counties where most of the wheat is grown, I find that there are suggestions that 45s. is not enough; the farmer is not satisfied with it, and there is no hope whatever of the agricultural labourer getting a single penny out of the subsidy given to the industry. The agricultural labourer is going to be affected prejudicially by the Bill. In the first place, he is going to pay more for his bread.

Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON indicated dissent.


The hon. Member shakes his head, but I speak with some knowledge of the baking trade, and I assert that the whole of the milling and corn trade declare that the price of bread is going to be raised as soon as the Bill comes into operation. The agricultural labourer, and his family, is a very heavy bread eater for the same reason that the poorest sections of our town populations are large bread eaters. It is the cheapest kind of food, and their small pittance does not permit them to buy food in any great variety. It therefore means that the agricultural labourer is not to benefit pecuniarily by sharing in the subsidy, and also that his economic position will be worsened, because there will be a tax upon him of from 8d. to 1s. per week by an increase in the price of bread of one halfpenny per quartern. Further, his economic position will be still more insecure than it is to-day; and for this reason. Conferences have been taking place in the Eastern Counties with the view of making arrangements for the amalgamation of adjoining farms in order that mechanisation may be introduced on a fairly large and extensive scale. There have been discussions as to the grubbing of hedges, cutting down trees and filling up ditches, and there have been applications to local magistrates to close rights of way and divert roads, all for the purpose of enabling large farming areas to be constituted.

What is the object of that? The object is that mechanisation may be introduced and labour costs reduced. The reduction of labour costs is not a reduction in the individual labourer's wage but a reduction of the total sum paid in wages in that particular area, and that can only mean a reduction in the number of farm labourers. The net effect of this Measure, as far as wheat growing is concerned, will not be to increase the number of persons employed but to reduce the total number. All that is going to happen, therefore, is that you are to make the labourers' position more insecure than it it at present. That is all that the agricultural labourer is to get out of the Bill as it stands. His cost of living will be increased and his livelihood rendered more insecure. Our view is that in any scheme designed to benefit an industry which involves taxation of the nation, such gains as may accrue should not be confined to the employers of that industry but that the employés should share as well, and that some guarantee to that effect ought to be in the Bill itself. When addressing the House on an earlier occasion the Minister himself said, in the most specific terms, that the Bill gives something to the farming community as a whole. Those were his words. If that is so, surely all sections ought to participate. As the Bill stands there is no guarantee that the labourer will get anything.

We want not merely sympathy, but a definite legislative guarantee that the labourer shall have his appropriate share out of the largesse which is about to be distributed. We are told by the Minister that the labourer must rely for any improvement in his lot on the decisions of the agricultural wages boards. I repeat what I have said before, that it might happen in certain counties which are mainly arable, in the Eastern counties and so on, that with a general improvement in the farmers' prosperity the county wages boards will take the view that the labourers' wages should be increased by a shilling or two a week; but the county wages boards cannot elsewhere, in other districts of England, consider the case of individual farmers, however they may be made prosperous by this Bill; they can deal only with an area as a whole, with dairy farms and other farms as well as with cereal farms. In those areas, although individual farmers may be made very prosperous and may be marking large profits as a result of this Bill, yet there the boards would be in no position to award any share of such increased prosperity to the employés of those farmers whose business is mainly arable.

There are plenty of prosperous farmers to-day. No one can dispute that state- ment. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) knows some. If he does not, I can tell him the names of a good many in his own county, with whom I am personally familiar. They are very prosperous and are doing extremely well. There are plenty of farmers, other than cereal farmers, who are really prosperous. But do they pay better wages because they get a bigger profit than their neighbours? It is not so. Everyone knows that these farmers pay the absolute minimum laid down by the county wages boards. There is no guarantee that the prosperity of an individual farmer will mean any improvement in the position of his employés. In the good old days, when agriculture was a prosperous industry, did the farmers pay their labourers decent or fair wages? Everyone knows that agriculture has always been a sweated industry. In the days when wheat fetched 60s. and 80s. a quarter the farm labourer's wages were 5s., 6s. and 8s. a week. There is no dispute about that. It is notorious that nine out of 10 farm labourers finished their days in the workhouse. There was the old pathetic phrase in the song that I learned as a boy: Over the hills to the workhouse, referring to the aged agricultural labourer. That was the fate of the labourer in the days when the farmers and landowners were really prosperous. We have no guarantee that with the return of prosperity to the agricultural industry there will be any sort of improvement in the labourer's lot unless Parliament intervenes. As far as I can gather from an examination of the facts, the agricultural labourer's economic position has never been improved except when Parliament has intervened. It is true that in a few localities the rise of trade unionism and organisation has helped him to a small extent, but the agricultural labourer is notoriously a very difficult person to organise. He is not segregated in masses like the town labourer, and it is very difficult for the trade unions to do very much for him. Except through the agency of the wages boards and the Corn Production Act, and by specific intervention of this House, the labourer's wage level has never been improved, as far as I know.

It may be that here and there a philanthropically-minded landowner or farmer has done something. I should be only too glad to pay tribute to such people if I could find them. I have heard of them but have never met them. The people I have met are the people, prosperous in their particular line, who pay the bare minimum wage of the wages boards. Now that this House is handing over enormous sums of public money to a. comparatively small group of farmers and landowners, we ask it also to ensure an amelioration of the lot of the working people by giving them some share. We have always been told by protectionists, in this House and outside, that protection meant protection for the employé as well as for the producer. We have been told that a guaranteed price would be associated with a guaranteed wage. That has been the theme of the tariff reformer and the protectionist whenever he has come down to address an industrial audience. Now is the chance. Here there is being given a species of protection to a section of a particular industry, and here is an opportunity to show that there shall be a guaranteed improvement in the wage of the agricultural labourer.


