HC Deb 23 February 1932 vol 262 cc318-57

The first Amendment that I call is that in the name of the hon. Member for Hereford (Sir E. Shepperson)—in page 19, to leave out lines 7 to 10.


On a point of Order. Will you, Sir Dennis, give us some further indication as to how you are going to call the Amendments to the Schedule?

9.0 p.m.


The Amendments will be called in the ordinary way in the order in which they appear on the Order Paper at the present time. The first Amendment, which I have just called upon the hon. Member for Hereford to move, is one which would leave out what may be described as the third item in the Schedule, which consists of four lines. There are some Amendments after that to leave out portions of those four lines, but I understand that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer replies on this first Amendment he will probably make a statement as to the general policy of the Government in regard to this particular item. I propose that all the Amendments following the one which we have now reached, and relating to anything in lines 7 to 10, should he discussed on this first Amendment, and then, if necessary, divisions can be taken on the different Amendments as they come forward. But I think that, generally speaking, it will probably be found convenient to the Committee to take a general discussion on the first Amendment moved in regard to each of the items in the Schedule.


In a previous Ruling, Sir Dennis, you said that you would allocate time as between Amendments seeking to add to and Amendments seeking to take away from the Schedule, but since you made that statement a large number of Government Amendments have been put down, and I can only put forward a plea that some of our Amendments shall be safeguarded.


Yes, I have clearly in mind what the hon. Member refers to, and what I said on the subject generally on the previous occasion. I think the Committee can rely on the exercise by the Chair of the right of selection in order to give, as far as is possible, a reasonable chance of discussion to Amendments of different classes.


I beg to move, in page 19, to leave out lines 7 to 10.

The purpose of this Amendment is to remove meat, including, of course, beef, mutton, and pork, from the Free List. If the Amendment is carried, meat, coming out of the Free List, would immediately become liable to the 10 per cent. ad valorem duty, and would further be able to be considered on its merits by the Advisory Committee, but while meat is within the Free List, as it is at present, it is absolutely and entirely beyond the scope of the Bill, and the Bill cannot at any future time treat in any way with the problem of meat. I would remind the Committee that if meat is removed from the Free List, the Advisory Committee can at any future time, if they think well, put it back on the Free List.

Now there may be certain queries as to why I am moving this Amendment, but I do not think that any reply is necessary to those who know me. They will know that the whole of my life has been given entirely to the study of the theory and practice of agriculture, and they will realise, every one of them, that the main, though not the only, purpose of my moving the Amendment is to do what I can to benefit the industry which I have devoted my life to help. Not only have I spent my life in the study of agriculture, but during the past 10 years I have represented one of the very few purely agricultural industries of England. I submit that it is my duty, not only to the industry to which I have given my life, but to the constituency which I represent, to do what I can to obtain equitable fiscal justice for them.

In the First Schedule, which is now popularly known as the free list, two main things are notable. The first is that the list consists for the most part of raw materials. The second is that it does not contain any articles of manufactured goods. That is to say, manufactured goods are to be subject to the ad valorem duty and to any additional duty which may be imposed upon the advice of the Advisory Committee by the Treasury. The principle of the taxation of manufactured goods and the free importation of raw materials is approved by every Member of the House and the nation generally as very helpful to British industry, but, unfortunately, this principle has in this Bill one great exception. That exception is the industry of British agriculture. I would like the Committee to realise that agriculture is an industry as well as iron and steel and cotton. It consumes raw material and produces from it manufactured articles which it has to offer in the open market. In this Bill agriculture is treated contrarily to the treatment of every other industry. Every other industry has free raw materials with a protected market.

Agriculture has a tax placed upon its raw materials, its maize, soya beans, and so on, and has to sell its manufactured goods, such as meat, in an unprotected market. What would we think if a tax were put on raw cotton, and at the same time Japanese or other manufactured cotton goods were allowed free entry? Lancashire would be ablaze with indignation. Are not agriculturists entitled to have the same indignation as Lancashire would have? I would ask representatives of Lancashire whether I am not right in claiming for the industry of agriculture the same treatment that is meted out to their own, cotton and iron and steel industries. Agriculture is to-day as depressed as the cotton and the iron and steel industries; indeed, it is more depressed than either of them. There is, however, this difference with regard to agriculture. If the cotton and iron and steel industries are depressed, they can close down their furnaces and looms and wait until the depression is past, when they can start again. When British agriculture is closed down, it cannot start again. If hon. Members have witnessed what happens to agricultural land through remaining derelict and uncultivated for two or three years, they will realise that once agriculture is down and out there is very little possibility of a resurrection of the industry.

We are dealing in this Amendment particularly with the case of meat. This country is renowned throughout the world for the breed of our cattle and sheep. The world looks to us for pedigree animals. If the breeding and feed- ing of cattle does not pay, the producer goes out of business and the herds are dispersed. It would take a generation for those herds to be re-established. If British agriculture and the breeding of cattle goes under, it will take a generation to rescue them from the disaster. I therefore make a particular appeal on behalf of the cattle feeders and breeders. It is unnecessary for me to remind the Committee that British agriculture is the oldest and still the largest industry. I submit that it is our right to have fiscal protection, yet we see this Bill allowing the free import, of raw materials for other industries and giving a, protected market for their manufactured products, while British agriculture is left entirely in the cold. I make an appeal not only to my fellow agriculturists, but to my fellow industrialists to give fiscal justice to British agriculture.

Consideration for British agriculture is not my only reason for moving the Amendment. I suggest that the Amendment is in the national interest and that its acceptance would considerably strengthen the Bill. The reason given for not including maize in the Free List is that its inclusion would be a detriment to certain discussions which may take place at the Imperial Conference at Ottawa and that it might hinder possible trade arrangements with the Argentine. All the arguments used in favour of excluding maize from the Free List might with far more force be used in favour of excluding meat. Ninety-five per cent. of the maize comes from the Argentine.


The hon. Member must not discuss the duty on maize generally. That comes afterwards.


I have no intention of discussing the duty on maize. My only point is that taking meat from the Free List and making it subject to a duty would help in the Conference at Ottawa and in agreements with the Argentine far more than keeping maize from the Free List. There is imported into this country annually £108,000,0000 worth of meat products. Of that amount £86,000,000 comes from foreign sources, and £22,000,000 from within the Empire. Of the £86,000,000 worth of foreign goods, £31,000,000 worth come from the Argentine, and £28,000,000 from Denmark, chiefly in the form of bacon products. On these figures, I suggest that there is a far greater scope for negotiations at Ottawa and for any agreement with the Argentine with regard to the meat situation than there is with regard to maize. We cannot produce maize in this country, but we can produce meat. Why should we not put maize on the Free List and take meat out of the Free List.? We should then have the knowledge that we had given definite help to British agriculture, given help to the conference at Ottawa, and given help to the trade agreement which is going to be arranged with the Argentine; and we should all be satisfied and could go home to-night feeling very much brighter.

There is still another very material point in the national interest which I should like to bring to the notice of the Committee, and particularly to the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Foreign meat to the value of £80,000,000 a year is coming into this country. This Amendment would put a duty of 10 per cent. upon that meat., and that would produce a revenue of £8,500,000 a year. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in the present financial situation of the country, he can afford to let slip the opportunity of increasing his revenue by £8,500,000? I suggest that it would be in the national interest to obtain this £8,500,000. From a, national point of view, and from the standpoint of the interests of British agriculture, I appeal most sincerely for support for the Amendment.

