HC Deb 17 March 1932 vol 263 cc502-96

Again considered in Committee.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I was saying before the proceedings were interrupted that I wished to call the attention of the Com- mittee to the fact that if the Minister accepted the Amendment it would entail the appointment of a considerable number of inspectors. Wheat is not always grown to the full extent of a field. Often some portion of a field is sown with wheat and, being a production area, it would necessitate either a considerable amount of surveying or a guess as to the acreage. Consequently, the information might be entirely inaccurate or unreliable. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will not accept the Amendment.


We cannot appreciate the reluctance of the Minister to accept the Amendment which we propose. We are asking for what appears to be a very natural provision. We propose that the records should be complete records. We understand why hon. Gentlemen opposite claim with some justice that they represent the farmers. They are unwilling to give information, except such information as will enable the farmers to get the payments due under the Measure. The Minister is responsible for much more than that.


They are unwilling to give information which might not be accurate.


It is strange if the farmer himself cannot give accurate information about his own business. We suggest that the Minister should be empowered to carry out the duties imposed upon him. Under Clause 2 the Minister has to have regard to general economic conditions and conditions affecting the agricultural industry in considering the desirability of making any alteration in the standard price. If the Minister has to have such a responsibility he should have full information. One of the most important factors regarding the standard price is the quantity of wheat grown per acre. I have always had in mind, in estimating the merits of the Bill, the possible subsidy to be paid per acre of land and not the quantity of wheat. The Minister will not be able to find out what is the fair standard price unless he knows from time to time the average quantity of wheat grown upon an average acre of land. That information will not be forthcoming unless we give powers in regard to this matter. The Wheat Commission is to have power to make by-laws, one of which is that a record is required to be kept of certain details of agriculture in this regard. We do not want to know what the farmer does with his other crops or what he does with regard to stock raising, but so long as public money is being dispensed and governmental machinery used in apportioning that money we ought to have the fullest possible knowledge about the industry which is to be subsidised under the Measure.

There are two or three other things which the Minister has to ascertain during the cereal year. He has to have a kind of stocktaking every year. He is to be given the responsibility of finding out the anticipated supply. Can a Minister, in spite of all the information which is available to him, estimate the supply of wheat in any given year unless he has before him a record of the average yield of wheat per acre year after year in every area and indeed on every farm? If the Minister does not know whether the yield per acre is 35 bushels or 30 bushels, how can he work out his anticipated supply? We think that the Minister and the Wheat Commission will be very much handicapped in the responsibilities which they have to assume. I appeal to those who claim to represent the farmers not to let us have any more hush-hush about agriculture. Let us have the fullest possible publicity and know what the industry is doing. If some hon. Members believe that the industry will improve its methods and be more efficient in production, the country will be very pleased, for the country has a right to know whether more effective results are being produced. We cannot get that knowledge unless the yield per acre year after year is provided and the record is published. We are anxious to have the machinery work as smoothly and as effectively as possible. We believe that the Amendment will improve the effectiveness of the Measure, and we hope that now the Minister will agree that it is a reasonable Amendment and one which is necessary if this particular part of the Bill is to achieve its purpose.


I think that there is a slight confusion of thought in what is aimed at here. Certainly, I am satisfied that as far as the Wheat Commission is concerned the records which the Wheat Commission should have will embrace all those circumstances and a knowledge of all the circumstances necessary for the carrying out of the duties of the Wheat Commission as such. On the other hand, some hon. Members have not spoken of that problem, but of the question as to what steps should be taken to get information as to the progress of cultivation, of mechanical equipment, the quantities of manures and so on. The Wheat Commission is really not the proper body to do that work. They will have their hands full enough with the statutory duties imposed upon them for the carrying out of the particular purposes of the Measure. But the further surveying which I agree with hon. Gentlemen in every part of the Committee is desirable for a complete knowledge dealing with the problem of the future ought to be

done by other means. We have already, of course, a very complete return coming in from agricultural holdings, but I would say that we have had, for instance, and it will be continued, a very effective farm survey started under the auspices of the Cambridge School of Agriculture, which is staffed with experts competent to analyse and to examine the farm records so obtained. That is really, as I understand the position, what hon. Gentlemen opposite are anxious to obtain. That work is being done, and it will be continued, and the information obtained will be available to the House and to the Minister.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 40; Noes, 293.