The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has told us that the farmers in some districts are very prosperous. I wish he had come down to Devonshire, with which he has some acquaintance, and had been with me there last week. I happened to be at Okehampton Market, and one of the most intelligent and up-to-date and most industrious farmers in the district told me, "I have been farming for 50 years, and last year was actually the worst year I have ever had." There is not much prosperity there. It is not a corn-growing district; probably two-thirds is devoted to cattle. According to the hon. Gentleman the labourer's position now is very secure. I live in a country district. Only last Saturday I met an agricultural worker, an industrious man and who wants work, but lie said, "I cannot find any work to do; there is no work going on in the agricultural districts."

I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that unless something of the character of this Bill is done, the agricultural labourer will not be employed. He is not being employed now. I ask them to con- sider the facts. We have this Bill. I am not greatly in love with the plan, but it does give some kind of guarantee that there shall be a fixed price paid to the arable farmer for his wheat. I ask hon. Members who are opposing the Bill to remember that the number of agricultural labourers has been decreasing very rapidly in the last 10 years. There is no question about it. The Ministry were good enough to furnish me with figures and I have made some extracts. In 1921 there were 996,000 agricultural workers in Great Britain. In 1931 there were only 828,000. That is a decrease of 163,000, or 17 per cent. Employment is declining all along the line. I assure the House as sincerely as I can that. unless some step of this kind is taken the agricultural labourers' ranks will he still further depleted and employment will be rendered far less secure than it is even to-day. I am positive of it. My interests are with, and I have always been supported by, the agricultural workers. I want to see them put into a stronger economic position. The only way to put the agricultural worker into a strong economic position is for some employer to want to employ him and to employ him at a profit. If you make agriculture commercially profitable there will be a demand for labour, but only if it is commercially profitable.

5.0 p.m.

If by this Bill we encourage arable cultivation we shall be adding strength to the agricultural workers. On arable land three men are employed to 100 acres, and on grassland only one man to 100 acres. In my own district I have seen land going down to grass, field after field, mile after mile. That means practically no labour. I would like to see far more labour employed on the land. But you cannot get that result unless farming is commercially profitable. This Bill does a little. It is a tiny little mouse of a Bill for a National Government. In the circumstances of to-day agricultural labourers' wages are being reduced. They have been reduced in many counties. There was an application the other day in my own county, and I am very glad that the wages board did not accede to it, for 32s. a week is not too much for an agricultural worker. I would far rather he had a good deal more. Here, again, the Ministry were good enough to supply me with a table showing the counties where the wage actually is lower than 32s. and has been decreased. In Berkshire the wages have gone down from 30s. to 28s. 6d.; in Cheshire from 35s. to 32s. 6d.; in Gloucestershire from 30s. to 28s. 6d.; in Oxfordshire from 30s. to 28s.; in Suffolk from 30s. to 28s., and they have also gone down in Lincolnshire and Monmouthshire. I ask the Labour party, do they want to see that tendency continued? That is the tendency now. Remember, that in the last two years 60,000 agricultural workers have left the land. Those years happen to coincide with the term of office of the Labour Government, but I do not make any complaint about that. What happened has been the inevitable concomitant of the disastrous fall in prices. Now that an attempt is being made by this Government to reverse the process and give the agricultural worker a little more security, by making the product less of a loss, I ask hon. Members opposite, instead of criticising, to support the Government in the matter.


In rising to oppose this Amendment, I crave that indulgence which the Members of the House usually extend to those who are addressing them for the first time. I oppose the Amendment, not because of any lack of sympathy with the proposal contained in it—for we are all only too anxious to do anything that we can to improve the lot of the agricultural labourer—but because it is impossible in present circumstances. A similar Amendment was rejected at an earlier stage, and it seems to me a little unfortunate that the proposal should have been brought forward again, because it may raise in the minds, perhaps, of the more ignorant of those for whose delectation it has been framed, hopes which must necessarily prove illusory. But I do not think that many will be affected in that way, because it seems to me that the results of the General Election showed that the agricultural workers and other workers in distressed industries—for agriculture is one of them—realise very clearly that the future of their industries is at stake, and that a preliminary to steady employment and increased wages is the restoration of those industries to something approaching prosperity. At any rate, I know that in that part of the country which I have the honour to represent the minds of a great many agricultural labourers to-day are exercised, not so much about the quantum of the wages which they receive, as about whether or not they are going to get any wages at all. For years past they have seen more and more land going down to grass, and they know what that means in terms of employment. More recently, they have seen bankruptcies among farmers with alarming frequency, and wholesale dismissals have followed. In short, they realise that the industry in which, alone, they are skilled to earn their living, is going from bad to worse and that their only hope lies in its rehabilitation.