I understand that this Amendment cannot be accepted and will not be accepted. What are the reasons for that? I think there are two. The first reason is fear of the dear food bogey. I submit that it is a bogey, called up only at suitable times by hon. Members of the Liberal party in order that they may frighten children and certain electorates of low intellectual capacity. Does anyone suggest that with meat from the Empire coming in free this duty of 10 per cent. would be wholly paid by the consumers? Everybody knows that it would not be. During the past, nine months there has been a fall of 20 per cent. in the price of beef, of 25 to 30 per cent. in the price of mutton and of 40 per cent. in the price of pork. Even if the whole of this duty were paid by the consumer, which I suggest it would not be, consumers would be 10 per cent. better off as regards the price of beef than they were nine months ago, 20 per cent. better off in the matter of the price of mutton, and some 30 per cent. better off as regards pork. I submit that the dear food bogy is nothing but a bogy. I would like, if I were in order, which I fear I should not be—


No, the hon. Member would not be in order.


Obeying the Ruling which you have given in an appreciation beforehand of the point I was going to make, I refrain from making that point. Is it not possible for this House, in the interests of the nation, to slay once and for all the dear food bogy? Can we not decide to say that it is not quite honest to use the dear food bogy, as it has been used in the past, and may be used in the future, in order to influence an illiterate section of the electorate? The time has come for us to act honestly.

The dear food bogy is one of the reasons why this Amendment may not be accepted, but I think the real reason is that it is said that if it were carried the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would no longer remain in the Government. It is said that the right hon. Gentleman has in past times given certain pledges. Pledges are very dangerous things. I, personally, never gave any. I believe in the motto, "Safety first." But is it not possible for the President of the Board of Trade to remain? No one has gained greater admiration from the House and the country than the President of the Board of Trade, and I do not think it is possible that he would contemplate resignation. Surely he would follow the example given to him by the Home Secretary. I assume, though I do not know, that the Home Secretary gave certain pledges against the whole of this Bill during the election. He spoke against the Bill and voted against it, and was defeated in the Division. Has he resigned? He is still there. I must correct myself; he has just come in. May I suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that in the event of this Amendment being carried he should follow the example of the Home Secretary and remain a Member of the National Government?

It may be said that I, as an ardent supporter of the National Government, which I am, have not done my duty, by moving this Amendment. Surely it is right for us to remember that this is a National Government and as a National Government certain concessions of disagreement have been granted to Cabinet Ministers. Am I asking too much of the National Government and of this House that they should grant to me, a mere back bencher, the same concession to speak and to vote against the National Government that they have granted to Members of their own Cabinet? What is sauce for the goose is surely sauce for the gander. There are hon. Members of the National Government sitting near me who have been moving not one but dozens of Amendments and voting against the Government, all of which Amendments are weakening the Bill, and yet they are said to be constant and continuous supporters of the Government. I do submit that I am moving to-night an Amendment which will not weaken the Bill, but which will strengthen it, and therefore I consider I have the right to call myself a most loyal supporter of the National Government.


A little while ago, in answer to the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), you, Sir Dennis, said that you understood I was going to make a statement on the general policy of the Government in regard to this Amendment. I venture to think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I went even a little further than that, because I have put down a large number of Amendments to the Schedule which appear on the Order Paper. Some of those Amendments cover a great number of other Amendments already on the Paper in the names of hon. Members, but I have some reason to know that it is not universally appreciated how far the Amendments which I have put down go and I think it might perhaps save the time of the Committee and meet the point raised by the hon. Member for Limehouse, if, with your permission, I make a short statement on the Amendments that I have put down, explaining their scope. I do not ask that this should take the place of the discussion on the Amendments, but merely that I should help hon. Members to see how far the Amendments which they have put down are covered by mine.


I think the Committee will probably agree that that is a very convenient form of procedure in the somewhat special circumstances of the case, if the right hon. Gentleman does not press it too far. We have here a Schedule of great importance almost equivalent to a number of different Clauses, and I think therefore, if the Chancellor will be good enough to make what one might describe as a Second Reading statement on his policy on the Schedule, it would meet with the approval of the Committee.

9.30 p.m.


I have already had occasion to explain that the course adopted by the Government in dealing with these provisions has been founded on expediency. We have not laid down any hard-and-fast rules as to what should or should not appear in the Schedule, but we have found that there may be arguments on almost every item, for reasons which conflict with one another on one side or the other. The Government therefore had to judge each item on its merits, and come to a conclusion as to which side the advantage lay. The Schedule, as it appears in the Bill, is comparatively short, and the effect of the Amendments which I have put down will be to extend it. That is due partly to the fact that fresh information has come to us since the Bill was drafted on various points and various indications in connection with different items, and partly to the fact that it is now proposed that the advisory committee should have power ultimately to recommend that articles should be taken out of the list as well as that articles should be put into it. As the Committee is aware, it has not been possible for me, under the rules of the House, to move the necessary Amendment, on this occasion, but I hope to do it by means of an Amendment to the Act in the Finance Bill which will come before the House at a later stage. We are therefore proceeding on the assumption that ultimately the Committee will be clothed with powers to recommend not only that imports should be put on the Free List, but also that they should be taken out. Having that additional elasticity in the provisions of this Measure, it is possible for us to contemplate putting into the Free List now articles that perhaps we should never have ventured to put in if we knew that if once put in they could never have been taken out.

With those preliminary observations I pass to the various items which are covered by the Amendments. First of all, there are items which are in the same sort of category as those in the first line of the Schedule—gold and silver bullion and coins—articles the trade in which is subject to special considerations. To that list, I propose to add pearls and also semi-precious stones used for similar purposes in a slightly different class of trade. Then there is also platinum, a very valuable commodity, and one in regard to which a 10 per cent. duty would amount to a considerable increase in cost. Wool, as now entered in the Schedule, is expressed to include hair of various kinds of animals. Since that list was drawn up we have discovered that it by no means covers the whole area of the animal field, but that there are various other kinds of animal hair which are used and which form important ingredients in woollen manufactures. We have therefore thought it advisable to wipe out this category of animals which appear in the Schedule and to substitute instead all animal hair, which includes human hair. Another of the articles in the list is hemp, and it is intended that words should be inserted to make it read "hemp other than sisal hemp." The Government have been advised that sisal is also called "hemp or sisal hemp," and we thought it advisable therefore to indicate that we did not intend that sisal hemp should be in the Free List.

There is another article of interest to the Colonial Empire, namely balata, which is produced in the colony of British Guiana and also in other parts, and this also is to be taken out of the Free List. If it comes from the British colony it will still come in free. Whale oil is another article which is of interest to some hon. Members, and we have a provision for bringing in whale oil if produced in British floating factories. With regard to wood pulp, there is another material which is used for making paper. It is a kind of special class of paper, and there is a considerable export trade. I mean esparto grass, which comes from North Africa and which is not produced in the Empire, at least, so far as I know, and which forms a foundation of some little importance. Esparto, therefore, will be coupled with pulp. Potash is a fertiliser of great importance, and that, too, is not produced within the Empire. It comes exclusively from foreign countries. Potash will likewise be included in the Free List.

There are two kinds of ore included in the list in the Bill as it stands. There is iron ore and tin ore. We have had representations that it is desirable that other kinds of ore should also be included, and the more we looked into this question the more it became clear that it is exceedingly difficult to discriminate between the ores of the different metals, because those ores are frequently used in association with one another. You can have cupreous ores and ores of lead and zinc. The Government thought it better to take tin ore and iron ore out of the Schedule, and put in metallic ores of all kinds, and to include with them other things, including concentrates, sweepings and residues, which are in the Schedule. That, I think, will simplify a good deal that part of the Schedule.

Then there is the question of copper. Copper is one of the metals which is not smelted in this counutry, which is produced in the Empire, but is not produced in sufficient quantities in the Empire to fulfil the requirements as used in this country. After careful consideration we have decided to include raw copper in its various forms in the free list. Then we have also included coal, coke and briquettes, for though these are not articles which are imported in very great quantities, there is, I believe, a provision in the United States of America that where these articles are subject to an import duty, there is a, countervailing duty put on in the United States against imports into that country. As we still export a certain amount of coal to the United States, we thought it desirable to put coal into the free list. That, I think, exhausts pretty well the Amendments which I have upon the Paper. Hon. Members will see that a very large number of Amendments which already stood upon the Paper have been covered in one form or another.