Division No. 118.] AYES. [5.59 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Attlee, Clement Richard Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Parkinson, John Allen
Batey, Joseph Grundy, Thomas W. Price, Gabriel
Briant, Frank Hail, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Buchanan, George Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Thorne, William James
Cape, Thomas Hirst, George Henry Tinker, John Joseph
Cocks, Frederick Seymour John, William Wellhead, Richard C.
Cove, William G. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Daggar, George Kirkwood, David Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Lansbury, Rt. Hon, George
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lawson, John James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Edwards, Charles Leonard, William Mr. Cordon Macdonald and Mr.
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Logan, David Gilbert Mr. Groves.
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Lunn, William
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Brocklebank, C. E, R. Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd.,Hexham) Cowan, D. M.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Brown, Ernest (Leith) Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y) Craven-Ellis, William
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Browne, Captain A. C. Crossley, A. C.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Buchan, John Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Davison, Sir William Henry
Aske, Sir Robert William Cadogan, Hon. Edward Denman, Hon. R. D.
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Caine, G. R. Hall. Dickie, John P.
Atholl, Duchess of Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Donner, P. W.
Atkinson, Cyril Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley) Doran, Edward
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Caporn, Arthur Cecil Drewe, Cedric
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Carver, Major William H. Ouggan, Hubert John
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Cautley, Sir Henry S. Eales, John Frederick
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Eastwood, John Francis
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.) Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Eden, Robert Anthony
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Edmondson, Major A. J.
Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn) Chalmers, John Rutherford Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston) Elmley, Viscount
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Emmott, Charles E. G, C.
Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.) Choriton, Alan Ernest Leofric Emry-Evans, P. V.
Blindell, James Chotzner, Alfred James Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)
Boothby, Robert John Graham Christie, James Archibald Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)
Borodale, Viscount Clarke, Frank Essenhigh, Reginald Clare
Bossom, A. C. Clarry, Reginald George Everard, W. Lindsay
Boulton, W. W. Cobb, Sir Cyril Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Colville, John Fermoy, Lord
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Conant, R. J. E. Foot, Dingle (Dundee)
Boyce, H. Leslie Cook, Thomas A. Fox, Sir Gifford
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Cooke, Douglas Fuller, Captain A. G.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Cooper, A. Duff Ganzoni, Sir John
Broadbent, Colonel John Copeland, Ida George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Gillett, Sir George Masterman Mabane, William Runge, Norah Cecil
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Glossop, C. W. H. Mac Donald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)
Gluckstein, Louis Halle McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
Glyn, Major Ralph G. C. McKie, John Hamilton Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Golf, Sir Park McLean, Major Alan Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Savery, Samuel Servington
Gower, Sir Robert Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Scone, Lord
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Maitland, Adam Selley, Harry R.
Graves, Marjorie Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.) Marsden, Commander Arthur Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)
Grimston, R. V. Martin, Thomas B. Skelton, Archibald Noel
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Smiles, Lieut. -Col. Sir Walter D.
Guy, J. C. Morrison Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Millar, Sir James Duncan Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Smithers, Waldron
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Somervell, Donald Bradley
Harris, Sir Percy Mitcheson, G. G. Soper, Richard
Hartland, George A. Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Haslam, Henry (Lindsay, H'ncastle) Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.) Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur p. Mullhead, Major A. J. Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Munro, Patrick Stones, James
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Storey, Samuel
Holdsworth, Herbert Newton, Sir Douglas George C. Stourton, Hon. John J.
Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Normand, Wilfrid Guild Strickland, Captain W. F.
Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. North, Captain Edward T. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Howard, Tom Forrest Nunn, William Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.) O'Connor, Terence James Tate, Mavis Constance
Hume, Sir George Hopwood O'Donovan, Dr. William James Templeton, William P.
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Ormiston, Thomas Thomas, James p. L. (Hereford)
Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Pearson, William G. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Iveagh, Countess of Peat, Charles U. Thorp, Linton Theodore
Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C) Penny, Sir George Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Perkins, Walter R. D. Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Petherick, M. Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Peto, Sir Basil E.(Devon, Barnstaple) Train, John
Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilst'n) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Pike, Cecil F. Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Kerr, Hamilton W. Power, Sir John Cecil Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Kimball, Lawrence Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Knox, Sir Alfred Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Ramsden, E. Wells, Sydney Richard
Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Ratcliffe, Arthur Weymouth, Viscount
Law, Sir Alfred Rawson, Sir Cooper Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Rea, Walter Russell Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Leckie, J. A. Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Leech, Dr. J. W. Reid, David D. (County Down) Wills, Wilfrid D.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Reid, William Allan (Derby) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Levy, Thomas Rentoul, Sir Gervais S. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Lewis, Oswald Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip Wise, Alfred R.
Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe- Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Withers, Sir John James
Llewellin, Major John J. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall) Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Robinson, John Roland Worthington, Dr. John V.
Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley) Rosbotham, S. T. Wragg, Herbert
Loder, Captain J. de Vere Ross, Ronald D.
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A. Sir Victor Warrender and Mr.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 9, line 28, at the end, to insert the words: (m) for prescribing the standard form or forms of contract for the sale of wheat. To some extent the principle involved in this Amendment has already been discussed under a previous Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown). In that Amendment my hon. and gallant Friend desired to insert the actual form of contract in the Act, whereas this Amendment seeks merely to authorise the Wheat Commission to prescribe a standard form of contract. Although the same principle is involved, I suggest, with all respect, that my Amendment is better than that of my hon. and gallant, Friend.