I have two criticisms of the Amendment to offer. The first is that it suggests that there is a direct relationship to-day between the wages of the agricultural worker and the value of the products of his labour. That is not the case. Low as agricultural wages are, and, as the last speaker pointed out, in Suffolk they are only 28s, a week, they would be lower still if they had fallen pari passu with the fall in the prices of farm products. They have been maintained by the wages boards, of which we have heard so much criticism, and they have been maintained by those boards at a level higher than the economic level, as everyone who is cognisant of the working of the boards is aware. My other criticism of the Amendment is that it shows a complete lack of appreciation of the position of the farmer. The farmer has been struggling to make ends meet, and he has been failing in that struggle. Now, and not a moment too soon, the Government are offering him a certain measure of help in this Bill. Surely no one suggests that the deciency payments which are provided for in this Bill mean a leap from what is virtually penury to affluence, and justify the giving of bonuses. That is very far from being the case.

To begin with, we have to remember that wheat represents only a fraction of the production of the ordinary farmer. Roughly, it is a quarter of the arable side of the business. In the second place, we have to remember that the standard price of 45s. a quarter has been fixed on the basis of to-day's production costs, and in those production costs the item of wages bulks very largely. There may be, in exceptional circumstances and with particular advantages, men who can grow wheat at less than 45s. a quarter, but the vast mass of cereal growers of this country cannot do so, and their statements to that effect are amply borne out by the independent testimony of such bodies as the agricultural departments of the universities, and by other unbiased persons. All that these deficiency payments mean to the farmers is that the growing of wheat, which is an essential part of the ordinary rotation, will cease to be entirely unprofitable. There is no room, much as we should like to see it, for the giving of bonuses under the Bill as it is framed.

The Bill has been described as a life-buoy thrown to the farmer, and so it is, but it is a very small one. Its buoyancy is no greater than will enable the farmer to keep his head above water, and, if other people seek support from it, they will all drown. Many of us would have been very glad if the Government could have increased the standard price and so made provision for something for the farm labourer. We must recognise, however, that the Government have to hold the scales as evenly as they can, between the producer and the consumer, and we have to accept the fact that they have gone as far as they reasonably can. Of this, however, I am certain, that, if the measures now being taken by the Government and the measures which they propose to take to assist the farmer, result in the farmer eventually getting back to some degree of prosperity, the agricultural labourer will certainly share in that prosperity.


I rise to support the Amendment, but before I put my point of view to the House I wish to compliment the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Ross Taylor) on his speech. There is one thing which the House likes, and that is to hear a speech from one who has a good knowledge of the subject under discussion, and, whether we agree with the hon. Member's point of view or not, we all readily concede that he has shown a thorough grasp of this subject. I trust that other proposals of this character will receive his attention and that we shall have further contributions from him to our discussion's. In supporting the Amendment, I wish to point out that this matter was fully discussed during the Committee stage, and it may be asked: What is the good of repetition? But things which matter deeply are worthy of repetition, and we are anxious to-day to press once again the claims of the agricultural labourer. I think our view has been strengthened by the speech of the tight hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). The Minister has tried to make us believe that the farmers would always be generous to the agricultural labourers and that the labourers would always get the share to which they are entitled. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton has told us that only recently the wages board was called into operation to resist an application by farmers for a reduction in wages. The right hon. Gentleman said he was very glad to know that the wages board had not acceded to that application, but had kept the wages at the present standard, which is already low enough.

The argument upon which this Amendment is based is that the farming community will not give the agricultural labourer the full measure of his due, and hence we want Parliament to protect the agricultural labourer. The agricultural labourer has not organisation and trade unions behind him to fight for his rights, and at the moment he has to depend on Parliament to protect him. If Parliament thinks it wise to give the farming community the benefit of this wheat quota, then Parliament has a right to see that the agricultural labourer gets his fair proportion of what is being given to the industry. A sum of £6,000,000 is to be given annually under this Bill to someone, and the argument that that sum will he spread evenly over these people does not meet with approval on these benches. We believe that some protection is necessary for some of the people concerned, and it is for that reason that we are so earnest in pressing this proposal. If we miss this opportunity of affording that protection we feel confident that this £6,000,000 will not get to the people who are entitled, in our opinion, to get it.

We have had examples in the past. In the case of the coal industry, for instance, one would have thought that the miners' trade unions would have been strong enough to get the miners their fair share of what was given to that industry. But we were not strong enough—and we have powerful trade unions. If the miners could not get their fair proportion of the £23,000,000 given by Parliament to the coal industry, what hope is there for the agricultural labourers in this case, unless we adopt some proposal of this kind? The Minister said that this benefit was not for any particular section and that if you gave something to the wheat growing farmers it would be wrong to the others. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) put that argument on one side, however, when we discussed this matter previously, by saying that if it were to be made 60s. a quarter, the point of view which is put forward from these benches might then be considered. In other words, the principle would go by the board if we increased the price. The representatives of the farmers would say in effect, "If we get a bigger share of the swag we will consider giving the agricultural labourer a little more than we are giving him at present." But the House of Commons must have regard to the interests of the whole community and we claim that it is only right to protect those members of the community who certainly need protection at a time like the present. Therefore, we hope that the Minister will give us a little more encouragement on this occasion than he did when we moved a similar Amendment during the Committee stage.


Before making a few remarks on this Amendment, may I join with the hon. Member who has just sat down in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Ross Taylor) upon his excellent maiden speech? I am sure that I am echoing the feelings of many hon. Members on this side when I say that we shall welcome very much his further interventions in our Debates in this House. It seems to me that this Amendment is a mere vote-catching dodge. It cannot be put forward seriously, and I am not surprised that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) is not here, that his name is not attached to the Amendment, and that he has not even graced the House with his presence during the time that it has been under discussion. [An HON. MEMBER: "He will be in the Lobby!"] If he is in the Lobby, I shall think that his heart is a great deal better than his head, but up to date I have not come to that conclusion.