There is one other article upon which I would like to say a word, although it is one as to which no Amendment appears. There is no commodity on which we found it more difficult to come to a decision than maize. Maize is a most important feeding stuff in this country. It is imported in considerable quantities, something like £10,000,000 worth annually in this country, and of that, some two-thirds come from the Argentine. The arguments in favour of letting in maize free, or, on the other hand, of leaving it subject to a 10 per cent. duty, have been so nicely balanced one against the other that it has been extremely difficult to come to a decision. On the one side it may be argued that maize, being a feeding-stuff and used largely in the production of pigs, poultry and cattle, it is rather hard that the user of these articles, who is not going to have his product protected, should nevertheless be subject to a duty on one of his principal feeding stuffs.

That may be admitted as a very solid argument. On the other hand, there are solid arguments in the opposite direction. The first of them, and perhaps the most important from my point of view, is that the 10 per cent. upon the import of maize would mean a very substantial amount of revenue. It would mean about £1,000,000 a year, a sum which cannot be regarded lightly. Then, again, as I think was mentioned by the hon. Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) just now, maize chiefly comes from the Argentine. The Argentine is one of those countries with whom presently we hope to get into conversation with a view to making mutually advantageous arrangements, and seeing that the principal exports of the Argentine to this country are wheat, meat and maize, it is obvious that if we are going to allow these three articles to come in free, we shall have to trust ourselves to the good will of the peoples with whom we are going to carry on the conversation.

Then again, maize produced within the Empire is a substance of some importance in the Union of South Africa and a matter of much greater importance to Kenya Colony, where maize is used and cultivated, and exported not only by white settlers but also by the natives. A preference to that Colony on maize would undoubtedly be of great value. It may result in corresponding purchases from this country. On the whole, taking these various considerations, I confess that my mind has been inclining to the course of leaving maize subject to the 10 per cent. duty. But I must also confess that I have been very much impressed by representations which I received from Northern Ireland as to the difficulties which would arise there if this 10 per cent. duty were imposed. In Northern Ireland there are a very large number of smallholdings, and on the smallholdings, I am informed, are something like 80,000 farmers, who gain their living by raising cattle and pigs to a considerable extent, and they are all small people. Their principal feeding stuff is this same maize. Over 500,000 tons were imported into that country. Not only the farmers are concerned, but the millers, because maize is milled and much of it is exported to the Free State. The position of Northern Ireland is made particularly difficult because they have only a land frontier between themselves and the Free State where no duty is imposed. Their competitors would be put at a disadvantage compared to the Northern Ireland farmers and millers. I must say, that the idea that the inhabitants of Northern Ireland, who will stand favourable comparison in their loyalty to the British connection with any part of the Empire should, as it were, be made to suffer for that connection in any way, in comparison with others, goes very much against the grain. Seeing that that consideration comes in in connection with those which I have already mentioned, the Government have come to this conclusion, that, on the whole, it would be best to put maize into the Free List, where, of course, it will be a subject of consideration at any future time if circumstances change, according to the recommendation which the Committee might make. Therefore, I shall be prepared, simply on the merits of the case, to put maize into this Free List, and to make the necessary addition to the Amendments which I have already put down on the Paper.

I now come to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster, who has made a very eloquent plea for independence in this matter. He evidently was not very hopeful that his Amendment would receive favourable consideration, but that did not detract in any way from the force with which he advocated it. I think I have alluded to this matter before, but the articles which are to go or not to go into this Free List have to be considered each one on its merits. If one were considering simply and solely the position of the agricultural industry, there is no doubt that my hon. Friend has made out a, very strong case, but there is another consideration which we cannot lose sight of, and I beg my hon. Friend to believe that in this matter it is not a question of difference of opinion between the President of the Board of Trade and his colleagues. The view which is held by the whole Government is that, in the position in which we stand to-day, when we are off the Gold Standard, I will not say the question of food taxes, but the question of the cost of living, is not a bogy at all, but is something which has to be very carefully studied and watched, because, if the cost of living were to rise beyond what. I have called the danger point, there might be consequences in what is generally known as a vicious spiral—a rise in wages followed by further rises in costs, and so on—which would lead to an uncontrolled depreciation in the currency, and that is a contingency which I think none of us could possibly contemplate with equanimity.

That is a question which we have always to keep in mind, and, therefore, in deciding what we are to do about any particular article in the Schedule, we must consider what effect the imposition of a duty upon that article might have upon the cast of living, not taken alone, but taken in conjunction with any other consideration which may affect the cost of living. I took occasion, about a week ago, to point out to the House that at the present time the cost of living was artificially low—that in the natural course of events one would have to expect that the cost of living would rise. That is a question which one has to keep in mind in considering any possible addition to the cost of living by any action that we might take.

I do not want anything that I say on this Amendment to be taken as a pledge that this Government will never in any circumstances be a party to the imposition of a tax on meat. I do not make any such statement. What I do say is that in present circumstances, and having, in particular, the question of the cost of living very much in our minds, we do not consider that this is a time when it would be prudent or wise to put a tax upon the import of meat into this country. For that reason, and for that reason alone, I cannot accept this Amendment, but I hope that at any rate the conclusion which I announced a little while ago about maize, arrived at, I agree, upon rather different grounds, has relieved the situation to some extent for those who are dependent on stock, in that they will no longer feel that, while they are denied protection for their own products, they are forced to pay a higher price for their feeding stuffs.


On a point of Order. I understood, Captain Bourne, that, your predecessor in the Chair ruled that we should generally, in this discussion, discuss the Amendment which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson), and the subsequent Amendments bearing upon the question of meat; but, the Chancellor of the Exchequer having made a very important statement bearing on that matter with regard to the placing of maize on the Free List, I should like to ask your Ruling as to whether the question of maize may also be included in the discussion which may now arise.


I do not think we can go outside the Amendment which has already been placed before the Committee. I allowed the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make this evening a general statement on his Amendments, although that is contrary to my usual practice, because, under the provisions of the Guillotine Resolution, it would not be possible to move either to postpone consideration of the Schedule or to report Progress with a view to making a general statement, as I should have had to put either of those questions forthwith without discussion or debate. The Chairman and I, therefore, thought that it would be for the convenience of the Committee that, the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of the Schedule should be put before the Committee at, the earliest possible moment. I cannot, however, permit a discussion outside the ordinary rules once that statement has been made.


I think that the whole Committee is grateful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the very clear statement that he has made on the subject of this Schedule. I have no doubt that in the main it will be a much better Schedule now than it would have been. Coming back to the question of a meat duty, there were certain observations which appealed to me in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He very truly said that this is a question, not of abstract principle, but of expediency, and he pointed out, in connection with maize, how closely balanced were the arguments for and against putting maize on the Free List. As he spoke, I could not help thinking that every one of the arguments that he adduced in favour of maize not being on the Free List was a much stronger argument in favour of meat not being on the Free List. From the point of view of revenue, meat would, of course, yield eight times as much revenue as maize. From the point of view of production in the Empire, the proportion of meat produced in the Empire is very much greater. In the case of one item, mutton and lamb, the Empire is already effectively self-sufficient, and it, could be so in a much higher proportion in the case of the other items than it is in the case of maize.

Even when we come to the very important question of the price to the consumer, which, of course, we have to consider in this matter, it is worth noting that, in the case of beef at any rate, this country draws its foreign supplies entirely from one source, the Argentine, and the Argentine has no other market in the world to which it can send its beef except the United Kingdom. It is so dependent upon this market that I believe it could be safely reckoned that the effect of such a duty, amounting to½d. per lb. at the most, would he borne by the Argentine producer, and not by the consumer in this country; and even if in these cases there were a slight addition, I would follow up what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) just now with regard to the very heavy fall in wholesale prices of meat during the last few months—a fall which has continued in spite of our going off the Gold Standard. That fall has not been transmitted, except to a very small extent, to the consumer. At the moment there is a very wide slack or lag which the wholesaler would take up if there were a small addition to meat prices, and which he would have no justification whatever for transmitting to the consumer. Therefore, as far as the point of view of the consumer is concerned, there is far less fear of any rise of price in connection with wheat than there was in the case of maize.