I am afraid that I cannot accept the Amendment. It is not really necessary, because in so far as action on the lines suggested may be necessary for the purposes of the Act, it will be competent for the Commission under Clause 4 to make such by-laws as may be required. It is much better that the discretion should be left with the body which will have to deal with the matter, so that they can make them as and when they think best.


I hope the Minister will reconsider his decision. I know that it is competent for the Wheat Commission to do as he suggests, but it is of great importance, and we certainly attach great importance to it, that there should be a simple standardised form, that the House should indicate in the Bill itself that desirability, and that they should include it specifically as one of the items upon which the Wheat Commission should make by-laws.


In view of the very cruel reply from the Minister, I may inform the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) that if he presses the Amendment to a, Division we shall support him in the Lobby.

Amendment negatived.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)

In regard to the Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Brown)—in page 10, line 14, after the word "certificates" to insert the words: and for the inspection of and report upon any wheat"— I should be glad to have an explanation, because as at present drafted I cannot understand it. As the hon. and gallant Member is not present, I will proceed to call the next Amendment.


I beg to move, in page 10, line 14, to leave out from the word "certificates" to the end of line 16.

The words in the two lines which I seek to leave out require registered growers in a particular area to defray the cost of special arrangements which may be made by means of local by-laws in order that certificates of a special character may be issued. Apparently Sub-section (4) is designed to deal with cases where the general by-laws made by the Wheat Commission in regard to the issue of wheat certificates are insufficient for securing that such certificates are issued only upon satisfactory proof of the facts required to be thereby certified. I have not entirely appreciated the intention of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to this Sub-section, unless it is that in some part of Wales it may be required that the by-laws should be issued in Welsh. If that be so, then it is grossly unfair that the Welsh farmers should have to pay for it. If it be part of the general scheme, and if, as we believe, this Bill is so complicated that nobody can understand it without some special by-laws, it is a little unfair that the farmer should have to pay if he cannot understand it. It does not make much difference to the consumer one way or the other, but if the machinery is so complicated that there must be special regulations issued in order that the procedure may be carried out, then the whole cost of these schemes should be pooled and made a charge upon the fund. Unless the Minister of Agriculture can explain the necessity for these words we think they should be deleted.


This Sub-section is necessary where a local voluntary organisation is not forthcoming or is inadequate to furnish the necessary co-operation for the working of the scheme. In such a case, the Wheat Commission may find it necessary to send down an agent to set up some advisory body to investigate why things are not going smoothly, and the cost of that should fall upon the farmers in the district. It is right that this condition should be made. It can be avoided by the co-operation of farmers in the area. If, in fact, co-operation fails, or it becomes evident that improper use is being made of the provisions of the Bill in certain areas, then, obviously, the Wheat Commission will have to send down an inspector and set up a local committee. This matter has been discussed with the representatives of the Farmers' Union, and they have not objected to it. They agree that it is fair and reasonable. I hope it may never occur, or at any rate that it will only occur for a very short period. I hope the hon. and learned Member will not press the Amendment.


I understand that this is a penal provision allowing the State, through the Wheat Commission, to exercise some control over the farmers. I think we will approve of it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move, in page 10, in line 21, after the word "Gazettes," to insert the words: and in such other manner as the Wheat Commission may deem necessary for the information of all persons interested. This is an Amendment which, I am sure, the right hon. Gentleman will accept. It makes certain in a more satisfactory way the publication of the information which the farmer is to get. In nearly all cases of Bills of this kind, where information is to be conveyed to the public, provision is made not only for publication in the Gazettes, but in the local papers which circulate in the district where the scheme is to be put into force. That may not be advisable in this case, but we think that some indication should be given by some other method than by publication in the Gazettes. We think that the Wheat Commission should see that the information regarding their by-laws should get to the farmers who are intimately concerned and who may be penalised if they do not understand them. I am sure that the Minister will accept the suggestion that some form of publication other than the Gazettes should be made.