The Amendment is based upon a complete fallacy. This deficiency payment is not a bonus, as the Amendment seeks to suggest, but it is, as its name implies, a deficiency payment, being the difference between the average price and the standard price of wheat, and it is designed for the purpose of making the growing of wheat profitable to the farmer, which it certainly is not at the present time. I really rose to object to the very intemperate, offensive, and deliberate remarks of the Mover of the Amendment in relation to the British farmer. I do not think it is right that remarks of that kind should be allowed to go unanswered in the House of Commons. It is not the first time that we have heard, in speeches from the same hon. Member, remarks which are characterised by intemperate—


Will the hon. and learned Member be good enough to refer to the observations which he has in mind?


Of course I will. That is the whole object I have in getting up. What he said was that the British farmer had never given any benefit to the agricultural labourer in the prosperous times which the farmer had enjoyed. That is absolutely untrue. Anybody who has any acquaintance with agriculture knows very well that the farmers all over the country are at present keeping their labourers on at very great personal cost to themselves. They are keeping on men whom, if they were the subject of unemployment insurance, they would be perfectly entitled to dismiss, and would dismiss, but they are keeping them on to-day, more on odd jobs around the farm, which are not remunerative, but to prevent them being thrown into idleness; and it ill becomes anybody who attempts to make any useful contribution to an agricultural discussion in this House to make any general observations of that kind, libelling the attitude of the British farmer towards his workmen.

The effect of the Amendment would be precisely nil, but, if it had any effect, it would be to discourage the British farmer from growing wheat. As an hon. Friend on this side said a few moments ago, it is obvious that the only real prospect that the agricultural labourer has of getting good and steady work is through the organisation of a prosperous industry, and it is for the purpose of establishing a prosperous industry and making wheat farming pay that this method of a guaranteed price and a standard price has been arranged. I cordially recommend the Minister, even if he does condescend, as I do not think he need do, to examine the merits of the Amendment, not for a moment to consider adopting it, because, in my opinion, it is nothing more than a vote-catching dodge.


A great deal of discussion has been devoted to this Amendment, and rightly so, because it introduces a principle to which I am fundamentally opposed, but I want to discuss, not so much the general principles involved in the Amendment, as some of the things which have been said in support of it. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown), who moved it, seemed to have no recognition at all of the fact that at the present time the bulk of the wheat, that has been grown has been grown at a loss. The whole discussion has assumed that this was some present piled upon an already prosperous industry. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment said that the principle is, when you have a guaranteed price, that you should have a guaranteed wage. Surely the hon. Member must be aware that you already in effect have a guaranteed wage, but not a guaranteed price. This is the complementary of the Act passed in 1924, I think it was, which set up the agricultural wages board system. It is manifest to-day that actually the wages paid in agriculture are economically too high, though socially they are much too low, and so long as you desire to continue wages at a level which is economically too high, you will have to introduce measures of this kind to redress the balance.

There seemed to be not the slightest recognition of that fact in the mind of the Seconder of the Amendment. He said that the £6,000,000 which he estimated this Bill involved—that is to say, the sum which would be transferred to the growers of wheat when the scheme was fully in operation—would all go to the farmers. I think it is very probable that the total additional sum which will go to the agricultural labourers as a result of the Bill will be very much larger than £6,000,000, because obviously, if you take on large numbers of additional people, the aggregate addition to the wage bill may be something substantially in excess of the bonus conferred on the farmers, but there seemed to be no recognition on the part of the Seconder of the Amendment of the effect on the aggregate wage bill.

The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) pointed out the very large decrease in agricultural employment which has taken place in recent years. It is now approaching a figure, since the boom days of 1920, of 200,000, and those 200,000 people have drifted into the towns, or those people who would have gone into agriculture have not done so, and you have an addition of some 200,000 to the urban population. You can say that 200,000 people on the live register to-day are displaced agricultural labourers, and they are costing, on the average basis of £1 a week for a person on the live register, a sum of £10,000,000 a year. That is one of the consequences, to some extent, of the world economic depression, to some extent of the interference in which Parliament deliberately indulged in 1924, and which successive Parliaments have approved.

If we assume that profit-sharing is desirable, I would appeal to the Front Bench opposite that, when they put down Amendments, they should take the trouble to draft Amendments which are capable of being put into practical operation. It is absurd to say that, irrespective of the circumstances of the individual farmer who receives these sums, he must pass on 25 per cent. There may be some individual farmers who are doing reasonably well when they receive the deficiency payment, and to them it might he easy to pass on 25 per cent., but there will be other farmers who may be doing badly and possibly incurring a loss at that time, and yet, without any consideration of the circumstances of the individual farmer, 25 per cent. of the deficiency payment must be passed on. Really, if hon. Members opposite want a system of profit-sharing—and there is something to be said for it and something to be said against it in practical administration—surely this is the crudest conceivable way of doing it.