On the other hand, from the point of view of revenue, which is so important in balancing the Budget and maintaining sterling, and from the point of view of the diversion of supplies from foreign to Empire countries, the case of meat is a very strong one indeed. It is obvious that the arguments I have just used make it clear that the British farmer would not get any immediate appreciable advantage out of the exclusion of meat from the free list, certainly not until he was able to organise his business more efficiently. On that point, we have already the promise of the Minister of Agriculture that, when the bacon industry can show an efficient organisation, there will be some control of imports, whether quantitatively or otherwise. I trust the same pledge holds good in regard to other forms of meat production.

The point I particularly wish to bring before the Chancellor of the Exchequer is this. It is clear that you cannot consider domestic meat production without taking into account at the same time the meat production of the Empire. I believe that in mutton the Empire is self-sufficient already. I believe that in bacon and pig products it could become self-sufficient in a very short time. I fully admit that in the case of beef it would take considerably longer to make us altogether self-sufficient, and indeed I do not know that we should necessarily aim at that. We wish to conduct an important trade with the Argentine, and in that trade, at any rate, a substantial element of Argentine meat may come into consideration. But there is a field for negotiation and consideration at Ottawa and, if the Government were to tell us that the main reason for holding up this question at this moment is in order to give it fuller consideration at Ottawa, the procedure might not be logically on all fours with the procedure in regard to other matters but it would make a great deal of difference to the attitude of a great many of us.

10.0 p.m.

In that connection we had to-day from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs an answer which I can only characterise as very disquieting and unsatisfactory. He said that while, of course, all matters were open for discussion the final decision in this matter of meat must always be subject to the general considerations involved in the domestic policy of the Government. If that means that the domestic policy of this Government is not to consider the possibility of duties upon meat in the interest of the Empire and home production, we should certainly have every reason to be dissatisfied. I got some hope from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that this question was not ruled out for all time, but I should like to have from some representative of the Government a clear statement that this matter is perfectly open for discussion at Ottawa and that the Government will be guided, not by any arbitrary rule laid down with regard to our domestic policy, but simply and solely by the consideration of the evidence that may be brought before it as to the capacity of Empire production now and in the near future and also, no doubt, as to what corresponding advantages British industries might reap in return. If we could get, before the Debate closes, a clear assurance on that point, the attitude of many of us would be very much affected. If the matter is left where the Dominions Secretary left it, with the very unpleasant intimation that our attitude at Ottawa will be to say that our domestic policy excludes meat duties, I must say that my hon. Friend and others will have every justification for using the same liberty that Cabinet Ministers exercise on this question.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can produce to-morrow a copy of the Schedule containing his proposed Amendments—[Interruption.]


On a point of Order. Are we entitled to listen to this discussion?


If the hon. Gentleman will speak to some of his colleagues, perhaps they will make it possible to hear what Members have to say. I was asking the right hon. Gentleman whether, following on the very important state- ment he has made, indicating so many changes in the Schedule, it would be possible to bring forward an alternative Schedule embodying his Amendments. If he could do that, I am sure Members in all parts of the Committee would find it invaluable when dealing with the most serious Amendments on the Order Paper and he would find that he would confine discussion to a very limited area and would expedite business.

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

I intervene in the Debate with some considerable regret, because I warmly approve of the main principles of the Measure. I feel that this is a very momentous occasion because, in spite of the reassuring phrases of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it must be clear to the Committee that, unless action is to be taken soon in regard to this whole question of meat, or at least unless we are informed precisely what attitude the Government is going to take at Ottawa, the gate may very likely be closed and it may be immensely difficult to raise the question at some subsequent date. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the merits of the case. Frankly, in this instance I can find very little merit, because to put meat on to the free list seems to conflict with the whole of the principles of the Bill. May I enumerate some of the reasons why I feel very strongly that a different action should be taken. First of all, I think there is no one in the Committee who does not realise that the position of stock raisers is really desperate. There are very few of us probably who do not regret that three or four years ago some action was not taken to save the cereal farmers from the deplorable disaster with which they are confronted to-day.

We welcome the Government's quota and other proposals, but it will even now be too late to save a great many of the best of our citizens from ruin. This, unfortunately, applies very largely to the stock raisers in this country. I submit that as it is one of the greatest industries in the country, it ought to have the consideration of this Committee. It is sometimes imagined that agriculture generally is cereal, but by far the most important part of the agricultural industry in the country is probably stock-raising. We have the most magnificent pastures in the world, we can turn out the finest beasts in the world, and if there is one industry which we ought by every possible means to put upon a secure foundation, it is our meat industry. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) has mentioned, it is not a case where the Empire has only small supplies. I believe that I am right in saying that we produce something like 56 per cent. of our own beef in this country, and that the rest of the Empire can, certainly within the period of a few years, supply a large proportion of the rest of our requirements. And, undoubtedly, you have a weapon to enable you to get the remainder of your supplies at reasonable prices from foreign countries.

I submit—and here, I believe, everyone in the party to which I belong will agree —that we have a greater opportunity, through various meat products, of arriving at satisfactory agreements with the Dominions than with any other product. After all, I suppose that if you are talking to Australia, to New Zealand, to Canada and to the Irish Free State, meat and pig products are subjects which would come uppermost in your mind. Undoubtedly, if this is a, Revenue Bill, meat and pig products would be one of your greatest revenue producers. Owing to the great volume of your meat imports, you have an opportunity of correcting your adverse balance of trade, certainly with regard to your imports from foreign countries, which would be more helpful than, perhaps, any other commodities of which you can think. It is absolutely illogical to take this one great industry of meat, which is the finished product, and put in in your free list when the whole basis of your proposals is that you are endeavouring to assist the producers of this country, and to give security to production. With meat included in the British tariff, you would have, undoubtedly, an immense power of adopting reciprocity with the Argentine. In fact, I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say—it has been said in so many Argentine papers—that if there is a duty put upon Argentine meat coming into this country, as people in that country imagined there was going to be, the whole of that population would immediately be demanding of the Government of the Argentine that they should give advantages to our manufacturing industries in their markets. That is a very big point and I attach—and I know that many of my hon. Friends do—enormous importance to our bargaining power in that direction.

I support most sincerely the argument which fell from my hon. Friend with regard to prices. Everyone is aware that there has been a colossal drop in wholesale meat prices in recent months, and I believe that fear which my right hon. Friend expressed with regard to prices is not justifiable. But if you had meat included, and if there was any increase of prices so as to affect seriously the producers in this country, your Committee would have power to remove the duties. Until after the Finance Bill they will have no power to put duties on. If you take the question of pig products, I think we all realise that we have an enormous power of expansion in this country. The right hon. Gentleman has given encouragement to pig producers by telling them that if in certain circumstances they were willing to organise and co-operate, the Government would he willing to arrange something like a quota.

That is exactly what occurred four or five years ago in regard to iron and steel. We were told that if the industry would rationalise, we could ensure industrial security. I do not believe that it is possible for large sums of money to be put into organisations and bacon factories in the country unless there is some security for those industries. Does anybody who studies the question doubt that of all your industries in the country, there is none which can be more speedily expanded than the pig industry? I am not exaggerating when I say that within a comparatively short time you can expand the number of persons employed in this industry by something like 100,000 persons. What ought to appeal to hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Front Opposition Bench is the opportunity to absorb a very large number of unskilled men into that industry, because every pig producer knows that you can very soon train a man to be capable of effective work in that line of agricultural production.