The Wheat Commission will be able, and quite naturally will take steps, to bring their by-laws to the notice of all persons interested. The Amendment really does not add anything to their powers, but I am quite willing to accept it down to the word "necessary," leaving out the subsequent words.


I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. But surely the question is to bring it to "the information of all persons interested." I do not understand why he objects to those words. If he objects to all persons who are interested getting the information, for some reason or other, we will leave the words out and accept his suggestion.


Will the Minister of Agriculture explain why he thinks it necessary to accept the Amendment down to the word "necessary," and objects to the words "for the information of all persons interested"?


I think it should be left to the Wheat Commission to decide how far and in what respect and in what manner they should give this information. The words at the end of the Amendment might perhaps lead to great trouble.


The right hon. Gentleman has not explained to the Committee why he is prepared to accept the words in such other manner as the Wheat Commission may deem necessary, and wishes to leave out the words for the information of all persons interested.


The phrase "all persons interested" is really very vague.


I think it would be better if the Minister of Agriculture moved an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to delete the words after the word "necessary."


I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words, "for the information of all persons interested."

Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.

Proposed words, as amended, there inserted.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."


There are one or two matters to which I want to draw the attention of the Minister before we part with this Clause. A number of suggestions were put down as Amendments to this Clause, but we have not had an opportunity of raising them because they have not been selected or have been out of order. This Clause sets up the major matters as to which the Wheat Commission shall make by-laws, and thereby it indicates the major powers and duties of the Wheat Commission. During the course of his Second Reading speech we were told by the right hon. Gentleman that there were two points of importance which had been agreed with the millers, first. that there should be no increase in the price of flour over and above the addition made necessary by the payment of the quota or subsidy, and, secondly, that the millers, as part of their bargain, have undertaken to protect the farmers of this country by not exporting offal except where was an excessive seasonal supply, and then they were prepared to do it under some system of licensing. These two matters, we think, should find their place somewhere in the Bill, and it seems that Clause 4 is the place where they should appear. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether he can put actually into the words of this Clause these two undertakings on the part of the millers, which are of great importance.

The Committee will appreciate the point that when a tax or subsidy of this sort is put upon the price of an article there is a great liability for the seller of these goods to add a little more, and, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged this in his speech by saying with considerable pride that he had persuaded the millers in this case not to add a little more as was customary in matters of this kind. We congratulate the right hon. Gentleman in going so far in protecting the consumer, but we suggest that the consumer will be far happier to see it in black and white, and we are sure that it will help in the future administration of this Bill if it is in black and white. If the millers ever start to go back on their promise, and the right hon. Gentleman must assume that this is a possibility, although it is not very likely to happen, his position will be far stronger if the Wheat Commission have the power to say that nothing shall be added to the price of flour over and above the quota payment. That is what the millers have undertaken to do, and all we are asking is to have this undertaking in black and white. If the right hon. Gentleman has any trouble hereafter with some recalcitrant miller he can say that it is in the Act of Parliament itself.

6.30 p.m.

Then as regards the question of licensing the export of offal. That, clearly, is a duty which should fall on the Wheat Commission. They are the people charged with the control of the whole flour and milling position of this country. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that in order to strike a bargain the millers have agreed not to export wheat offal except under some sort of licensing system. He says that it is impossible for the Government to license them because that would bring us into some danger in regard to certain commercial treaties with other countries, but we ask him to give the Wheat Commission power to set up such a licensing system. They are evidently the people who should deal with it. Unless this power is given expressly to the Wheat Commission, they cannot exercise any power of this sort. There are other matters which have been raised by the Amendments put down to this Clause. We believe that if the Wheat Commission is going to run the milling industry, as it will have to do by control and by-laws, that it should be given the very widest possible powers to get all the material information and to exercise all material control. In this case we have a great number of detailed matters set out so that the right hon. Gentleman cannot say that he would not like to add more detail. We have already got down to (1), which is about low enough for the right hon. Gentleman to go, and one or two more paragraphs would help to bring him out of that hole. We suggest, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to examine these proposals before the Report stage, particularly the two undertakings which he has got from the millers and to which we attach the greatest importance. Unless these are put into the Bill we fear that great trouble may be found hereafter in getting them complied with.


I desire to reply to the two definite points upon which the hon. and learned Gentleman has concentrated. He said, first, that there is nothing in the Bill giving the Wheat Commission power to make bylaws to steady the price of flour. I think the answer to that point is that it would be extending the scope of the activities and functions of the Wheat Commission far beyond anything which would be contemplated in their ordinary work, to give them the duty of keeping down the price of flour in this country.