I want to join with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) in protesting against what was said with regard to what has happened in the past with agricultural wages. The hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) said that agricultural wages had never risen except when Parliament had interfered. That is not true. If he will take the trouble to go into the Library and get the pre-war number of the "Abstract of Labour Statistics," which gives the course of agricultural wages over a considerable number of years past, he will find that during a long period of years up to 1913, during none of which was there any specific interference by Parliament with agricultural wages, there was a very marked increase in the index number of agricultural wages. I can remember, even in my own lifetime on the countryside, the very marked increases in agricultural wages that took place between 1895 and about 1903, and it is not right that there should go forth from this House the statement that agricultural wages have never risen except as a result of specific interference by Parliament. The statement is inaccurate, and the principal reason that I rose was to challenge that statement, which ought never to have been made.


The House has shown itself very interested in the problem raised by this Amendment. I wish, however, the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) would not take up the rôle of a lecturer when he addresses the House, because, if there is an example of bad drafting, it seems to me that the whole Bill itself is that example; and I would challenge the hon. Member to tell this House what some of the Clauses of the Bill itself mean. In fact, the Minister of Agriculture himself has never been able to explain satisfactorily what the Bill means, or some portions of it, and consequently we cannot be blamed for any bad drafting of Amendments, if we are to accept that criticism.

Let me now deal with one or two of the comments that have been made. It has been assumed that our Amendment, if carried, will give the agricultural labourer the whole of the £6,000,000 provided by the Bill. Nothing of the kind would follow. All that we want is that a proportion of the £6,000,000 shall go into the pockets of the agricultural labourer, and we want this very sincerely, because there is not a single word in the Bill as it now stands which refers to the man who matters as much as anybody else, and that is the agricultural labourer. The farmer, the wheat grower, the landlord, the miller, the corn dealer, the provender miller are all in the Bill, but the man who actually works on the soil, and that is the farm labourer, is not mentioned. Consequently, the farm labourer, unless this Amendment is inserted, is going away empty handed, without a single penny piece of the £6,000,000.

It is always assumed by hon. Members who support the Bill that if you make this industry prosperous, that prosperity, or a part of it, will percolate of its own accord into the pockets of the agricultural workers. Nothing of the kind. It does not follow at all that when an employer is successful and does well, securing immense profits, he automatically transfers part of his prosperity into the pockets of his workpeople. I have seen the reverse taking place. I have actually seen the wages of workpeople decreasing just in proportion to the increase in the profits of the employers. The only power that I have come across yet that can, give the workmen, in agriculture, in mining, in shop life, or anywhere else, a decent standard of life is either Statute law or trade union action. People employed on the land are very difficult to organise, as hon. Members opposite will agree, and that is one reason why we come to Parliament to secure something for them.

5.30 p.m.

I was interested to hear the hon. and learned Member for Central Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) deriding the idea behind this Amendment that we want to make statutory provision for a. minimum wage or a bonus for the workmen. If there is one profession above all that is safeguarded and protected at every turn by Parliament, it is the legal profession to which he belongs, and if there p.m. is a penny, or a shilling, or a pound to be got through Parliamentary activities, the legal profession is after it every time. They get 6s. 8d. for writing a letter no matter how long or short it is. It therefore ill becomes the hon. and learned Gentleman to talk as he did. If we were discussing lace instead of wheat, he would probably alter his tone.


I must have created a wrong impression if the hon. Gentleman thinks that I was attacking the principle of fixing a minimum wage. I did not wish to do that in any way. What I was pointing out was that this payment was not a bonus at all, and that therefore it was not divisible in the way that the Amendment suggests.


Whenever we on this side want anything done for the working people through Parliament we either draft our words incorrectly or the thing cannot be administered properly; but when the Government want to give £6,000,000 per annum to the farmers it can be done in a few days with ease. If hon. Members on that side of the House wanted to give 25 per cent. of this £6,000,000 to the agricultural labourers, they would find a way to do it easily, but they do not want to do it, and their speeches to-day are nothing short of humbug. Every speech from the Government side to-day has sympathised profusely with the farm labourer, but once we put something on paper in order to deliver the goods, as it were, and put something in the farm labourer's pocket, it is always the wrong way. I am very anxious that the farm labourer should be considered in this connection. I am not going to say strong words about the farming interest; I know their difficult problems as well as most men here; but even when agriculture enjoys prosperous times, the agriculturist cultivates the art of grumbling better than anybody I know. This industry, however, is in a bad way, and I am willing to do anything I can for it.

You might imagine from the arguments of hon. Gentlemen who talk so glibly about helping the agricultural industry that it is the only industry in a depressed state. There are coal miners in my Division, and however poor the farming industry may be, I do not think that it is in as bad a condition as the coal mining industry. This Bill will call upon the coal miners and their wives and families among others to pay an enhanced price for bread to the baker, who will pass it on to the flour miller, and he in turn will pass it on to the farmer. The miners naturally want a portion of that enhanced price to go into the pockets of the agricultural labourers. That is the meaning of our Amendment. There is nothing at all in the Bill to deal with the problem of agricultural labourers' wages unless this Amendment is carried. We are not asking for much. I was astonished to hear the speech of an hon. Member, who implied that we wanted to give the whole of the £6,000,000 to the agricultural labourers. Nothing of the kind. Suppose a farmer under this scheme get £100, even under our proposals he will still get £75. All we are asking is that the other £25 should be divided among his labourers. If there were five they would get only £5 each and the farmer £75.