At Question Time to-day the right hon. Gentleman the Dominions Secretary gave an answer to a question which was addressed to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) and by myself. We attach enormous importance to this question. The answer was satisfactory as far as that side of the question went, namely, that it would be competent for the Dominions to discuss any proposals; any commodities would be open to discussion. But the fact remains that he concluded the answer by saying, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, that the final decision on the part of any Government must, of course, be always subject to any general consideration involved in the domestic policy of that Government. We want to know if His Majesty's Government go to Ottawa, and, if it is found helpful to obtain agreements to the advantage of the industrial population of this country, are they prepared quite readily to grant preferential duties upon various meat products? That is the point. Or is the case already judged Are the rumours correct that have been floating about— I hope that they are ill-informed rumours—that there is some door which is closed to that consideration? I hope that some representative of His Majesty's Government will make it clear that when our representatives go to Ottawa they will go with the mandate of the electors with freedom to promote Empire economic unity. If we close down one of the greatest hopes of arriving at real agreements with the Empire by any decision we take this evening, or by any remarks which may be made, it will be most harmful to the expectations of the Ottawa Conference.

I would only ask, in conclusion, cannot His Majesty's Government give us a, clear and emphatic statement this evening that they are prepared to go to Ottawa with absolutely free hands on this subject? If they can give that, assurance, then the stock raisers of this country still have some hope, but if such an assurance is not forthcoming, and meat and pig products are left out, as they are in this Schedule, from the operations of the Bill, it must cause great distress to one of the largest industries of the country looking to this House for help, and it will make it extremely difficult to reopen the question in the near future.


This is an Amendment which seems to us to be very vital and in regard to which we understood the Government were already fully pledged. We understood that the President of the Board of Trade gave a specific undertaking during the Election that so far as meat and wheat were concerned he would be no party to any Government which would impose a tax upon them. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman assents to the remark which I have just made. It is obviously impossible for the Government to leave this Debate without stating, quite categorically, whether they have in fact decided now to leave meat on the Free List as being a redemption of an election pledge. The Chancellor of the Exchequer shakes his head. That is entirely in opposition to the nod of the head which I got from the President of the Board of Trade. Perhaps they have already agreed to differ upon this point. I understand from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they have not made up their minds. On the other hand, I understand from the President of the Board of Trade that he has made up his mind anyway on this matter, and that so far as he is concerned he is going to be no party to the taxation of meat.

When one comes to consider the merits of the case, and one looks at it from the point of view of the consumer, the merits are undoubtedly in favour of excluding meat from taxation. The hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has put forward the case which appeals to him on behalf of the farmers, but there are very large numbers of people in this country, consumers, who not very long ago suffered severe cuts in their income, and that they should now have imposed upon them, in addition to those cuts, an increase in price of a most material commodity which they consume, seems to us to be wholly unfair and not to be justified by any advantage which, as the right hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) admits, would be a very small or negligible one to the farmers of this country. It would be putting against the probable increase in price really no benefit at all to any other member of the community. We do beg that the Government will make their position perfectly clear, and especially the President of the Board of Trade, so that the country may know, now, whether it is a matter of firm policy that meat shall not be taxed, or whether it is merely a matter to be thrown into some bargain at Ottawa.


The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) for a moment seemed to touch on the question of whether this is expediency or principle. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us, in dealing with the question of putting maize into the Free List, that these matters are decided as a question of expediency and not as a question of principle. Surely, the boot in the present case is on the other foot, and he might well omit meat from the Free List on the question of principle instead of leaving it in, as now, on tike question, a very doubtful one, of political expediency. We are told, as the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) said, that if we can organise the farmers in this country we shall get a new heaven possibly, somehow or other, under some form of Government protection, but we want something a little more certain and a little more sure before we dare trust ourselves to that or before even our bankers will let us do anything in the way of organising meat, which we know we can do if we get the chance.

It is obvious that 10 per cent. on meat, here or there, "Sir Robert"—[Interruption]. I am always told that the highest statesmanship is to be able to give a successful prophecy. It is obvious that 10 per cent. on meat of any sort is going to make very little difference in the case of the consumer or in the case of the farmer. If we are always going to judge the case for Protection as a matter for expediency and to deal with all meats included in the Schedule in accordance with the amount of political pressure that arises, it is easy to see that the man who shouts the loudest gets the most for the Free List. If we definitely affirm a matter of principle that we must apply some form of Protection, not of the very feeblé kind of 10 per cent., to the agricultural industry we shall have an assurance for the future health of the country and the balance of our trade; and our national life will be secured. At this moment we know that tariffs on industrial products mean that we can supply our home market very quickly. It is not very difficult to quadruple the output of a factory which is working quarter time, but nothing short of a miracle can make a cow calve four times in one year. As regards the breeding of our livestock this may be dealt with on what the Minister of Agriculture calls a quantitative regulation, but we have no guarantee at the moment that we shall have any regula- tion of any sort beyond what we know of the Minister's opinion and good will and of the enormous amount of agreeing to differ amongst his colleagues.

If I may disagree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we can assure the stability of our exchange, which we are so afraid of losing, better by having larger quantities of foodstuffs produced in these islands. If we go on a system of agreeing to differ on each point of principle it weakens the whole case for Protection and the whole fabric of Government at a time when we must move quickly. I notice the Chancellor has included whale oil in the Free List as long as it is produced by our own ships. Indeed, this Government will be very like a whale in the wide ocean, which, handicapped by its internal organisation, is incapable of swallowing anything but very small fish, but on a question of difference is always able to spout, and, finally, when it yields to the inevitable harpoonist it yields a most excellent quantity of blubber. Time is very short. We must deal with the agricultural situation quickly, and if we are going to pass to-night the exemption of all meat and bacon and all mutton from taxation, without any hope that they will be taken into consideration at Ottawa, without hope that the very key of all our home agricultural industry is going to be swiftly and easily dealt with, it will mean only that in the end we must face harpoonist unless we immediately solve the question and deal with it quickly and properly.


Before I address myself to the Amendment and the powerful speeches which have been made in support of it, I would ask a question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer arising out of his speech. He told us that the hair of all animals was to be exempt, and I would like to know whether in that category are included bristles? Probably the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will be able to give me a reply?


I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present when I gave a recent Ruling. That question cannot be raised on this Amendment.


I bow to your Ruling and I shall address myself to the Amendment and the powerful speeches made in support of it, that the whole of meats should be exempt from duty. Like the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) I am a whole-hearted supporter of the Bill, but unlike him, I do not think that if the main items of foodstuffs were included in the Bill as being exempt, we should improve the Bill. Rather do I think that it would be a definite falling off from the high standard of necessity which at the moment the country demands. The view that I put forward is based, not on any narrow conception of the desirability of any particular industry being dealt with, but on the broad considerations which have brought this Government into power, and on the broad economic considerations which exist in the country to-day.

The proposals of the Bill to protect the home market, to knit the Empire together in one economic unit, to have a tariff as a means of bargaining power, to facilitate the export trade, to tax foreign imports in order to provide revenue—none of these proposals is new: they are proposals which have been part and parcel of our political and economic controversies for many years, and they would continue to be part and parcel of our controversies for many years to come, if it had not been for the rising of a crisis in the country last year. That crisis was caused by one insistent fact, that side by side with the knowledge that we were closing down works week by week and month by month, we were importing into this country the very produce of those works in increasing quantities. [An HON. MEMBER: "Agriculture!"] Those were special circumstances. We had had experience before of falling trade, but we had never had the experience in which the very goods which we were making and which had been sold in the home markets in the past freely and at remunerative prices, were gradually being undermined.

10.30 p.m.