I did not suggest that they should be able to keep down the price of flour but that they should be able to enforce the undertaking which has been given that the price of flour will not be above the world price by more than the subsidy.


I am sorry if I put the hon. and learned Gentleman's point in rather too broad a fashion. Even to do what he suggests would put the Wheat Committee, with regard to the millers, in a position quite outside their ordinary functions. I cannot think that it would be wise to give the Wheat Commission the duty of controlling the price at which flour is offered by the millers. Further, I am sure nobody knows better than the hon. and learned Member that it is the constant practice, particularly with regard to arrangements in Finance Bills for agreements to be come to between the parties concerned which do not appear in the Bill, and experience has shown that these agreements are carried out with the utmost fidelity. Clearly this is such a case. With regard to the second point as to whether powers should be given to the Commission to make by-laws to prevent the exportation of offals, I am afraid a great deal of consideration would be needed before one could conclude that the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion of putting this duty on the Wheat Commission would get us out of the difficulty in relation to commercial treaties. To give the Commission such a power would undoubtedly require legislation. Whether we did it directly by the State, or whether we did it by putting the duty upon a subsidiary body, namely, the Wheat Commission, I do not think we should get out of the treaty difficulty. I do not imagine that the hon. and learned Gentleman himself is of the opinion that by making the Wheat Commission the responsible persons it would be possible to get out of the difficulty in regard to contravening commercial treaties.

With regard to the more general observations of the hon. and learned Member, it is true that a good many suggestions which have been made in reference to the by-laws—suggestions of what they might or ought to contain—have not been discussed in Committee, but I am sure I can say on behalf of my right hon. Friend that those undiscussed Amendments will be looked at before the Report stage. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman himself will agree that for those responsible for the passage of this Bill it is essential not to burden the Wheat Commission with duties which are extraneous to their real function. Their function, difficult as some of it may be made by the necessities of Parliamentary draftmanship, is clear and simple and is restricted to one perfectly practical object. I cannot think that it would be wise to take the opportunity of the establishment of this body to put upon their backs a number of functions with which logically they have no concern.


I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman has met the point. Whatever may be done in commercial life in regard to gentlemen's agreements, when it comes to an Act of Parliament I do not think it is satisfactory to rely upon something which is not in the Act of Parliament or on agreements between passing and fugitive Ministers and outside bodies. I think it is rather important that we should have these matters stated definitely in the Bill. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has said that what we have suggested does not come within the functions of the Wheat Commission. The function of the Commission is to collect money and that money is to be handed over to the farmers. The whole point is to see that in fact that money, the provision of which is going to involve the consumer in a charge, is not going into the pockets of the millers. It seems to me perfectly simple that the Wheat Commission should have the function of seeing that this scheme works in such a way as to carry out the declared intention, which is to extract certain money from the pockets of the consumer and place it in the pockets of the farmers. I do not see why the Commission should not have power to see that the money does not stick somewhere in the pockets of the millers.

As to the other point raised by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, I am fairly well acquainted with the commercial treaties, and I agree that it may be, and probably is true that the Wheat Commission will be held to be so involved with the Government as to give rise to the difficulty which the hon. Gentleman anticipates in that respect. But is it not possible to do this through the Millers' Corporation? That is a matter of the internal organisation of trade. I do not think that the Millers' Corporation would be in the same position as the Wheat Commission. In their case, after all, it would merely be giving power to a trade to regulate itself. I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to look into this question and to see whether our suggestion on that point could not be carried out specifically as a, matter of the internal regulation of the trade through the Millers' Corporation. These two points require further consideration. When we are embarking on a new experiment of this kind, setting up an elaborate machinery and transferring sums from the public to private hands we ought to see that there is something more than a verbal agreement governing these matters.

  1. CLAUSE 5.—(Provisions for securing payment of quota payments in respect of imported flour, and pre-entry of export flour.) 4,566 words
  2. cc529-33
  3. CLAUSE 6.—(Provisions as to Wheat Fund.) 2,511 words, 1 division
  4. cc533-41
  5. CLAUSE 7.—(Adjustment of surpluses and deficiencies in Wheat Fund.) 3,510 words, 1 division
  6. cc541-59
  7. CLAUSE 8.—(Provisions as to Millers' Quota Fund.) 6,588 words
  8. cc559-89
  9. CLAUSE 9.—(Provisions as to administrative expenses.) 11,889 words, 2 divisions
  10. cc589-96
  11. CLAUSE 10.—(Power of Wheat Commission to obtain information.) 3,183 words, 1 division