If there be anything in the argument that we should encourage the growing of wheat in this country, let me ask hon. Gentlemen if it is not fair to say that the inducement should not stop with the farmer alone. The agricultural labourer himself ought also to be induced by the same means to help in the production of wheat. One would imagine from the speech of the hon. Member for South Croydon that this was a new principle. He is, of course, opposed to the principle. Let me remind him what happened under the Corn Production Act of 1920. It established a fixed price for wheat, and because it did that Parliament went further and said that the agricultural labourer should not be left out of account. A minimum wages board, therefore, was established in order to safeguard the conditions of the agricultural worker. That is all that we are asking in this Amendment.




Well, we, in fact, are asking for less than that. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will he satisfied, for it seems that the less we ask for the working class the more pleased he will be. This is not a new principle. In co-partnership schemes, one of which exists in London on a large scale, an inducement is given to the workpeople by way of a bonus paid at the end of the year out of profits. Surely, if hon. Gentlemen approve of a proposal like that, they ought to accept our Amendment. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are no profits in agriculture!"] There will be £6,000,000 going annually into the pockets of the farmers. I cannot understand the mentality of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They seem to think that this £6,000,000 is intended to make up the farmers' losses. That will not be the case. There is as much difference between one farmer and another working the same soil as there is between one good lawyer and another, and that is saying a great deal. I know farmers who are tilling exactly the same kind of soil in the same valley in the same area, and one will make his farm pay while another will always suffer a loss. That, of course, is common throughout life.

What are the rates of wages paid now? This is the only opportunity that we shall get of touching the problem of the wages of the 750,000 people employed on the land. I have found out what reductions in wages have taken place in agriculture. If there were sufficient inspectors employed by the Ministry of Agriculture, I am not sure but that they would find that there is a considerable number of farm labourers who are so disorganised from the trade union point of view that they are not bold enough to demand the legal minimum wage already provided for them. In Derbyshire the wages were reduced in 1931 from 36s. to 33s. 9d. for a week of 54 hours. In Gloucestershire all wages were reduced by 5 per cent., and the adult male rate now stands at 28s. 6d. a week. When hon. Gentlemen vote on this Amendment, whatever the words may be, let them picture a man with a wife and five or six children living on 28s. 6d. a week in the countryside. Hon. Members have to face that issue in the Division Lobby shortly. This is not merely a question of economics; it is a human problem. When the hon. Member for South Croydon said that the wages of the agricultural labourer were too high from an economic point of view, let me put this to him.


I hope that the hon. Member will complete my sentence, that the wages were too low from a social point of view.


I am not trying to misrepresent the hon. Member. He said all that, I agree, but I want to remind him that the trade board rate in the laundry trade, in the chain making trade and in in a host of other trades were laid down without any reference at all as to whether the employer could pay his way or not. In 1916 I had the task of dealing with a strike of 200 adult women in a laundry, who were working 52 hours a week for under 10s. wages. The trade board rate was laid down later for the laundry industry because of the shameful conditions under which the women were employed. When the trade board rate was laid down, the Government and the trade board never took any account of whether the industry could pay that wage. The increase was passed on to the consumer. This £6,000,000, too, will be passed on to the consumer, and we want the agricultural labourer to have a share of it.

Hon. Members say that farmers will be willing to treat their labourers decently. There may be some who will, but others will not. I know a farmer who died and left £30,000, and the wages he used to pay to his workpeople were a disgrace to civilisation. If the Government allow this £6,000,000 to go into the pockets of the farmers and deny a penny piece to the farm labourers, they will not soon forget the action of the Government. I appeal in the name of these men in the countryside who are unfortunate, and are often not free to say what they think. They are bound by conventions; they are constantly under the eyes of the employer, and in some cases they may have to attend the same church as the employer. Those hon. Gentlemen who use sympathetic words on behalf of the agricultural labourer, will, I hope, very soon translate that sympathy into actual practice in the Division Lobby.


The House will recollect that we discussed this problem at some length on the Committee stage. I make no complaint that the Amendment is not framed in a form in which it could practically be worked. I recognise that the Opposition have difficulty in framing Amendments in order to meet all the circumstances. It is right, however, that I should point out that the Amendment is so framed that even if the House decided that this should accrue to the advantage of the workers, it would not apply to the workers in Scotland or in Northern Ireland. That is a fundamental defect in the Amendment. On the other hand, while it is legitimate for those who are interested in the position of the agricultural worker or indeed any class of worker to urge that this House should be careful in legislation to see that there is a reasonable opportunity for the consideration of the remuneration of those employed in industry, let me point out what has already been mentioned, that the Agricultural Wages Act is in operation.

It is perfectly true that the Corn Production Act, of unhappy memory to those engaged in agriculture, was intended to promote cereal farming, but it also provided the machinery of the wages boards, and that machinery has remained and is in operation to-day. This Amendment, if it were put into operation, would bring about diversity by the handing over of sums of money to certain individuals. There would be grievances raised between the labouring classes in one parish and those in another, and between the workers on one farm and on another. It would lead to the very greatest amount of confusion. In agricultural employment there is a minimum rate of wages, with different payments to certain classes of men in the industry. Suppose that this method were adopted, and subsequently the representatives of labour in a district went to the wages board and asked for an increase of wages for agricultural workers. Is it not obvious that the greatest amount of confusion would arise, and that this bonus would be a detriment to those claims? It would be said at once: "Those who are engaged in cereal production are already getting more money, and we are not going to consider the question of raising the wages of the rest." In my view, that would be detrimental to the general body of wage earners in the country districts, and I think the House will be well advised to resist this Amendment now, as they did at an earlier stage.