As regards agriculture, I am quite prepared to deal with that point. But the unique circumstance of last year, the tremendous fact, was the fall in prices, resulting in one factory after another finding itself unable to produce at the cost of production at which goods were being sold in our market. The cause of the economic crisis which brought this Government into power was the continuous and non-intermittent fall in the level of wholesale prices. If the cause of the crisis was the fall in prices, then quite clearly, we are not going to deal with the problem unless this Tariff Bill does, in fact, raise prices. It was the dumping of goods in this market which, last year, caused the crisis, and the point which must be realised, both inside and outside the House of Commons, is that the main virtue of a Tariff Bill is the fact that it will redress the fall in prices. The National Government had a mandate to deal with that fall in prices and decided to introduce protection of the home market for that purpose. If it is true, as I believe it is, that this Bill will raise prices—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Members of all parties would entirely misconceive the situation if they did not realise that we must raise the level of wholesale prices if the country is to get out of the economic mess in which it is. Therefore, as I say, a Tariff Bill must redress the fall in prices, but it is of the utmost importance to consider, if this Bill will have, as we hope, the effect of dealing with that fall in prices, what will be the effect on the cost of living. True, it has been suggested that the inflationary effect of the Bill can be nullified by contraction of the volume of credit and currency, but, surely, this Bill is to keep out goods which are sold below the cost of production, to set more men at work—


The hon. Member cannot go into the whole question of tariff policy on this Amendment. He must confine himself to the question of meat.


I bow to your Ruling, Captain Bourne. The particular point which I desire to make is that if the Bill is to be effective, its effect must be to raise prices and we must examine the repercussions of raising the wholesale price level on the cost of living. If you exclude the taxation of foodstuffs from the Bill, clearly you can have a material rise in the price level without any great corresponding increase in the cost of living. Therefore, my view is that until you have your industries at work, until you have raised the price level to such a ratio that you can get your people at work, until you have raised the price level to such a figure that you can absorb your unemployed, it would be a great mistake to tax the basic articles of the food of the people.

It is quite true that you are entitled, as you are doing in this Bill, to divert the incidence of your food supplies, but it is a misuse of words to call taxing foodstuffs what is a mere cutting off of foreign supplies and diverting them into the direction of Colonial supplies. But bearing in mind the main considerations which we are up against to-day, the fact that we have gone off the Gold Standard and the fact that we have to endeavour to raise prices, in my view it would be a very great mistake and an undue hardship on the working-class population of this country if we were, at the present stage, to put a tax on the main, basic articles of food of the people.


To return to our muttons, if I may, I want to put forward one or two reasons why I should like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider this Amendment and the following Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman has urged the question of expediency, but it was expediency that caused the Jews to err in the early part of the Christian era. The Chancellor says, "It is expedient for one industry to die for the people," and that industry in this case is that of agriculture. We have got a Wheat Quota Bill dealing with the position of the cereal farmers, but at present there is no Measure put forward by the Government to deal with the position of the stock raisers. Since we went off the Gold Standard the position of stock raising has become progressively worse.

I asked the Minister of Agriculture a question at the end of last year as to what had been the effect on prices of feeding stuffs and stock between July and December. The answer he gave me was that beef had gone down 7s. per cwt., and yet all the feeding stuffs on which we rely for beef production had gone up by at least £1 a ton. The position of bacon at that time was that it had fallen by 1s. 2d. per score pound, but the price of barley meal had risen by £1 8s. a ton, and the position of bacon now is that instead of having gone down by 1s. 2d., it has gone down 50 per cent., by 4s. 6d. All that, we are asking for at present is that there should be a 10 per cent. duty to give agriculture a place on the map.

I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider the position of mutton quite separately from that of other meat, because I believe the position of mutton is stronger and that the sheep farmer has an unanswerable case. We have lost in the value of sheep in nine months from 20s. to 40s. a head. Our moor sheep have fallen by 20s. a head, and our better Leicesters and Southdowns have fallen in some cases by 40s. There would be no great increase in the price of food if we had a duty of 10 per cent. on meat. Apart from the English market what is the position? We provide 4,000,000 cwts. of mutton in these shores. The Empire sends 5,000,000 cwts., and only 2,000,000 cwts. comes from foreign countries—the Argentine and Uruguay. I do not think that it would be very difficult to get that 2,000,000 cwts. from the Empire. The figures of mutton production for the years 1913 to 1931 show the startling fact that our production of mutton in this country has fallen by 1,000,000 cwts.

If a duty was put on foreign mutton there would be an immediate recourse to the mutton of the Empire and to the latent possibilities of mutton in this country. Nobody would say that the working man would be hit by a 10 per cent. duty on mutton. It is not the staple diet of the working man as beef and bacon are. If no redress is given by the Government, many sheep farmers will be driven into the bankruptcy court in the next few months. They are asking the Government that something should be done for their last sales in May. If nothing is done, acres and acres of the Yorkshire welds and moorlands will go out of cultivation, and hundreds more farmers will go into the bankruptcy court. The Chancellor of the Exchequer defended his hostility to this Amendment on the ground that it would put up the price of food at this dangerous juncture owing to our difficulty in the exchange. Surely if that be the argument, it would apply to every single article of food in this Bill. There must be some reason why the sheep farmer and the pig farmer are to be left out of any benefits that are to be given to agriculture while other food producers are to have the benefit of a tariff. The mutton consumer is in a different position to the poultry consumer because the latter relies to a certain extent upon foreign production. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot deal with the whole question of meat today, I hope that he will give us this one concession in regard to mutton.

I am very grateful to him for the concession that he has made in regard to maize, which will help the pig farmers. It will mean that the pig farmer will no longer have his raw material taxed while his finished product comes free into the country. Maize, however, will not affect the mutton producer. The sheep farmer uses no maize for feeding his sheep; he does not in England, and I do not think that he does in Scotland or Northern Ireland. In England the putting of maize into the Free List will have very little effect on either the beef or the mutton producer. We are warned that we are untimely in our demand for this duty because the Minister of Agriculture may produce some quantitative regulations at a later stage. It is believed that would be a good sop to the over-zealous farmer. If it came before May, it would be some help to the sheep farmer, but the Minister of Agriculture must realise that for a man who is in a feeble condition and asks for an ambulance to take him to hospital, it is no answer to tell him you will give him a motor hearse which will take him to his funeral more quickly than the old cab horse. That is our position in agriculture. In Yorkshire at Christmas time there was a large meeting of agriculturists and Members of Parliament at which one heard tales of farmers who were bankrupt. I have heard of farmers who have farmed land for generation after generation who have gone into the Bankruptcy Court, during the last few months, on account of the inability of succeeding Governments to give any benefit to agriculture or to stock raisers. I do ask the Government to reconsider their decision.


To encourage agricultural production is the crying need of the moment. No greater service can be performed either to the agriculturist, whose lot is so hard and difficult at the present time, or to the State, than doing all we can to assist the industry. It is generally admitted that the country stands at the cross roads of its destiny. Free trade is a luxury which perhaps we could afford in times of prosperity, but it is certainly not a luxury we can afford when we are in the depths of economic depression. I have been greatly encouraged by the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to maize and potash. That statement has profoundly affected my view on the matters under discussion. There are two points which agriculturists particularly desire to establish. One is that they should not be hampered or in any way prejudiced in the production of their agricultural commodities. The other point is that meat products shall not be excluded from consideration. In view of the statement made in regard to maize the first point has, I think, been fairly and properly met. With regard to the second point, the consideration of meat and its inclusion in or exclusion from the Schedule will not be ruled out. So far as I can understand the statement that has been made on the Floor of the House, I understand that the principle has been conceded by the Government that these matters shall be reviewed and considered. We have been told or given to understand that a quantitative control of meat imports is envisaged. We have been told that this matter will be the subject of consideration at the Ottawa Conference. If that action be taken, I, for one, feel that we can safely support the Government in this matter.