I really am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should attack this Amendment on the ground that it will create anomalies. He is introducing a Measure which will create great discrepancies between various types of farmers. He is giving a special bonus to wheat growers, but doing nothing for the men who are growing barley or oats; and in another Bill those who are producing meat have been left out of consideration. He is making flesh of one, fish of another, and fowl of another. Yet at the same time that he is creating all these anomalies between farmers he gets up and protests that this Amendment will produce anomalies between different types of agricultural labourers. Why did he not take that line when he was replying to our Amendment on rents? He was perfectly happy that this subsidy from the pockets of the workers should enhance the rents of landowners who happen to have land under wheat, and did not complain that other landowners might come along and say, "Our farmers are not getting the subsidy, and so we cannot raise rents." We are prepared to take our stand where the right hon. Gentleman took his stand in regard to rents. He was quite ready to take whatever he could get for the landlords, and we are quite willing to take whatever we can get for the labourers. We do not think the Bill is a good Bill, but we are entitled to try to secure whatever advantages we can from it.

As usual, we were attacked, in a very pontifical manner by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). He said that we were proposing to take this 25 per cent. from the farmers without regard to their profits, and suggested that we should go to the Library and read a great deal. I suggest that he should go to the Library and read something about wages. He will find that wages are settled by agreement or legal enactment without special reference to the case of every individual. When we fix wages for a particular trade we do not have to show what the effect is to be on each individual employer, and whether he can make this or that amount of profit. Wages are settled by collective agreements which provide for so much per cent, increase, and the trade as a whole has to pay, irrespective of the position of the individual traders engaged in it. Unfortunately, we have been defeated in our attempts to see that the benefits to accrue to a section of the agricultural industry should go to the people actually engaged in the industry, the farmers, and not be taken by the landlords; now we are trying to secure

Division No. 138.] AYES. [5.55 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Cocks, Frederick Seymour Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)
Attlee, Clement Richard Cove, William G. Edwards, Charles
Batey, Joseph Cripps, Sir Stafford George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Dagger, George George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)
Buchanan, George Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)
Cape, Thomas Deviln, Joseph Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)

that, at all events, some advantage should accrue to the agricultural labourers. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well what difficulties there are in getting a reasonable standard of wages.

The plea was put forward by the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) that under the Corn Production Act we provided a subsidy for wheat on the one hand, and on the other hand dealt with agricultural wages, and he put forward the contention that this Measure is a bare act of justice to farmers in giving them something in return for the advantage which the agricultural labourer has had from wages boards. But the labourer has not had the advantage of wages at the same rate as he was getting then. When we are discussing these questions we get a point of view put forward, even in opposition to the Government, from Liberal Members and from Conservative Members, but if we want the most reactionary view, the most slavish following of the Government, without a spark or suggestion of humanity, we get it from those who were formerly Labour Members and have now crossed the Floor. I do not think the hon. Member did justice to the situation, because he knows perfectly well that the wages of agricultural labourers have fallen since the days of the Corn Production Act; and we also know that the right hon. Gentleman has taken care that wages boards shall not be effective by reducing the number of inspectors. The object of this Amendment is to lay it down definitely that where, by legislation, sums of money extracted from taxpayers or consumers are handed over to particular interests they shall be tied up with conditions, and we are trying to make them conditions for the benefit of the community and for the benefit of the workers. The House ought not to consider merely the vested interests of a certain number of employers.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 52; Noes, 289.