At this late stage in our proceedings, I rise only to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question in relation to the meat trade with the Argentine. I confess that as the representative of an industrial constituency where the purchasing power of the people has been sadly decreased by the prevailing depression I naturally welcome his statement that a tax is not to be placed upon meat. At the same time, I was hoping the Chancellor would disclose to the Committee that as a result of our beau geste in making a present of £4,500,000 to the Argentine arrangements had been come to under which the people of the Argentine would purchase an increasing quantity of goods from us, as a quid pro quo. As far as I can see no advantage has been taken of the presence in this country of the Argentine commercial mission at this moment. We have to bear in mind the fact that we buy from the Argentine twice as much as we sell to that country, and it is a matter of grave regret that advantage of that situation has not been taken. It would have been in the interests of all concerned if the right hon. Gentleman had negotiated with the mission which is now over here especially for this purpose before he disclosed to the House of Commons the nature of the Government's decision. I do hope, although I welcome the statement he has made in regard to the taxation of meat, that the situation will not be lost sight of and that at some future date he will negotiate with the Argentine Government on this very grave problem.


I wish for a moment to emphasise the great anxiety felt by the Scottish stock breeders and meat producers and the disappointment that the Government's proposals do not go further. They have been passing through a very critical period, and there does not appear to be anything in the Bill which will help that important branch of the industry in Scotland for at least two years to come. If the Government find at this stage that they are unable to agree to this Amendment, I do appeal to all individual Members of the Cabinet to consider the critical position which exists and to show to the country that they realise it and will take action as soon as they possibly can. I understand that this is the only opportunity which I shall have of referring to a small Amendment standing in my name to exclude from the Free List boneless meat not in carcass form. The Government have agreed to exclude from the list semi-manufactured meat. There are certain semi-manufactured meats in boneless form which have been coming in in oddments, which are of an inferior quality, and which do not come under the same inspection as meat produced in this country. It is a grievance of our meat producers that this meat should come in without the same inspection. It is a point which has been brought forward by the health inspectors for some time as a source of disease and which they are very much against. I submit briefly that on these grounds the Government should consider my Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE

The statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night shows at any rate that the stock-raising farmer will be no worse off under the Bill than he is at present, but they will certainly be the only agricultural producers who are not getting anything at all from it. We have had certain differences of opinion as to whether or not a duty on meat could cause a rise in prices. Even supposing the Chancellor of the Exchequer is right and that it would cause a rise in prices, I fail to understand why it should be the stock-raising farmer who has to suffer and why he should be the victim of political expediency. He is the only type of agricultural producer who is getting nothing from the Bill, and it certainly cannot be urged that the stock-raising farmer is not in need of some assistance. Ample evidence has been adduced by various people as to the catastrophic fall in prices in the last three years. Up to a short time ago the stock-raising farmers were not doing so very badly. Now they are, and they are suffering very severely indeed.

If it is not possible to exempt meat from this, then I ask the Minister to give stock-raising farmers some benefit and some advantage in some other way. Cannot, say, a system of quotas be applied? Cannot there be some response to the appeal that they have made? Cannot we have some pronouncement? The Government are going into the Ottawa Conference, and I hope they are going to do something in the interests of British agriculture.


I know that the Committee is anxious to go to a Division, so I shall be very brief in my remarks. I only want, if I may, to express the profound disquiet which I felt when I heard the Chancellor's speech—a disquiet which, I think, will be general in the agricultural community. Stock raising is to be left out of our newly-planned State, while industry is to be given all the advantages of the new economic system that we are starting. Nothing is to be done for stock-raising, and, so far as I can see, nothing will be done. I hope that before this Debate closes the Chancellor will give us some kind of assurance that in the future something will be done to assist an industry that he knows is in a precarious position. He knows very well that a good many farmers have given up arable farming because of the position in which they were placed, and have gone into stock raising, and they are greatly alarmed about the future. I am sure that the Chancellor must appreciate that if we are to start well the new State which we are trying to build, we must include all the most important branches of agriculture.

I remember listening a short time ago to a most eloquent speech made by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and his speech was concerned with the formation of the modern economic State. I put it to him, Can you form a modern economic State and leave out a great branch of agriculture? I want to express the very great dismay with which the Chancellor's announcement will be received by the farmers. They will see that they are not to be included. Now is the time to include them. It is no good talking about something which may or may not come in the distant future. Now is the time of the parting of the ways. If we go forward with a system which is inclusive except for one very large part of our most important industry, I do not know when we shall be able to have it included. I believe that it is an unbalanced system. Expediency can be expediency on the right side as well as on the wrong side. When I listened to the deeply moving appeal in which the Chancellor some days ago talked about the alteration that will be produced in the country by this Bill, I did not find much expediency in that. Until agriculture is included, we cannot go forward as a well-organised and well-balanced State, the State which we all had hoped was to arise from this Bill.

11.0 p.m.


My right hon. and gallant Friend who has just addressed the Committee has complained that this Bill must be condemned unless there were found in it something for every section of the community. While he was speaking for a section only of agriculture, he repeatedly spoke as though agriculture as a whole had nothing to gain from this Bill. [Interruption.] If my right hon. Friend does not agree with that statement, I very gladly accept his disclaimer of any such reading of his speech, because no one could fairly claim that this Bill will not extend a considerable amount of assistance to some sections of agriculture. My right hon. and gallant Friend, and others who spoke for particular sections of agriculture, asked, "Why leave out this particular section, which is of such great importance, and which is treated in this way for reasons of political expediency?" [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members behind me say "Hear, hear," but it is not a question of political expediency; it is a question of economic and social expediency, and I do not think that we should be too impatient because it is not found to be possible to deal with every problem in the country at one and the same time. We have done, I think, a considerable amount of work in dealing with part of the most important problems before the country, but this particular problem, the problem of the stock-raiser, is one which I venture to suggest is not so easily dealt with by the methods of this Bill as many other sections of agriculture and industry are.

Some hon. Members, and I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) himself, have said that the farmer was not going to benefit by an import duty of 10 per cent. upon his products. Although I do not pretend to be an authority upon agricultural matters, it seems to me to be difficult to see how you are going to give adequate protection to the farmer who is carrying on this particular kind of farming without undertaking to impose duties at a very much higher level than the 10 per cent. of which we are speaking on this Amendment. But man does not live by bread alone, and to that saying one might add that the imposition of an import duty is not the only means of affording help, protection or assistance to a particular section of agriculture. My right hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken asked whether we could not do something else, and I agree that that is not at all an unreasonable attitude to take. If it were not that I do not like making promises unless I see exactly how I am going to fulfil them, I should be inclined to give my right hon. and gallant Friend the assurance for which he asks. But, while the Minister of Agriculture is, as I think is well known, at work now upon a scheme which may ultimately mean the quantitative regulation of the imports of pig products, I do not know that he has got so far, at any rate at the present time, as to be able to say with confidence, "I see my way to a quota system with regard to beef or mutton." These things are all difficult; many of them are very new, especially as regards that way of dealing with them, and I think we may fairly ask hon. Members to have a little patience and let us first do some of the things which are not quite so difficult, and go on to the more difficult ones afterwards.

Some of my hon. Friends appeared to indicate that they did not understand my statement of the policy of the Government with regard to a, meat duty. I know I have many faults as a speaker, and I do not pretend to be an orator, but I am not generally accused of obscurity. I thought I had said quite plainly what our view was but I will try again. I want to assure Members generally, and my hon. and gallant Friend in particular, that there is no discrepancy between what I said and what was said earlier in the day by the Secretary of State for the Dominions. He was asked whether the Government delegation to Ottawa is going with a free hand, and his answer was that nothing would be ruled out from the discussions, neither meat nor any other article. But, he said, the ultimate decision in any case must, of course, be subject to any general considerations of domestic policy on the part of the Government concerned. What did he mean by considerations of domestic policy Precisely such considerations as I was putting to the Committee a little while ago. In this case I said we had to take into account the consideration of the cost of living. In present circumstances we considered that was what might be called a vulnerable point which had to be watched carefully and you could not afford to take risks. That is the sort of question of domestic policy which might override other considerations in the question of a duty upon meat. What I think my hon. and gallant Friend wants me to say is that, when the delegation goes to Ottawa, it shall not take into account any such considerations. I cannot give any such assurance as that This is not a question of political expediency. It is a question of economic considerations, and, whilst those considerations rule at the present moment, it does not follow that they will always rule. Circumstances will change in such a way that in fact we can take risks that we should not be prepared to take to-day. At present the Committee must take it that it is the definite and considered opinion of the Government that they cannot afford to take that particular risk. I hope I have made it perfectly clear—I do not know whether I shall satisfy my hon. and gallant Friend—that it is not, in this case, those who shout the loudest who get the most.


Do I understand my right hon. Friend to say that the Government are prepared to investigate the possibility of a quantitative import system for other meat besides pig meat?


My noble Friend, I think, will understand that I did not say that we would investigate that now. What I think I intended was that that was a subject which would be investigated in the future, but that there was another quantitative investigation taking place shortly with regard to bacon.


That is really my point. I understand that my right hon. Friend does not rule out—or to put it more strongly, is prepared to consider an inquiry into—the possibility of applying a quantitative system for meat other than pig products.


Yes, certainly.

Mr. HASLAM rose




I think hon. Members have expressed their feelings sufficiently. I have no doubt that the hon. Member will cut his remarks short.


I am sure the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer will very considerably mitigate the disappointment that the agricultural world must necessarily feel at the greater part of the industry, namely, stock raising, being left out of the Bill. It is no question of a small section being not considered; it is a question of the greater part, and I cannot but think that when we come to the question of expediency, the right hon. Gentleman and the Government and the House do not realise the desperate nature of the crisis which is threatening the farming industry. From Tees to Thames, farmers have come to the end of their resources. The landlords cannot get any rent. Farms are going out of cultivation, the pastures are becoming devoid of the stock which we can raise better than any other country in the world, and the agricultural labourers are losing their employment by thousands. That is the situation. It is a desperate situation, and I once more bog of the Government to consider taking some immediate remedy.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out to the word 'beef,' in line 7, stand part of the Schedule."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 341; Noes, 44.

Division No. 83.] AYES. [11.12 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Blaker, Sir Reginald Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Blindell, James Gazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Borodale, Viscount Chalmers, John Rutherford
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Bossom, A. C. Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston)
Albery, Irving James Boulton, W. W. Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.) Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Chotzner, Alfred James
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Christie, James Archibald
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh) Boyce, H. Leslie Clayton, Dr. George C.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Cocks, Frederick Seymour
Aske, Sir Robert William Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Colfox, Major William Philip
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Brown, Ernest (Leith) Colman, N. C. D.
Attlee, Clement Richard Browne, Captain A. C. Colville, Major David John
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Buchan, John Cook, Thomas A.
Balniel, Lord Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Cooke, Douglas
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Buchanan, George Copeland, Ida
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Craven-Ellis, William
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Burnett, John George Cripps, Sir Stafford
Barton, Capt. Basil Keisey Butt, Sir Alfred Crooke, J. Smedley
Batey, Joseph Cadogan, Hon. Edward Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley) Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Croom-Johnson, R. P.
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.) Cape, Thomas Cross, R. H.
Bernays, Robert Caporn, Arthur Cecil Crossley, A. C.
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Carver, Major William H. Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard
Bird Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.) Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Daggar, George
Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery) Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) O'Donovan, Dr. William James
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Janner, Barnett O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert Jennings, Roland Ormiston, Thomas
Donner, P. W. Jesson, Major Thomas E. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
Drewe, Cedric Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Owen, Major Goronwy
Duckworth, George A. V. John, William Palmer, Francis Noel
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Parkinson, John Allen
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Patrick, Colin M.
Dunglass, Lord Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Peake, Captain Osbert
Eady, George H. Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Pearson, William G.
Eastwood, John Francis Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Peat, Charles U.
Eden, Robert Anthony Ker, J. Campbell Penny, Sir George
Edmondson, Major A. J. Kerr, Hamilton W. Petherick, M.
Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Kimball, Lawrence Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)
Ellis, Robert Geoffrey Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Pickering, Ernest H.
Elliston, Captain George Sampson Knebworth, Viscount price, Gabriel
Elmley, Viscount Knight, Holford Pybus, Percy John
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Lamb, sir Joseph Quinton Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Law, Sir Alfred Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Ramsbotham, Herwald
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Leckie, J. A. Ramsden, E.
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Leonard, William Rankin, Robert
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Liddall, Walter S. Rea, Walter Russell
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Lindsay, Noel Ker Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Llewellin, Major John J. Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Fraser, Captain Ian Lloyd, Geoffrey Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.
Fuller, Captain A. G. Locker-Lampion, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. G'n) Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip
Ganzoni, Sir John Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Loder, Captain J. de Vere Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Gibson, Charles Granville Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Gilfett, Sir George Masterman Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Rosbotham, S. T.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Mabane, William Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Glossop, C. W. H. MacAndrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick) Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Gluckstein, Louis Halle McConnell, Sir Joseph Runge, Norah Cecil
Glyn, Major Ralph G. C. McCorquodale, M. S. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Goff, Sir Park Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Goldie, Noel B. Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Salmon, Major Isidore
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. McEntee, Valentine L. Salt, Edward W.
Gower, Sir Robert McEwen, J. H. F. Salter, Dr. Alfred
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) McGovern, John Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Graves, Marjorie McLean, Major Alan Savery, Samuel Servington
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Corn'll N.) Scone, Lord
Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Selley, Harry R.
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) MacMillan, Maurice Harold Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Grimston, R. V. Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Grundy, Thomas W. Magnay, Thomas Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)
Gunston, Captain D. W. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Skelton, Archibald Noel
Guy, J. C. Morrison Mander, Geoffrey le M. Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine.C.)
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F, (Dulwich) Margesson, Capt. Henry David R. Somervell, Donald Bradley
Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Marsden, Commander Arthur Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Martin, Thomas B. Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Soper, Richard
Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd) Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Hammersley, Samuel S. Maxton, James Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L
Hanley, Dennis A. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Harris, Sir Percy Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Hartington, Marquess of Millar, Sir James Duncan Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Milne, Charles Stones, James
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tl'd & Chisw'k) Storey, Samuel
Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Cheimsford) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Hillman, Dr. George B. Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Strauss, Edward A.
Hirst, George Henry Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Holdsworth, Herbert Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston) Moreing, Adrian C. Sutcliffe, Harold
Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Hore-Belisha, Leslie Moss, Captain H. J. Thorp, Linton Theodore
Hornby, Frank Muirhead, Major A. J. Tinker, John Joseph
Horsbrugh, Florence Munro, Patrick Train, John
Howard, Tom Forrest Nathan, Major H. L. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Newton, Sir Douglas George C. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Hume, Sir George Hopwood Normand, Wilfrid Guild Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) North, Captain Edward T. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Hurd, Percy A. Nunn, William Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. O'Connor, Terence James Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David
Wells, Sydney Richard Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley) Worthington, Dr. John V.
White, Henry Graham Wills, Wilfrid D. Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Whiteside, Borras Noel H. Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Whyte, Jardine Bell Womersley, Walter James TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay) Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff) Lieut-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward and Major George Davies.
Alexander, Sir William Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Greene, William P. C. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P, Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)
Bracken, Brendan Knox, Sir Alfred Templeton, William P.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Leighton, Major B. E. P. Thomas, James p. L. (Hereford)
Burghley, Lord Levy, Thomas Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Burton, Colonel Henry Walter Lymington, Viscount Turton, Robert Hugh
Caine, G. R. Hall- McKie, John Hamilton Weymouth, Viscount
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Mitcheson, G. G. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Dalkeith, Earl of Morrison, William Shephard Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Davison, Sir William Henry Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Perkins, Walter R. D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Everard, W. Lindsay Remer, John R. Sir Ernest Shepperson and Mr. Henry Haslam.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Ropner, Colonel L.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.