Grundy, Thomas W. Leonard, William Salter, Dr. Alfred
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Logan, David Gilbert Thorne, William James
Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Lunn, William Tinker, John Joseph
Hicks, Ernest George Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Wallhead, Richard C.
Hirst, George Henry McEntee, Valentine L. Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David
Jenkins, Sir William McGovern, John Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Maxton, James Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Kirkwood, David Owen, Major Goronwy Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Parkinson, John Allen
Lawson, John James Price, Gabriel TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. Groves and Mr. John.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Denville, Alfred Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Dickle, John P. James, Wing Com. A W. H.
Albery, Irving James Dixey, Arthur C. N Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Doran, Edward Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Drewe, Cedric Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Duckworth, George A. V. Kerr, Hamilton W.
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Kirkpatrick, William M.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Duggan, Hubert John Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Duncan, James A. L.(Kensington,N.) Knight, Holford
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Eady, George H. Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Eden, Robert Anthony Lambert, Rt. Hon. George
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Ednam, Viscount Law, Sir Alfred
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Elmley, Viscount Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Leckie, J. A.
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Leech, Dr. J. W.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B.(Portsm'th,C.) Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Lees-Jones, John
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Everard, W. Lindsay Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Fade, Sir Bertram G. Levy, Thomas
Blindell, James Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Liddall, Walter S.
Borodale, Viscount. Ford, Sir Patrick J. Lindsay, Noel Ker
Bossom, A. C. Fox, Sir Gifford Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Fraser, Captain Ian Lloyd, Geoffrey
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Fuller, Captain A. G. Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)
Boyce, H. Leslie Ganzoni, Sir John Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander
Bracken, Brendan Gillett, Sir George Masterman Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Mabane, William
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Gledhill, Gilbert MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Glossop, C. W. H. McCorquodale, M. S.
Broadbent, Colonel John Gluckstein, Louis Halle Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Glyn, Major Ralph G. C. McEwen, Captain J. H. F.
Brown,Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y) Goff, Sir Park McKie, John Hamilton
Browne, Captain A. C. Goodman, Colonel Albert W. McLean. Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Buchan, John Gower, Sir Robert Macquisten, Frederick Alexander
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Magnay, Thomas
Burghley, Lord Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
Burnett, John George Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.
Burton, Colonel Henry Walter Grimston, R. V. Marsden, Commander Arthur
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Martin, Thomas B.
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Guy, J. C. Morrison Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley) Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Hales, Harold K. Merriman, Sir F. Boyd
Carver, Major William H. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)
Castle Stewart, Earl Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Milne, Charles
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Ztl'nd) Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw
Chalmers, John Rutherford Hanbury, Cecil Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston) Hanley, Dennis A. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Moreing, Adrian C.
Chotzner, Alfred James Hartington, Marquess of Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)
Clarke, Frank Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Muirhead, Major A. J.
Clarry, Reginald George Haslam, Henry (Lindsay, H'ncastlc) Munro, Patrick
Clayton Dr. George C. Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Newton, Sir Douglas George C.
Colville, John Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)
Conant, R. J. E. Hepworth, Joseph North, Captain Edward T.
Cooke, Douglas Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Nunn, William
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston) O'Connor, Terence James
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Hore-Belisha, Leslie O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Cranborne, Viscount Hornby, Frank Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
Craven-Ellis, William Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Palmer, Francis Noel
Crooke, J. Smedley Horsbrugh, Florence Patrick, Colin M.
Crossley, A. C. Howard, Tom Forrest Pearson, William G.
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney,N.) Peat, Charles U.
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Penny, Sir George
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) Hume, Sir George Hopwood Peters, Dr. Sidney John
Davison, Sir William Henry Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Petherick, M.
Dawson, Sir Philip Hurd, Percy A. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnst ple)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)
Pownall, Sir Assheton Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Procter, Major Henry Adam Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Train, John
Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Shepperson, Sir Ernest W. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Ramsay, Alexander (W, Bromwich) Simmonds, Oliver Edwin Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Skelton, Archibald Noel Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Ramsbotham, Herwald Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam) Ward, Sarah Adelalde (Cannock)
Ramsden, E. Somervell, Donald Bradley Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Soper, Richard Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Reid, William Allan (Derby) Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E. Wayland, Sir William A.
Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L. Wells, Sydney Richard
Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecciesall) Spencer, Captain Richard A. Weymouth, Viscount
Robinson, John Roland Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fyisde) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell Stones, James Whyte, Jardine Beil
Ropner, Colonel L. Storey, Samuel Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Rosbotham, S. T. Stourton, Hon. John J. Wills, Wilfrid D.
Ross, Ronald D. Strauss, Edward A. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Strickland, Captain W. F. Withers, Sir John James
Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Runge, Norah Cecil Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart Womersley, Walter James
Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Sutcliffe, Harold Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Russell,Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside) Tate, Mavis Constance Worthington, Dr. John V.
Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury) Templeton, William P. Wragg, Herbert
Salmon, Major Isldore Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Thompson, Luke TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Scone, Lord Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles Lord Erskine and Commander
Selley, Harry R. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of Southby.

I beg to move, in page 3, line 5, to leave out the words "and market conditions."

This is an Amendment which the Minister of Agriculture said he would consider when we reached the Report stage, but from a communication I have received I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is unable to accept it. The words "market conditions" are intended to cover both the supply, the price, and the demand which there may be on the market. My point is whether the term "market conditions" contemplates the price, the supply, and the demand after the Minister has made the Order. If that is so, there is no longer a free market, and the demand and supply are artificial. I want to know if the term "market conditions" means the conditions that would obtain if no Order had been made. Will the Wheat Commission, in fixing the price, proceed as if there had been no Order made, and would the price be that which would have existed in the free play of the market? The circumstances existing before and after the Order is made may be entirely different so far as the prices are concerned. I am moving to leave out these words, because we have been given to understand that it was the intention of the Government that the price should be fixed as if no Order had been made, and that would be the ordinary market price. We have to take into account the fact that the demand may be an artificial demand, and the supply may be compulsory.


I am advised that this is a problem which it will be much better to leave for the consideration of the practical body which will have to deal with it. It may be found in some cases very desirable to retain the words "market conditions" which cover, as I have already explained, the question of price, supply, and demand. If we adopted very precise words, there might arise some conditions which are at present unforeseeable, and which if they were not specially mentioned in the Bill might cause great difficulty.


Will the Minister say whether it will be an artificial demand which will be created by his Order that has to be considered or the demand which would have existed if he had not made the Order? Which of these does the Minister intend should be taken into account.


It will be the conditions after the Order. No farmer is bound to sell his wheat at the scheduled price if he can get a better price elsewhere. It is essential that we should have the greatest freedom in dealing with these matters, and the rules and regulations will be carried out by practical people including millers, farmers, and corn merchants.


Once the Flour Millers' Corporation is set up, will it not dominate the conditions of the market? Under this Bill, the price is to be fixed according to market conditions, and we are asking for these words to be deleted so that the price may be based upon other conditions, and not necessarily the market conditions which may be rigged or predetermined by the bodies which are going to purchase. I think the Minister ought to examine all the possibilities of these words. If this Amendment is rejected, the millers will have an opportunity of rigging the market, and the contracts entered into will be one-sided. If the Minister of Agriculture is unable at the moment to accept this Amendment, perhaps he may be willing to give us an assurance that this point will be dealt with in another place.

Amendment negatived.